ABN Amro Chairman Dons Blue Dress to Explain Core Values

ABN Amro Group NV Chairman and former Dutch finance minister Gerrit Zalm went on stage in an electric blue dress and golden gloves to portray a fictional brothel-owning sister teaching the bank about core values.

“The bank can learn a lot from the best practices in my company,” Zalm, dressed as his “sister” Priscilla, said in the opening act of ABN Amro Cabaret 2014, held for employees in Amsterdam and two other Dutch cities. “Where has ‘putting the customer first’ been the motto for centuries? In my industry. Those banks have discovered it only recently.”

ABN Amro showed a recording of one of Zalm’s six performances as Priscilla to reporters at its Amsterdam offices yesterday. It also posted footage of the act on YouTube.

Zalm, 61, who also wore a red wig, blue glasses, earrings and make-up, was hired by the Netherlands in 2008 to piece together the banking assets of a merged ABN and Fortis that it took over after the latter collapsed. The government spent 16.8 billion euros ($23 billion) on the rescue.

“He had to make ABN Amro a successful company again and had no idea how to do that,” Priscilla (Zalm) said. “I told him you have to start with core values. In my company there are three: to be trusted, professional and ambitious.”

The cabaret shows, held from Jan. 6 to Jan. 10, are an annual event that began at ABN Amro Holding NV, ABN Amro’s predecessor, in 2005, said Jeroen van Maarschalkerweerd, a spokesman for the bank.

The performance “fits in with the Dutch sense of humor,” Van Maarschalkerweerd said by telephone.

Back Office

Prostitution in the Netherlands was legalized in 2000 and has been tolerated for centuries. Amsterdam’s red-light district traces its roots to the 14th century, when the city decided to restrict the trade to certain areas to stop sailors from straying too far from port.

Zalm performed the act four times in Amsterdam and in the Dutch cities of Zwolle and Breda. About 7,000 of ABN Amro’s 23,000 employees watched the show. In previous years, he pretended to be one of his brothers.

The Dutch government said in August that it plans to sell the bank in an initial public offering in 2015 at the earliest.