ING BANK IS YET TO SHOW WHAT IT IS CAPABLE OF
Jan Willem Overwater, Director of ING Bank Sofia branch to the BANKER weekly
Jan Willem Overwater is the new regional Director of ING Bank Sofia branch. He arrived in Bulgaria in the beginning of August to take over the post from Peter Rolls, who set up a record as a foreign bank manager whose stay in Bulgaria was the longest. Having worked for almost seven years in ING Bank Sofia branch, Mr. Rolls gave a farewell cocktail at the Sheraton Balkan Sofia Hotel on August 9 to say good-buy to his assistants, clients, competitors, and friends, and to introduce his successor.
Mr. Overwater is a Dutchman by origin, but has been parted for long years from his native country due to his work. He made his career on three continents - Europe, Asia, and Latin America. This fact bespeaks of the financier's fair adaptability and of the variety of his experience.
Mr. Overwater, you are coming from Prague where you were a deputy director of ING Bank's local branch. You also had previous professional experience in Singapore, Brazil, and Amsterdam. Would you tell about your activities outside our native Holland?
- The 1988-1990 period when I was in Singapore was very interesting. The region was then in a development phase. My operations were connected with corporative banking. I moved to Brazil afterwards and lived there from 1990 till 1993. This was also a very interesting period of hyperinflation. During my stay in Brazil we used three exchange rates for the local currency. Despite the difficulties, I found my work interesting. It's amazing how people manage to live in such an environment. There I worked in the sphere of corporative financing, which is somewhat different from corporative banking - it is more closely related to capital markets.
Then I went back to Asia. I was asked to head the corporative banking in Indonesia. The local branch was set up two years before I went there in 1994. I stayed till 1997. Business was developing very fast because the market was growing vehemently as well. Later on I became an assistant to the director general of the branch. Afterwards, I moved to the Czech Republic where I was the country's deputy regional director for banking activities.
Can you compare the banking systems in the Czech Republic and in Bulgaria if you have already gained some impression about the situation here?
- I haven't got any impression at all yet. It too early to comment the banking system in yours country.
What do you think you are bringing with youself as professional experience and habits?
- I have been thinking about that for some time. I wouldn't like to seem very pretentious, but I think that ING Bank's local branch is to a large extent in a development phase. Both in Brazil and in Indonesia I was quite busy working out various business activities, especially in banking. And in the Czech Republic I was engaged in operations regarding retail banking and the integration between insurance and banking. I believe this is one of the spheres on which ING Bank might lay the emphasis in Bulgaria.
Did your predecessor Mr. Rolls give you any specific advice?
- Of course, he did, but I'm not going to share it with you. He told me about our clients and about the situtaion in the offices. He gave me much practical advice on what I should do and what not.
Do you think your previous experieance is a good basis for your work in Bulgaria?
- I think everything is a good basis. One gains professional expreience and skill during his work. I learned much about the bank buisness in the different countries where I worked. I also learned much about interpersonal realtions and intercultural problems. In the Czech Republic, for example, I learned very much about insurance.