NETHERLANDS - Bert Heemskerk, vice-chairman of the board of directors at Bank Sarasin and executive chairman of Rabobank until 2009, has died at 67.

In 2002, Heemskerk moved from the private bank Van Lanschot to Rabobank, after an international career that started in 1969 at the former Amro Bank, which later merged with bank ABN.

According to Rabobank, Heemskerk considered his chairmanship as the crown on his career.

It said: "When the financial crisis started in 2007, he complied with the organisation's request to postpone his scheduled retirement and steered the bank through the difficult period."

One of Heemskerk's greatest achievements was the merger of Rabobank's subsidiary Interpolis with insurer Achmea in 2005.

This gave Rabobank a considerable stake in insurance conglomerate Eureko in exchange.

Heemskerk, who studied theology and philosophy, was also a frontrunner on sustainable and social engagement in the Netherlands.

Christoph Ammann, chairman of the board at Bank Sarasin, said Heemskerk's death was a terrible shock.

"We will remember his exceptional personality as a banker whose astute vision always enabled him to grasp the wider picture," he said.

Piet Moerland, Heemskerk's successor, said: "Bert believed in the world's ability to change and rightly thought that a banking services provider could and should contribute to creating a liveable world."