The model of top-down corporate leadership is obsolete. Drawing on his influential work at ING Direct, rebel CEO Arkadi Kuhlmann offers a fully-realized vision of what he calls culture-driven leadership—the rollicking new force behind bottom-line success. It’s not leaders who drive business; it’s the culture they create, and sustain.
Arkadi Kuhlmann’s vocation and avocation have been to reinvent and revitalize consumers’ relationship with their money.
Kuhlmann introduced the world to direct banking with a simplified customer focus when he founded ING DIRECT Canada in 1996, creating the brand strategy and growing the bank from 1996-2000 to a successful market position while serving as the bank’s President and CEO. He repeated this process in 2000, founding ING DIRECT USA and as the bank’s Chairman, President and CEO, led its growth to become the nation’s largest savings bank and number one direct bank, with more than $84 billion in deposits and 7.8 million customers. Kuhlmann’s customer focus led to fanatical loyalty and industry-leading customer promotion scores and branded him affectionately as the ‘CEO of Savings.’
Prior to ING DIRECT, Kuhlmann engineered an organizational and systems restructuring as the President of North American Trust. The execution of his tactical business plan along with new product development resulted in a transformation from a $10M operating loss to a $17M operating profit.
As President and CEO at Deak & Co. and Deak International (1985-1993), Kuhlmann restructured Deak International’s operations, launching a revitalized company in April 1986, and expanding the company from 52 to 192 branches and 350 to 1,500 employees worldwide, achieving revenues of $1B wholesale and $2.5B retail, and income of $70M. Kuhlmann oversaw the successful divestiture of Deak International in 1990.
From 1977-1984, Kuhlmann served as Vice President, General Manager and Manager of Royal Bank of Canada. Before that, he served briefly as a consultant for the banking industry and as an Assistant Director of the Institute of Canadian Bankers.
In addition to his corporate successes, Kuhlmann demonstrated his passion for teaching as a professor of International Finance and Investment Banking at the American Graduate School of International Management (Thunderbird) in Phoenix, Arizona. He shared his philosophy on leadership, culture and innovation by penning Rock then Roll: The Secrets of Culture-Driven Leadership and The Orange Code: How ING DIRECT Succeeded by Being a Rebel with a Cause, as well as several books on finance and numerous business cases. His thoughts on banking, leadership and innovation have appeared in major newspapers including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The New York Times. He is a 2016 inductee into the American Marketing Association’s Canadian Hall of Legends.
Kuhlmann received the Honors in Business Administration degree and an M.B.A. from the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, Canada and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) in 2010 and the Ivey Distinguished Service Award in 2007. Kuhlmann was honored as American Banker’s 2006 Innovator of the Year and was the recipient of the ING Business Award (Revenue Growth Category) in 2005, Delaware Business Leader Award in 2006 and 2008, Habitat for Humanity Leadership Award in 2007, and was honored with the Council for Economic Education’s Visionary Award in 2010 for his life-long advocacy in teaching adults and children about responsible money behavior.
The Orange Code
Following the immense success of ING Direct with his book The Orange Code: How ING Direct Succeeded by Being a Rebel with a Cause, Arkadi Kuhlmann is one of the world’s leading experts on corporate culture as branding. ING Direct’s message is clear: “save your money.” They reflect this mantra in everything they do. If you build your company to stand for a purpose, customers will notice—and they’ll remain loyal. From advertisements, to product lines to turning away customers who do not fit their vision, ING Direct is a proven example of brand strength. Kuhlmann, with frank honesty and unrivaled experience, explains that a business can be so much more than just a provider of services. It can be an idea, a cause—and a force.