Take Aways Start event Curriculum Innovation in Banking – Forum the Digital Bank, 2 November 2018

‘Observations through the eyes of Generation Y’

By Emma Hasselaar

The forum Innovation in banking could not have been planned at a more interesting time. Financial institutions are struggling with changing (digital) market demands as well as cyber-attacks and reputational challenges. 

With the current market landscape in mind I was looking forward to the forum! Because, how do advisory boards deal with this? What is their vision and how do they take action?

Supervising innovation in the banking sector requires a clear vision and an audible voice from the non-Executive Board. Not only within the individual bank, but especially also at sector level. After all, developing a financial ecosystem and taking a leading position as Financial BV Netherlands requires all hands on deck of multiple financial players in the sector. And the Supervisory Board plays a crucial role in driving and conducting this dialogue.

As partner at Innovation Booster, born in the digital age and belonging as I understand to the Generation Y, I was kindly asked to reflect on the highlights of the event. Of course, including a challenging note from my perspective.


Floris Mreijen of the Nederlandse Vereniging van Banken opened the forum, highlighting the current fragile reputation of banks in the Netherlands.

The program was introduced by Francoise Dorsman of Hemingway Professional Governance. Francoise called out for a strong dialogue and stressed urgency for high paced execution of the enterprise digital strategic ambition in this fast changing world.

The first speaker of the program was Erik Ploegmakers, managing director of FoxIT. He started his contribution with “I will not sell fear today”. Interestingly enough, his insights in how we are failing to protect ourselves from cyber-attacks raised the most concern of the day. Why does fear still work better than opportunity? Do we need to be afraid before taking action?

Erik closed with the words “don’t be ashamed, we most likely have all been hacked already”. I can already see a reputational squeeze coming up when you relate this to the comment of Floris Mreijen…

Special guest Rob Ruijter, advisory board of NN, stressed the importance of a relentless advisory board. Keep asking questions, be critical of what you hear and keep your priorities straight. However painful this might be painful for the company management!

Willem Jonker of EIT digital shared his vision on (lacking) European digital leadership in the global market. He stated that companies from the US and China dominate the market and don’t care about our European values. Also, this means profits from digital innovation do not flow in our direction. He stressed the importance of inclusion of European values in a digital European financial services industry as: “Technology is not free of value” and US and Asian values have become predominant in the European digital arena.

Willem’s checklist for digital leadership posed some interesting questions, unfortunately the objective of the instrument was not entire clear. The boxes focused on digitizing processes, interfaces, systems. My question is: what is your starting point and goal? Optimizing your current product?

I believe that digital leadership is about serving new customer needs in this digital age. Truly understanding your customer and creating value. Your customer will determine what is of value, not your legacy.

Hein Knaapen of ING focused on the role of HR in innovation. His key message was that in order to sustain continuity, you need to create value. When creating value, people management is essential to make a difference.

Hein lightly touched upon the strategic priorities of ING regarding current developments. He mostly emphasized the key elements of successful people management: Focus and embracing what you are good at. Rob Ruijter challenged Hein by stressing the importance of a purposeful connection of human capital and the digital agenda, c.q. digital ambition of the enterprise.

Harry de Haas of KPN provided insights from a non-financial market perspective. He shared concrete innovation examples of KPN to demonstrate how they adapt to new customer behaviours. According to Harry, you need to be aware of new digital competitors, next to traditional competition. Also, understand who owns the value chain and can monetize on digital innovation. If it’s not you, you may need to disrupt your business model.


As a closing argument I share my two key take-aways:

  • During the forum, the next step to solve cyber security, digitisation, people development was: to allocate resources. Even though I understand this point of view, why not think the other way around? How can we create resource abundancy from scarcity? Be creative!
  • In my view, a digital leader needs: a strong vision and execution. Vision: focus on the value you create for which customer need. Execution: Learn from what you experimented in the market, together with the company. This enables you to act fast, while truly understanding your customer. 


By Emma Hasselaar, partner at Innovation Booster.



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