Walter (Buddy) Baker works for ABN AMRO Bank in their Global Trade & Advisory area, which is based in Chicago. He is Head of Product Management for North America and Global Co-Head of Operational Risk Management. A long-standing member of FCIB, Baker also serves on FCIB's Board of Directors.
Baker began his career in international banking in 1977, when he graduated from Yale with a degree in administrative sciences, applied mathematics and statistics. "I approached the job market intent upon entering a field that would provide me with a broad exposure to business. OPEC was having a tremendous impact on business at that time. A lot of banking positions were opening up as banks hurried to establish international capabilities to capture the business of these newly wealthy countries. First National Bank of Louisville recruited me and immediately assigned me to their international banking department because of my background and skills; this set me on a career path that led to many excellent opportunities."
"I started out in a training program for international lending. After six months, I was offered the opportunity to supervise the Letter of Credit Operations, which I eagerly accepted." After three years at First National Bank of Louisville, Baker spent several years with Union Planters' National Bank of Memphis. "Union Planters' business was heavily concentrated in commodity exporting--cotton and grain--and the revenue opportunities were quite high. This enabled us to be very creative in developing new products. While I was there, we developed export document preparation as a service. Most banks are just now beginning to offer this service, so we were truly ahead of our time!"
Baker left Union Planters to go with The First National Bank of Chicago, where he spent the next nine years. "I started at First Chicago on the operations side, but I was later asked to move into sales because of my in-depth knowledge and understanding of our export products. Sales had been focused on providing import services and was having difficulty marketing the export products to customers. First Chicago was a member of the Chicago NACM affiliate, and I heard about FCIB for the first time while attending the local meetings. I knew right away that FCIB had a lot to offer in the way of training, information and networking." Baker left First Chicago to work for Wachovia in North Carolina, then returned to Chicago with Continental Bank, which became Bank of America, before joining ABN AMRO, where he has spent the past seven years.
ABN AMRO Bank, headquartered in Amsterdam, is the world's sixth largest bank. Through its affiliates and subsidiaries, it provides a complete range of global banking and financial solutions to large and multinational corporate clients whose needs are both local and international. The services they provide include powerful domestic and global cash management solutions, innovative trade financing and foreign exchange services. With offices in 76 countries and territories around the world, ABN AMRO has a staff of more than 18,000 employees in North America.
Baker explained that ABN AMRO recently underwent a major reorganization. "For the past 175 years, ABN AMRO's management infrastructure has been country-based. This meant that when we entered a new country, a local office was established there, and a Country Head was immediately appointed to manage it. With the election of a new Chairman this past year, the bank's focus has changed from that of country management to one of global management. Global Heads were recently named for all the industry groups and Global Trade & Advisory was made into a separate global product line with its own management." This new global strategy has placed all the international trade groups under common global management. As the new Co-Head of Global Operational Risk Management, Baker will play a key role in coalescing all of the …