Born in Curacao, a Caribbean island forming part of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, Mr. Lodewijk Govaerts is of Dutch nationality. His wife is from Ireland and their three daughters were born in Sydney, Amsterdam and Hong Kong. They have been living in Malaysia for two and a half years and feel very much at home. Lodewijk is a true entrepreneur, not as the principal shareholder and executive of his own company but as an international senior executive at Scotiabank, a publicly-listed and global bank. Having lived in 12 countries in Europe, Asia Pacific, North America and the Caribbean, his outlook on life is truly global. The majority of Lodewijk’s career thus far was in Asia Pacific, namely in Australia, Pakistan, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Indonesia and Malaysia.
As the only “non-lawyer” educated member of his own family, Lodewijk was already, at an early age, determined to pursue a different career path from the rest. Lodewijk’s father was one of the judges of the Supreme Court of the Kingdom of The Netherlands and both of his brothers pursued a corporate career with a high degree of specialization in law. Lodewijk’s mother was a Dutch language teacher to English and Spanish native speakers at an institution servicing diplomats in The Netherlands.
From a relatively privileged background, Lodewijk’s plans were vastly different from his family. Although having benefited greatly from a disciplined yet open-minded upbringing, frequent dinner debates covering his father’s cases in the Supreme Court and world issues, strong participation in competitive sports and tertiary education in The Netherlands with a secondment in the U.S., Lodewijk had to build his career on his own. In other words, without any benefit whatsoever from his family connections, as they were entirely unrelated to what Lodewijk set out to do.
From a young age, he was determined to become an executive officer in charge of an organization active in the global economy and by climbing the corporate ladder with international experience. Given his interest in finance and in exploring the world, it therefore became logical for him to join a global bank (ABN AMRO Bank) after first having joined a global consumer products company (Procter & Gamble) and having finished his mandatory military service as an air-force officer stationed at NATO’s Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. The latter had strengthened his appetite for working in an international environment.
Lodewijk is currently the Chief Executive Officer of Scotiabank Malaysia. Scotiabank is Canada’s most international Bank, and therefore has the added challenge of aligning all operations to a larger global strategy. Lodewijk must ensure that the Global Corporate strategy is brought into the country. “We are working to be more focused on our customers and in making it easier for them to do business with us.”
The Bank has approximately 100 employees focused on Malaysia’s top-tier corporate and government-linked companies. A typical medium-sized foreign owned international wholesale bank, it is not a top 5 foreign bank in terms of size. But with emphasis on improving quality of its products and services, it is now on its way to become a top-5 bank in the core panel of its chosen customers. With a niche strategy in wholesale banking, Scotiabank is well- positioned to gain market share with its chosen clients and generate sustainable and profitable growth. Scotiabank’s head office in Malaysia is in Kuala Lumpur and has corporate branches in Johor, Penang, and Labuan.
Since Lodewijk’s move to Malaysia, the Bank reversed a declining trend in performance and now has a positive growth trend in revenues, net profit and in the number of top-tier clients they serve. New clients include some of the highest profile names in the Malaysian market. The Bank also introduced a new product line in
(cross currency) interest rate swaps in 2013 and has been quick in building this portfolio, adding high value to its clients’ interest rate and foreign exchange risk management needs. In addition, the bank has been part of some of Malaysia’s investments in overseas markets, including the U.K. and Canada. “With more high value added solutions, the bank is moving from a back-seat to a client’s core panel position”. “Being successful in moving up to a core panel position with clients potentially results in share of client wallet to improve from approximately 1-2% to 10-15%”.
The corporate cultural change journey is in Lodewijk’s own words “about creating a winning culture with increased individual accountability (including learning, upgrading, more discipline and hard work) and strong collaboration or teamwork”. Even in his own home, Lodewijk has two of his life mottos framed in his living room stating “Do your best” and “Never give up”. He also believes that: “You lose some and win some, life is about learning from your mistakes and about increasing your wins”. This is something that Lodewijk has learned from playing competitive sports at national level and he compares competing in banking with competing in team sports. According to Lodewijk, “it is absolutely key that any leader is seen as objective, transparent and trustworthy in order to be successful in transforming an organization, whose success is entirely dependent on its individual and team performance”. When dealing with people’s issues, leaders should be sensitive to their personal/family situation as well as their professional situation”.
Last but not least, in line with Scotiabank, Lodewijk believes it is important to give back by supporting causes that have a lasting impact on the local communities where we live and work. To further support this, a committee was recently created with the objective of preparing proposals to further shape Scotiabank’s Bright Future program in Malaysia. Lodewijk believes that the right people get more satisfaction out of giving than taking. “CSR is an important element to further enhance employees’ pride and engagement”.
Lodewijk’s vision, mission and strategy for the future have been summarized in his “3-2-5” plan. “3-2-5” stands for: “In 3 years double the bottom line and become a top 5 bank to our chosen clients”. All employees are familiar with this plan in which Lodewijk’s vision, the bank’s mission and the strategic plan provide direction on how to achieve this. In Malaysia, Scotiabank has chosen to focus on niche wholesale banking by further developing its people, products and services. In this journey, Scotiabank is already expanding its services to include products from the fixed income and debt capital markets, complementing its traditional corporate lending, trade finance and foreign exchange portfolio of products and services.
There is excitement amongst staff about the new direction and the way of getting there. Closure with and change from the past traditional environment had to be led by someone who has experienced a similar challenging change management journey and with a broad and deep level of experience. Lodewijk also serves as a board member on the Malaysian Canadian Business Council (MCBC) and the International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL). In his spare time he loves to play golf, hockey and tennis and spend as much time possible with family and friends.