Colette Dierick (ING): The Art of Collaboration

After her degree in civil engineering, Colette Dierick entered the banking world with a two-year contract as a management trainee at ING. Eleven positions later, she is now CEO of ING Luxembourg where she remains loyal to the group and its strong culture. Interview.

What objectives have you set for this year?

I distinguish two types of objectives. On the one hand, those that fall under financial indicators. They concern profitability, commercial development, liquidity, compliance with all risk limits - a real business in itself - but also transformation management. On the other hand, I focus on the employees’ commitment to the firm. This component is key because through it we have developed a long-standing culture whose positive effects can be seen both internally and in terms of customer satisfaction. At ING, we invest a lot in our “Orange Culture.” This requires a continuous effort, and generates a strong differentiation compared to other banks and companies. We are pioneers, with our executive management very close to the teams, for example. I have reduced the number of hierarchical levels since I arrived in September 2016. We encourage a high degree of autonomy for our colleagues because this approach has demonstrated greater fulfilment of our employees and better results.

 

“At ING, personality is more important than the diploma.”

How did you choose a career in finance?

During my studies as a civil engineer in Ghent, I learned how to build bridges among other structures. This skill seems to be highly valued at ING because the company recruited me even before I graduated. Having grown up in a self-employed family, I wanted to enter the business world and do an MBA, but I was able to do my MBA inside the bank as a management trainee: an excellent return on investment! At ING, personality is more important than the diploma. I always apply this rule because a person with a good attitude can learn a lot, yet it is very difficult to change a personality. At first, I didn't think I would have a career in banking, but a world opened up during my internship and the different positions I was able to hold afterwards. I became passionate about the different roles and the dynamics at work between colleagues. First of all, it is necessary to work on oneself, then, when becoming a manager, it is necessary to master the art of creating multipliers in collaboration so that one and one equals more than two. I find teaching, motivating and inspiring people very rewarding.

How can a strong culture like ING's be created?

ING has always had a strong culture, and I have been very involved since we defined a common approach at a global level in 2014. We have given the floor to all colleagues in all ING entities to identify what makes us different. It is not enough to say it: we have written everything in black and white and, since then, we have shared an “Orange Code” with three guidelines: 1. Take it on and make it happen. 2. Help each other to be successful. 3. Always stay a step ahead. We seek to attract people who are able to act, collaborate and anticipate. In a world as complex as ours no one can achieve his or her goals alone. No one can become a specialist in everything. We trust people, without exercising too much control. Mistakes are part of the game: the only unacceptable thing is to do nothing. Newcomers are trained in both our jobs and our culture and during performance assessments - twice a year – corporate cultural objectives take on as much importance as business objectives.

 

How does your firm manage the uncertainty of the global economy?

I believe that three elements make it possible to deal with it effectively: transparency, communication and - of course - bridge building. ING is highly profitable and communicates transparently at all levels, with great accessibility both at the level of the executive management and at the level of each manager.  Each quarter we share our results according to the different aspects (commercial, financial, risk). I also organize "Talks with Colette" with all teams of the bank to explain, exchange and shape the context. As for bridges, we build them between departments and functions and we are also constantly looking for new relationships and partnerships. We are lucky to be part of a large global group that acts as a forum for international discussions and collaborations.

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