Ready for a radical idea? A bank that serves the people!
“So,” my friend asked, “Why would Ode organize an event with the CEO of ING Direct, a large corporate bank? I thought Ode was about new thinking and solutions. What is new about just another corporate bank?”
I understand the question. ING is a large and very traditional bank in The Netherlands. Its subsidiary ING Direct, about to be sold to Capital One, may be the largest online bank in the world—in itself a major innovation—but it’s still very much a mainstream initiative. Indeed, what’s so “Ode” about that?
I met the founder and CEO of ING Direct, Arkadi Kuhlmann, about two years ago through the introduction of a mutual friend. In our very first meeting something struck me. Over the years I have met many leaders of the financial services industry and if I would describe these meetings I would not use words like “inspiration” and “creativity.” Most bankers are boring.
Arkadi Kuhlmann is far from boring. I spoke with him about the recent financial crisis and he looked for solutions in unlikely places as the history of Islam and of the Apache. In Kuhlmann’s vision, consumer banks are “humble intermediaries,” as he puts it. “We don’t produce anything. We don’t save children who are ill. We don’t go to the moon. We are just oil in the economic machine. A bank should act as a utility. Our primary function is to allocate money, resources within the economy. A bank bridges the time gap between when people have extra resources—money—and when they have a shortage of money.”
That is very much inspiring, and much necessary, thinking coming from an unexpected place. It sounds like a relief when a mainstream banker is ready to redefine what banks are for. The Occupy movement should take note.
So that’s why Ode is organizing an event with Arkadi Kuhlmann. It very much fits Ode to explore how we can re-envision the financial sector to make sure that it serves the people rather than the 1% happy few.
There is something else. I truly believe that we can only change the world for the better when we invite the big corporations to join us. Multinational companies may be to blame for many wrongs, they are at the same time the most powerful changemakers in today’s society. And the good thing is that the people who work at these corporations for a big part share the same ideals for their children as many idealistic “pioneers of the possible” do.
“We are all in this together,” is a catchy phrase. However it rings very true in our modern world. When Ode can have a meaningful and relevant conversation with the CEO of a large corporate bank, the world is moving to a better future. Besides, Arkadi Kuhlmann reads palms and rides Harley’s. Join us for a great event in San Francisco or online.
By Jurriaan Kamp | Editor-in-Chief, Ode Magazine
Photo: Alan Cleaver via Flickr