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Case study: ABN AMRO Bank

Building great teams starts with building strong leaders. Roland Muller, Singapore HR country head and regional HR head of private banking for ABN AMRO Bank, speaks to Aditi Sharma Kalra about this transition.

To truly and positively affect the way a team functions, a business needs strong leaders. Leaders who go beyond simply providing direction, but who also create an environment where employees can thrive, grow and work together effectively.

It’s this important element of team-building which ABN AMRO focuses on – leading from the front and developing strong managers who hold the team together.

A recently launched initiative at the bank looks at developing the skills of team leaders, with the view to ensuring they are equipped with the right tools and skills needed to lead and build a successful team around them.

The project aims to transition leaders “from being playing captains to pure play captains”.

“Some catching up needs to be done to ensure the person who got promoted is as effective and successful in his/her new role,” says Roland Muller, ABN AMRO Bank’s executive director and country head of HR in Singapore, as well as regional head of HR for private banking in Asia and the Middle East.

“Particularly in front-office teams where team leaders, along with their managerial responsibilities, have to also manage their client base. How do they, on one hand, make sure their clients are taken care of and, at the same time, manage their team?”

The initiative starts by evaluating individuals on where they stand in terms of gaps in management skills, and discover whether they are really interested in changing with – and leading a change in – the business environment.

“One can’t take up a leadership role just for a grander business card or more salary, it has to be something that one is passionate and serious about. For our team leaders too, it is a personal choice, do they want to continue looking after their clients or do they want to go down the managerial path?” he says.

“The bottom line is we don’t want to have team leaders neglecting their responsibilities as managers. They have to make a choice.”

One can’t take up a leadership role just for a grander business card or more salary, it has to be something that one is passionate and serious about.
The path towards change

The change entails a close partnership with the business. The starting point is a competency framework that defines expectations from managers – how much time they should spend on coaching and performance management of team members, compliance matters and client relationships.

“Next, we’ll do a gap analysis of where each leader fits in the framework while giving consideration to the type of role they are interested in.”

HR will then facilitate in closing the gaps. This, Muller says, can range from a simple brushing-up of skills through a managerial course to an extended executive coaching engagement.

“Each situation is different so needs will be tailored to the individual. HR will be the advisor and facilitator, working in close partnership with the business – it’s a joint responsibility.”

To roll this out, they have set an ambitious target of one year.

“However, since this is so important to us, we will not sacrifice quality for the sake of quick implementation – if that means that it’ll take longer, then we’re willing to accept that.”

Aside from this, Muller finds an increased emphasis on collaboration and open communication has impacted the way teams today are built.

“Transparency has improved, which is a reflection of the social media explosion over the last 10 to 15 years. People are eager for news, they are keen to know what’s going on, and they want to get involved.”

In turn, Muller is a strong believer in empowering his team members.

“I believe in encouraging them to challenge the status quo and certainly challenge me – getting them to open up and play to their strengths. Another thing is to include them in some of the decisions to be taken.”

Back to main feature: United we stand

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