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Jan Hommen

Jan Hommen graduated in 1970 in Business Economics. In 2009 he became the CEO of ING Group amidst the financial crisis.

"The common thread in my career is that I have always been able to do what I enjoy, invest a lot of time, and have shown I want to make a contribution."

Why did you choose to study at Tilburg University?
“That's a long story. I intended to study medicine but a career test indicated this would not be a good choice for me. Not because of the academic content, but because I would be affected too much by the patients fate. That was a big disappointment. I joined the army as an officer to fulfill my military service. After I was discharged, I chose to study economics, by elimination of other study programs. I felt a natural understanding of economics and, moreover, Tilburg was nearby. The first years I was not very excited about the program, with the exception of the courses in econometrics and philosophy. Besides studying, I kept pretty busy as a member of the city council in Den Bosch, in addition to holding a job, and making my presence on the hockey field. Only after my bachelor’s exam did I feel I had made the right choice.”

Who was your favorite professor and why?
“There were many good professors. Plattel provided interesting lectures in philosophy, Scheffer had a compelling view of finance theory, and Euwe taught information technology which was appealing. Marketing, too, was worthwhile. The practical subjects attracted me.”

"Tilburg University provided a solid foundation."

Do you have an interesting anecdote from your student days?
“After a thesis project on cashless payments at the PTT [the bank later acquired by ING – the loop is closed] I heard about a vacancy at Lips through the marketing department. I biked to my interview in Drunen and when offered a travel allowance I asked to be reimbursed for two beers. On my way home, these tasted really good!”

What has your career been like?
“At Lips I started as controller and later became financial director. Alcoa already owned 25% of Lips Aluminum and we convinced them to acquire the company. After a few years at Alcoa Nederland, I moved to the US in 1978. At the end of my career there I was executive vice president & CFO at Alcoa. In 1997 I returned to the Netherlands as executive vice president & CFO at Philips. After a number of supervisory positions I was offered the position of CEO at ING Group in 2009. The common thread in my career is that I have always been able to do what I enjoy, invest a lot of time, and have shown I want to make a contribution.”

What are your future ambitions?
“My children remain abroad. I would like to be closer to them.”

What role has Tilburg University/School of Economics and Management played in your life and how did it influence your career?
“Tilburg University provided a solid foundation and after a somewhat hesitant start, I enjoyed an interesting study program.”

Does Tilburg University/School of Economics and Management still play a role in your life, and if so, which?

“I was always interested in science – wanting to know why things are the way they are. At Philips I got involved with TiasNimbas [the university’s business school], which was experiencing rough times. We quickly solved the problems, acquired Nimbas and formulated great ambitions to turn it into a European top institute. Even now I am involved with the university as member of the sounding board and try to generate funds for the university’s extra-curricular activities not funded by the government.”