Behavioural Science is a rapidly expanding field and everyday new research is being developed in academia, tested and implemented by practitioners in financial organisations, development agencies, government ‘nudge’ units and more. This interview is part of a series interviewing prominent people in the field. And in today's interview the answers are provided by Mirea Raaijmakers. Mirea was Global Head of Behavioural Risk Management at ING and previously led the Dutch central bank (DNB)’s supervision programme for Behaviour and Culture. She was the first psychologist ever appointed by a central bank to use her specific skill set in supervision. Since 2018 she has been responsible for ING’s expert capability on managing behavioural risk. She is considered a front-runner as ING was the first bank to have a behavioural risk capability mandated to diagnose and drive change initiatives focused on behavioural change and report to the CRO. Mirea’s work is deeply grounded in observational understanding and influencing the behaviour of individuals, groups and organizations, especially during complex and large-scale changes. An experienced leader, both at the highest levels in the banking industry and as a thought leader in behaviour and culture supervision, she continues to run sector-level initiatives for large-scale change, organizational development, leadership development and behavioural change. Educationally, she is a graduate of the Harvard Business school, holds an MSc in Psychology and a PhD in Behavioural Science from the university of Groningen.
Who or what got you into behavioural science? I have an endless interest in human behaviour. I think it all started with the discussions between my parents during dinner time. My mother was a social worker and my father is a sociologist and worked in mental healthcare for years. I always wanted to become a professional basketball player. When I realised that I was too small (even tough I am 6'3) to make a living of this I started thinking about studying psychology.
What is the accomplishment you are proudest of as a behavioural scientist? And what do you still want to achieve? I am most proud of two things - if that’s ok?
First applying behavioural science to supervision during my time at the Dutch Central Bank. With the whole team we wrote a book about this approach - Supervision of Behaviour & Culture. This book is still seen as an important standard for supervisors and the financial sector.
Second the behavioural risk capability that I build at ING, starting from scratch and when I left ING the team consisted of 20 dedicated professionals. Behavioural science was applied to risk management and behavioural risk became an integrated part of strategic decision making at ING.
If you weren’t a behavioural scientist, what would you be doing? I would love to be a professional basketball coach. I love the game of basketball - I used to play at the highest level in The Netherlands and the Dutch team. I think it’s the only sport that challenges you in so many ways. You need to be fast, strong and a very quick thinker. You need to be an aggressive offensive player as well as a smart defensive player. It’s just a very attractive sport to watch as well.
How do you apply behavioural science in your personal life? Well, I have two children - a daughter of 12 years and a son of 9 years, so I try to apply as many insights in dealing with this huge responsibility of raising them to kind, engaged and responsible human beings. For example, my son had trouble practising for his music lessons - at that time he played the flute. He forgot to practice and whenever my wife and I mentioned it to him, he refused. So, we thought of a nudge. Namely to put his music standard with his music books and his flute near the dinner table and the kitchen. This is the area in our house where he spends a lot of time. The impact was awesome - he immediately began to practice all by himself, picking up his flute as part of his time when he was playing or drawing at the dinner table. We didn’t have to tell him anymore.
With all your experience, what skills would you say are needed to be a behavioural scientist? Are there any recommendations you would make? I think there’s a mixture of knowledge, experience and wisdom that come in handy. For instance, understanding human psychology, especially social and organizational psychology is essential. Combined with understanding behavioural change and data-science. Experience and wisdom go hand in hand - maturity in dealing with people, with group dynamics, emotions and the mind - having dealt with the intangible side of life and especially the shadow side is key in my view.
How do you think behavioural science will develop (in the next 10 years)? I think big data, AI and machine learning will dominate the progress of behavioural science. Just as the fact that behavioural science will only become more important. So, the increasing attention will continue and grow.
What advice would you give to young behavioural scientists or those looking to progress into the field? Choose activities, jobs or projects that evoke your curiosity and give you energy. Don’t let status or making money guide you.
Which other behavioural scientists would you love to read an interview by? I would love to read an interview with Kate Miller. She worked at standard chartered and now at Citi bank and she is doing some amazing behavioural science experiments in a bank.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions Mirea!
As I said before, this interview is part of a larger series which can also be found here on the blog. Make sure you don't miss any of those, nor any of the upcoming interviews!
Keep your eye on Money on the Mind!