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“The introduction of the new pension system is a huge challenge”

Published on: 10 October 2022

Who are these people who make a conscious choice to work in the pension sector? What do they do all day for your pension? And what do they enjoy about their work? Let’s take a look behind the scenes. Linda Kleeven (45) is a Business & Information Consultant. “The great thing is that I can be involved during the decision-making as well as the implementation phase.”


What does a Business & Information Consultant do exactly?

“I work at the cutting edge of IT and pensions. This sector is undergoing many and ongoing changes both internally as well as in response to legislation and pension regulations, and I focus particularly on how those changes impact people’s entitlements.”


And talking about changes; a lot is still to happen with respect to pensions.

“Yes, with the Future Pensions Act, major changes are in the pipeline and all providers are working on this. What’s great is that I can work on two sides. I help think about possible scenarios and solution directions in the decision-making phase. What do these scenarios and solution directions mean exactly for which groups of people and how will these impact feasibility and systems? And once a decision is taken, it also needs to be realized. That’s the other side of my work: I can work on the detail of new regulations and ensure that processes and systems are amended accordingly. This combination is one of the best things about my work. It makes it extremely varied.”


What is an average day like for you?

“That’s different each day and that’s exactly what makes my work so great. Each change is a joint process. I usually work with people from different teams. For example, I work with lawyers, actuaries, account managers, and communications advisors during preparation and when we embark on the internal realization, I consult with information analysts, system developers, and project managers. I’m someone who enjoys working in teams toward a certain result, based on content. I can do that really well at APG. And there are also days where I’m only calculating, working through things, devising solutions, and analyzing. So I can express my nerdy side too, which is also fantastic.”


How long have you been working at APG?

“Twenty-two years. When I say that out loud I think: really, so long? I never could have imagined that when I first started at the then ABP. But I’ve always been able to develop here in a really natural way. You can do so many different things internally as it’s such a big company. Something new always came across my path, which kept it challenging. Time flies when you’ve got great work and great colleagues.”


How did you end up in the pension world? What is your background?

“I did higher education in economics and management. After graduating I was able to start at ABP pension fund, where I’d done an internship. APG didn’t yet exist as an independent pension provider. At that time, you were happy if you could find a job and I saw so many opportunities at such a big organization. I’ve also always thought that pensions were amazing. I started in the surviving dependents’ pensions department, where I had a lot of direct contact with customers. It was an amazing time because I could help people in a difficult phase of their lives. That immediately motivates you to do your work really well. I kept developing from there; from pension administration to testing pension details and systems to describing calculation rules. There were also always so many possibilities to follow all kinds of training and courses. When APG was established and we also started managing pensions for PWRI and later bpfBOUW, this all needed to be entered into the systems. It was fantastic to be part of such change processes. With the new pension scheme approaching and with a lot changing at once, all that experience will come in handy.”


How do people respond when you tell them what kind of work you do?

“That depends, but I see lots of people thinking, hmm, interesting... not.”


What do you like so much about your work?

“That it’s so varied. The Business Improvement & Change department I work in now is busy with changes. So, by definition, we are always working on something different here. That could be a change based on legislation and regulations that applies to all funds, or it could concern an internal improvement, or a fund-specific change that you need to communicate well to your target group. That variation is what makes it so enjoyable. I can imagine that it appears to be a boring field for outsiders, but it’s surprisingly dynamic.”


What motivates you?

“For me, it’s also important to work on something I believe in. It’s a fantastic thing to have a level of income security if you become disabled, older, or for your surviving dependents if you die. I personally consider collectivity and solidarity in our pension system to be vital, as is sharing risks together. I hope this remains the case in the future too: That’s really important to me.”


What characteristics make you suitable for this job?

“It helps that I have a feeling for producing analyses and calculations. But I think the most important thing is that I can empathize with people and connect well with different types of people. Actuaries, lawyers, and account managers all have completely different perceptions than system developers and project managers. My department is in the middle and we try to ensure that they understand each other and don’t talk at cross purposes.”


What do you do in your spare time?

“When I’m not working, I’m often on my bike. Usually on the racing bike but I have a kind of mountain bike for the winter. That’s my main hobby and a way to let off steam. If you do office work, you sit a lot and you work mainly with your head. Being outdoors and doing physical exercise provides a kind of balance. And I need to exercise, too, because I also really enjoy good food. Fortunately, I simply love cycling. I often go on vacation to the Dolomites or the Austrian mountain passes; it’s so stunning there. Trust me: When you’re battling up a mountain, pensions is the last thing on your mind.”


In what way is your work visible to pension participants?

“Ultimately, more indirectly than directly, I help ensure that they get what they are entitled to, can apply for their pensions on time, and are well supported in this.”


Where are the challenges for you in the coming period?

