Should I Stay or Should I Go?

by Steven van Groningen on 3 October, 2014

“Should I Stay or Should I Go?” is the title of a song made famous by the British rock band The Clash in the early eighties. I remembered the title of the song and looked up the lyrics the other day.

It is not a question I ask myself a lot (I intend to stay), but one that inevitably comes to mind when meeting young and talented Romanians. This is mostly in a setting where there is no opportunity for one-on-one dialogue on the topic and my telling of the following story is how I now respond to it.

Some time ago I had lunch with a successful Romanian. I have known him for a long time and appreciate him. Let’s call him Bill. (I just want to avoid using any Romanian name for obvious reasons). After discussing the state of affairs in Romania, the subject of our children came up, as it so often does. Bill’s children were approaching the age that required decisions about their university education and he was facing a dilemma. He admitted freely that he was not very proud about the way he had made his money and now he had the following choice. He could teach his children “how things are done in Romania”, something he didn’t really want to do, or he could send them to study abroad risking that they don’t return to Romania.

Bill realised that he was part of the problem and that he wanted a better world for his children. Not better in terms of material aspects, but better in terms of human values. I felt he wanted his children to be happy and successful, but not by having to make the same compromises he had made himself and he doubted they would be able to do this in Romania.

I thought this was a very sad story and it kept coming back to me. (Note for those who don’t have children: please skip the following part!) When you have children it is as if you get a second chance and one of the secret wishes of, I guess, all parents, is that their children will be better/more successful etc. (however we measure success) and not make the same mistakes they made in life.

Whoever asks me the “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” question I tell them about Bill’s dilemma. I tell them that I am convinced they can be successful in Romania while respecting their personal values and suggest they should at least try to make Romania a better place rather than some other country. But whatever they do, they should NEVER find themselves in Bill’s situation once they have children themselves. We should strive to make the world a better place for our children and the next generation. Success is not measured in money, but in terms of respect and the appreciation we hope to receive from our children.

The hope that this will be possible keeps us sane and prevents us from becoming cynical. The moment I become cynical about the future of (the young people of) Romania I am out of here. So, now I also answered my own should-I-stay-or-should-I-go question.

Writing this text I couldn’t help thinking about how (most) politicians measure success. Do they not care about the future, about the debts they are piling up without visible impact on the infrastructure of the country, to be repaid by the next generations? What is success to them? Don’t they care about what history will write about them? Does it matter to them that millions of Romanians have left in search for a better life, that youngsters are considering a better future abroad?

Too many questions….

(You can find the Romanian version here.)

{ 0 comments }

Back on the Road

by Steven van Groningen on 26 September, 2014

Comebacks are risky and, more often than not, they refer to ambition rather than achievement. After 18 months of absence, my ambition is to post at least twice a month on my blog again. I hope this will also translate into achievement.

Why I stopped

The easy answer is: not enough time. This is not really an answer, but a way of saying that there were other things more important. Although I enjoy the process of writing blog posts, it does take a bit of time. Time that I cannot use for other things. The last years I spent quite some time on activities with the Foreign Investors Council and, more recently, the Coalition for the Development of Romania, as well as some other activities outside the bank. I felt this was not only necessary, but also my obligation to do so. Now it is up to others to take their turn and I want to spend more time on other things, including my blog.

What has changed?

Before restarting I asked a few people whose opinion I value for input, and I decided to change a few things. The most obvious change is that my new posts will also be in Romanian. I like to think that my Romanian is pretty good, but I still find it easier to write in English, so that is what I’ll keep doing. Someone will help me translate them into Romanian.

What has remained the same?

Nothing has changed about the reasons I started my blog in the first place. I still feel I have things to say and prefer to say them directly, using my own words. Real dialogue about important issues in Romania is still lacking and I want to share my opinion in the hope to contribute. This doesn’t mean that I’ll only write about serious issues. I’ll write about what I feel too and this blog will stay a mix between banking-related and more personal topics. I’ll try to write about things that interest me or about subjects where I feel that a contribution to a discussion is needed. Sometimes I’ll write to clarify my own point of view and to force myself to think things through to the end. At times I’ll write because I want to get something out of my system.

Social media

Not only have I revived my blog, I have also revisited my presence on other social networks. There also I needed to take a break and reflect upon my experience. It wasn’t fun opening Facebook to find endless invitations to play @$%&? games, to like pages (925 as of today), respond to messages (24) and manage friend requests (999). LinkedIn is not much better with 431 pending invitations. I’ll need to get this sorted out as well.

I apologise to those that tried to get in contact with me through social media. I simply couldn’t manage the flow and have had to archive a lot of messages and requests without looking at them. I am moving as much as possible over to my Facebook page and will not be active on my account anymore.

One more thing…

Another thing that has not changed: please don’t try to use this blog to address issues that concern my employer. I would like to keep things separate and if you want to get in contact with me or the bank about bank related matters, please use the designated channels for this.

I look forward to the continuation of my journey and am curious to see where my blogging will take me.

{ 4 comments }

Romanian Non Performing Loan Levels Are Inflated

February 18, 2013

  Non Performing Loans (NPLs) are loans that have payment delays of more than 90 days. NPL’s lead to provisions and to credit losses. That is why the level of NPLs, expressed as percentage of total loans, is an important indicator for the health of the financial system in a country. They are closely monitored […]

Read the full article →

Fasting

December 29, 2012

I wanted to write about the cost of fraud in the banking system but because I have taken the rest of the year off, I decided to pick something that is totally unrelated to work, namely fasting. Before Christmas I did a six day water fast, that means that for six days I didn’t eat […]

Read the full article →

10 Things I Learned From Being A World Class Athlete

December 14, 2012

Many years ago I was a successful athlete. I participated in two World Championships and the 1984 Olympic Games. Today I am a successful CEO. You can find more about me here. Sometimes I am asked about parallels between sport and business so I decided to draw up this list of 10 things I learned […]

Read the full article →

Government Wish List

December 6, 2012

When I was a little boy in the Netherlands I used to make a wish list for Saint Nicholas. (In Dutch Sint Nicolaas or Sinterklaas, also Americanized to Santa Claus, but that is a different story). In early December each family member would place a shoe (one) in the evening in front of the fireplace […]

Read the full article →

No Guns, No Dogs, No Naked Men

April 3, 2012

When I was working as a consultant in the Netherlands many years ago, one of my clients was a small bank. You knew they did things differently the moment you stood in front of the elegant facade. On the main entrance door, at about 30 cm above ground, a discreet sign “No Dogs Allowed” was […]

Read the full article →

Big Amount Does Not Equal Big Profit

March 29, 2012

I like sports and often keep track of my performance. The other day I participated in an event that took me 4:20 hours to finish. Is this good ? Of course you wouldn’t be able to answer because you don’t know what the distance was and if I was biking or running (or rowing) and […]

Read the full article →

If My Dog Could Speak

March 16, 2012

In general dogs are pretty stupid but our dog is – of course – really smart. That is what most people say about their own dogs. The truth is that all dogs are rather stupid but most of them are very likable. Sir Winston Churchill said famously “I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals“.(more quotes).  […]

Read the full article →

Performance Against Budget Or Market

March 8, 2012

When I still was an athlete (about me) it was easy to measure performance. When you were first at the finish that meant you won. The first gets a gold medal, the second a silver one and the third a bronze. (By the way, gold medals are not really gold, my wife’s Olympic Gold is […]

Read the full article →