Future Bankers Event: Get inspired by ABN AMRO's female corporate bankers

What’s it like to be a female corporate banker at ABN AMRO? Why did these bankers choose ABN AMRO and how can you become one of them? We spoke with Andrea and Fenne from ABN AMRO about the event and women in the world of banking and Finance.

First things first. Could you briefly introduce yourselves to our readers?

Andrea: My name is Andrea, I am 26 years old, and I am Global Markets Associate. I am originally from Valencia, Spain, and came to the Netherlands in August 2018 to study the master in Banking & Finance at Utrecht University. I have lived in other countries such as England, Finland and France before starting to work for ABN AMRO. I joined the C&IB Talent Programme in Global Markets in March 2020. I’m halfway through it and currently rotating at the department Fixed Income Sales. I like to read books in my free time and go for walks with my friends, and I’d love to be a dog owner one day.

Fenne: Sure! My name is Fenne Schenkelaars, I am 25 years old. I have studied in Rotterdam, from 2014 until 2020. I studied the Bachelor Economics and Business Economics and the Master Financial Economics, both at Erasmus University Rotterdam. During my studies, I did a Corporate Finance internship at KPMG and a Mergers & Acquisitions internship at ING. Furthermore, I went on an exchange to Texas A&M University for an autumn semester and collaborated in a multidisciplinary team during International Research Project Rotterdam (IRP) in Curacao and Colombia. I joined the Corporate & Institutional Banking Talent Programme of ABN AMRO – track Corporate Finance in September 2020. Currently, I am a Corporate Finance Associate at the M&A Infrastructure team. In my spare time I like to play field hockey and travel around the world.

What does the Future Bankers Event at ABN AMRO entail?

Fenne: The Future Bankers Event gives students who are in the final phase of their academic career (Bachelor or Master) and recent graduates the possibility to get in contact with female bankers of the Corporate Bank of ABN AMRO. The virtual event will start with an interesting presentation about ABN AMRO as an organization. Additionally, inspiring female speakers will share their experiences of working in the banking industry and give insights about the work bankers do. During this event participants will discover internship possibilities and the different tracks of ABN AMRO’s Corporate & Institutional Banking Talent Programme: Corporate Finance, Structured Finance and Global Markets. Furthermore, several speed-date rounds will take place where participants can ask questions to the trainees of ABN AMRO.

What made you decide to take part in this event yourselves?

Andrea: I had already accepted the offer for the C&IB Talent Programme before the event took place. I wanted to participate because an event that aims to give visibility to female bankers was very interesting to me, and I would have the opportunity to meet my future colleagues before starting at ABN AMRO. After attending last year’s event, I knew that I wanted to participate in organizing a similar event in the future. I don’t know where my future career will bring me, but I would be more than satisfied if I contributed to continue opening the path for future girls and young women, as other women have done for me.

Fenne: During the final phase of my study, I decided to orientate myself on the job market. I knew that I wanted to work at a bank because of my interest in the financial world. However, I just didn’t know exactly in which department I wanted to work. Following a Talent Programme seemed like a good kick-start of my career since you work on multiple projects in different teams. On the website of my study association (FSR) I searched for inhouse days in the banking sector and found an advertisement for the Future Bankers Event of ABN AMRO. I was immediately enthusiastic because I thought that it was a nice opportunity to meet ABN AMRO’s female corporate bankers and to learn why they have chosen for ABN AMRO. I was really eager to find out what it is like to work in a bank as a woman since it is a male-dominated world. Therefore, I decided to take part in this event. 

Previously, the event was called ‘Finance in Heels’. Does the ‘Future Bankers Event’ have the same programme? What was your personal experience with the event?

Andrea: This year we will host the event online, but the program in essence is the same. Regarding my personal experience, it was very positive. It was inspiring to listen to junior and senior female bankers share their experiences within the bank and the industry in such a personal way. We also participated in a business case and got to know each other a bit. At the end of the day, all of the attendees of the event and some colleagues of the Corporate Bank came together for an informal network event, which was fun! It was a great opportunity to learn about the traineeship, get more insights about ABN AMRO, and expand my network.

