Preventing good people from going wrong

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Chalkboard with hand writing good bad

Sometimes people don’t believe me when I say that I work for ABN AMRO. ‘A psychologist working for a bank? Surely that’s not a place for someone with your background?’ But it is: this sector presents an exciting challenge for my profession! I think that it was an amazing and forward-looking move on ABN AMRO’s part to hire me and my ‘weird’ team of behavioural scientists and philosophers.

It is important to initiate a dialogue about what it means to do the right thing as a banker in our sector. Wies Wagenaar Wies Wagenaar Team Lead Conduct

Preventing undesirable conduct

I studied Social Psychology and completed a postdoctoral course in Forensic Medicine. I learned what a crime scene can tell you about who did it and what they did. My first job was at a large consultancy firm: initially in crisis management and later in forensic research and integrity management. I worked alongside forensic accountants, who study financial accounts and uncover evidence of fraud while I researched the fundamental cause. How did the suspect reach the point where he or she committed fraud? What aspects of his or her job triggered it? Or did the cause lie in more personal reasons? I also advised organisations on how to prevent people from displaying undesirable conduct.

A bank: not the most obvious choice

I never thought that I would be working for a bank. But when I worked as a trainer and consultant, ABN AMRO was one of my clients and I became better acquainted with the bank. I heard that the Compliance & Conduct department was looking for a behavioural scientist. A vision was already in place, and I was asked to give it more concrete shape and put together a team. Until then, the department’s principal focus had been on laws and regulations, not on encouraging desirable conduct.

Why good people sometimes go wrong

It is important to initiate a dialogue about what it means to do the right thing as a banker in our sector. Conduct that was acceptable last year might be perceived as lacking integrity tomorrow. We need to keep talking to each other, to our clients and to the supervisory authorities. My team help managers and staff at ABN AMRO to make the right decisions in their jobs. We also look back at past mistakes that have been made within the organisation. We map out the root causes and advise on positive measures to stimulate good conduct.

A growing team

We travel the world providing training and conducting our research. We use the latest scientific insights, for example about nudging and positive psychology. The ideas and actions of our Conduct team have a real impact. More and more frequently we are asked to join in and give our input on mentality and conduct in connection with a wide range of issues within the bank. It is wonderful to see that people appreciate us. This really is my dream job.


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