What’s it like to work at ABN AMRO Clearing?
On Tuesday 19 January, Anne from the FSA Marketing Committee interviewed Roos Janssen and Maria Arias, both working for ABN AMRO Clearing. Roos Janssen (34) studied a double degree Business Administration and Dutch Law at the University of Nijmegen. After several internships she started as a trainee at ABN AMRO, where she has now been working for 6,5 years in different positions. She started out as relationship manager PTG. She then moved to the role of business developer, and is currently in the position of Head Client Operations. Maria Arias (29) is from Spain, Granada. She studied math and obtained a masters in physics. She came to Amsterdam more than five years ago to do a PhD in astrophysics. A few months ago, she started the graduate program at ABN AMRO Clearing. Read their experiences in the blog!
Why did you choose to work at ABN AMRO Clearing?
Roos: ‘Somehow it is always a bit of a coincidence, how your career develops. I had graduated and went to see if there were any interesting inhouse-days, and ABN was actually the first and only one I attended. That went really well, and I immediately had a great connection with the people I met at the time. We went straight into the pub on Friday and I thought: let’s try this job! Of course, it was not a complete coincidence, because I found the financial industry very interesting. On the other hand, if another bank had been there earlier, I might have started there.’
Maria: ‘For me, it is maybe a bit of a different story compared to the other people in the graduate program, because I just finished my PHD in astrophysics. I really loved astronomy, but to be an astronomer, you have to be either working for the university or an observatory, as there is no real industry. Furthermore, there are not many faculty jobs and many people are applying for it. So, I started searching for jobs where I could use my analytical background and programming skills. I applied for another job at ABN AMRO. I was not accepted, but they send my CV around the company and eventually it ended up at ABN AMRO Clearing, where I entered the graduate program.’
Could you tell me a bit more about your job at ABN AMRO Clearing?
Roos: ‘I am currently in the position of Head of Client Operations. We are responsible for all operational services for clearing and custody clients. I could say my job consists of five components. Firstly, I am responsible for the team development. I have a lot of conversations with people about how things are going, what they would like to develop, how they see the future and how I can help them. The second component is the client. From the client perspective, we are amongst others the face of the company. I have a lot of conversations with clients, but alsowith people from my team to see how they handle such conversations to see whether I can give feedback. It is good to hear what is going on with the client and where we can improve ourselves as a team. The third component are the internal meetings. How does the collaboration with other departments go? Where can we help each other? Fourthly, there is vision and strategy. What can we expect and where do we want to go as an organizational unit? And finally, there is the daily operation.’
Maria: ‘I am currently in the graduate program at ABN AMRO Clearing. The graduate program starts with a training month, in which there are sessions with an external firm to teach you about the clearing business and where several talks are organized by various departments like Operations, Finance, Risk, IT and more. During the graduate program, you do three rotations in different departments. My first rotation was at data science, and I really liked it! During those 3,5 months I have been working on writing a code for the data that had been gathered. In the end I put it together and presented it to the financial management team. My next assignment is going to be in risk modelling, where I will be participating in a group that is doing the annual review of the risk model. So, I think it will be very hands-on and applied. I expect it will require me to learn a lot about the specific details of financial models.’
How did your application process go, and do you have any advice for people who would like to apply at ABN AMRO Clearing?
Roos: ‘I started the traineeship at ABN AMRO Bank, instead of at ABN AMRO Clearing as the Clearing traineeship did not exist at that time. The trajectory is of course different at the bank than in the current traineeship. Probably Maria is the best to tell you a bit more about it. As an advice I would say: be yourself! We are not looking for someone who pretends to be different, because in the end that will cost a lot of energy and you will eventually not be in the right place. You have to have a good feeling about what you are going to do, and whether you fit into the company culture. Vice versa, the company must also have that feeling with you. Be yourself!’
Maria: ‘This year the application process for the graduate program was organized online. Firstly, I had to perform some tests online like an IQ test and E-Assessment. Afterwards I received a report of how well I performed and these results were used as input for the interviews. I had three interviews in one day. The first one was about my motivation. In the second interview, we discussed the results of my tests. In the final interview I had to prepare a case. This was quite confronting, as I didn’t know much about the bank or Clearing. My advice is: don’t be afraid to apply for the graduate program if you have never heard of Clearing. You can have a completely different background and be able to learn what is important. And of course, it is always good to have an idea of which parts of the organization you would be interested in!’
