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Executive Education

The Leadership Transition

Knowing where you want to go

Reinier Schoone

Head of IT PB Digital Channels International at ABN AMRO Bank N.V.

For Reinier, he knew that he needed a defined goal to strive towards, but wondered what would fit him on both a professional and personal level. This was when he considered The Leadership Transition programme at INSEAD to help him confidently take the next step into his higher management role and embracing new challenges moving forward.

I am more self-aware and at ease with where I want to go. Being more confident about the direction that I am working in gives me peace of mind and that reflects in my day-to-day and how my team sees my leadership.

A big theme in Reinier Schoone’s personal life and career, is an openness to take on new challenges and a strong drive to achieve goals he set out for himself. Having lived and worked for most of his life in Netherlands, Reinier started out studying information science and has worked his way up to head the IT department in the international sector of his organisation, ABN AMRO Bank N.V. Reinier and his team today mainly focuses on technology delivery, providing all the internet banking portals as well as mobile apps for their private banking customers. 

He is not a fresh face to the banking technology industry however, having been with ABN AMRO Bank for 16 years! Having joined as a trainee soon after graduating, Reinier had many opportunities to learn and grow, leading him where he is today. Embracing his drive to learn, each challenge that comes his way keeps his energy levels high. In fact, it has been almost nine years since he has progressed into people leadership, and he is already looking forward to what his next goal would be. 

Challenges at work 

Dealing with the technology industry, he shares that the challenges he faces are three interconnecting aspects- firstly, being to be able to keep up with latest technology development. Secondly, to be able to align the latest technological developments with the organisation’s strategic goals to innovate and progress. And last but perhaps the most challenging in recent times, overcoming the scarcity of the workforce in the technology sector. 

Looking at the rapid growth in technology, the need to constantly update existing software and adapt to new technology is paramount to success. For example, “conversational AI” has made waves in the past year, where its launch had caused many companies to scramble and keep up. When integrated with existing banking technology, it could change the way things are done ranging from allowing a customer to use conversational AI when using the bank app, or even helping the team make smart decisions using AI when designing their customer workflows. 

To tackle these three challenges in balance, he believes in the importance of having a business model that adapts speedily to have a competitive advantage in the industry, and the importance of motivating his team to continuously exceed. This is no small feat, especially when dealing with legacy systems or differing thought models among stakeholders! 

Leadership Traits & Stepping Up 

Throughout his career, Reinier has worked with several different managers and peers, each bringing their own strength and individual traits. In discussing role models, he takes an astute view where every person he meets brings a new opportunity to observe and learn from – after all there is no single perfect leader! He shares that through such interactions, he had learnt a multitude of techniques that helped in his work such as being able articulate his views clearly. An important trait he stresses, especially when he strives to find the right solution, albeit increasing his workload rather than settling for a lackluster solution. 

As a leader, Reinier must manage his team and their individual working styles, as while people in Netherlands are deemed quite direct, soft touches to deescalate tension and potential confrontation in the workplace is vital in a banking institution where the pressure could cause tensions to rise. He deprecated himself as a nerd, sharing light-heartedly that he had struggled initially when communicating with business stakeholders, often bankers who were outspoken or were driven by different goals, and learning how to speak to them and conduct effective discussions was something he learnt over time.

Reinier, in the broader sense of the world, is what people would call “no-nonsense” - he relishes the challenge of a new project; strategising and planning actionable steps to reach his goal. He enjoys engaging with people who think and act out of the box citing Elon Musk as an example of an innovator who demonstrated the ability and confidence to push boundaries to reach great achievements despite pushback from different stakeholders. Confidence he shares, or the lack thereof is something that can influence you emotionally and even physically.

