Over the next few days, I’m speaking at a conference in St. Kitts (I know; rough gig). This morning, Arkadi Kuhlmann, the CEO of ING Direct, gave the opening keynote and his message was–and I’m a harsh critic when it comes to speeches–superb.
ING Direct is now the nation’s 6th largest savings bank, which is particularly impressive given that they have no branches to speak of. With the exception of a few cafes (yep–coffee, etc.), all of their customer transactions take place on line. This is a company with both a code (The Orange Code) and a customer declaration called, We The Savers.
As I sat in the back and took copious notes (see the bullets below), it astounded me how closely the company’s philosophy and strategy paralleled the principles of Extreme Leadership that I wrote about in The Radical Leap.
No question. I was going to have to send this guy a copy.
So, at the end of his talk I went to the front of the room and stood in line while he chatted with a few of the participants. And then a very odd thing happened.
He turned to me and said, “I love your book. We’ve all read it. We use your book all the time.”
And I said something like, “homminahomminahommina.”
Needless to say, it made my week. But enough about me. Here are just a few of my notes and quotes from Arkadi’s presentation:
16% of ING Direct’s customers are bank employees of other banks.
“Don’t advertise what you can’t do.”
“Our message is ‘we’re human; we love you.’ We focus on what our customers LOVE. And so should you.”
“Employees need to feel happy, part of a mission, that they’re doing good.”
About company misfits, Kuhlmann says, “God still loves them. They just need to be in a different place with different sunshine.” The same goes for customers. ING earns 100,000 new customers a month (40% of whom come from word-of-mouth), but they also lose 10,000 a month. Most of those, he says, because they were the wrong fit.
“Our importance lies in making a difference in society, not in whether we succeed as a company.”
Because ING Direct charges virtually no fees as compared to traditional banks, Kuhlmann estimates they have put $7 billion back into the pockets of their customers.
No one–including himself–has any equity in the company, and all employees–including himself–get exactly the same deal, treatment and service as their customers. “There are no VIPs.”
“When I go to work, I can look you and all my customers in the face and say, ‘I treat you fairly.’ Based on what you think is right or wrong. We treat you with compassion, not abuse.”
…Get the picture?
You may want to order a copy of The Orange Code and read their story in detail.
I’m doing it right now.