Rabobank, the second largest bank in the Netherlands and the global leader in food and agriculture financing has launched the Rabo Frontier Ventures fund (RFV). RFV is a 60 million euro investment fund that focuses on high-potential early-stage Fintech and Food & Agri companies.
The launch of the investment fund is one of the activities that the company is rolling out as a part of the overal innovation strategy of the company. The venture arm has selected ‘Financial Cruise Control’, ‘Platform Banking’, ‘Emerging technologies as a business model enabler’ and ‘Data4Food’ as focus areas.
“One of our main goals is to help our customers (retail and corporate) improve their wellbeing and achieve financial health”, says Harrie Vollaard, Head of Rabo Fintech Ventures, in an interview with StartupJuncture. The fund aims to achieve this goal with the focus area Financial Cruise Control. Vollaard: “We want our customers to be able to manage their daily finances, save for the future in sync with their real life events that matter most to them.”
As the global leader in food and agricultural financing it’s a strategic objective of the bank to play a key role in shaping the tech enabled future of these areas. With RFV the aim of the bank is to help jumpstart ventures that apply big data and other emerging technologies to improve the food and agri value chain. “With insights based on big data yields can be improved, food waste can be reduced, workflows can be optimized and costs can be reduced” says Vollaard. “A good example is the project Moovement in Australia. With tagged cows, cattle can be monitored and guided towards water holes and grass lands. What’s more is that in this way farmers can prevent the cattle getting lost or stolen.”
‘The Uberisation of Banking’
RFV has already invested in the startups we.trade and Peaks. We.trade is a blockchain powered e-commerce platform for the SME sector. Peaks, launched fall last year, is a spare-change investment app. These are however not external startups. They are Rabobank’s internal ‘Moonshots’ accelerator programme spinoffs.
In addition to capital, RFV provides knowledge, expertise and the Rabobank network to the startups and scale-ups it supports. Peaks is leveraging the distribution and communication channels of the bank. Vollaard argues that the legal advice the bank is in addition offering to Peaks is very valuable. “This is a big advantage for our portfolio companies like Peaks, because operating in a fully regulated investment area you need a lot of expertise to get a license and to setup your company properly.”
The trend that banking is becoming a commodity is one of the most important market developments that is driving the whole banksector to rethink its, to use fancy words: ‘raison d’etre’. The same counts for Rabobank. “Banking services are more and more integrated in an offering related to a real life event of the customer; the Uberisation of banking” says Vollaard about this dynamic. “The financial service becomes invisible. It is not about the payment itself but about finding the right cardriver who can take you from A to B . We need to extend our services to what really matters for our customers, to support them in their day-to-day decisions.” It exactly at this juncture where Vollaard sees an opportunity for the bank and RFV to work with startups an scale-ups.
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