Western Europe: Zalm considers the scale of ABN Amro’s ambition
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Western Europe: Zalm considers the scale of ABN Amro’s ambition

ABN Amro has risen again. Under executive chairman Gerrit Zalm, the bank has been remodelled almost beyond recognition. Its capital and profitability are restored, and, as the Dutch mortgage market shrinks, Zalm sees its best chances for growth in the international arena.

Gerrit Zalm illustration-350

Illustration: Pete Ellis

The local reputation of ABN Amro’s chairman might surprise those who have not met him. 

At first glance, he looks like any member of a western European elite: grey-haired and besuited. But Gerrit Zalm’s well-publicized 2014 address to his bank’s employees – dressed in full drag and in the guise of a brothel madam – gives a less staid picture.

Euromoney can confirm that Zalm’s office in Amsterdam contains a large portrait of his wife and not a pinball machine. Zalm says it is “one of the myths” that his old finance minister’s office in The Hague had one. Granted, he put it in a communal area and used it from time to time. It was “part of the image”, he grins.

Answering Euromoney’s questions, Zalm’s otherwise considered and straight-faced responses are punctuated by his trademark bursts of throaty laughter. Despite his capacity for humour, the matter on which Zalm has been focused for the past nine years, as the head of ABN Amro’s management board, is extremely serious: rebuilding one of the pillars of European banking.

Zalm’s 12 years as Dutch finance minister during the pre-crisis days of the 1990s and early 2000s have left him with a popular reputation at home, and not solely as a result of his sense of humour.

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