Customer case study: Rabobank IDB and Schuberg Philis
Creating a win-win situation had been the objective of all parties involved since the inception of the internationally oriented Rabobank International Direct Banking (IDB) in 2005. Four relatively small partners at that time joined forces to deliver success. This shared interest and respect has been maintained for fourteen years right up to the end of the cooperation.
Irene Ronner and Tammo Clarke of Rabobank International Direct Banking (IDB) have each rewarded Schuberg with a score of ten out of ten!
“The long-term effects of personal commitments and making true connections is often underestimated,” says Irene, who has worked for Rabobank IDB for the last three years and has been responsible for the partnership with Schuberg Philis since the beginning of 2019. Irene further felt that such commitment and connections lead to positive references and a good reputation, which is easier said than done. “People are simply more motivated when they work on something where they see growth potential. It’s impressive that Schuberg Philis has been able to keep their people motivated right up till the end of the exit project.” Says Irene.
Flashing back to 2005, having a stable IT environment was the need of the hour and the single most important reason to involve Schuberg Philis in a cooperative venture, that further consisted of a software company and a marketing firm. Customer Director Lukas Kortenhorst of Schuberg Philis, who was involved from the start of the initiative with IDB says “IDB also had to accelerate. Each time they decided to setup operations in a new country, shorter time to market from ideation to ‘in production’ was of utmost importance. Speed and flexibility – in combination with stability – were critical.”
“Our primary objective was to have a partner who would complement us” says Irene, referring to the early days. “IDB is and always was a very enterprising part of Rabobank, with all the characteristics of a project organization. Our strength was our ability to innovate and invent. This made it logical to choose a partner who was very good at keeping things on track. There was also pressure on us to work fast, which sometimes meant finding the right balance between speed and quality.”
According to Tammo, the release manager of the core banking system of Rabobank IDB, who’s been involved since 2012, a good partnership depends on mutual trust. “When both partners benefit from good cooperation, you get a win-win situation. Highs and lows make you stronger as long as you work proactively together, try to understand each other, think outside of the box and develop as partners. All this adds up to a strong sense of trust in the long term.”
Irene adds: “In an unharmonious relationship, these factors are often missing. In a genuine partnership everyone understands each other’s interests and acts accordingly. You sometimes have pretty spirited discussions, but you make – and resolve – mistakes together. On the basis of respect for each other’s qualities you achieve maximum results. This partnership also means fewer worries, a model-based method, pleasant surprises, and honesty.”
Customer Director Prashant Tapkhirwala of Schuberg Philis confirms: “Customers must be able to rely on you and their satisfaction comes first. In the 14 years that we’ve worked with IDB, customer satisfaction has been our sole KPI. For this reason, we have not complied with all short-term wishes and have said ‘no’ if we felt something wasn’t in-line with the collective long-term goals.” Lukas: “These highs and lows have contributed to the mutual trust and helped enhance our cooperation.”
The integrated service provided by Schuberg Philis evolved through various phases. “At the start, as a small and relatively inexperienced International Direct Bank we were mainly looking for someone to take on primary responsibility,” says Tammo. “Over a period of time, we grew, became more mature and the roles took on a different form – with us taking more control. In a good partnership you can do that: sitting alternately in the driving seat or being a passenger. This approach saw us through the various phases and gradually things became more stable.”
If one partner dominates, you get an unequal relationship and the mutual respect diminishes. “It’s all about keeping each other’s strengths and weaknesses in balance. That has been the case all the way through the cooperation.”
The exit involved the migration of the five direct banks to their new IT environments. The bank at Ireland ceased to operate because of a strategic decision. The ones in Australia and New-Zealand were migrated to Rabobank’s own IT department. Germany and Belgium were outsourced to a new supplier. All different trajectories, with varied reasons for a change of direction.
“The European exit was the result of a strategic reorientation within Rabobank, driven mainly by the need to save costs,” says Irene. “It was a choice that matched the wishes and demands of that time, although I must say that, with the knowledge of today, we might have made different decisions.”
Irene remembers that the team that was involved was genuinely affected and disappointed with the decision. Equally clear were the intentions and ambitions to facilitate a smooth transition all the way till the end. Prashant: “When we heard the news we were all extremely disappointed. Nevertheless, considering the mutual respect we had for each other, we pulled out all the stops to make the exit as successful as the partnership had been. This interview is testimony to the fact that together we have succeeded.”
Tammo confirms this: “You almost automatically would expect friction and cynicism, however we observed the opposite. We continued to work together as before, including the usual telephone calls until late in the evening; exactly the way we’d worked together for all those years. The trusted relationship that we cherished for all those years lasted till very last moment.”
According to Tammo, the exit took place in a tumultuous period. A squeeze on costs, reorganizations, a lot of new people and thus a drain of expertise. “Schuberg Philis responded well to this, even though formally this was no longer their role.” Irene adds: “For example, by asking questions, checking whether nothing had been missed, whether people were sufficiently aware of various issues, and whether they’d thought of everything.” Tammo: “For example, during a data migration the partner acquiring the data prefers to have it as quickly as possible. But, with such a handover, it is not that straightforward. Are the processes auditable, clear, and are there no operational problems? At such crucial moments Schuberg Philis made the difference, while it would have been totally acceptable if they hadn’t. It’s precisely delivering something that you didn’t expect in advance that gives the partnership that x-factor.”
Irene doesn’t exclude future cooperation: “Within Rabobank flexibility is an important criterion; there are challenging internal dynamics and the financial sector is changing rapidly. Good people that you really trust, are the ones you keep in mind.” Tammo: “This is true for the small IDB, but you’ve also definitely made a name for yourselves within the larger Rabobank organization. That might open up opportunities.”
Asked what score Irene and Tammo would give the exit, the latter answers: “The x-factor and the unexpected service that you delivered are precisely what turns a nine into a ten. I can’t think what could have been done better.” Irene fully agrees: “I am fairly critical but, if I didn’t give Schuberg Philis a ten, I would need to have some pretty good arguments.”
Prashant sums up the value of the cooperation for both partners: “Rabobank has been partly instrumental in helping shape Schuberg Philis to what we have become and who we are today. We will never forget that. This double 10 accolade is the result of years of combined effort: You earn your trophies in practice. You just pick them up at competitions.”
Lukas: “We’ve indeed learned a great deal from the excellent mutual cooperation.” Irene: “It’s great that we can look back and say that we have come a long way together.”