Assessment Dutch Conglomerate

Background

This assessment will evaluate the Dutch conglomerate, ING. ING is a global financial institution “offering, banking, investment, life insurance and retirement services”. The group has over 85 million private, corporate and institutional customers spread across the globe.

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ING was founded in 1991 with the merger of Dutch insurer, Nationale-Nederland and the bank, NMB Postbank Groep. It has its headquarters in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The Group today employs about 115,000 employees worldwide, with the majority in Europe. The Group has six business lines that all report to the Executive Board. The six business lines are Retail Banking, Wholesale Banking, ING Direct, Insurance Asia/Pacific, Insurance Europe and Insurance Americas.

ING offers a vast range of financial products to meet all kinds of customer demands. ING also has a number of subsidiaries. In insurance industry, some of these subsidiaries include “Lion Connecticut Holdings Inc”, “Their aim is to deliver “financial products and services in the way its customers want them delivered” (www.ing.com). As stated on their global site, the recent credit crisis has pushed the group to go back to the basics. So to provide better customer service, their new chosen path is to deliver an easier customer experience to help build customer trust and competitive advantage over long term. Also, in keeping with the customer demand, the group is repositioning its product portfolio to include better wealth protection and reduce risk. The group has also decided to further strengthen its financial position as it has realized that financial institutions have a higher capital requirement than previously thought. According to Datamonitor (2009), ING has strong liquidity position for short term needs. But they obviously hope to further strengthen it in view of the current financial crisis.

Since ING is a Dutch company, its functioning comes under Dutch laws which do not allow one legal entity to carry out both banking and insurance activities. However, banks and insurers are allowed to be part of one company and since ING group is both a banker and an insurer they have to ensure that certain risk management procedures are in place. Similar regulations exist in each of the countries in which the group operates. Thus, in order to function legally and profitably, ING has to comply with various regulations and keep customer interest at the top. This is only possible if the group has a strong information management system in place.

Importance of Information Management

For a group like ING, Information Management is extremely important. The groups mission statement is “to set the standard in helping our customers manage their financial future”. Just the simple task of managing one’s own finances requires a lot of information. Since the group is managing finances for its customers, it cannot afford to make any mistakes. And considering that the group serves more than 85 million clients (ING annual report), both private and corporate, it is easy to imagine the huge amounts of information the group must manage on a daily basis.

Another reason why the firm needs a well established information management system is because the group is so vast and spread over a number of geographies. The customer requirements, regulations and several other factors are different in different countries and in such an environment information management becomes imperative for the proper functioning of the organization.

As mentioned earlier, the group also has six business lines ranging from retail banking to insurance. These various businesses must work independently in order to be successfully, and yet they must report to the Executive Board and that requires a certain streamlining of the various processes. This means that various processes and knowledge must be properly documented and codified into software (Middleton, p. 347) for easy management.

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The Executive Board has certain responsibility to its shareholders and the only way they can properly fulfill these responsibilities is if they have complete and timely information about the various processes going on in various businesses and countries. This information should be accurate, comprehensive, reliable and yet easy to access and not to detailed. All this also requires information management.

The group is also responsible to various regulatory bodies which require that companies file certain information with them regularly. Proper reporting and complying with all regulations also require the existence of a proper information management system.

Finally, among ING’s various business principles, as mentioned on their site, is that they strive to be open and clear. This is only possible if the group has all necessary information available to anyone who seeks it, whether internally or externally. And such information can only be made available if there is a world class information management system in place.

Internal Information Users

In any organization, every employee and department is constantly using information in order to carry out its responsibilities properly. But the people who need this information the most are probably those at the top of the organization and those at the very bottom, because these are two groups which interact with the outside world the most. Hence, in ING, the two departments which are probably the heaviest users of information are the “Executive Board” and “Customer Service” department.

The Executive Board has responsibilities for the entire organization as well as the shareholders. Outside the group, they are the face of the company. They are also responsible for making policy decisions and communicating them to all the stakeholders, both internal and external. As such, they would need to have information about the various businesses, the problems being faced them and the steps being taken to solve these problems. This information is important because while interacting with the shareholders, they can be asked any question about the organization and are expected to know the answers. Also, if there is a need to take a major policy decision to solve a problem, they need to be able to do so in a timely manner so that the problem can be taken care of before it goes out of hand. However, they cannot be expected to know all the day-to-day details of all the businesses and do not even require this information. The executive board needs, on a daily basis, an overview of various businesses so that they can communicate the same to the various stakeholders and take any corrective actions if necessary.

The customer service department interacts directly with the customers and it is important that they have all the required information in order to be able to serve the customer to their satisfaction. For this they require access to information regarding individual customer’s account. Since in a financial services organization, these information can be extremely sensitive, the customer service department is also responsible for ensuring that information does not leak out of the organization. Thus the customer service department is responsible for customer’s account information and must have access to this information in order to be able to serve the customers.

Information Resources

The departments mentioned above must have proper and timely access to the relevant information in order to carry out their duties. For the executive board, the main internal information resource is the management information system (MIS). Lucey (2005) describes MIS as “a system to convert data from internal and external sources into information and to communicate that information, in appropriate form, to managers at all in all functions to enable them to make timely and effective decisions.” Based on this definition, MIS is mainly a technology-based resource though certain manual inputs are required. Also the main users of the MIS system are the managers at all levels of the organization, including the executive board.

