The last few years I have been working for ABN AMRO as a team leader in the Payments domain. During the past six months I have added a new role to my duties, heading up a virtual blockchain team in the bank’s IT branch.
Recruiters saw my time in Africa as a plus point rather than a blank space on my CV.
Yurry Hendriks Team Leader Payments and Team Leader Blockchain IT
Blockchain refers to a decentralised network of computers, whether public or private. Those computers conduct transactions among themselves and keep a combined ledger that can be viewed by all the parties involved. Before the transactions show up in the shared register, they need to be validated using calculations and cryptology.
Blockchain combines a range of existing technologies, including peer-to-peer data communication, hashing, public/private key encryption and distributed databases. Using these technologies, it becomes impossible to modify or question the records of past transactions. Blockchain can also be used to program transactions to seek out their own route (smart contracts).
The technologies and features involved in blockchain create opportunities for completely new business models, ones that are less dependent on third parties and create a ‘trusted third party’. Blockchain is sometimes described as a Trust Machine.
It is amazing for me to see what ABN AMRO is doing to research the opportunities and threats that blockchain presents, and I am delighted that the bank is giving me personally the chance to explore the possibilities that it offers.
From the tea plantation to the dealing room
Before I joined the bank nine years ago, I spent two years in Africa. I had been sent there by a development cooperation organisation to I computerise the records of a tea farmers’ cooperative in Tukuyu in Tanzania. I also implemented a new payroll system to make the farmers’ wages more transparent. This helped to improve the level of trust in the cooperative and allowed the farmers to act more as actual businesses. When I returned to the Netherlands, I expected my work in Tanzania to be more of a liability than an asset in my hunt for a new job: volunteer work in Africa would be viewed as a career break, I thought. This proved to be otherwise, however, and in fact ABN AMRO was immediately interested.
My ABN AMRO career began in the central support organisation, as a project controller. My job was to make sure that projects within the IT domains of Markets Solutions and Transactions Solutions were completed on schedule and within budget. In almost no time at all I had gone from small tea farms in Africa to the dealing room on the Zuidas: quite a culture shock, as I am sure you can imagine.
From business administration to IT
After starting in project control, my career at the bank gradually shifted more and more in the direction of payments. Despite my background in business administration, I found myself working in a team of predominantly IT people. I feel comfortable in this role, though. I am good at connecting IT and business goals, and I also enjoy working in those separate worlds. As Team Leader Global Electronic Banking, I was put in charge of a team of twelve business analysts and solution designers. Our work, with help from our Indian partners, included updating and continually innovating Access Online (AOL) – basically ABN AMRO’s Internet banking product for the corporate market.
In my current job as Team Leader Payments I am responsible for overseeing all European payments (SEPA). We handle the incoming and outgoing SEPA flows.
Nowadays I also spend one day a week working on blockchain technology. I lead a small team investigating what opportunities it offers the bank. I first started looking into this technology two years ago, purely as a matter of interest, and the bank soon gave me the go-ahead to work on it during business hours. It is wonderful to find an organisation that gives its people these opportunities.
A plus point rather than a blank space
I am very comfortable at ABN AMRO. It says a great deal that the recruiters saw my time in Tanzania as a plus point rather than a blank space on my CV.
One reason was my experience of working with other cultures. This is important for a bank such as ABN AMRO, given that so much of our work involves Indian IT organisations. My experiences in Tanzania allow me to see matters from a non-Western perspective.
Another factor was that the recruiters understood the value of the enterprise that I had demonstrated in Tanzania. ABN AMRO is an organisation that encourages enterprise. If you have a viable idea, you are given every opportunity to develop it, and if your ideas are seen to have merit you will receive assistance from every part of the company. Major banks such as ABN AMRO are often seen as ungainly oil tankers, unable to change course without great difficulty, and in fact that view contains an element of truth. Yet looking at the Tikkie app that was recently launched (check it out in the App Store or Google Play!), the blockchain explorations and countless other initiatives, it is evident the bank is surrounding its clumsy oil tanker with an ever-growing fleet of small speedboats.
The world around us is evolving at a rapid pace. Our income models are under pressure from technological developments, of which blockchain is only one example. The market is also being impacted by political decisions, such as the decision to open up the financial sector to new operators. Under the PSD2 regulations, banks are obliged to give third parties access to our client databases (provided of course that the client allows this). With the market being flooded at the same time by FinTech companies attracting clients with innovative products, it is clear that the financial sector needs to reinvent itself. We have to innovate to find a new place in society.
So now is a great time for IT specialists to be working for ABN AMRO. The entire landscape is changing. This makes ABN AMRO an incredibly exciting employer for talented and enterprising IT specialists.
You should seize this opportunity!