ABN AMRO Holding N.V.



Four years ago I visited ABN AMRO, one of the world's biggest banks, and received a shoddy reception. Immediately upon entering the three block-long building (located on the outskirts of the city and home to 3,000 employees) one checks in with the receptionists who sit behind a three-foot tall glass partition. Behind them is a large reception area with lots of chairs. I vividly recall not being allowed to enter the reception area and having to stand half-an-hour behind this three-foot tall glass wall. I also had to continually pester the receptionists to help me find out who ended up with the letter of introduction sent a month earlier. Jules Prast, Chief Spokesman, came down to the lobby and said they hadn't received my letter. Prast ended up giving me a few minutes of his time and did a good job of making me feel insignificant.Besides seeing if the reception will be any different, I'm also returning because I heard the company was building a new head office complex and maybe it's already completed.

The address I have returns me to the same building visited four years ago. Entering, I count four receptionists manning the reception desk, which is double the number from the previous visit. Calls are made to track down my letter sent a month a earlier to P.J. Kaff, Chairman-Managing Board. They can't find any record of having received the letter (just like four years earlier) but, they have an excuse; the top executives moved several weeks ago to the nearly completed new head office. With that information I head off to the new 24-story edifice.

You won't find any big office buildings in Amsterdam's historic city center but, head out about six miles to the freeway ring road encircling the city and you'll find some. ABN AMRO's new edifice dwarfs rival ING's reflective glass high-rise, which just happens to be almost directly across the other side of the freeway. As I ride up to the complex it looks a long way from being completed with construction going on all over the place. The entrances and parking areas aren't even completed with employees having to traverse dirt roads and wood boards for walkways. Somehow I can't picture top executives tromping through the mess. There's no reception area but I check with a security guard manning a portable shack. Using his mobile phone (there's no other kind) the guard calls up his boss, who in turn contacts his boss, who in turn says he'll contact the "bank guy who's in charge of the building". I end up standing next to the guard for over an hour before giving up and deciding to return tomorrow.

The next day it seems like instant replay as I wait over 20 minutes for this "bank guy". It turns out the wait is worth it as J.J. Hass shows up. He's company project manager for the building and a super nice guy. I explain what I'm doing and Haas says he'll be more than happy to give me a tour. However, I tell him about the poor reception last time and how, like last time, they couldn't find my letter. I ask him to contact public relations to see if they're familiar. Haas makes the call and finds the public relations department knows nothing about my visit. Nanne van Nunen from press relations joins us as we go through the questions.

When completed, about 3,000 employees will be working here in the seven building complex that is dominated by the 24 and 17-story towers. The big shots occupy floors 20-22 with floors 23 and 24 housing guest dining rooms. They're two cafeterias in the complex along with an executive dining room on the 16th floor.
It's about a one-minute walk to the train station and a nine iron shot to the nearest freeway. During the walkabout we pass the 30,000 square foot dealing room where securities and foreign trading takes place. The massive room has space for 500 dealing desks (it'll be the largest in Europe). I can't see Chairman Kalff's office or boardroom because "they're not finished".