Partner highlighted: Rabobank

Partner highlighted: Rabobank

The cooperative bank: that is, of course, Rabobank. And since this year, that willingness to collaborate is also visible in a partnership with Novel-T. Robin Geerdink (Director of cooperative Rabobank Twente-Achterhoek) and Herbert Beldhuis (Startup & Scale-up banker) talk about this partnership.

This article was released earlier in the Next Icons magazine.

Author: Vera Boertien 14 November 2022

As a cooperative bank, collaboration is in our DNA. In recent years, the focus very much been on sustainability and playing a high-impact role in the road to Paris. What does a partnership with a relatively small Twente foundation contribute to this? Robin: “Making the world more sustainable is going to happen just with changes in our behavior. Innovation is essential, especially with a rapidly growing world population. And many innovations that come from our region fit in well with our mission. That is why a collaboration with Novel-T makes sense. We want to embrace innovation in the region.” Herbert adds: “Transitions are movements, long-term processes. You can’t simply initiate them yourself. You have to work together to achieve that.”

The transition bank

For a bank that used to be known as an agricultural bank, this focus on a more sustainable world is an interesting one. Herbert: “About five years ago, the start of our new mission was: ‘Growing a better world together’. That’s where our shift in focus started. That takes guts, because sometimes we get funny looks. But ultimately, you all want to move towards a sustainable world.” Robin: “It’s easy to only accept new customers who act sustainably, but if you do, you’re walking away from a wider responsibility. We think it’s a challenge and our task to help businesses and consumers in this transition. But we don’t do that all by ourselves. We often join existing regional initiatives. Or we build new coalitions together with our partners such as Novel-T. This way, we have a bigger impact on our environment.”


And that is how the collaboration with Novel-T came about. Robin: “We’re collaborating with Novel-T because it is located at a hub of innovation networks in the region and we can strengthen each other.” Herbert adds: “We use each other’s networks. We have an extensive SME network, and Novel-T has warm contacts with startups and spinoffs. That’s where the real connection lies.” And that connection is important, because both Rabobank and Novel-T are working on making businesses future-proof. Robin explains: “It’s good for prosperity and employment, but also for well-being in the region. You’ve got a couple of really fantastic businesses here, but we’re naturally modest. Especially in comparison with the Randstad and the Eindhoven region. But we’re certainly a match for them. We have more of an attitude of getting on with things and definitely not discussing matters too much.”

Progressive region

Still, innovation regions such as Delft, Amsterdam and Eindhoven are a source of inspiration. Herbert: “If we can put ourselves on the map as an innovation region like Eindhoven, for example, that’d be really cool. And with a green urban accent and access to a large European hinterland, because that distinguishes Twente as a region from the rest. I also think this collaboration will help with that.” Robin also has a specific goal in mind with this collaboration: “We want to be known as the innovative bank for startups and scale-ups. Even when it doesn’t yield immediate returns. Our Rabobank Innovation Loan really is a unique proposition. We stick our neck out, and that makes an impact.”

Global challenges

Ultimately, that’s where Rabobank and Novel-T come together: supporting innovative entrepreneurs in order to make an impact on the world. “That’s important,” says Herbert. “What you see is that the life cycle of a business used to be forty years, and now it’s only fifteen. The world is changing, so as a business, you have to move with it. And innovation is needed in every area.” Robin agrees: “The global challenges are so great. You’re not going to solve them without innovation. And sometimes, it feels like an issue that’s not directly of interest to you. For example, we think it’s quite normal that drinking water comes from the tap and that you pay very little for it. But how normal will that still be in 10 years? So the world really needs innovation. And Rabobank is happy to contribute to that.”


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