“The new pension act means a lot is changing at once. The act should take effect as of January 1, 2023, and we have until 2027 to make the switch. For APG, this doesn’t only mean a transition to a new pension scheme, but also the transition to a new policy and capital administration for all our funds. We already know some things for sure and we can assess the impact of these and determine what we need to do. But there are still so many things that are uncertain. We need to work with scenarios and hypotheses. What are we expecting and what if this or that were to happen? We’re already working on this, in the knowledge that things actually may need to be quite different in the final version. Anything you can do now, you should do, otherwise the deadline will never be feasible. What is sometimes forgotten is that we also need to inform pension participants a long time in advance about what the changes will mean for them. You can’t say to someone who is retiring on January 1, that we’ll tell you then what choices you have and that you’ll get this amount. Such a system change has never previously taken place. That does make me feel nervous but in a good way, too. It’s a huge challenge that hopefully won’t become a nightmare.”

Volgende publicatie:
Future of Pensions Act going into effect postponed until July 1

Future of Pensions Act going into effect postponed until July 1

Published on: 7 October 2022

Minister Schouten has announced that the Future Pensions Act (Wtp) going into effect will be postponed until July 1, 2023. Careful consideration in the House of Representatives turns out to take more time than expected.


In the coming weeks, on October 10, 12 and 19, 3 more legislative consultations are scheduled to discuss the Future of Pensions Act (Wtp) in the House of Representatives. The preliminary plan is that this will be followed by plenary debate in the House of Representatives on November 1, 2 or 3, but the House of Representatives will not decide whether the bill is ready for plenary debate until after the legislative consultations. After the debate in the House of Representatives, the draft bill can be submitted to the Senate for approval.


Many questions

And the debate in the House of Representatives is going to be challenging. After all, there are still a lot of topics about which there are many questions, as well as several amendments that would have quite an impact. Furthermore, the House is divided over whether it should wait for the recommendations of the Parameters Committee. If so, further debate could not take place until December.


In response to parliamentary questions from Pieter Omtzigt, the minister reported the following: “It is ultimately up to the House to proceed to plenary discussion. I cannot and will not intervene in this. However, as someone responsible for the system, I want to offer clarity to the sector. Given the careful treatment to which the Senate also attaches great importance, I do not consider it plausible to complete the legislative procedure in the Senate this calendar year either. It is therefore unrealistic to expect the Future of Pensions Act to go into effect on January 1, 2023. I am therefore amending the target date for it to go into effect. The next change date for legislation is July 1, which is what I am aligning with.”



Delaying the effective date does not affect APG’s schedule. Peter Gortzak, Director of Policy Implementation at APG: “For APG, both careful handling and speed are important. APG is proceeding with implementation based on working hypotheses to avoid implementation delays.”


Would you like to find out more about the Future of Pensions Act? The answers to these 7 questions will get you up to speed right away 7 questions about the Future Pensions Act | APG

Volgende publicatie:
Henriette Honée appointed Manager Customer Cluster ABP/PWRI at APG

Henriette Honée appointed Manager Customer Cluster ABP/PWRI at APG

Published on: 28 September 2022

As of November 1, Henriette Honée will lead the customer cluster ABP/PWRI within the Fund Operations. She succeeds Raoul Willms, who has been appointed director of the Diagnostics & Advice unit at Maastricht UMC.


Henriette has been working at APG since 2019 as Business Owner FB/DWS and Head of Portfolio office. In this position she quickly got to know APG broadly. The collaboration with ABP is an important spearhead in her position.


Henriette: “In the transition to the new pension system, collaboration is more important than ever. This means that I want to focus on further professionalizing the collaboration and strengthening the relationship with ABP. So that we can realize a successful transition together.”


Sijmon Timmers, director of Fund Operations APG: “Henriette brings a lot of experience with her. She has also been part of the ABP customer team since her start at APG, which has enabled her to get to know ABP well as a customer. We look forward to her arrival and wish Henriette good luck and fun.”


Volgende publicatie:
“We always say: compliance is really for everyone”

“We always say: compliance is really for everyone”

Published on: 5 September 2022

Who are these people who consciously choose to work in the pension sector? What do they do all day for your pension? And what do they like about their work? We take you behind the scenes. Sara van den Bleeken (35) is a Senior Compliance Officer. “We promote that everything we do at APG complies with laws and regulations and is in the interests of our clients and pension participants.”


What does a compliance officer do?

“Together with my team, I deal with integrity within the organization in the broadest sense of the word. This includes supervision of compliance with laws and regulations and their interpretation, as well as the professionalism and integrity of the employees themselves. For example, we advise on avoiding conflicts of interest and, when outsourcing services, we ensure that the organizations we do business with are not guilty of criminal activities such as money laundering. In addition, we do risk analysis and risk management. In short, it comes down to promoting that everything we do at APG complies with laws and regulations and is in the interests of our clients and pension participants. But ultimately, we do it together. We always say: compliance is not only part of the compliance department, but really for everyone. Yes, we contribute to it, but everyone who works at APG has an important role to play in maintaining the APG's good reputation and confidence in the company.”


