Once upon a time, when internationals moved to the Netherlands, they would find themselves in a vicious circle: to get a bank account, you needed an address, to get an address, you needed access to cash, and the king of all your needs was a Dutch social security number.
At ABN Amro now, though, one of these steps is a lot easier. You no longer need a Dutch BSN social security number in order to open a bank account – which means that you can potentially set up your account before you move via the ABN Amro banking app, so your first pay check or transfer can await you.
“Before, the customer was sort of in a loop where they came to the Netherlands, wanted to open an account to have their salary deposited, but they needed the BSN to do that,” explains Siri Mauer, head of segment development for consumer clients “We really felt the urge to help them out. Having them onboard without needing their BSN takes them out of this loop.”
No legal change was necessary, the bank discovered: they can meet legal obligations around identity checks and money laundering by asking foreign customers for their foreign tax identifier number in order to set up the account. Then, later, people can add their Dutch BSN number when the necessary steps have been taken and it has been issued – within 90 days of opening the account, because local municipalities can take this much time legally to issue it
The bank views this as its USP, or unique selling point: although its ancestry has existed for 300 years, it is the first among its competitors to offer fully digital onboarding.
“The bank did not really change its policy to onboard expats and international students but we did just think more creatively about how we can help them digitally,” says Mauer. “We thought, if these people need to come to the Netherlands, and they need to open a bank account, how can we help them digitally instead of sending them to a branch office? I moved to South Africa once, and you’re stressed enough handling everything you need to handle when you are going abroad.”
Barbara Caron, project lead, can also empathise with the expat experience. “From a convenience perspective, if you already have a bank account, it really helps to pay for your groceries, rent and receive your first salary,” she says. “We are often the first company expats are visiting – even if they already have an account – to also discuss insurances, how money is handled in the Netherlands, and we can explain more about money instead of having an hour just to open an account.”
Expats from the US will still need to have a physical appointment at an ABN Amro branch, but most others can open their account using a foreign tax identifier number. The bank will then make a video call appointment within the first two weeks to answer any questions and discuss other issues.
“We will call to ask how you are doing, whether everything is alright with the account: we can focus more on service and a holistic perspective,” says Mauer. “And then we know in about six months, expats are most in need of a mortgage. So we know these important moments and we connect with them proactively via our warm welcome programme especially for expats.”
Around 70% of the bank’s students, for example, are internationals and many of them stay in the Netherlands for good. So it makes business sense to devote a lot of attention to helping this group. ABN Amro’s average customer age is relatively young and customer loyalty is high.
In 2022, the bank had 11,000 face-to-face appointments with expats and 300 with international students. Now most of these physical appointments are no longer needed.
There might be internet-only banks available out there, but Caron says there’s an advantage to choosing a traditional bank that has all the internet services and add-ons you might need. “We’re a trusted bank, but 98% of our services are already digital and we’re really proud of that,” she says. “And we find that if you offer an excellent service, people will stay loyal.”
Find out more about ABN Amro’s expat service here