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The external information resource used most often by the executive board would be the Federal Agencies of different countries and their different regulations. This is a source based resource which accessed by the management both manually and through technology. Some of the latest regulatory changes are often announced on the television and help the management take important future decisions. On the other hand, it is a company’s responsibility to learn about all the existing regulations and comply with each and every one of them. This can be a long, cumbersome and time consuming process and getting information about all the existing regulations can be manual and tedious.

For the customer service department, the main internal information resource is the customer database. This is mainly a technology-based resource. The database is formed through manual entry of the data of new customers and updated as and when required either by the customer service employees or by the customers themselves using the online facilities.

The external information resource for the customer service is the customers who provide the information which helps the customer service department serve the customers. This is a purely manual information source as customers provide information verbally or through paper forms.

InfoMap

Having discussed the various information resources, the next step is to apply the Burk and Horton InfoMap (1988) method to the four information resources identified earlier. The first information resource identified is the MIS system. The MIS system is used by a number of people in the organization. A list of all the user groups using the MIS system is the executive board, senior management, middle level managers, junior level managers, human resource department, accounting department, finance department and data entry department. Thus the total number of user groups for MIS are 7.

The second information resource identified is Federal agencies. The laws and regulations passed by the agencies concern mainly the top management including the executive board and the legal department. So the total number of users of this external information resource is 3.

For the customer service department, the internal resource identified is the customer database. The customer service department is the main user of the database. Other users include the record keeping department, data entry department and research and planning department. Thus the total number of users of the database is 4.

The fourth information resource identified is the external resource directly from the customers. This resource is used by the customer service department and the data entry department of the organization. Thus the total number of users of this resource is 2.

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Thus the MIS resource is used by the maximum number of departments (seven) while customer input resource is used by only two departments. People in the customer service department may be aware of government regulations but it is highly unlikely that they would have direct access to this information resource. In fact, most people other than the legal department and the top management are not likely to have access to government regulations accept through what may be published from time to time in media. For most of these departments, knowledge of these regulations is not important and even if this resource was available to them they would not be using it.

Critique of the InfoMap Method

The Burk and Horton Infomap method is a very generic method of evaluating information resources. It is useful in listing types of information resources available to an organization and the various of users of these information. It is also useful in determining if all the information resources available o the organization are being strategically used or not. If a department could benefit from particular resource but is not using it because of ignorance of its existence or inaccessibility to the resource, the InfoMap method can help rectify the situation.

The method would be most useful to the planning department of the organization as it could help them ensure that all the information resources available to the organization are put to optimal use.

The InfoMap Analysis as done above is a very rudimentary one and is unable to fully appreciate or document the complex processes which go on in an organization this size. However, even a well studied and extensive InfoMap Analysis as suggested by Burk and Horton has severe limitations. The method is extremely generic and specific uses of information resources by various users or user groups is not documented. The method only tells the various information resources available to an organization and their users. The analysis only helps identify the users who are not using an information resource. It does not tell if these users are using this information efficiently or not.

Considering the resources required for carrying out this exercise, this method is not recommend for smaller organizations. An organization the size of ING may find some benefit from carrying out this exercise and be able to improve its efficiency. But for smaller organizations the cost-benefit matrix of the exercise would not be beneficial for the organization.

Reflection and Self Allocation of Grade

This paper is a very generic paper written about the internal processes about a large conglomerate from an outsiders perspective. The lack of internal information about the organization and the various processes which take place is the biggest limitation of this paper. The publicly available information does not tell much about the organization’s setup and the various departments within the organization. There is also no information available about the information resources available to the organization. This entire paper is based on conjectures and a general knowledge of the type of information resources such an organization would have access to and the various departments a financial organization like ING is likely to have.

In this regard, my ability to come up with all the information in view of the limited information available is the best part of this paper. Also, the analysis part is also good. On the other hand, I could have carried out a little more research of the organization to further understand the group’s processes. The limited research is the worst part of this paper.

Perhaps the reason why I did not carry out an extensive research about the company was because I found it to be the hardest part of this assignment. If I were carrying out such an analysis for an organization, I would probably have much better access to the organization’s resources and would be able to carry out a much more extensive analysis. I also did not make a chart as suggested by Burk Horton, essentially because I was only discussing four information resources. However, for an organization, I would take the pains to make the entire chart and carry out a detailed analysis.

Considering the effort put into this paper and the limitations I had to work with, I believe I did a good job with the paper and should receive an above average grade for my efforts.

List of References

  1. 2008. Annual Report. ING. [online]. Web.
  2. Burk, C.F. & Horton, F.W. 1988. InfoMap: A complete guide to discovering corporate information resources. Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice Hall.
  3. DATAMONITOR: ING Groep N.V. (2009). ING Groep N.V. SWOT Analysis, [online].
  4. Lucey, T. 2005. Management Information System. 9th ed. [online book]. London, UK, Thomson Learning. Web.
  5. Middleton, M.R. 2002. Information Management: a consolidation of operations, analysis and strategy. Wagga Wagga, Center of Information Studies.
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