There could not have been a clearer sign that ING’s change was for real. Early in 2008, the Dutch retail-banking unit moved into its own new headquarters building, cementing the union of ING Group’s two previously separate banking units in the Netherlands: ING Bank and Postbank.
A few months earlier, the bank had begun to integrate functions such as marketing and product management. As part of its overall change program, ING had carefully thought through the order in which its two banks’ functional units would be joined, reasoning that the strategic thinking needed to entrench change across the newly unified organization would be reinforced best if it were couched in terms of what ING’s customers wanted over the long term.
ING’s change program was an uncommon one: the merger of two internal units not dissimilar in operation and sharing the same overarching cultural traits. Yet those factors would make the process as challenging, in many ways, as the merger of two corporate strangers.
The group’s ING Bank operation was rooted in a strong network of branch offices, with a particular focus on small to midsize businesses. By contrast, Postbank operations were conducted almost entirely by mail, by telephone, and online. Founded in 1881 as a nationalized business, Postbank had 7.5 million private-account holders and was one of the largest providers of financial services in the Netherlands—everything from current accounts to mortgages and pensions. Privatized in 1986, Postbank became part of the structure of the organization that, four years later, would become ING Group. In 2007, the group announced that it would merge its daughter ING Bank with Postbank, forming a single brand.