Fenne: The event almost has the same program as last year. Unfortunately, due to the current COVID-19 situation, the event will be virtually hosted and a closing drink will not take place. However, there will be plenty of opportunities to ask questions during the virtual event! Looking at my own experience, I really enjoyed the event. The Future Bankers Event was a great opportunity to receive extensive information about the career opportunities at the Corporate Bank of ABN AMRO. I spoke with several employees from different departments and I learned what it exactly means to work at the Corporate Bank of ABN AMRO. At the end of the event, I got a good impression of the atmosphere and culture within the bank and what it is like to be a corporate banker at ABN AMRO. I became very enthusiastic about ABN AMRO and its career opportunities and decided to apply for the Talent Programme. 

Did your participation in this event contribute to you decision to work at ABN AMRO? What is it about ABN AMRO that made you want to work there?

Fenne: Yes, definitely! When I attended the Future Bankers Event, I admired the non-hierarchical and open atmosphere at ABN AMRO. Furthermore, for me, the in-depth C&IB Talent Programme seemed a great steppingstone to kick-start my career to become an all-round corporate banker. That’s why I decided to apply. I was well prepared for my job interview because during the event I learned a lot about ABN AMRO, the content of the Talent Programmes and received tips and tricks for the application process. I was eventually hired and since last year I have been working at ABN AMRO as Corporate Finance Associate. 

Andrea: I was in my final interview round for the Corporate & Institutional Banking Talent Programme when I learned about the Future Bankers Event, and I accepted the job offer before the event took place. So the participation in this event was not per se part of my decision, but attending made me reaffirm that I indeed had made the best choice. After the event, I literally couldn’t wait for the Talent Programme to start! I decided to work at ABN AMRO because some of my personal values fit very well with what the bank wants to accomplish and I identify myself with the strategy and culture of the bank. In addition, the Talent Programme is very well structured and you can learn a lot of what you’re most interested in.

This might be a sensitive topic. But it is a question that is alive among students. In the event description, ABN AMRO stated that only 30% of your top managers are female and that this needs to be changed. Do you find this a problematic percentage? Some might say that employees in general need to be simply hired because of their capacity to add value to the firm right? Would you say that the lower proportion of female top managers currently working at ABN AMRO is caused by a rooted gender discrimination from male senior partners in the past decades?

Andrea: This, unfortunately, happens at every large corporation. I think the question of people being hired simply because the value they add should have been asked decades ago. So let me return the question to you: were men simply being hired in the past just because they were men? This problematic percentage has a solution, which is giving women more visibility towards organizations, and organizations more visibility towards women, and we shouldn’t disguise and convert that solution into a problem just because it challenges the status quo. Both men and women are equally able to perform this job and any other job, and I do believe that one day, and hopefully soon, we will have a similar percentage of women and men in top management everywhere. 

Fenne: The main reason for hosting the Future Bankers Event is that the recruitment market in corporate banking is very competitive, where mostly men apply. Therefore, we try to target women in the Future Bankers Event to show both women and men what it is like to work in the finance industry. I hope that giving women more visibility towards business life and banking will create a more equal percentage among women and men in top management anywhere. However, in my opinion, any discrimination (even positive discrimination) is not acceptable. Especially during the selection process of recruiting candidates. I think that employees need to be hired because of their skills and capacities and not because of their gender. 

You’re both currently partaking in the Corporate & institutional Banking Talent Programme (C&IB). What can you tell us about this programme at ABN AMRO?

