Andre Kragtwijk (ASN Bank): “Investment and sustainability are in our DNA”

2018-12-05T18:47:03+00:00May 2016|Interview, Investment, Netherlands|

ASN Bank is the winner of the most recent WUA! study of sustainable investments. Andre Kragtwijk is head of marketing and communications at ASN Bank. An interview about being the best, digital innovations, sustainability, focusing on the customer, and engagement on social media about investment choices.

Congratulations, Andre Kragtwijk. You are the winner of this study of sustainable investments. How important is it for you to be the best with ASN Bank?
“Sustainability is in our DNA, and we are a relatively small bank. The fact that we’re doing well in the field of sustainable investment in this study is something we are very proud of. Being the best is really nice, but it is not an absolute goal. It is a confirmation that we are well-positioned as a bank for sustainable investment. We strive to be a very good bank with very good service and good financial and sustainability performance, but I think customer satisfaction is the most important thing!”

You don’t just score high on findability, but also the other topics of the WPS model. In the deepening phase, you scored 80 points on Look&Feel, for example. That is high. What else is going well for you?
“What is going well? It has to do with three things. Clarity, transparency, and inspiration. We offer a clear, uncluttered portfolio of funds, and we communicate clearly. The SRI funds are our focus; we are very able to show the characteristics and peculiarities of those funds. Furthermore, we are transparent with our investment portfolio and the choices that we make are made explicit. Inspiration, we offer by bringing organizations and companies we you as a bank invest in, to the foreground, away from anonymity: where does your money go through ASN Bank, and why does ASN Bank do this?”

Nice, those 3 pillars… A quick question loaded with prejudice: Isn’t sustainable investment more expensive than regular investment?
“No. Being clear, transparent, inspiring, and at the same time sustainable, doesn’t come at the expense of profitability at ASN Bank. We have noticed that customers think it’s important that we are transparent about what we invest in, and why. We also communicate about companies we have invested in in the past, and our reasons for no longer doing this.”

“The decision to invest in a company is primarily driven by whether a company operates in society in a sustainable way. Financial return is a second criterion. The fact that you’re open and transparent about it, is important to customers. If customers than post reactions to the investment choices you make as a bank publicly and online, it shows the involvement of the ASN Bank customer. I find this unique and extremely valuable. This is a discussion we often have on social media channels. That’s wonderful interaction!”

What is the role of customer research and customer focus in your daily work?
“We do this partly in a structural fashion. We use feedback tools, analysis, and reports from Google Analytics. Consumer insights are used for the development of our digital domains. And once we’ve developed, we start a conversation with customers. We stay on top of our customers. Sometimes we put something live and afterwards we analyse quantifiably how a customer moves through the new environment.”

“We also work with panel sessions, together with an agency. We have regular discussions about customer interests. I’m working on it almost every day, and trade-offs for the benefit of this customer interest are very natural. That’s logical, we are a bank that wants to do banking with respect for people, nature, and the environment. We have social impact, so it makes sense to focus on the interests of our customers!”

What is your biggest digital challenge?
“Within the domain of sustainable investment, ASN Bank is very well-positioned. But within the domain of investment, it is our challenge to convince investors who aren’t really into sustainability yet, to come to us. So, tempting them with sustainability elements, as well as being a bank that supports customers online in making financial choices, with good returns. Investors who aren’t very familiar with sustainability but are interested in it should be facilitated in making their investment decisions. We are a good sustainable investment bank, but we can develop further as a bank for all investors.”

That does seem like a big challenge. How are you going to tackle this digitally?
“It has become even more important for people to understand their own assets and financial future. You need to have more insight into how you deal with your own assets. At ASN Bank we want to start offering digital self-help tools to help make (sustainable) investment choices. We want customers to be able to play with options, and we want to provide calculators and decision trees. This way, we help them get digital insight into their financial needs, future, planning and financial self-reliance. Furthermore, making choices in the tool should not only be based on sustainable criteria, but also on more traditional efficiency criteria in order to reach and integrate non-sustainable investors as well.”

“We also want to offer good online benchmarking digitally, compared to other funds. Sustainable investment doesn’t mean that you need to compromise on performance, certainly not long-term. We have a great opportunity to bring the long-term perspective of sustainable investment into the digital limelight. This results in more options.”

How do you view service in relation to sales? Could service eventually become the new sales in your sector?
“Customer satisfaction is the most important thing. If you deal with questions, comments, or problems well through excellent customer service, you create ambassadors for life. We aim for NPS, we are one of the few banks that have a positive NPS. At ASN Bank we do not sell products, we are engaged in building lasting customer relationships and this results in sales. We are a bank that offers service, and we work hard every day to do this well. Because if you get your service right, you are not in business. Does this mean that service a sales channel? Definitely!”

Are there any other interesting things happening at ASN Bank, what digital innovations are you working on?
 “Making the website fully responsive, this will be the biggest challenge for the next 6 months. On top of that, in the short term we’ll be implementing digital self-help tooling to help investors take into account sustainability when making their investment choices.”