ING celebrates its 25th anniversary in Spain with the conviction of having established itself as one of the main players in the financial sector and a benchmark brand under the innovative name of “bank not bank”.
This Dutch-based entity was set up in Spain in 1999 as a telephone bank with the operations of a start-up. A quarter of a century later, it boasts of having reached 4.2 million customers and 1,700 employees, with a disruptive story, the genetic essence of its Communication department led by Nacho Rodríguez Velasco.
The director of Communication, Institutional Relations and Sustainability at ING in Spain and Portugal joined the company in 2015, after leading communication at Barclays for six years and having worked for six years at the consultancy Eurocofin, where he was account director.
Nacho Rodríguez Velasco
This journalist replaced José María Palomares, currently deputy general manager of business at Mutualidad de la Abogacía, who then joined the Laureate International Universities network of academic centres, also to head up communications.
This professional, Rodríguez Velasco explains, “was responsible for consolidating a communication model and a structure, who helped to transform this department, supporting the business units. It was under his mandate that we began to report to the CEO”.
Ferrovial’s dircom, Patricia Leiva, founded the department and was replaced by José María Palomares.
The first foundations of ING Spain’s communications department were laid by Patricia Leiva, the current dircom of Ferrovial -successor of Juan Francisco Polo after his retirement-. Leiva, who was also dircom at Mahou San Miguel for ten years, headed the financial institution’s communications between 2001 and 2013. “She was the one who laid the foundations for this department,” explains Rodríguez Velasco.
ING’s communication team is currently made up of ten professionals. On the one hand, there are three specialists in internal communication, strictly aligned with the bank’s general strategy in close contact with the Human Resources department, who are “the drivers of pride of belonging”. This unit is credited with a large part of the milestone of having achieved the highest engagement ratio with the organisation in history, and that 8 out of 10 employees today recommend working there.
Patricia Leiva and José María Palomares
On the other hand, there are three professionals in charge of media relations, who organise press conferences, events, the interventions of the bank’s spokespersons and prepare and coordinate the distribution of press releases.
In addition, there is a head of Public Affairs who has the task of “ensuring stable and lasting relations with the institutions”, in a regulatory framework beset by multiple challenges. “We have an ambitious agenda from an institutional point of view and an important associative map,” the Dircom says.
Among the challenges are “connecting with a generation that does not read newspapers” and improving recognition in sustainability.
Rodríguez Velasco acknowledges that the most complex task he is taking on at the head of ING’s communications is to achieve a positioning in sustainability that is “authentic” and “recognised”, in a highly regulated environment full of corporate promises in this regard. This mission is mainly undertaken by two professionals in the department.
“The studies we commissioned,” he explains, “point out, on the one hand, that all the banks are there, investing a lot to position ourselves, so differentiating ourselves is more complex; and on the other hand, they recommend that organisations stop pointing to the end consumer as responsible. It is you [the company] that has to take care, buy, recycle, take risks. We have to make our own way and, from there, let the customer come when they want to.
ING office in Madrid
The orchestra director of this team reports directly to the CEO, Ignacio Juliá, and occasionally to the global dircom, Kim Larsen, who, although he sets general guidelines, leaves a wide margin of freedom to the subsidiaries so that they can land their local messages, according to Rodríguez Velasco. “At Barclays, for example, there was tighter control over what we communicated and here there is much more freedom and flexibility. I also think it’s a question of trust that you gain over the years,” he says.
The dircom does not sit on ING’s management committee, although he points out that he is in “permanent contact” with the management, which is “firmly committed to communication”. For example, every Friday, the CEO records a video for the entire staff in which he reviews in three minutes the main news of the bank each week (such as awards or the launch of products or services), which is seen by an average of 800 employees.