Back to the USA: it’s all about playing the game

"After the summer break my first business trip was to the US. Apparently I lost my touch of being at airports, and half way through the flight I discovered that I had left my iPad at Schiphol Airport security." Jeroen Plag (ING) blogs about his recent trip to the States.

Right after landing I contacted the airline via Twitter, which was picked up by Schiphol Airport – and they immediately sent me a tweet back to see how they could assist. After filling out an online form and some further tweets I received the good news! And as the next day another colleague travelled to New York City as well, he could pick up my orange iPad and hand deliver it back to me in the NY office! Just being without one's trusted device for even two days made me acutely aware of my dependency on technology...

Jeroen Plag


Jeroen Plag, head of Client Coverage Americas, Asia & UK, ING


That also applies to the introduction of our new integrated client approach which was rolled out together with our team in NYC and with a number of our clients there and in Chicago. Instead of taking it from a product push perspective, we used gaming, a new technological business tool, to provide our clients with a real live business situation. With the game they can experiment on how to better manage their financial working capital, which strategic and tactical levers to push and pull and which of a variety of business solutions to consider. All in a safe, virtual environment. To both the client groups as well as the NY team ,we presented the next upgraded version, which dives even deeper in on the drivers that deliver value and save costs. The technology behind the value driver model, which captures client’s own and external data, is quite sophisticated and positively engages account managers and their clients alike.

Whether the word 'positive' would apply to the Republican TV debate which took place while I was there in Washington, I am not quite sure – it was definitely entertaining and at times with Donald Trump on center stage. A very successful casino and real estate developer, he has fired quite a number of people in real life on TV! If you enter Manhattan on the West side alongside the Hudson river, you see Trump (Apartment) Tower 1 through 12 and more. Rumour has it he is contemplating changing the name of the White House to Trump House in case he moves in – so be aware of who you vote for! He probably would not really be a serious candidate against established politicians, if it wasn’t for the fact that he is personally funding his entire campaign and that his vow is to change the political establishment which really appeals to the US voters.

Another widely anticipated and broadcast event was the speech by Janet Yellen, Chair of the Federal Reserve, the system of US central banks. A non-unanimous vote by the 12 governors to keep interest rates steady surprised the markets and sent stocks around the world lower. Not all governors agreed as they saw ample signs that the US market is indeed back on track, with unemployment and inflation on target. Wider global financial markets distress including the recent turn of events in China were however apparently the main motive not to increase rates. An interesting take as prior Fed Chairs like Bernanke and Greenspan mainly looked at internal US macro-economic indicators when explaining their moves down. 

One of the topics that also came up during discussions with clients is in the area of sustainability and how we can support them in reaching their objectives. Also in the last version of our virtual game, this topic is included, Very timely, as we just published our own increased positions in the various sustainable rankings for banks. The use and abuse of resources is one very important sustainability sub-topic and applicable in the US as well. On the other side of the country for example, in California, alarming news about the levels of snowfall in the Sierra Nevada mountains – which had not been this low in 500 years. The snow serves as an essential source of water for California where firemen are having tough times controlling the ongoing wild fires which are threatening thousands of homes. Also, as the snow melts, it fills the water reservoirs which provide a third of all of the drinking water in the Golden State. A sustainable water supply is clearly not only issue in the emerging markets.

I have learned to drink more water during flights and skip alcohol. That also applied to my flight back from NYC via Paris which I was redirected to, as I missed my original direct flight from JFK to Amsterdam. Running from terminal 2E to 2F at Charles de Gaulle Airport, my favourite airport for transfers, I quickly checked whether my suitcase was on board to Amsterdam as well - oui! However, after arriving in Amsterdam it appeared to be a 'non', and after waiting for 30 minutes at the luggage carousel the trip ended as it had begun... with my iPad in my hand.


Follow Jeroen on Twitter: @JeroenPlag