Is it possible to innovate and to be entrepreneurial within a corporate? And if so, how? Three entrepreneurial Rabo women share their experiences. “If you get enough space from within a large organization to innovate, you get the best of both worlds.”
To dare, to focus, and to involve customers: those are, according to Nieke Martens, Steffie op de Laak, and Arlette Broex, the most important ingredients for innovation and to be entrepreneurial within a large organization such as the Rabobank.
Martens is director of Rabo Schretlen Wealth Management, a traditional part of the bank. She is proud of the pilot for Rabo & Co, now running; a platform on which wealthy clients who want to invest are connected to business clients looking for funding. “Within our domain these type of pilots are new, but we just started and really pushed forward with a small team. Now we even have a waiting list of clients. How amazing is that?”
Broex is in charge of daughter company MyOrder, a mobile platform with around fourty employees. She previously worked for Rabobank and became an entrepreneur later on. “If you get the space within a corporate to innovate, you get the best of both worlds”, according to Broex, who profits from Rabobank’s large reach, but at the same time can operate as a startup, due to its relative independence.
Another startup working under Rabobank’s wings, group payment app GRPPY, lead by Steffie op de Laak, profits from the bank’s network. “Our app uses parts of the MyOrder platform, which is why for example, we do not have to worry about basic processes such as iDeal contracts and cash flow. That’s why we can fully focus on developing the group intelligence.”
Rabo & Co shows that there is space within the current organization for innovation, but some concepts – such as GRPPY and MyOrder – need a (semi) independent, to the bank affiliated, organization. With such a construction, it is easier to also get non-Rabobank customers interested for new products.
What also embodies innovation: involvement of customers is essential, these three women experience. Before developing GRPPY, Op de Laak simply went to the streets asking teens about their needs on how to manage their finances. For the launch of Rabo & Co, Martens directly talked to customers about how and in what type of businesses they would like to invest.
“If you develop a product for three years within your own walls and only show it to the world afterwards, you have no idea how the world will respond”, according to Broex. “That is why a part of innovation is to open up and show your product or services to the world early on. It means that you also need enough space to make mistakes, for which a culture change is essential.” At the bank this change is in development.
Of course, a large organization, such as Rabobank has its bumps concerning innovation trails. Slow and strict processes for the introduction of new products can cause a delay, Op de Laak sometimes experiences. “We are one of the first startups under Rabobank’s wings, so we still have to figure out how to deal with this. I see it as a learning process. We want to do something other startups will benefit from.”
What really helps Op de Laak is that she, with her twelve years of experience at the bank, knows a lot of people. “A network like that is very important when you innovate within a large organization. I know exactly where to turn to when I run into issues.”
Large and maybe traditional businesses have no choice, the three women believe: they also need to innovate. Martens: “It is our job to connect to the next generation and at the same time do everything we can for our current clients. To create a space where smart innovations thrive is the only way to do that in the right way.”