Cooperative banking: Heemskerk blames the shareholder cult
The retiring chairman of Rabobank urges a new model of bank ownership; The view from a survivor is that the worst may be to come
"We were a core holding because we were a safe institution that paid stable dividends year in and year out"
Bert Heemskerk, Rabobank
Bert Heemskerk retired last month after serving for seven years as chairman of the executive board of Rabobank. It is not just the Dutch cooperative bank that will miss him. His book on the credit crisis came out last month in Dutch. It will probably be a very good read. Heemskerk studied philosophy, theology and macroeconomics before starting his banking career at Amro Bank in 1969. He looks more like a prize fighter than a philosopher.
For Heemskerk, the cult of shareholder value lies behind the ruin of modern-day banking. He says: "From when I started at Amro in 1969 until I left in 1981, I doubt the share price rose by a single penny. And do you know what? The big pension funds, the large institutional investors, they all absolutely loved us. We were a core holding because we were a safe institution that paid stable dividends year in and year out.
"Banks thought of themselves as utilities.