Standing up for the bank’s foreign offices

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When colleagues from other parts of the bank come to work with us at TOPS International Business Services (IBS), I often hear them say things like, “Wow, things are very different here!” The main reason is that our staff need a clear understanding of pretty much every entity making up the bank. We provide services to departments operating outside the Netherlands, such as Private Banking International, Energy, Commodities & Transportation (ECT), the International Desk, Diamond & Jewellery Clients and Large Corporates. In our role, we collaborate closely with IT, the Chief Operating Office, Business Management, CISO, Operations, Compliance, Risk and Finance. Few other departments at ABN AMRO have dealings with as many entities as we do. You’d be hard-pressed to find a department where the range of activities is so varied.

I find it very satisfying to stand up for the bank’s foreign offices. Rianne van Echtelt-Willig Rianne van Echtelt-Willig Operations Advisor at TOPS International Business Services

TOPS International Business Services acts as an intermediary between the bank’s foreign offices and the head office in Amsterdam. I’m a member of the BPM Core Banking team, which works with a range of offices outside the Netherlands to help them achieve their goals. One way we do this is to ensure that staff in other countries, where most offices are relatively small, can avail themselves of smart solutions the bank is developing here at home. It’s also important that their processes and systems comply with all new laws and regulations. Wherever possible, we help these offices “piggyback” on innovation we’ve developed in the Netherlands. At TOPS IBS, we also make every effort to harmonise systems, norms and processes across countries. Bank-wide uniformity is key.

Silver bullet

In addition, we operate as a linchpin within the head office, or, as we sometimes like to joke, a silver bullet. By that I mean we bring stakeholders together, make rapid analyses, localise problems and together look for effective, over-arching solutions. We keep the foreign offices plugged in, so to speak, brainstorm with them and help come up with answers to their problems. Sometimes we already know the answer thanks to all the years of experience we’ve built up, but we often enlist the aid of other staff, too, both in and outside TOPS IBS. These are frequently people working outside the Netherlands, since staff in other countries often experience similar issues. We liaise with these contacts to help other departments. Conversely, colleagues with questions about a particular country often don’t know who to turn to locally, so we’re happy to help them. Another important part of what we do besides providing day-to-day support is participating in discussions about projects that will impact on, or are being implemented at, the bank’s foreign offices. We work together to ensure operational readiness – in other words, that these projects will really be functional once they’ve gone live. As you can imagine, it’s a very diverse playing field, one that brings you into contact with lots of fun, very professional colleagues all over the world. No day is ever the same!

Reaping the benefits

What am I most proud of? We recently harmonised the bank’s network of correspondent banks for, and together with, the foreign offices. A bank always needs a correspondent bank in order to operate in a given currency. That’s why we have an account with a bank in the States for US dollars, one with an Australian bank for Australian dollars, and so forth. Each foreign office used to have its own network of banks, each with its own contracts and all that entails. But standardising this network has now resulted in savings and a better overview of risk. It was a great project, and ABN AMRO continues to reap the benefits.

Standing up for the bank’s foreign offices

I’m sure lots of ABN AMRO staff say this, but this really is the best department to work for at the bank. I find it very satisfying to stand up for the bank’s foreign offices. Sometimes they’re forgotten, so I let their voices be heard. Obviously, this kind of work has to suit your personality. After all, there are departments at ABN AMRO which do highly specialist work, focusing exclusively on their specific field. Not our team, though. In our department, you have to be able to wear many different hats and not be afraid to tackle a new challenge! Every day, we roll up our sleeves, filter problems, issues and requests for advice, and get down to business.


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