Which way next for ABN Amro?
Despite healthy profits, is Kees van Dijkhuizen doing enough to close the digital gap with ING – and what happens when the Dutch mortgage market turns? Are the chief executive and his team capable of forging a longer-term rationale for the bank?
Illustration: Kevin February
There can be few sights so evocative of how much European finance has changed in the last decade than the trading floor at ABN Amro in Amsterdam. Conceived in the early 2000s as one of the biggest trading floors in Europe, it is a vast cavern of desks and screens, presided over by a giant map of the world with the firm’s logo attached.
Today, although far from empty, it has a dustbowl atmosphere. It has all the noise and apparent dynamism of a minor government department. On top of one of the biggest groups of desks is a sign marked ‘Compliance’.
The vain yearning for its past glory days as a global investment bank and leader in emerging markets – and today’s Dutch political resistance to the slightest suggestion that such ambition might return – seems to haunt every step ABN Amro makes.
It is the case, even now, as the bank seeks a replacement for Olga Zoutendijk, who stepped down as chair in February after less than two years, amid a European Central Bank investigation into ABN’s governance and what the bank says was an internal discussion over her leadership style.