‘I enjoy visiting banks’

Date 25 September 2012

An interview with banking supervisor Michel van de Kamer (41). This is part 1 of the feature ‘A glimpse behind the scenes at the supervisory authorities’.

Michel vd Kamer

Which banks fall within your area of responsibility?
‘There are ten of us in our team, and we supervise around 80 small and medium-sized banks. Since June, we’ve been rolling out the new supervisory strategy, which means we apply group-based supervision of these banks and within that supervision we focus on problems and risks. We have divided the banks into six clusters with similar roles, such as the independent banks, the branch offices and the state-owned banks. I coordinate group supervision for the private banks cluster, i.e. the banks that handle portfolio management mainly for the Dutch market. I’m also responsible for the supervision of a number of specific banks.’
How does supervision work in practice?
‘I closely monitor developments at the private banks, based on external events and the indicators we are getting from other departments within DNB. Obviously you can’t address all the issues simultaneously on your own. That’s why we’re now working much more closely as a team, mainly with financial risk specialists and our own colleagues at a new department which focuses on monitoring specific themes. For example, our market risk expert may notice something in the sector, and he’ll pass on the information to the supervisors, who will take appropriate steps. It’s good to look at a bank with several individuals from different perspectives: after all, two pairs of eyes are better than one. This teamwork enhances dynamism, creates a stronger focus and allows us to combine macro and micro supervision more effectively.’
‘To me, the downside is that we’re less physically present at some of the banks. It’s a question of striking the right balance between maintaining a good relationship with them and focusing on the risks identified by group supervision. Banks are used to setting us straight on various matters. But we don’t simply drop by to get regular updates; the discussion has to have a purpose.’ 
Is it interesting work?
‘Yes. I’ve been working for DNB for 11 years now. I’m an auditor by training but supervision is much broader than just making the figures add up. I enjoy visiting banks, something I do twice a week on average. What I like best is talking to those responsible at the bank about the developments in the sector, their strategy, culture and specifically related prudential problems. What’s more, I’ve noticed that they really appreciate this. If I'm spending a day somewhere conducting an investigation, people often come up to me spontaneously to talk something over. So I’m keen to ensure that we continue making enough time for this.’