In a first among banks in the Netherlands, ABN AMRO is pioneering a learning journey to raise its employees’ awareness of often unconscious biases and to train them in inclusive behaviour. The programme helps to develop insight into inclusivity and increase awareness of blind spots in employees’ own behaviour. It enables them to better tailor both financial services and internal processes to the needs of disadvantaged client groups, starting with women. In the run-up to the launch of this bank-wide programme, ABN AMRO yesterday hosted the first edition of an online roundtable event called ‘Breaking barriers: women and enterprise’, which saw leading entrepreneurs and experts from financial and civil society organisations discuss ways to remove barriers that hold back female entrepreneurs.
The learning journey’s pilot phase will see 40 client advisors being trained to recognise their unconscious biases, learn new skills and develop inclusive behaviour. The approach is intended to change the organisation in terms of all of its product processes, communication and advisory styles. As ambassadors for the programme, these client advisors will then train other colleagues, the ultimate aim being for as many people as possible to complete the internal programme by 2023.
As Chantal Korteweg, Head of Inclusive Banking at ABN AMRO, explains: “This learning journey aims to make all of us at the bank more aware of our blind spots. After all, we all have unconscious biases and banks are no exception when it comes to their clients, especially female clients. We’re the first bank in the Netherlands to address the issue. To really root out unconscious bias, individual skills aren’t enough: we need to change the system. And so we’ll have to adapt our processes, our leadership, the KPIs we seek to achieve and the way we give each other feedback and provide coaching.”
Making the world more equal starts right here
“We’re a bank right at the heart of society and we want to help combat social inequity,” Korteweg says. “In line with our purpose, Banking for better, for generations to come, it’s essential that we make our products and services accessible to all.
ABN AMRO-commissioned research* earlier this year found that women experience a great many hurdles when it comes to financial services. And so we’re trying to build a bridge between our financial products and services and our female clients. But we will also focus on the needs of other client groups, for example people with a diverse cultural background. The development of this bank-wide learning journey is a first step to more inclusive service, as it gives our people tools to better tailor their advice to their clients’ needs. Our aim is to spark our people’s awareness of their unconscious biases and to help them better address the needs of female clients and other disadvantaged groups. That will help them enhance relationships with these clients.”
First edition of ‘Breaking barriers: women and enterprise’
To mark the launch of this learning journey, ABN AMRO yesterday hosted the first edition of ‘Breaking barriers’ – an online roundtable event at Circl, its circular pavilion in Amsterdam’s business district – on the theme of ‘Women and Enterprise’. The event focused specifically on the hurdles that female entrepreneurs face in financial services. Given a series of statements to discuss, entrepreneurs and financial sector and business experts shared ideas on female entrepreneurship and how to promote it.