Rudolf Molkenboer: CEO of ING Americas

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Rudolf Molkenboer serves as the Chief Executive Officer of ING Americas, a subsidiary of ING Groep N.V. He served as Chief Executive Officer of Real Estate Finance at CBRE Global Investors B.V. Mr. Molkenboer served as Global Head at ING Real Estate Finance (USA) LLC. He served as Global Head of Real Estate Finance (REF), ING Commercial Banking, based in The Hague, The Netherlands, and was primarily responsible for the successful integration of the global REF business into ING's Commercial Banking platform. He joined ING in 2007 as Global Head of the Event Finance team, which assist in structuring transactions for ING clients globally. Previously, Mr. Molkenboer led the Media Benelux sector team at ABN Amro from 2001 to 2007. He began his career at Price Waterhouse as a tax advisor in the international tax practice.

How did you get into the Finance industry?

I began my career as a tax lawyer but quickly realized I had a greater ambition than practicing tax law my entire life. I wanted to learn more, expand my footprint and enter a career where I could have more impact in the world around me.  My interest in finance, history and politics, led me to the banking industry and specifically the Dutch bank ABN AMRO.

Tell us about what brought you to ING.

I was looking for an opportunity to be more entrepreneurial and think more creatively for my clients. My search for a company that matched led me to ING, known for being ambitious and eager to expand their wholesale banking offerings. I shared that desire, and the vision of the man who hired me, Bill Connelly. Bill wanted to transform ING’s wholesale bank from being straight through lender into more an advisor, a true partner to our clients.

When I joined in 2007 we brought this idea to life with a new group we called Event Finance, which is now the Capital Structure and Advisory Group. This team was built for multidisciplinary advisory and execution and to be able to swiftly respond to clients’ needs with whatever customized financing solution we felt they needed most – not the out of the box solutions that most banks were selling at the time. We helped our clients overcome difficult challenges with unique solutions across M&A, reorganization, and debt and equity financing. We felt this new approach was the future of how wholesale banking would be done and we attracted a lot of attention from European CFOs and CEOs. We would later expand this practice and philosophy into other verticals, such as financial institutions.

What were some of the important lessons you learned early on at ING?

We dared to question ourselves, and had the courage to change. I learned that to have success you need to always learn, question and challenge yourself. At ING, we fostered an environment of learning and adapting, had a unique ability to change, ask questions and keep an open mind. This enabled us to always provide our clients the solutions that they needed, not just what we wanted to sell.

Delivering on your promises is very easily said, and can quickly be dismissed as marketing language, but actually delivering on what you say is the important thing that matters. Our group prided itself, and still does, on our focus on listening, coming up with good ideas, and getting the job done.

What trends are impacting ING in the US and the industry broadly?

Technology is having a profound impact on our industry. The rapid onset of fintech disruptors have many questioning if financial institutions will survive, but at ING we take a different view. Our fintech strategy focuses on agility and partnership with the new entrants to create the best processes and finance the best solutions for our clients. This thinking is grounded in collaborating, standardizing, innovating and prioritizing so we can adapt and provide the greatest value to our clients.

Simultaneously, traditional products are being attacked; forcing the industry to re-engineer and prove that the added value and service that you gain by working with a financial institution is unmatched.

Take commercial banking as an example. Lending to small and mid-sized companies is more competitive than ever today with online lending platforms making inroads. They offer lower cost products that are faster and more efficient than traditional products. For us, this is an opportunity to learn and evolve. We improved our technology and processes in order to reduce process time from our clients to the bank, and make it easier for them to manage the documentation and legal requirements. We see this as real, impactful innovation.

As another example, ING’s added value in the United States comes from asset-based financing. Medium termed financing on the back of collateral have a high sector knowledge requirement around it. This means you cannot even enter the space or speak to the clients without truly understanding the sector and having proven expertise. These are the parts of the industry I am confident will survive for the time being. The only way to stay relevant is to provide added value through an extensive knowledge base.

What accomplishment are you most proud of at ING?

Creating a true partnership with our clients to deliver the innovative products they need for their most complex financing challenges. This is not an easy undertaking but one ING has accomplished through fostering a culture of people working together, globally, to share knowledge freely with our colleagues and clients. We have worked very hard to create an environment where people feel empowered to come up with ideas without being prompted and are not shy to take initiative and risks. The result is an ING that is always the most relevant partner to our clients.

This culture has had a lasting impact on our business. For instance, we saw certain moments where American markets were hot to provide financing for buyouts in Europe. We felt we should be offering that same feature to our European clients, so that they could provide unique American sourced financing to European markets. The only way we could accomplish this was in an environment where all of our global colleagues collaborated frequently and are free to share ideas. Having a global footprint is important, but if all of the parts cannot work together to provide our clients the best work then it is irrelevant.

What other aspects of ING’s culture in the US are important to you?

I like to see and help people grow. I want to make sure I am providing people opportunities and support, because if people around you do well, everyone will benefit. That is why I strive to create an environment of collaboration, mentoring and support.

I began a program where managers were asked to be mentors and develop those reporting to them. This of course benefits the person being mentored, but it works both ways. Take millennials as an example. Younger people in your organization working with middle management forces us to be better communicators, open to change and to evolve. It makes you step up your own performance management.

Empowering people to set high goals, and then giving them the tools they need to succeed is very important. Hold people to high standards, and I find that they exceed even their own expectations more often than not.  

What's next for ING in the US?

We are focused on building our pockets of excellence, and continuing to be exceptional partners to our existing clients. We listen every day to their needs, and to what the global markets are telling us. This enables ING to be more relevant to our current and future clients, provide the advice and service they truly need, and follow through with impactful results.