Interview with Rudi Geerdink, RBS Kazakhstan CEO

Derek Clark, PwC Assurance Partner (right side), recently met Rudi Geerdink, RBS Kazakhstan CEO (left side) and a PwC Alumnus. Rudi shared his perspectives on Kazakhstan’s banking sector and on the role PwC has played in his life.

“So I want to start the story from the very beginning. I was in my final year at Twente University studying Industrial Engineering & Management when, one week before I had to defend my thesis my friend invited me to The Hague to meet with PwC. I went for lunch, not thinking too much of it and found myself with a job offer within the next two days. On Friday I successfully defended my thesis and on Monday I started my job with PwC.

That was in 1997. I worked in the Global Risk Management Solutions Group, equivalent to today's Risk Assurance Services Group. The company provided for a post graduate auditing degree at Rotterdam University for which the company would give all new starters every Friday off to attend college. Being confronted with the global reach of the firm, the diversity of its client base and the very tangible investments in my education/training, I realized that PwC was a smart choice.

PwC’s strong, open corporate culture and the smart people working there impressed me a lot. There was a feeling that the Netherlands firm in the late 1990s was pre-eminent and I took great pride in being part of it. The structure was not hierarchical, so I had lots of interaction with senior people who respected me, treated me well and gave me valuable coaching.

Informal culture is important! I recall PwC internal networking events as a pleasure and a great way to relax and get to know colleagues. You can design any structure or policy but it’s the people who make that work! My best management advice? Be open and engaging! I don’t believe much in self-help management books, instead I rely on good core values. These things I learnt from PwC directors and partners. The senior people at PwC led by example and it stimulated me a lot!

I am still in touch with many people I met at PwC. Some are still with the firm while others are in senior positions all around the world. They are stimulating company and I enjoy being part of the PwC network.

You asked me if there were any aspects of PwC I did not like at that time. I do remember the Firm was sometimes a bit bureaucratic and inflexible, which could get in the way of the work that we did for clients. For example, my laptop needed to be repaired, which took weeks and was an elaborate process. The firm would not provide its people with temporary replacements, regardless of the fact that a laptop was essential to our work every hour of every day. I have learnt from that experience. At the Bank I have always worked to ensure that everyone understands our core business and
supports it.

From the very beginning I loved management consulting and strategic planning. ABN Amro was one of my major clients throughout my time with PwC. In 2000 it adopted a new global strategy to build its financial markets business. I joined the Bank at that time to help implement this strategy. I spend 8 years on dealingrooms, after which I joined the European division. After two years focusing on Eastern Europe, I was appointed as the Country Manager for Kazakhstan in September 2008, i.e. around the time the financial crisis first arose. I have since had many matters to deal with, including the rebranding of ABN Amro to RBS, selling the retail business to HSBC and managing significant structural and organizational changes in the Bank. At this moment, I am the Bank's sole expatriate and I regard the development of local human capital as a key feature of my job.

Through its predecessor ABN AMRO back in 1994 RBS was the first foreign bank to secure a license in Kazakhstan and it has developed well much since that time. We focus on Kazakhstan’s larger entities in the most dominant industries, and on supporting RBS clients from elsewhere in the world who invest in Kazakhstan. In respect of the local banking sector - Some Kazakhstan banks still face legacy issues, Non Performing Loans being one of them. The banking environment is changing on the back of increasing regulations, the rise of banks that were less affected by the crisis and the general global economic developments.

You asked what equipped me for the future and brought me success. I can say that my experience at PwC has provided me with a great foundation for my career. It enabled me to make a better choice about my future when I settled on a long term career as a banker. I recommend the PwC experience to today's talented young graduates!”