Talent Scouts and Networkers

Old and new, banking and tech company: the future is full of uncertainties for Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI). To take advantage of new opportunities, the organization has to attract the best talents.

48,500 employees, 50 nations and a bank in a transformation process between old and new, agile work and hierarchy, as well as cooperations with fintechs while acting in a highly regulated area. At Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI), it is important to maintain customer confidence, keep pace with rapid technological change, and demonstrate a spirit of innovation.

Mr. Vogl, how does RBI manage to maintain the "old" through strategic HR, but at the same time keep up with technology in order to avoid being perceived as outdated?
Rudolf Vogl: It is not easy. Approaches change with time. We are currently engaged in agile work in order to transform the group into an adaptive organization so that we become more flexible and reach our customers faster. In our company there are areas where exactly this process is already being implemented. Although these areas are under RBI's purview, they operate differently from those areas within the framework of classical structures, such as controlling. In this way, we try to advance both the corporate culture and technological progress. A renewal process is currently taking place; this also applies to brand strategy. We focus on innovation directly with the customer. This is, of course, driven by technology.

The transformation of banks integrating new technology increasingly requires new profiles and competencies. As an employer, you compete not only within the industry, but also with Google and others.
Christina Reiter: We have to face the same challenges as all other companies looking for employees with an affinity for technology. The profiles are always the same: Digital, big data, data scientists and developers. Now it is a matter of distinguishing oneself from this pool, to stand out and to position oneself: What distinguishes us as an employer? At RBI, we shouldn't have to hide behind the professional challenge or the environment regarding the formation of teams or managers, benefits for employees, etc.

On your homepage, both further education and internationality are particularly emphasized. Do you place an emphasis on this?
CR: Absolutely. Internationality helps us in the search, particularly for the "techies" mentioned above. We have some teams that do not work using the German language. In this way the pool from which we can draw expands – we are not limited to the DACH area. We are looking for employees from the European Union as well as outside the EU. This helps us enormously as a company.


Rudolf Vogl (links)
... has been RBI’s Managing Director of Human Resources since 2004.

Christina Reiter (rechts)
... has been RBI’s Head of Recruiting & Employer Branding since 2014.

Do banks suffer generally from having less of a pro-IT attitude with simultaneously increasing customer requirements?
RV: Banks began using IT at a very early stage. Historically, it was seen as a monster, and that's still the case today. It is extremely expensive and costly. Of course, the systems should be in use as long as possible. The effect is that one is not always the fastest to adapt to the newest technologies. In the 1990s, not everything developed as rapidly technologically as it does today. As a result, banks today often lag behind. Today, with smartphones, something changes twice a year.

Does RBI get technologies from fintechs? Are concrete collaborations happening?
CR: Yes, we do that through the Elevator Lab, among other things. There, for example, we are looking for different fintechs to cooperate with during development and implementation. We do not buy a finished product, but usually develop it together so that we can use it at RBI. Recently, in the second batch, more than 400 fintech projects applied after a global call for tenders. Before that, during the first batch, we started working with a fintech company based here in Austria. That's good because it also allows us to appeal to people who have to choose between a job in a startup and a larger company. I can offer something to these people because we work together with fintech companies.

RV: But it must also be said that not everyone can and wants to be an entrepreneur. Some have a need for more security, and I don't mean that as a critique. You don't have that kind of security in a three-person company. This is where the advantage of a larger company comes into play.

RBI is constantly looking for employees in the IT field. How many IT people do you hire per year in Austria?
CR: In 2017 it was 100. By 2018 we'll probably hire 100, maybe 120. We have adapted our recruiting and sourcing strategy to the new requirements. It is our mission to become faster and better. Here, one of many different sourcing channels is, for example, our "Student Support" program. This is one way we talk to people during their university studies to come to us and work for RBI. In this way we get to know each other and, after they complete their studies, we can see whether a long-term cooperation could work.

The job profile of HR managers and recruiters has changed quite a bit - they are much more talent scouts and networkers today.
CR: There is a strong trend towards active sourcing; this is also a good opportunity to interact with internal talents. An area that has changed dramatically for me because people nowadays show more flexibility in changing their jobs within the company.

RV: That's right. You can tell that people have become more mobile in their way of thinking. People won't stay in the same area for 20 years, and that's also because the working methods are changing. Now, when I think far into the future, I see that in ten or 20 years' time there will no longer be certain jobs in the banking sector. On the other hand, we know today that your daughter (speaking to Christina Reiter, note) will have a job that doesn't even exist today. This development is already making itself known in the internal labor market. In the past you waited, even as a bank, until the customer came. Today I have to move to where you are as a customer. This is even more true as an employer in the recruiting area.

CR: Changing this mindset was not easy. When you talked to executives or hiring managers, the question always came up: Who has to "sell themselves" now? The employer or the applicant?

RV: I think the problem was not so much with the hiring managers themselves, but with the line managers. 20 years ago, you might have met your supervisor for an interview. Today this is no longer enough for potential candidates. They not only want to see the supervisor, but the team as well, and much more. Line managers also had to learn to adapt themselves here.

CR: That's what we're here for. We hold advisory meetings and say that things are no longer as they used to be ... (laughs) As a recruiter, you certainly need a completely different kind of specialist expertise today. If I talk to a developer and don't understand what he's saying, he'll turn around and leave. So I need to have an idea of what he's looking for, what he needs and what I can offer him. But with the mass of people we have to deal with in some areas, we start within the RBI group to implement the technology of e-recruiting – chatbots or artificial intelligence. This helps us to take that first step to make the whole thing more objectifiable. The face-to-face meeting comes afterwards – it's still a human interaction.

Apropos: When was the last time you had a more difficult discussion? What was it about?
RV: (laughs and reflects) Oh yes, it was about a referral application.

CR: Yes. What was that? (laughs) What Rudi Vogl is talking about is the implementation of an employee referral program. We decided to implement it and structure this process. Behind the system are, among other things, a gamification and a prize system. To come back to the "difficult discussion" ... I started, as I sometimes do, somewhere in the middle of the idea with an explanation of why we need it, and not at the very start, which made things unclear. I could probably have started two steps further in... (laughs)

RV: (laughs) Yeah, that would have saved us a lot of talking. But it shows how important it is to know the context. Especially when you need to move quickly... (laughs)

What is the outlook for 2019?
CR: We are preparing ourselves for an intensive year in tech recruiting – for example in IT, finance or risk – and have taken all possible measures to be able to start this process well. And: We are also preparing ourselves for the fact that we will have to work differently in recruiting again, because all the agile settings that we now have in house are presenting us with new challenges.

RV: Agile work is a big issue in the transition from a traditional hierarchical organization to other forms of work. There we have a world that is not black or white and it cannot be; this is because a large corporation has to function differently from a startup, but at the same time has to be just as fast as a startup when making some decisions. And we are challenged to heed both sides. For us, the challenge in practically all HR processes will be much greater. This is because all decisions are reflected, for example, in performance management or the remuneration system – and that itself within a regulatory system. That will challenge all of us.

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