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ING admits what everyone else knew about cross-border integration

Ralph Hamers’ project to centralize ING’s operations was flawed from the outset. Scrapping it is sensible, but a mark against his legacy.

Dominic O'Neill on Europe 1920px.jpg

As chief executive of ING, Ralph Hamers’ faith in the Dutch bank’s digital leadership was so strong that he embarked on one of the world’s most ambitious bank transformations.

This was a project to integrate ING’s various country-level operations more closely than a leading cross-border banking group had ever tried before. It wasn’t long before doubts started to emerge.

It is not that Hamers’ project has had no success at all. Previously, ING had two separate branch networks, even in Belgium. Parts of the corporate centre, especially in the Benelux region, are more incentivized to work together today.

However, trying to integrate different national IT systems proved a distraction. It impeded its commercial success in Belgium, disrupted staff and made customers worry about their data. Much of the Belgian and Dutch systems remain separate.

Model Bank was Hamers’ equally ambitious parallel project, later renamed Maggie. This attempted a similar operational and IT integration not of two countries but four: Spain, France, Italy and the Czech Republic, which are all places ING has smaller online-only operations.

The ultimate aim was to bring them together with the newly integrated Benelux platform and its bigger digital bank in Germany.

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