Triodos Bank: a sustainable employer brand
AHEAD is delighted to help Triodos Bank bring on board new talent in Belgium. ‘We are extremely proud to represent Triodos,’ enthuses AHEAD partner Muriel Malak. ‘They are unique. Their approach is very refreshing.’

So in a sector struggling to retain a positive public image, HEADWAY asks their HR Manager Joelle Lontie what makes Triodos so special.

Photographer - Bénédicte Maindiaux
All banks have to be ethical in their practices, but as far as Triodos is concerned, our raison d’être is to ensure that the money we lend our clients is allocated responsibly and transparently, and in a way that enhances sustainable development. We only finance activities with added ecological, social or cultural value. Such as renewable energy, low energy housing projects, bio-agriculture, social economy, cultural initiatives like theatres and dance companies. The projects we finance are visible on our internet site at any time using our interactive card Know where your money goes. Likewise our banking operations and decision processes are organized and measured using a framework of sustainable criteria.

You have an interesting shareholder structure. How does it work in practice?

The Foundation for the Administration of Triodos Bank Shares (SAAT) has all Triodos BankNV’s shares under its management. It issues depository receipts to private individuals and institutions who want to participate in the Bank’s equity. Voting rights are exercised by the Board of SAAT at the Triodos Bank Annual General Meeting. Triodos Bank depository receipts are not listed on the stock exchange, but can be traded through Triodos Bank itself. Not subjet to speculation, its evolution through time has shown to be very stable. This structure was chosen to protect Triodos Bank’s identity and mission. Recent events in financial markets internationally have shown again how important this protective structure is.

How would you describe your employer brand? 

What’s distinct about Triodos as an employer, is our corporate culture and the sheer strength of our mission and values. I would define our culture as open and coherent with a value set we defend passionately. Of course that means that HR practices need to be in harmony with this ethos. For instance, we have no variable element in our salary package. Instead it is the collective results that are important rather than the achievement of individual objectives. That implies that each employee has to engage wholeheartedly in this ethos, but, believe me, it is also very motivating to contribute to a positive project for society, that makes a concrete impact through the results of the projects we finance.  Besides, this is also a young, growing company because we are still just an SME with huge potential for growth: that’s a real challenge for all our new co-workers.

What impact does your 'more green, less greed' ethos have on potential candidates? 

Frankly, I think that candidates who are attracted by the message that ‘money is a vehicle to achieve a fairer and more ‘liveable’ society for everyone, rather than just an end in itself’, will be touched by the Triodos philosophy. We note that more and more often candidates are placing more and more emphasis on harmonising their personal values and their professional career. People are no longer prepared to work just anywhere for anything.  Today they are vociferous in demanding a balance between their private and professional lives. Besides, the challenge is a very interesting one: demonstrating categorically that it is entirely possible to achieve lasting profits by investing in the real world economy at the same time contributing to a brand new banking model.

What attracted you personally to Triodos, Joelle?

Actually, I always worked in FMCG before joining Triodos. Until then I’ve never even contemplated working in the banking sector, but the particular positioning of Triodos, the authentic line up between corporate message and concrete reality was attractive. Likewise the call of being able to really contribute to such a positive step for society. I was also immensely excited by the chance to put in place the whole HR policy, and prepare the structure for the future. And that enthusiasm has not diminished one iota !

And how do Triodos' values and mission affect your recruitment selection decisions? For example, do you ever have to compromise on professional skills/experience to find a match for ethical values?

No, we never compromise on a candidate’s professional competences, because it is essential that they are equipped for the job and want to do it. Nor do we ever compromise on the match with our company values because that would cause difficulties integrating the new hire and give rise to frustration.

What are the professional and personal attributes of an excellent Triodos employee?

A typical Triodos employee is perfectly bilingual, often trilingual with a classical banking background – whether from a savings, investments, or credit background; a generalist who is capable of working autonomously and responsibly but at the same time enjoys working as part of a team. Someone who is flexible and embraces change readily. It goes without saying that they must also share our vision about the evolution needed in the banking sector and our emphasis on sustainable development.

As a young, growing company what are the other main challenges for HR?

As you can imagine, there are plenty! To continue to engage people in our evolution and help us achieve it; maintain the open and very distinctive culture of Triodos; bring new talent on board and help older hires to transition towards a much more expansive working environment; help this model evolve towards the ideal we strive for, by standing back, taking time to get trained and continue growing. 

Naturally AHEAD is proud to represent Triodos. Why did you choose us as your recruitment partner?

We chose AHEAD for your human approach, the way you behave towards clients and also because of your recruitment vision: the candidate is a partner and is treated as such. Also because AHEAD understood our needs well and shares our HR values.