Luxembourgh Times

Talking Business with ING Luxembourg CEO Luc Verbeken

After two months as ING Luxembourg CEO Luc Verbeken talks to about integrating into Luxembourg life, running the ING marathon and banning bureaucracy.

Who are you and what do you do?

I have a very long and strong relationship with ING, having been recruited by the Group in Brussels in 1985, before graduating from university. I have worked in a variety of positions in Retail Banking and Commercial Banking in Belgium, Spain, the USA and the Netherlands. Just before joining ING Luxembourg, I was Head of the new worldwide Project Management Office of ING Bank in Amsterdam, and reported directly to ING Bank’s Vice-Chairman, Koos Timmermans.

During my career at ING, I have already been from time to time responsible for different areas of ING Luxembourg and I was therefore familiar with the business model of the local entity.

I officially took over the reins of ING Luxembourg on 1 March 2013.

How did you get where you are now?

I have always been extremely passionate about finance and I always had the idea of working for a financial institution. Before graduating from university I already knew I wanted to work for Banque Bruxelles Lambert (BBL) because I liked the image of that bank: young, dynamic, open and leader in technologies. BBL is the former name of ING Belgium!

Once there, I followed the path to become a “solid” banker, starting small and local and gaining more experience and responsibility with time. One has to be open to new challenges and that’s why I was really happy when I was given the opportunity to become the new CEO of ING Luxembourg.

What are the most important skills and qualities for a successful business leader?

In my experience, believing in what you do and what you stand for is crucial in any line of business. It’s what allows you to go the extra mile, to offer supreme customer service and to be a true team player.

Banking is not about individuals but about consistent team work from excellent diverse profiles; that is why I constantly push for team work and communication within the bank. As a leader, I try to be as accessible as possible and play my role as part of the team encouraging my colleagues and allowing them to develop themselves and their careers. For sure, I cannot do it all on my own!

Being a leader is about guiding, motivating and enabling others to do their part. And afterwards it’s about celebrating achievements together.

How do you assess the current economic situation in Luxembourg?

Even though I have been living in Luxembourg for only a few months, it is clear that the effects of the difficult economic situation of the Western world are also noticeable here. And yet I believe Luxembourg is in an advantageous position thanks to its pro-activity and flexibility. When I arrived in Luxembourg, I immediately noticed that the country showed a real international intelligence. We have the specialised workforce, the experts to meet our clients’ requirements. Despite the limited size of the Luxembourg market, it is large enough and very open so that, with the right entrepreneurial mindset and by facing change as an opportunity rather than a challenge, Luxembourg will ensure a bright and fruitful future.

The financial sector will continue to be confronted with a regulatory wave and will need to continue to adapt to it! This generates considerable costs in terms of IT and resources.

Specialised in cross-border activities, Luxembourg will also have to continue to defend the single market against a tendency for refocusing on local markets.

In terms of private banking, the country will have to manage the transition from “offshore” banking to “onshore” banking. This means that globally, the financial sector will have to review its business model.

As far as the Luxembourg government is concerned, it will have to take the necessary measures to prepare the country for the challenges of the future: push entrepreneurship and carefully reconsider global tax pressure and corporate income taxes in particular, reduce public spending and manage the transition of the country’s economy from an economy mainly based on finance to an economy also based on new technologies and knowledge sharing.

What are your expectations and hopes for the Luxembourg economy in the next 12 months?

My expectations are simple and clear: I hope entrepreneurship further develops in Luxembourg, because it is essential for its economic growth.

I expect the country to accelerate what has already been initiated: the development into an innovation hub, welcoming start-ups and encouraging new ideas.

But don’t wait for plans in the medium-term and for government initiatives: we can act right now on necessary changes.

In Luxembourg, it is clear that the financial industry must remain a strong contributor to the necessary efforts towards change.

If you could change one law in Luxembourg, what would it be?

I wouldn’t change one specific law; I would rather encourage authorities to simplify regulations that lead to bureaucracy and hinder entrepreneurship. I would push for direct technology changes just like we notice them in our daily lives as individuals.

What’s your pet peeve?

Resistance to change, refusal to consider new challenges!

People and society must remain open for positive developments in daily life as well as in their work environment and in society.

What do you like most and least about Luxembourg?

There are many things I like about this country and its culture. I enjoy the fact that Luxembourgers have a profound desire to collectively solve problems. And I know Luxembourgers quite well because a part of my wife’s family is originally from Luxembourg and lives in various parts of the Grand-Duchy ! I am even learning Luxembourgish – I like to blend in when I live in a new country.

I can’t say I have already found something I don’t like… hopefully it stays that way!

How do you unwind?

Thanks to the practice of sports like cycling, badminton and running, I can relax. And I will participate this year in the ING Night Marathon 2013, on June 8.

And of course I try to spend as much time as possible with family and friends. It’s important to stay in touch with your roots.

What’s your ringtone?

That’s a very good question… call me and let’s see.

What does your desk say about you?

My desk tends to be quite full. It probably says that I am busy and an avid reader of financial newspapers and magazines. I like to be informed – much of what I read is useful one way or another in my position. But when I leave the office at the end of the day I try to clean it up and then the orange decoration lights up: a lamp, a clock, a cup, a world map, a lion… I am a big fan of our brand!