For some new arrivals in the Netherlands, it is like opening the pages of a novel by Kafka. You arrive here, you need to transfer a deposit for a house, you desperately need a bank account, but you can’t get a bank account until you’ve registered your address with the city.
This is just one of the dilemmas that the Rabobank’s international client team desk helps international residents in the Netherlands solve. Such has been the demand from the tens of thousands of foreign workers who arrive here needing bank accounts, insurance and mortgages, that it set up a special desk of eight people in 2018.
‘There are all sorts of rules, but at Rabobank, we have an international client team desk where people can go for advice on what they need to do and the documents they need. There are also financial advisers, people who offer mortgages, private banking and business advisers,’ says Arthur Woensdregt, director of private banking and head of the international client team.
International workers form an important market for the bank, which wants to support its international business clients by helping their employees, and also promote equal educational opportunities by helping expat students organise their finances.
Meanwhile, to support a large organisation moving from London to the Netherlands last year, Rabobank flew over its team for two weekends to advise them on banking and mortgage possibilities. In the end, it offered 70 of the 360 employees a mortgage to buy a new home here.
‘We had a lot of new clients from the employees who came here to live and wanted financing, bank services and insurance,’ says Woensdregt. ‘The fact that the bank went to London was seen as a valuable service, and our employees enjoyed going there too!’
Rabobank has various ideals that appeal to expats, he says, not least of which is supporting the international development of the Netherlands: ‘We have four themes: sustainable living, shorter food chains, equality in education, and circular business. We are also a cooperative bank, and that appeals to expats because some of our profits go back to society and as a client you have a say in this.’
Rabobank sponsors Internationaal Theater Amsterdam, for instance, helping it put on events such as English-language performances, and drinks parties to help expats meet one another and build up a social life.
The bank is a major sponsor of amateur sports. It sets up a stand at fresher fairs and events for international workers, explaining how it can help – although, obviously, such services are currently postponed due to coronavirus restrictions. There is also a special website and helpline (020 777 88 99) to assist with all kinds of financial questions and dilemmas.
Although coming from somewhere else, you might see the appeal of an internet-based bank, Rabobank prides itself on its bricks and mortar.
‘One of Rabo’s strength is that we are regional and close by,’ says Woensdregt. ‘There are lots of banks based further away or internet banks, but Rabo is represented here in the city. If you come to a foreign city and need something, and can’t find it, Rabobank is there through its physical presence.’
That said, the user-friendly app works perfectly in English and you can carry out (almost) every transaction online. ‘You can do everything digitally but we do have to see your passport just once as the first step to becoming a client,’ he explains.
Meanwhile, although he believes that more people will use online-only financial services in future, there will always be some who prefer a ‘real’ Rabobank.
‘If you look at Dutch shops, you have the Bijenkorf department store, and high street staple Hema,’ he says. ‘We aren’t expensive, but some people will prefer us: we appeal to clients who want to know who their bank is, who want a cooperative that does something for society, and a sustainable bank.
‘There will be a shift towards internet-only banks. But when people really need something, I think that they will go to a traditional bank…and we are the best.’
Find out more about Rabobank’s services for internationals here
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