Skip to content
Terug naar Overzicht

Dream Team Builder Bahadir Samli: when ‘caring’ and ‘daring’ go hand in hand

Every day, thousands of customers conduct their banking business through ING’s digital channels. Making that experience not only safe, but also smooth, simple and pleasant: that is a feat of the more than 1,500 IT specialists with nationalities from all over the world.

How do you get such a large, diverse team to work together harmoniously? And how do you ensure that you find, attract, and retain the right talent for the task at hand? Bahadir Samli, Chief Information Officer at ING Belgium and Dream Team Builder, shares his insights.

What does your Dream Team in IT look like?

Bahadir: “My Dream Team is one that cares and dares. A diverse, but complementary group of authentic people, who listen to each other, and work together in trust, towards a goal that unites them. At the same time, it is crucial that everyone dares to challenge one another, in an honest and constructive way, to grow and consistently give their best.”

How do you build such a Dream Team?

Bahadir: “I strongly believe in the idea of ‘leading by example.’ That’s where it all starts: walking the talk yourself to encourage the behaviour you want to see in others. It is also important to understand exactly what your team members think, what obstacles they face, and how you can help them move forward. In practice, that means frequent and active listening.

This is the only way to capture what drives and really motivates people to shift up a gear. Not only as individuals, but also as a team. You can see it this way: putting two strong engineers together doesn’t mean you have a strong team. If they can’t collaborate effectively, sometimes one plus one equals zero. But when you bring the right people together at the right time, with the right tools and the motivation they need, one plus one can also become four. Teamwork is what will determine the outcome.”

“Putting two strong players together doesn’t mean you have a strong team. Sometimes one plus one equals zero, sometimes it’s four. Teamwork determines the outcome.

Bahadir Samli

What makes your team so strong?

Bahadir: “A strong team deserves strong leadership – and vice versa. At our company, diversity and collaboration form that strength. The leadership team consists of people with different backgrounds who set out the strategic lines collectively, not separately from each other. This creates a broad and constructive basis for taking responsibility together and finding solutions to problems.

In short, if you want a team that works smoothly towards a common goal, you need to exude this mindset yourself. Because if the entire leadership is on the same page, your teams will follow suit.”

How does your IT team organize itself?

Bahadir: “The cliché is that banks often have a hierarchical structure. None of that at ING! We have evolved to more of a flat organizational structure. So, all domains work more closely together: no silos, or teams working in a vacuum.

The same, of course, applies to our IT team. I am privileged to be surrounded by exceptionally talented colleagues – each with their unique background, skills, and experience – and they are all on the same wavelength. We also actively foster this sense of connection both at and away from work.

That way, we hit two targets at once. We create a context in which everyone feels heard and can continue to grow, while fostering a culture of bottom-up innovation in the process. Our people are given the space to share and work with their own ideas. That leads to better results than if you only set the direction from above or from an ivory tower.”

If you want a team that works smoothly towards a common goal, the leadership has to exude this mindset themselves.

Bahadir Samli

How do you keep engagement high in a demanding and competitive world like the banking sector?

Bahadir: “Appreciation is the code word! We have some ‘rituals’ of our own to make colleagues feel proud when they do a good job, but also to recognize others when you feel they have made a top contribution, no matter how small it may seem at first glance.

Authentic leadership also plays an important role. It’s highly motivating when a manager shows interest, is accessible and keeps promises. However, this type of leadership goes beyond caring for your team; daring must also take central stage. In addition to showing empathy, as a manager you need to create a context in which your team members do not shy away from a challenge or new responsibility.

This also rings true when it comes to feedback culture: keeping your team involved and sharp requires them to think critically, ask questions, dare to share and revisit their opinions, be open to the ideas of others … And to encourage all that, you need to put it into practice yourself. That’s sometimes easier said than done (laughs).”

How do you see the future of ICT & Digital?

Bahadir: “It’s an open door, but no less true: finding IT talent is and remains a huge challenge. For us, too. A lot of IT specialists want to work for the Googles, Microsoft’s and Apples of this world. They often assume that we as a bank don’t innovate much and primarily prioritize operational issues, compliance, and risk management. But that is only part of the picture. If we want to attract new and driven talent, we need to change that perception, by showing that the banking sector is equally innovative in the ICT & Digital field.

Changing this perception is of course a long-term effort … To tackle the ‘war for talent’ in the short term, we are working with external recruitment partners. In the meantime, we continue to make every effort to strengthen our employer brand. We want to be known as an organization with an engineering culture, growth opportunities and modern systems – where risk management and innovation are two sides of the same coin. In this way, we want to be the ‘employer of choice’ for every IT talent.”

Back To Top