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Tanja Nagel: give confidence, show courage and be fair

At the General Shareholders Meeting of April 25th, Tanja Nagel was appointed to KAS BANK’s Supervisory Board. From 1986 to 2009, Tanja worked in various management positions at F. van Lanschot Bankiers N.V., of which the final years as the Executive Manager Private Banking for the Netherlands. From 2009 to June 2017, Tanja was CEO of Theodoor Gilissen Bankiers N.V. The first months as member of our Supervisory Board have passed, time to get acquainted.

08 Aug 2018

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Tanja Nagel, Supervisory Boardmember KAS BANKAs the granddaughter of the woman that founded Baukje (a Dutch brand for baked goods), Tanja learned the ins and outs of running a company. In her grandmother’s factory, she learned to give feedback and to improve processes based on new insights. But above all, she learned from her grandmother three core values that shaped her: trust, courage and justice.

Giving people confidence is very important to Tanja. At an early age, her grandmother gave her and her brother the confidence to think about improving the processes in her factory. In her role as CEO at Theodoor Gilissen, she gave her colleagues the very same confidence. She gave them the confidence to do complex tasks and projects themselves. You will sometimes need to accept that things might go wrong when you challenge them to do it themselves, that's part of the learning process. But when something does go wrong, you also get the opportunity for an open discussion. That’s also the confidence you should give your employees.

To Tanja, showing courage means that you stand for your cause, no matter what. Here, being fair also comes into the equation. Of course, from time to time things are difficult and hard to do. But because you stand for your cause and firmly believe in what you want to achieve, you persevere. This perseverance provides clarity to the people around you when you are in charge. If you can also give people the confidence that they can do it themselves and see how people get to grow in their function, that's very inspiring.

Make everyone in the organisation feel involved

Tanja also believes it is very important that everyone in an organisation feel like they belong, and get attention and appreciation. As a manager in an organisation, one of the most important tasks is to make people in your organisation feel they are part of the team. To achieve this, make clear what you expect of your colleagues. It is important that each team has clearly formulated how they can contribute to the mission and vision of the organisation and how they can translate that into clear goals at team level. 
That ensures continuity and clarity for the entire organisation. When you defined a strategy together, you stick to that together. Of course, anything can happen externally that requires you to re-evaluate your strategy. But the worst thing you can do, is let yourself be caught up in the delusions of the day. Doing so makes it very difficult for those employees that were not closely involved in developing the strategy, to understand what is expected of them.

Good internal communication is a crucial part of successfully implementing and executing the strategy. Giving confidence is a very important factor in this equation. An organisation that is not used to work with the new strategy must get time to learn to implement the new vision. The vital role for the board in this is to regularly stand on a “soapbox” and repeatedly communicate the same vision. "Do you remember? This is where we are heading, and this is what we need in order to get there”. And then ask the organisation: "What are you going to do next week to achieve this and what do you need in order to achieve it?” This also means that the company should give every employee the ability for professional development, so that employees get the tools to take on the tasks.

New functions, new role

Tanja currently holds several supervisory roles. Less than a year ago, she was still the Chief Executive at Theodoor Gilissen. Now, she is no longer the decision maker. Asked about the change in her role, she confirms she is indeed no longer the head responsible for everything that happens in an organisation. In her new roles as members of supervisory boards (which were all invites based on the experience she gained during her career) she is now asked to look at situations from a distance and to formulate a vision that she thinks will help the organisation. In this role, she needs to provide ideas to the Managing Board that gives the Board the ability to come up with new insights.

KAS BANK: new strategy comes to fruition in new office

KAS BANK Amsterdam officeTanja has been a ‘regular visitor’ at KAS BANK since March. But at Theodoor Gilissen, she already became acquainted with the organisation as a client. When she told people in her network that she had become a member of KAS BANK's Supervisory Board, she got lots of enthusiastic responses. In her opinion, that says something about the name KAS BANK has in the financial industry.  

KAS BANK’s new office in the south-eastern part of Amsterdam was the first thing that attracted her attention. The open office creates an atmosphere that "really is a joy". The openness is ideal for collaboration and therefore for the propagation of the strategy. She indicates that the bank is taking the right steps in terms of strategy development, and that it will take further steps in the nearby future. Moreover, she sees an enormous drive among the employees to make the strategy a success. Asked to elaborate on that, she mentions the transition the bank is facing to broaden the service range. We have been a custodian since 1806, and will continue to be so. But looking at the market, the exclusive focus on custody is not sustainable for the future. 

Expanding the range of services is a good development, but by doing so it is even more important to have a very clear idea of what an organisation can (and cannot) deliver. It is enormously important, when you want to diversify your offer, that the back office produces what it can deliver and that it is aware of what it can and cannot deliver. Being a unity and feeling like a team is very important to successfully implement a change in the strategy. In any company, the back office should be considered just as important as the front office.

That whatever happens in the market, the choice has been made to put something in the market. And this vision needs to be adhered to. You follow the market, of course, but if nothing disruptive happens in the market, it is important that you stick to the chosen long-term vision.

Consolidation in the financial sector

The consolidation in the financial industry, however, will continue its current course. This means that the service diversification must be in line with what KAS BANK is able to deliver. A good strategy has to have a close fit to the organisation. 

The way it used to be (that a client was a client for a lifetime), that time is over. We must ensure we know what clients expect of us and keep that in mind at all times. This is going well at the moment, but what the client wants in the future, may change more quickly than it changed in the past. In a B2B market, you are not only dealing with your client, but also with your client's clients (i.e. end investors). This end investor could very well have a drastically change in its needs, very soon.

Make sure today is good too

It is good to have a long-term strategy but, Tanja warns, make sure that in the meantime things are also good today. You never know what will happen tomorrow. Since you don't know what will happen tomorrow, do make sure you enjoy today. The same goes for the choices you make in your work life. You can't expect people to enthusiastically work on something for months, because 5 years from now they might reap the benefits. Make sure that in the mean time you celebrate every smaller achievement.
The trick is to define a long-term strategy and design your daily work in a way that makes it manageable. In this way, everyone in your organisation gets closer to achieving the final objectives, one step each day. Tanja really loves to see that the people at KAS BANK work here with a lot of enthusiasm. Just like the employees within the organisation, Tanja also started working with great enthusiasm as a member of the Supervisory Board. By doing so, she will undoubtedly continue to rely on the three values that shaped her: confidence, courage and fairness.