Returning to INSEAD 

When he is not at work, Reinier enjoys his time with his family (and their dog) in Amsterdam where one of their hobbies is sailing together on the lakes in The Netherlands. Musing about how fast time flies, he jokes that he will soon reach a mid-life crisis! Reinier occasionally delivers yachts across countries as part of his sailing hobby, and this involves taking time off work and sailing on the ocean for periods of time. Using this time as a period of meditation and reflection, he takes the time for himself to evaluate his current career progression and personal goals, and to allow for realignment of his actions to his needs. 

Having achieved the milestones he had set for himself in his current role, he took a moment to reflect on his life and while satisfied with his achievements, he felt the need to better understand what his next goals and aspirations are - be it in his role at the bank or even outside in his personal life. For Reinier, he knew that he needed a defined goal to strive towards, but wondered what would fit him on both a professional and personal level. 

This was when he considered The Leadership Transition programme at INSEAD, a programme designed to be self-reflective while balancing theory, practical workshops, and personal coaching. In fact, this was not Reinier’s first experience at INSEAD, having completed a Digital Transformation programme in 2019. He had thought of returning to the school a little earlier, however due to the pandemic he held off his application, instead waiting for the programme to resume face-to-face sessions to fully reap the benefits. 

The Leadership Transition programme 

Participating in this programme was taking the next step to move into a general management role and like his time spent sailing, the highly self-reflective programme helped him to understand what changes were needed from his mindset and skills as well as provided him with all the right tools to achieve his personal goals. 

The diverse cohort was something that also enriched his learning experience, as his fellow participants brought different perspectives to the same problem, be it viewed from a different cultural or industry background or through varying years of experience. Feeling the programme truly come alive with increased interaction among his classmates, Reinier found it easier to give his best together with like-minded individuals. 

Sharing briefly, he touches on significant insights from his participation in this programme that had proved instrumental. For one, recognizing the importance of cultivating connections within his professional sphere as well as harnessing the untapped potential of informal networks to achieving both personal and organisational goals. Reinier also enjoyed the storytelling workshops which were designed to equip participants to be a more confident and compelling leader capable of conveying the right message with the appropriate energy and timing to the targeted audience. 

The Leadership Transition programme is designed in a modular manner, with participants returning to work before returning to the campus for additional content, and importantly a check-in on their progress on their planned change initiatives. This structure, as well as the coaching sessions provided, helped him to reflect with clarity and cemented the techniques and actionable skills taught over the programme to embrace new challenges moving forward. 

Developing a more adaptable leadership style, attributable to the cultural mapping taught during the programme, he makes conscious efforts at mapping the distinctions and commonalities among company cultures, departmental cultures, and team cultures, allowing him to be more effective and inclusive when leading his diverse global team. Since the programme, Reinier has felt an increased awareness and higher attenuation with his intentions and set directions, which in turn gives him a peace of mind and brings him more confidence – something that his team can sense in his leadership and in day-to-day business.

The INSEAD Experience – Consistent and always professional 

Being the second time which Reinier has been at INSEAD, he notes that his experience importantly, was consistent. With each programme, INSEAD maintains a high level of professionalism in all aspects and is complemented by amazing faculty that makes all the difference. Building on his positive experiences, Reinier is open to return to INSEAD for more executive programmes suitable for his career trajectory or the Certificate of Global Management as his management career advances - truly embodying the spirit of lifelong learning. 

It helps that The Leadership Transition was held at our beautiful Fontainebleau campus! At this, Reinier is reminded of an almost incident of when he was mountain biking in Fontainebleau, underestimated the track and almost lost control of his bicycle, while not wearing a helmet, no less! Thankfully, he was able to correct his trajectory in time to escape unscathed.

For those looking to join The Leadership Transition, Reinier has a word of advice. 

“You need to know where you want to go. Try to find your direction through getting feedback from your manager and peers, maybe a little bit of self-reflection about your learning goals. If you have a clear picture or at least a little bit of the picture of where you want to go; you are confident about where you stand in the company and there are certain opportunities for you that requires leadership development, this would be a great programme for you.”