Peter Jacobs

CIO, ING Bank, Amsterdam, Netherlands
He's transformed a Bank into a Technology company


If you ask talented young people to name their dream company from an employment perspective, they’ll almost always cite the likes of Facebook, Google, Netflix, Spotify, and Uber.

The interesting thing is that none of these companies operate in the same industry or share a common purpose. What unites them is their the speed, dynamism, and customer centricity. These are the competencies that large firms strive for when embarking on a journey of digital transformation.

Peter Jacobs was responsible for the digital transformation at ING bank, and results include improved time to market, boosted employee engagement, and increased productivity. He implemented this by modeling the agile approaches of tech companies and turned around how things got done, whilst focussing on the right things to get done.

Hear him speak at WORLDWEBFORUM 2019 about what does and doesn’t work when getting established firms ready for tomorrow.

About ING

ING’s strengths include a well-known brand that is positively recognised in many markets, a strong financial position, our international network and omnichannel distribution strategy.

Not to mention our efforts to contribute to a sustainable world. ING is among the leading banks in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (Europe and World) and is included in the FTSE4Good index.

ING Group shares are listed in Amsterdam (INGA NA, INGA.AS), Brussels and New York (ADRs: ING US, ING.N).

most important elements of the transformation

Looking back, I think there were four big pillars.

Number one was the agile way of working itself. Today, our IT and commercial colleagues sit together in the same buildings, divided into squads, constantly testing what they might offer our customers, in an environment where there are no managers controlling the handovers and slowing down collaboration.

Number two is having the appropriate organizational structure and clarity around the new roles and governance. As long as you continue to have different departments, steering committees, project managers, and project directors, you will continue to have silos—and that hinders agility.

The third big component is our approach to DevOps and continuous delivery in IT. Our aspiration is to go live with new software releases on a much more frequent basis—every two weeks rather than having five to six “big launches” a year as we did in the past. The integration of product development and IT operations has enabled us to develop innovative new product features and position ourselves as the number-one mobile bank in the Netherlands.

Finally, there is our new people model. In the old organization, a manager’s status and salary were based on the size of the projects he or she was responsible for and on the number of employees on his or her team. In an agile performance-management model, there are no projects as such; what matters is how people deal with knowledge.

A big part of the transformation has been about ensuring there is a good mix between different layers of knowledge and expertise.

agility within IT

Agility within IT is not a prerequisite for a broader transformation, but it certainly helps.

At ING, we introduced a more agile way of working within IT a few years ago, but it was not organization-wide agility as we understand it today, because it did not involve the business.

You can certainly start in IT and gradually move to the business side, the advantage of this being that the IT teams can test and develop the concept before the company rolls it out more widely.

But I think you could equally start with one value stream, let’s say mortgages, and roll it out simultaneously in the business and in IT. Either model can work. What you can’t do—and that is what I see many people do in other companies—is start to cherry pick from the different building blocks.

For example, some people formally embrace the agile way of working but do not let go of their existing organizational structure and governance. That defeats the whole purpose and only creates more frustration.

risks in this agile model

I see two main risks.

First, agility in our case has been extremely focused on getting software to production and on making sure that people respond to the new version of what they get.

If you are not careful, all innovations end up being incremental. You therefore have to organize yourself for a more disruptive type of innovation—and you can’t always expect it to come out of an individual team.

Second, our agile way of working gives product owners a lot of autonomy to collect feedback from end users and improve the product with each new release. There is a risk that people will go in different directions if you don’t align squads, say, every quarter or six months.

You have to organize in such a way that teams are aligned and mindful of the company’s strategic priorities.



Peter Jacobs is Chief Information Officer and board member of ING Bank Netherlands. He is responsible for all application development and maintenance activities within the bank in the Netherlands. Scope includes customer data, lending, mortgages, payments, savings, branches, call centers, internet and ING mobile banking.

Prior to joining ING, Peter was an associate partner for McKinsey&Company in Amsterdam with a strong focus on Strategy, Mergers & Acquisition and Operations & IT. At election to associate partner, he was characterized by the Benelux partner-group as follows:

“Peter is an excellent problem solver. With an irresistible combination of smarts, empathy, honesty, charm, and enthusiasm, Peter provides a deep commitment to clients. His entrepreneurship and a bias towards action have helped Peter to become pivotal within the firm; consultants seek Peter out as a leader to work with: fun, no-nonsense and a true coach.”

Peter holds a Ph.D. (2005, cum laude) in Systems Engineering from Delft University of Technology. His research was on the development of distributed simulation languages for mathematical simulation modeling.