Over the last 6 years, much has been made about how banks lost their way when it came to putting themselves ahead of customers in the lead up to the financial crisis. How customers were screwed over in the quest for profits. How moral compasses were broken. Responding to outrage over the marked shift in how business is done, banks have commissioned studies, investigated claims, and promised to change. Up until this week, though, a bank CEO had yet to perform a play about how his firm had found its way through the wisdom of a fictional brothel owner. Thankfully, Gerrit Zalm took it upon himself to fill that void.
ABN Amro Group NV Chairman and former Dutch finance minister Gerrit Zalm went on stage in an electric blue dress and golden gloves to portray a fictional brothel-owning sister teaching the bank about core values. “The bank can learn a lot from the best practices in my company,” Zalm, dressed as his “sister” Priscilla, said in the opening act of ABN Amro Cabaret 2014, held for employees in Amsterdam and two other Dutch cities. “Where has ‘putting the customer first’ been the motto for centuries? In my industry. Those banks have discovered it only recently.” …
Zalm, 61, who also wore a red wig, blue glasses, earrings and make-up, was hired by the Netherlands in 2008 to piece together the banking assets of a merged ABN and Fortis that it took over after the latter collapsed. The government spent 16.8 billion euros ($23 billion) on the rescue. “He had to make ABN Amro a successful company again and had no idea how to do that,” Priscilla (Zalm) said. “I told him you have to start with core values. In my company there are three: to be trusted, professional and ambitious.” The cabaret shows, held from Jan. 6 to Jan. 10, are an annual event that began at ABN Amro Holding NV, ABN Amro’s predecessor, in 2005, said Jeroen van Maarschalkerweerd, a spokesman for the bank.
To recap: the chair of ABN Amro:
- Was fitted for a dress with a cape
- Stuffed his bra
- Had his face done
- Donned a wig
- Inhabited the role of a madam named Priscilla
- Who was supposed to be the real life Zalm’s sister
- And told employees the story of how she showed him how to save the bank
- By getting back to basics
- Chief among them, putting the customer first
- Just like they do at the ole brothel
He then took the show on the road. Naturally, there is a recording. Regardless of your fluency in Dutch, it’s worth a viewing.
It goes without saying that the ball’s in your court, Lloyd.