Fenne: The programme consists out of 5 different tracks (Corporate Finance, Structured Finance, Global Markets, Real Estate Clients and Credit Risk) and prepares graduates for a role at ABN AMRO’s Corporate Bank. The programme starts with a five-week crash course at Nyenrode Business University, where you join your fellow Corporate Banking trainees. During these weeks, you discover the workings of a bank, get to know all the ins and outs of ABN AMRO and work on your personal development. After the course, you will move to your first rotation. During the programme you will complete several rotations of your choice with various teams within different departments. This is a great way of expanding your network within the Corporate Bank. There is also the possibility to be stationed outside the Netherlands for a few months. Furthermore, the programme puts emphasis on personal development and provides a lot of trainings. 

Andrea: Yes, I am currently halfway through the C&IB Talent Programme in the Global Markets track. In all tracks you can choose your own rotations according to your interests. You begin the Talent Programme with a six week business course at Nyenrode Business University. Being a bit more specific about Global Markets, the program consists of six rotations of three months of your choice. You can also do one rotation abroad and / or one rotation in one of the other four tracks of the C&IB Talent Programme. What I like the most about it is that you can customize it however you like, and if you have a clear strategy and know where you want to end up, you can adapt your rotations to your goal. You can also experience firsthand what it is like to work in the dealing room and see the interaction between sales and trading. Adding to this, you can also do your rotations in the private side and, experience a bond issuance and/or an IPO.

In which specific division within ABN AMRO do you aspire to work after the C&IB Talent Programme? And why?

Andrea: I don’t know with full certainty in which specific division I want to work after the Talent Programme yet because I am still a trainee at the moment. I know for sure that I want to work in the Fixed Income chain, and I want to have other financial institutions as clients. The reason is that they are very big and complex clients, and they tend to do business according to (macro)economic circumstances. That also happens with Fixed Income products, as they are linked to the level of interest rates. There are various positions that meet these two requirements but from different perspectives. Two examples are Debt Capital Markets in the private side or Fixed Income Sales in the public side, but there are more options within the bank.

Fenne: That is a difficult question! To be honest, I do not really have a specific division within ABN AMRO that I aspire to work in after I complete the C&IB Talent Programme yet. Ever since my studies, I am really interested in the world of Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A). However, I aimed to explore beyond M&A and get a broader perspective on corporate banking. Therefore, the Corporate Finance Talent Programme suits me well because it offers various sector team rotations within the M&A department, but also offers product sector team rotations within the Corporate Bank such as Capital Structuring & Advisory and Equity Capital Markets. My goal is to become an all-round corporate banker with a broad economic vision and comprehensive understanding of corporate finance. I am sure that during my rotations I will find out which specific division I will aspire to work in after I completed the C&IB Talent Programme. 

What generally made you choose a career in banking and how did you go about finding career possibilities? In the same spirit, do you have some tips for all potential female bankers currently at the University of Groningen? 

Andrea: I wanted to work in banking because banks have a fundamental role in the economy. Banks are very complex institutions that service everyone, from individuals to companies to governments, in one way or another. To the potential female bankers at the University of Groningen, I would like to say to never doubt yourself, apply to jobs and don’t get discouraged because every “no” brings you closer to a “yes”. To the ones who are already working, continue learning as much as you can every single day.

Fenne: I always knew that I wanted to work in a very dynamic and competitive environment after my studies. As a Financial Economics student I discovered that I was intrigued by large mergers, acquisitions and IPOs. After my graduation, I looked for a job that was finance related, client- and commercially oriented and provided opportunities to work abroad. After attending the Future Bankers Event I knew for sure that the C&IB Talent Programme offered all what I was looking for in a job. I attended several inhouse days and approached different companies for a coffee and informal conversation. I always asked which career opportunities they offered and asked employees why they made the decision to work for that company. I would recommend to attend a lot of inhouse days and to talk with as many people as possible. Furthermore, I would advise to not rush your career choice. And most importantly, go for what you really enjoy!

Interested? More information about the event and the application procedure can be found here. And do you want more information concerning the Corporate & Institutional Banking Talent Programme? Check it out!