Tereos France – Connecting to each other – Joost Augusteijn, whom we met in the Netherlands a few weeks ago, sent us to Tereos, France’s largest agricultural producer that processes sugar beet, grains and sugar cane. With strategic advice and syndicated loans from Rabobank, it has recently diversified to become an industrial powerhouse, creating Tereos Internacional as the basis for further growth and diversification.

Rabobank - The secret of cooperative banking - CoolBrands Around the World in 80 Brands
Rabobank – The secret of cooperative banking – CoolBrands Around the World in 80 Brands

Networks around the world

We talk to CEO Philippe Duval and President Thierry Lecomte about the major shift in direction: “Tereos Internacional wants to have the financial flexibility to move into countries with economic growth; the emerging markets. For such a major move, we needed a banking partner with experience in agro food. We have been with Rabobank for 15 years now because they have an international network of local banks, a significant presence in Brazil, and a large presence in Europe. Whatever emerging countries we would like to start operating in we know that we can count on their local network and global efficiency.”

Local knowledge

“In Europe, creating Syral made us a leader in industrial starch products made from grains. We bought five plants, whereas we only had one before. As such, it was critical for us to get proper advice. Thanks to the bank’s local operations in major markets and knowledge of our critical markets, we got what we needed. More than anything, we appreciate the fact that they are present wherever we are, connect us to local parties and have great experience in the agribusiness sector. There are plenty of reasons for us to continue our 15-year partnership; we want to remain part of this global food & agribusiness network.”

Rabo Development Rwanda – Connecting to the society

Rabobank - The secret of cooperative banking - CoolBrands Around the World in 80 Brands
Rabobank – The secret of cooperative banking – CoolBrands Around the World in 80 Brands

Rabo Development focuses on providing people with access to financial services to build a better existence. Established in 2005, it has since acquired holdings in partner banks in developing countries, mostly in Africa, including Tanzania, Zambia, Rwanda and Mozambique. These countries lack a well- developed financial infrastructure in rural areas.

Bruce Dick, Rabo Development’s Managing Director, explains: “Over 100 years ago, Rabobank started with the ambition that everyone should be able to participate fully in the economy. In our home market in the Netherlands, this ambition has been realised. So, we have taken the initiative to help a number of partner banks in developing countries, fully in line with our cooperative roots. We are looking to provide small agricultural and commercial companies, as well as private individuals, with affordable credit facilities and other banking services. Before we arrived, these were pretty much unavailable. We always aim to provide both financial aid as well as experience, know-how and expertise.”

Going local

“Our work in Rwanda is a good example. Almost 80% of the population depends on agriculture as its main source of income, but rural areas have poor access to financial services. Professionalising the sector is vital for achieving higher production levels. While the sector is generally organised through cooperatives and associations, their somewhat unprofessional nature means they struggle to get loans they need to invest in storage, mechanisation, etc, to help farmers earn more money by improving yields and reducing poor harvest losses.”

Double-pronged approach

“In 2008 we acquired a 35 percent share in BPR, a local bank, to shore up and shape the long-term cooperation through management and support. In tandem with a capacity-building programme, we’ve introduced an extensive technical assistance programme with BPR to build the products and the desired services, such as ATMs and mobile banking, which the associations and farmers desperately need.

“BPR is the people’s bank and the only bank in Rwanda that now has a real network in rural areas. So, BPR will eventually enable the Rwandan economy and society to take a major step forward in terms of financial services.”

Meeting Sander in Sydney – Connecting to the customer

To get a better insight into the first pillar of the cooperative philosophy, we talk to Sander Pruijs, CCO East within Rabobank.
“One of our four pillars is ‘connecting to the customer’, which means that our customers’ interests always come first. This reflects the lack of shareholders with an immediate financial economic interest in our organisation. Customers – our members – can exert genuine influence over our operations. For us this is essential in an ongoing relationship based on mutual respect, dialogue and trust.

“The Food & Agribusiness is volatile in nature, due to trends in the global markets, consumer demand and even the weather. Earnings can therefore be impacted accordingly. We can help our customers in mitigating the various risks, facing the challenges and making use of the opportunities. To illustrate, let me give you an example. As you probably remember, there were severe floods in 2011 in Australia. Our first priority was contacting our clients to see how we could help them to get back on their feet. In applicable circumstances we offered them support such as deferral of scheduled loan payments and waiving break costs on early redemption of (farm management) deposits.

“All in all it’s about being there for our clients when and where they need us. It’s a good place to work,” he adds with a smile. “Perhaps it would be best to hear from our customers though. They can really tell you what we’re all about from their perspective…”

Rabobank - The secret of cooperative banking - CoolBrands Around the World in 80 Brands
Rabobank – The secret of cooperative banking – CoolBrands Around the World in 80 Brands

Stanbroke Australia – Connecting to the future

Our last stop is Brisbane, the gateway to Australia’s vast agribusiness frontier. Just inland, Brendan Menegazzo now heads family-run Stanbroke, the world’s largest vertically integrated beef and cattle operation in private hands.

Innovating the beef business

In 2003, Rabo helped Brendan take over from the other Stanbroke shareholders with the financing to put together Australia’s largest land deal in the country’s history. Brendan: “It was a pretty exciting time, putting together the country’s largest rural transaction. It was also a great benefit being on board with Rabobank as they saw the value in this business going forward, not just looking to tomorrow’s profits. Now we are the largest, privately owned and vertically integrated beef business.”

A clear market vision

“With over 200,000 cattle grazing four million acres of natural grassland, a feedlot capacity for 22,000 heads, a new abattoir and a global branded beef operation, we cover almost every aspect of the cattle sector,“ Brendan says. “Rabo analysts around the world provide us with the latest information of what is happening in other countries with the commodities we use regularly. They also understand that our different business units have different disciplines and principles. The fact that they are experienced in food and agriculture, food production, processing and sales was key to bringing our deal together.”

Long-term relationship

“We’re the third generation in farming in Australia now, and our business is very much a generational model with a long-term view. Having a bank that’s interested in long-term agriculture is therefore very important to us. It gives us the peace of mind to focus on long-term innovation and, although it’s obviously irritating, not worry too much if one year is less successful than the previous. It instils peace of mind and therefore the opportunity to focus on what we do really well. So for us, the future looks bright.”

© 2012 CoolBrands – Around the World in 80 Brands


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