Geert Embrechts holds a master’s degree in Economics and in Law from Maastricht University, and a second master’s in Finance from the Amsterdam Business School. During his studies, he was one of the first students to participate in a one-year exchange programme with the International Christian University in Tokyo, Japan.
This whet his appetite for an international career: As a graduate, he took up a project almost immediately with a local bank in Poland.
But after returning to the Netherlands for a job at Rabobank – working in the research department, heading the country risk department and managing the global trade and commodity finance portfolio – Asia came calling again.
In 2004, Geert and his family decided to move to Mumbai, India, where he became one of the managing directors of Rabo India Finance.
In 2008 they moved on once more, this time to Jakarta for his present role as Chief Financial and Risk Officer of PT Bank Rabobank International Indonesia. This makes him, so to speak, the “second guy on the block”.
Rabobank has since acquired two local banks, and Geert plays a vital role in integrating all three banks. With this impressive track record of international experience, he was an obvious candidate for the International Advisory Board of the Maastricht University School of Business and Economics – and will no doubt be a valuable asset as its newest member.
Working abroad: There’s nothing like it
“It’s fun to live and work abroad. It all started when I moved to Japan: adjusting to the Japanese culture wasn’t always easy – there’s a reason it’s called ‘culture shock’! – but once the ‘living abroad’ virus gets under your skin, you’re addicted.
Maastricht University’s international focus, in Geert’s view, makes it very easy to get international experience and exposure. This is an asset that many companies appreciate. “With my experience abroad, it was much easier to adjust in a country like India, typically one of the more challenging countries for expats to live.” There, he did more than just ‘adjust’; he thrived. “India is quite extreme: either you like it or you leave. And at the time, many banks didn’t yet recognise the business opportunities, so we were in a really good position to grow.”
Indonesia is another Asian growth story, despite its different dynamics and history. Rabobank recently bought out two banks here and this has opened up an interesting market. What’s more: “In addition to the good business prospects, Indonesia is a nice country to live in. It has good climate, good food and reasonably good quality of life. Living in an emerging market means you never have a dull moment, so we enjoy just about every day!”
Link with Maastricht University
SBE’s International Advisory Board, which Geert recently joined, advises the School on strategy, internationalisation, research and links with the corporate world. “It’s good to see that Maastricht University is continuing to focus so much on internationalisation. UM was ahead of the curve when I was a student, and it should try to keep that position. Almost all my friends from Maastricht are involved in international business one way or another – though I have to admit that few considered the rather extreme option of moving to a country like India or Indonesia!”
Asia: the growth story for the coming years
“Every time I return to Europe on a business trip, I notice the focus on domestic problems. There’s a much bigger story happening in Asia. Asia came out of the financial crisis largely unscathed and so has been moving forward more than Europe especially, but also the US. Production and profits for many international corporations now largely come from Asia. In fact, this has been going on for years, but people in Europe still don’t seem to realise the dramatic shift of economic power to Asia, particularly China.”
This is not to say that making money in Asia is a walk in the park. Geert has been impressed by the professionalism of local companies in countries like India and China. “Think local, act global”, as Geert Hofstede long ago expounded in his lectures, is only the starting point.