A conversation with external stakeholders

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On 20 May 2019, we held our second Learning Lab: a meeting between external stakeholders and ABN AMRO’s Executive Committee. It was a frank and open discussion about the bank’s role in society. What do our stakeholders expect from us? What dilemmas do we face as a bank and what kinds of dilemmas do we share? Kees van Dijkhuizen, CEO of ABN AMRO, said: “It was nice to listen to and learn from so many different people, to help us make more of a positive impact.”

About our Learning Labs

Last year, ABN AMRO held its first Learning Lab as part of the launch of its new purpose ‘Banking for better, for generations to come’. These involve a dialogue with a variety of external stakeholders, such as entrepreneurs, clients, and people from academia, the arts, as well as representatives of special interest groups. Many stakeholders brought a millennial to make sure the voice of future generations was also represented.

Last year’s dialogue mostly covered our purpose and this year’s conversations were about its follow-up, as we have honed out strategy on the basis of our new purpose. How do our stakeholders feel about our efforts? What have we done since the launch of our purpose and what choices have we made? What dilemmas do we face?

“A valuable dialogue”

Like last year, this year’s Learning Lab also produced many new insights. Kees van Dijkhuizen: “It was a valuable dialogue, thanks in part to the wide diversity of participants. We had some very good conversations, like on the tension between sustainability and returns. Many stakeholders observed that these two goals aren’t mutually exclusive, that sustainability is actually the business model of the future. Or, as one participant put it, it’s not about the price, but about the cost of doing ‘unsustainable business’; in the end, you’ll end up paying through the nose. I was also happy to hear that practically everybody sees the necessity of our sustainability ambitions. A company our size should set a good example. 

In general, I got the feeling that the mood was different from last year. We had a lot of explaining to do last year, and stakeholders had their doubts about our course and our intentions; this time around, people were generally positive and were impressed by the steps we’ve taken this past year. They did say that we need to keep telling our story in order to inspire and convince others, to keep explaining our sustainability ambitions and what kind of bank we aspire to be. I’m very happy to take this feedback on board. We can only make this transition by keeping in close and constant touch with the world around us.”

Aaf Brandt Corstius as observer

Like last year, Dutch columnist Aaf Brandt Corstius attended the session as an independent observer. Click here​ (PDF 38 KB) to read Aaf’s column.

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ABN AMRO’s purpose and strategy


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