Devroe, Harry

Former Director ● Securities Services CEE ● ING  My day starts out about 4 30 a.m. without the use of an alarm clock as one of my first tasks is to feed my cat, who's always crying for an early breakfast. At 5, I

Inducted: 2013

Former Director ● Securities Services CEE ● ING 

My day starts out about 4:30 a.m. – without the use of an alarm clock-as one of my first tasks is to feed my cat, who’s always crying for an early breakfast. At 5, I watch CNN news while having tea, and a delayed edition of CBS News from the U.S. at 5:30. I’m at my desk at 7 a.m., and use the early morning quiet to read my electronic mail and to respond to it. I also review any new procedures written by department heads, since they need approval before being put into effect. As the operations manager for ING Bank in Prague, I’m responsible for all back-office functions, and I find it best to get this initial work done before anyone else has arrived.

By 9 a.m., the bank is fully staffed, the phones start ringing, and the faxes and SWIFT messages get delivered. I work closely with various departments on the day-to-day operations, and have meetings with department heads and potential customers throughout the morning. We run a full-service banking operation, but even though this is the Czech Republic, no checks are used. We have a sizable number of cash transactions over the teller desk, and everything is done by wire transfer, cash deposits or withdrawals. Due to the country’s large cash market, we have to be cognizant of money-laundering activities.

ING Baring handles custody and clearing business for a number of foreign brokerage houses. When they are in town, the department manager and I usually have lunch together. Otherwise, I try to stay away from business lunches, either eating with a department head or by myself. Whether it’s a nice meal at a local restaurant or a traditional club sandwich at the Hilton hotel next door, lunch is when I can enjoy a quiet hour to read the Wall Street Journal and simply clear my head during the 12-hour days I generally put in.

After lunch, I meet with different department heads. There are letters of credit, collections, or large payment orders which need my signature. I can also be found approving business expenses, meeting with suppliers, or talking with local software houses about further automating our payment systems. I also spend a fair amount of time on the telephone with my counterparts in Warsaw, Budapest, Bratislava and occasionally Moscow to discuss operational issues.

I normally try to leave at 6 p.m., particularly since after more than two years of living alone, my bride of 28 years rejoined me in August of last year. My son was at an advanced stage in school when I moved to Prague, and since the international school here was not quite developed enough to teach him adequately, my wife stayed behind with him until he graduated last year. The moment he went to the University of Chicago on the Dean’s scholarship program, my wife was on a plane the following day for Prague.

Since I’m not much of a night person, I don’t go prowling around the pubs or out to dinner. After 12 hours of work, I like to throw off my business clothes, make myself comfortable, and catch up on the many periodicals and magazines I haven’t had time for during the day.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a sedentary person. Conversely, I think I was born a nomad. I’m of Dutch descent, but as a child, my father’s duty in the Dutch army moved my family from Australia (where I was born) to Java, and then finally to the US, where we arrived on November 8, 1948. I lived in Northport, Long Island, and New Jersey growing up. After finishing high school, I worked for Irving Trust, and, later, with Bank of America while attending Pace University and the American Institute of Banking in the evenings.

After school, I lived on just about every corner of the globe, working for Security Pacific as their operations manager in Bahrain, Houston, Tokyo and Hong Kong. After leaving SecPac in 1991, I did some consulting work in Houston and Cambodia. I joined ING Bank in April of 1994. Don’t think, however, that this is my final destination. On the contrary, I’ll be moving to the ING head office in Amsterdam to further develop the custody services unit.

When I tell people about my travels, the most frequent question my wife and I receive is, “What is the best place in the world you’ve ever been?” Our answer has always been that, no matter where you live, there are positives and negatives, and we have always believed in concentrating on the positive aspects of our various homes. Even if some negatives, such as the landmines covering Cambodia’s unpaved terrain, can limit one’s golf playing.-Nicholas Schager

This article was originally published as “With Harry Devroe,” inGlobal Custodian‘s Spring 1997 issue.