You both came from very different study backgrounds. How did you experience the transition to Clearing?
Roos: ‘To be honest, I didn’t even know what Clearing meant before I started. Clearing is something you cannot actually learn during your studies. Law, for example, is a very specific study in which you will recognize many things during your first job. You don’t have that at Clearing. There is actually no study where you can learn the Clearing business. You learn a certain way of analytical thinking during your studies, and of course you can use that in various first jobs. I did an internship at a law firm, where it was very much about the words and putting the commas in the right places. And at my internship at Ahold, I found some operational parts less interesting. What I really liked about the financial sector was that it is an abstract and complex world. Clearing is perhaps the ultimate example of this, it is not tangible. I really liked that, and few people know how the business really works, it is definitely a niche market. You learn something new every day, and you only learn that when you start!’
Maria: ‘I was surprised by how similar it was to my study, even though I have a very different background. At the beginning of the Graduate Program, I was in the Data Science group. I had to write a code to make sense of my data, and that is exactly what I have done in astronomy as well. It is about turning data into insight. The difference is that in corporate jobs you have a lot more communication and the time schedules are a bit tighter. It is not so independent. You are not working solo on your project, but instead you have many phone conversations with different people. I think that is the biggest difference with astrophysics’
How would you describe the company culture at ABN AMRO Clearing?
Roos: ‘I work within client operations with a team of 25 colleagues, different nationalities, men, women, different age, different backgrounds, very diverse! That also makes it a lot of fun. ABN AMRO Clearing has the facilities of ABN AMRO bank as a professional organization, but it is its own small entity. There is little hierarchy. You can simply call or Whatsapp the Global Management Team, which is responsible for the entire Clearing with 800 people worldwide. Before COVID-19, they were also in the pub together with us and the trainees, making it very accessible. Another advantage is that if you have ideas or want to implement a change, this is easier than in a large company like ABN AMRO Bank. Therefore, clearing has a real entrepreneurial spirit. There are many new ideas and initiatives that you can work on that get off the ground quickly. It is also very dynamic and international. We have 11 offices worldwide that we speak to regularly. The international character means that you sometimes have to deal with cultural differences, and that sometimes makes it difficult, but also very interesting. This also offers possibilities if you would like to emigrate abroad for an assignment. For example, I also lived in London for a while during my traineeship.’
Maria: ‘I have mainly been working with the other people from the graduate program. Within this team, I believe the youngest person is 25, and I am 29. We have a few people that studied for instance business administration, economics, or chemistry. It is just a little bit of everything!’
Which skills do you think are needed in your job?
Roos: ‘You can have different skills, and there is something to be said for everything. As Head of Client Operations, I think you should especially enjoy working with people internally and externally, and making people better. Besides that, it is important to be critical, challenging the status quo, always strive to be better than yesterday. You must also have the helicopter view and see where you want to go in the future. But above all you have to have the interest and enjoy doing it. If you like to do something you will put time and energy into it to get better, but also vice versa.’
Maria: ‘The skill set is really diverse! For instance, if you want to work in the data science group, you need to be familiar with programming or data obviously. In general, I think the people that are in the graduate program are very organized. You talk to a lot of people, so you need to have the ability to synthesize a lot of information and put it together in a cohesive way.’
Where do you see yourself in a few years?
Roos: ‘I don’t really have a plan with a number of boxes that should be ticked off in a number of years. I think someone can have mapped it out so beautifully, but things also happen by coincidence. When I made the switch from commerce to operations, many people were surprised, because at that time it was not an often done switch in that direction. Within operations I got an opportunity that I would otherwise not have gotten so quickly, which allowed me to broaden my knowledge and skillset. I think it is good to see what comes your way and whether it feels right at that moment.’
Maria: ‘After finishing all rotations within the graduate program, if I would like to join one of the teams, I will have a chat with my manager and will discuss whether I would fit in one of the teams. If they have an open position, I can be placed there. I personally would really like it if, in a few years, I would be able to work from home in Spain. But, who knows… I just moved here to de Pijp and who knows for how much longer I will stay. A year ago, if someone would have told me I would be here today, I would not have believed it. So actually, I just completely thrown planning out of the window.’
Are you interested in the ABN AMRO Global Clearing Talent Programme? Have a look at the vacancy: https://careers.abnamro.com/job/Amsterdam-Global-Clearing-Talent-Programme-Noor/729068300/