Lots of companies claim that they take corporate social responsibility seriously, but ING really does
A carefree life and a promising career can be brought to a sudden halt through sheer bad luck – as Wolter Mattheus knows from first-hand experience. A couple of years ago his sight began to deteriorate rapidly, ultimately leaving him blind. Once he had got over the initial shock, he gradually started to rebuild his life and his career. Since the summer of 2016 he has been working as a Customer Journey Expert at ING in Leeuwarden.
Wolter was a sales manager at Warner Bros and relocated to the Dutch province of Friesland to manage a large media company comprising books, films, games and classical music in Leeuwarden. When that company was sold off, he set up his own classical music publishing company together with a business partner but the venture sadly came to an end due to unforeseen circumstances. Wolter then continued as a consultant. Everything was going well for him when he suddenly started to lose his sight. He was blind less than eight weeks later. “My whole world collapsed. I had a nice life and a good career, but now I found myself in the hands of ‘the authorities’. I was declared 100 percent medically unfit for work, but the last thing I wanted was to become a couch potato. At first I went into battle mode. But once the gun smoke had cleared and I’d had a little more time to adjust to my new reality, I went in search of the things I could still do.”
“That’s how I came across Untapped Talent. I investigated it further and came into contact with ING. They were moved by what I’d been through and found my CV interesting. Together we explored what would be the best fit with my knowledge and experience, and that’s how it came about that I’ve been working in a ‘fly keeper’ role at ZappING in Leeuwarden since mid-2016. Here, over a thousand ZappING employees work to answer customers’ telephone enquiries and to handle their requests. For me, it was the start of a new adventure – first and foremost because of the practical aspects: the train journey, walking from the station to the office, finding the right button to press in the lift, learning to work with the computer systems, getting coffee out of the machine…but also in terms of carving out a role for myself, finding out what I can do and where I can add value. That takes time, for people on both sides. After all, even though I’m armed with an impressive CV and lots of experience, it’s far from plain sailing. I started off by listening in on colleagues’ phone conversations with customers. That gave me a clear insight into how things work at ZappING and I could start to get an idea of possible opportunities for improvement. Since then I’ve gained in-depth knowledge of the legal quality requirements that our customer interactions have to comply with. Together with a colleague I’ve increased the focus on that and I supervise the teams whose customer interactions are assessed. That entails lots of explaining and giving presentations, getting the teams’ support for the approach and ensuring clarity on the goal: to help our customers even better and contribute to better results for the bank.”
On the ‘no’ pile
My role has been created for me, which means that I sometimes have to assert myself more to demand attention for the opportunities that I experience in my position. In an ideal situation, people with a work disability would fill existing vacancies. I’m in no doubt that my presence adds value, not only in terms of the actual work but also because I inject a certain kind of drive. I’m not afraid of standing up in front of people, telling my story and being a source of inspiration. It’s great that you can do that here. And to me, the fact that ING has set itself the goal of giving people with a work disability a chance is very special. Lots of companies loudly proclaim that they take corporate social responsibility seriously, but ING really does. That requires an investment on the company’s part because it’s definitely not easy, and let’s be honest: in the past I would have probably put my CV on the ‘no’ pile too.”
Wolter lives with his wife and three children in Franeker. He was always an avid reader and is now trying to get used to audio books. He does voluntary work for various community organisations and at his children’s schools. His motto is: ‘Blindness isn’t the end of the world as long as you can still see all the beauty in the world.’ “I’ve always thought that way, but my focus has changed. I used to have a commercial goal but it has now become more of a social one.”