Some years ago I was in a meeting with the marketing coordinator of a local office of Rabobank, one of the three big Dutch banks. They wanted to know more about social media marketing, and I had just little bit of experience in that area. (Remember, that was some years ago.) While discussing their plans for using Twitter and Facebook I asked them if they needed some kind of approval from Rabobank’s head office. The lady started laughing. “Not at all,” she said. “If head office doesn’t give us what we want, we simply do it ourselves. Nobody here waits for the head office.”
Rabobank is a strange bank. It is actually a cooperation of many local businesses, who operate under the same name. The Rabobank head office doesn’t own the local banks. The local offices own Rabobank! Of course the local offices can do what they want. They are the boss!
With a structure like this, it is no surprise that Rabobank is known as the most stable, friendly, innovative, and profitable bank in my country. It is the only big Dutch bank that did not ask to be bailed out by the government (unlike ING and ABN AMRO, and several small ones). They don’t have a head office with an ego bigger than its wallet. What they have is common sense empowerment, distributed over a network of many small egos. (Sure, Rabobank makes mistakes too. But just small ones, that are safe-to-fail. Not as spectacular as those of the other banks.)
I’m working with my friends on my own version of Rabobank, called Happy Melly. It is similar, but with two important differences:
We don’t trade in money, we trade in happiness.
We don’t have a head office, we have a Constitution.
Who needs a head office when local offices can make joint decisions easily with modern technologies? A head office is sooó 20th century.
And… we have good news for tax payers:
With no head office capable of simultaneously growing its ego and shrinking its treasury, we will never ask anyone for a bailout either!