A Look at ING, the Global Force That Built ING Direct

by Jason Unger

Most Americans have heard of global banking behemoth ING, but likely through their innovative and incredibly successful division ING Direct.

ING Direct revolutionized the high-yield online savings account, bringing along with it an online banking system that didn’t rely on physical branches and provided low- and no-fee accounts. It’s a model many financial institutions have copied over the years and, during the late 2000s, many banks offered higher interest rates on their online savings accounts than ING.

But for many of us savers, there’s always been a special place in our hearts for ING Direct. (Which is why, even after it was acquired by Capital One, I still go to ingdirect.com to log into my accounts and will use my ING Direct debit card until it expires — even though my Capital One 360 card just sits around.)

ING Direct still exists in Europe, and ING has recently re-branded their insurance arm in the US as Voya Financial.

In the latest issue of The Economist, there’s a great overview of the global ING brand, and everything they’re doing to continually disrupt financial services and banking.

LESS than a decade ago ING Group, with its orange lion logo, was the epitome of finance rampant. Its banking, insurance and asset-management activities sprawled across the globe. Today, as it emerges early from a state bail-out precipitated by its large portfolio of American mortgages, it is again an example—this time of the sort of institution that new, more demanding prudential rules encourage. ING is now almost entirely a bank, more focused than before on Europe, with total income in 2013 around a third of that in 2007. While rivals such as Commerzbank or Royal Bank of Scotland still struggle to adapt to the new regulatory strictures, ING is ready to roll.

The banking industry has never been known to be innovative — in a positive way for consumers — but ING has a history of doing it, and is looking to continue to do so.

Ralph Hamers, the ING lifer who became its chief executive last year, is betting on technology to expand existing businesses rather than acquiring new ones. ING Direct was ahead in its day, hoovering up deposits in new markets under the noses of stodgy rivals. “We were the disruptive challengers,” Mr Hamers says.

Read the whole article here. Even if you’re not incredibly interested in global financial matters, it’s still an interesting read — especially if you don’t know much about ING except their innovations here in the States with ING Direct.

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