Berry Marttin is member of the Managing Board of Rabobank. Over the course of his career, he has gained extensive experience as an international banker in both wholesale and retail banking working in various senior executive positions internationally. In 2004, he became Chairman of the Board of Directors of Rabobank Amsterdam. As from 2009, he joined the Managing Board with special focus on Rabobank’s international rural banking activities and further responsibilities. Outside Rabobank, he serves as Member of the Supervisory Board of IDH (Sustainable Trade Initiative), Member of the Supervisory Board of ARISE and Member of the Board of EACB.
Dear Mr. Marttin, in this very special context of world pandemic, how do you see the main challenges and opportunities for co-operatives banks for the starting year? What are your hopes?
Well, we are entering the decade of the twenties and my first belief will be that 2021 will bring us the freedom, health and welfare we are all looking for. I believe that when the vaccination is starting in January and spring is in the air in April and May, we will see the infections decline. This will be followed by a strong rebound in economic activity in the sectors that have been hit the hardest like restaurants, hotels and the leisure industry. I’m convinced it will not be a fully ‘back to normalcy’, and in that respect I am very curious on what lessons people, companies and organisations and governments will learn from the COVID-19 pandemic; which patterns in working, producing and consuming are going to change?
Secondly, I expect that public and policy makers will judge in a positive way on how banks have operated in this pandemic. To quote Gerhard Hofmann (former EACB Chair), I expect that we are not remembered as ‘sunshine bankers’, but as a financial partner for businesses and consumers who needed us.
I also anticipate that the recovery will be followed by a release of the loan loss provisions that cooperative banks had to take in 2020. But on the other hand, I note that the digital transition that the COVID crises has triggered will continue. Transferring further toward a digital bank and cost savings to withstand the low interest rate environment will be a strategic agenda point at the board room of many cooperative banks.
In your views, what should be the top priorities for the regulatory and supervisory agenda?
The following themes are in my view relevant for the EACB:
• The contribution to shape and support the Green Deal, including the Sustainable Finance Agenda, impact on financial products, the reporting and the banks risk management function. It’s clear that the Green Deal will generate many legislative initiatives in 2021 that will affect our Members, also now the US will start providing contribution at international level into achieving the Paris agreement. The discussion on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) should also be on our agenda. Following these proposals and initiatives by the European Commission with regard to the green deal and how cooperative banks can contribute to finance these proposals remains a main area of focus in 2021. In this regard we also have to express to the European Commission that they need to harmonise the well-intended proposed idea’s, as a good and fast execution require a form of standardisation.
• How the cooperative banking model can survive the low interest rate environment, the regulatory pressure reducing revenue streams and at the same time has to withstand the ever increasing supervisory cost as well as the growing expenditure on digitalisation and competition from non-bank players. The ECB is talking about ‘overbanked Europe’. We see mergers between banks starting to emerge within Member States. But how about cooperative banks? Will they be able to merge without giving up their cooperative model or member state particularities? Do we, as EACB members needs to work more closely together as an answer to the Fintechs and Bigtechs?
• The regular prudential regulations like Basel IV and the review by the European Commission in 2021 of the bank insolvency & crisis management framework. It’s expected that in the second quarter of 2021 the European Commission will submit its legislative proposal to implement Basel IV in the European Union. We all are looking forward in what manner the Commission is taking the concerns of the banking industry as well the council members Germany and France seriously that Basel IV should not result in excessive capital increases. And with regards to the bank insolvency & crisis management framework will, next to the large banks, also the mid-sized bank going to fall under the recovery and resolution framework as brought forward by the SRB?
What will be important milestones for the EACB in 2021?
First of all we will welcome our new CEO Nina Schindler. She will take over on 1 February 2021 from Hervé Guider who will retire. Hervé has done an excellent job in the last 20 years in positioning EACB as the defender and promotor of the cooperative banks and the National Council of Federcasse reworded him with the Cooperative Credit Merit Cross. As soon as travel restrictions allow us, we will organise a proper goodbye to Hervé. Furthermore, due to the COVID pandemic and the travel restriction, the EACB has not been able to celebrate its 50th anniversary. I sincerely hope that 2021 will give us the opportunity to invite all our international friends to Brussels and to celebrate this with us in a proper manner.