Why Dutch bank ING swapped client lunches for gym trips and gave smart watches to track staff well-being

LONDON — Dutch bank ING is taking a novel approach to client relations — substituting the three-martini lunch for a joint trip to the gym instead.

Meanwhile, the markets division is questioning “whether we should be making people take a 7 a.m. flight to London and a 9 p.m. flight back the same day,” Mark Pieter de Boer, global head of financial markets sales, told reporters in London. 

ING is ditching these unhealthy staples of the banking lifestyle as part of a plan to improve the health and happiness of employees and deepen client relationships.

Last month markets salespeople and their clients received TomTom smartwatches to track steps, calories burned and body fat. They will go on a six-month “journey” with coaching from ex-Olympic athletes and psychological experts from Dutch company Lifeguard to help them eat, sleep, relax and move better.

The program will see this data fed into a third party app which will then compute a so-called Wellness Quotient, with the aim of improving that aggregated figure by the time the scheme ends in November.

If you get the throw right then the catch will look after itself

So far, more than 95% of the 350-strong sales team, which deals financial products to clients looking to hedge their bets around the world, has signed up to the scheme.

ING has realised that competing with huge investment banks on price and product range in an increasingly commoditised market will not be a successful strategy.

The bank, which bought Barings for £1 after rogue trader Nick Leeson blew it apart with more than £800 million in losses in 1995, has instead focused on the depth of its personal ties to clients and hopes that this programme will bring the bank even closer to them.

De Boer, who has driven the project, quoted Maya Angelou to explain the thinking behind this part of the program: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

At its core, the project is aimed at making staff more energetic and happier to produce a more effective sales force. ING salespeople do not have revenue targets and some of their Key Performance Indicators solely focus on personal goals, such as the wellness quotient. 

The idea is approach work the way an athlete approaches a race. This means more training, more downtime and more focus on the mindset.

“If you get the throw right then the catch will look after itself,” Mark Pieter de Boer, global head of financial markets sales, told reporters in London. “If you focus on well-being, then the performance will follow.”

De Boer is quick to point out that ING won’t have access to individual employees’ data and that the project is voluntary. The personal Skype sessions with Lifeguard coaches are organised outside of work.

It’s not the first time has broken with banking tradition. The wellness push is the culmination of a three year project to improve the day-to-day grind for staff and their relationships with clients.

This included an “emotional quotient” project, launched last year, for staff to recognise their own beliefs and behavioural patterns and how the combination of the two motivate what they do at work.

For de Boer, the overall program should represent a series of gradual improvements that add up to a total lifestyle change. And he’s keen to emphasise how easy it is to begin. 

“For a start, I use a standing desk,” he said.

More from Business Insider UK:

NOW WATCH: These are the watches worn by some of the most powerful men in finance

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.