What does your average workday look like?

“Within the team we have different focus areas. For example, I am less involved with employee integrity, but focus mainly on the integrity related to the products and services APG provides. Currently I am particularly busy with all kinds of things related to the upcoming pension transition. My workdays mostly consist of consultations with coworkers about current issues, things we are developing or things that may not have gone well.”


How did you end up at APG?

“Before I started at APG in February, I worked as a supervisor at AFM, the Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets for over eight years. That is the last station, so to speak, in terms of behavioral supervision of the financial markets. It was extremely interesting, but I wanted to be just one step ahead of that. Not to act only after things have been implemented, but to be able to steer and intervene earlier. That’s why I made the switch to APG. Because in the compliance department, that is exactly what we do. Through the advice we give, we can really have an impact on what happens.”


Isn’t your work boring?

“No, I really enjoy it. What particularly appeals to me is the diversity. You’re not responsible for one specific focus area, but you collaborate in the entire width of the company. Very challenging and interesting.”


What makes it so interesting?

“The pension world is in a state of flux. The sector is on the eve of a major transition. That brings with it many challenges which we, with the entire team, are focusing on now and in the years ahead. The profession of compliance officer also continues to evolve. People sometimes think that in this role you only tick boxes for legislation and regulations, but it is much broader, if only because of new technologies and possibilities. Within compliance, we are increasingly preparing ourselves for a digital future, which data analyses and real-time monitoring are part of. But the social context is also changing. That requires a different perspective. You also have to constantly think for yourself whether what we are doing is the right thing. What was seen as ethical ten years ago, we may now consider to be completely unacceptable. It’s precisely this dynamic environment that makes the work interesting. Both the pension world and the compliance profession are still developing and far from crystallized.”

When you’re at a party, what do you say about your work?

“I mostly talk about how much I love working for the biggest pension administrator in the Netherlands and contributing to a good pension for Dutch people. I think often people don’t understand exactly what I do, but they do find it interesting to hear what’s involved and how big the interests are. That appeals to the imagination.” 


What do you do in your spare time?

“I love being outdoors. I live near the beach and I often go there with my two-and-a half-year-old daughter. I also go for bike rides quite often and since recently, I’ve been spending time on the water. I enjoy having people around me. Drinks with friends, good food and cooking.”


What character traits do you have that make you the right person for this job?

“I am critical and curious, which are qualities that come in handy in this work. I always want to know exactly how something works and I put out my feelers to hear and see everything. In this job you also have to be able to think analytically and dare to take initiative. To do your job well, it is also important that you can communicate well. Because what you have seen, you must also be able to convey in a convincing, connecting manner. If these are character traits, I think I have them.”


What gives you satisfaction in your work?

“It is very satisfying to me when I feel like I can make a difference in some way. For many people, pensions are not really on their radar, even though almost everyone is accruing them. If it’s not in order, it takes a long time to find out. That makes it all the more important that all parties in the sector do their work well. I think it’s great to be able to contribute to older people having a good pension. Ultimately, that’s also good for the Netherlands. That social component is one of the reasons why this work attracts me so much. Because of APG’s size, what we do here really matters.”


What do pension participants notice about your work?

“If we do our job well, pension members can be confident that their pension is good and that their interests are being acted upon. In a perfect world my work would be redundant. But human behavior is not always perfect. Everyone can overlook something from time to time. As compliance officers, we try to be the sidelight, to get to the best possible end result. That is very important, because if we are not compliant, it can lead to reputational damage and loss of clients or harm to their pension participants. What we do, we do for them.”


Volgende publicatie:
“Festina Finance enables APG to make a huge step forward”

“Festina Finance enables APG to make a huge step forward”

Published on: 21 June 2022

APG will develop a new system for the policy and capital administration in collaboration with the Danish company Festina Finance. Francine van Dierendonck, member of the Board of Directors of APG, explains the reasons for choosing the relatively small FinTech company and what her expectations are in relation to the collaboration.

The system to be developed is necessary because of the transition to the new pension system. Instead of a so-called Defined Benefit system with fixed payments, the Netherlands will be switching to a collective Defined Contribution system. This means the pension amount depends on the contributions paid and the investment returns realized. “We decided to invest in a new system, as this means a huge step forward in terms of technology, speed and flexibility", says Van Dierendonck.

Festina Finance does not belong to the major IT system houses, but is a small, specialized FinTech company. Is that choice not representing a risk?
“Every scenario involves risks, even if we would have developed the new system in-house. The existing risks are under control. We have seen Festina Finance execute an extremely successful implementation at PensionDanmark (large Danish pension fund, ed.). The Danish pension system is already further on its path towards a Defined Contribution system than the Netherlands, so PensionDanmark is a good example. Based on the proof of concept and the collaboration with Festina Finance in the past six months, we are convinced the company, together with us, is able to implement their system in a superior way. Moreover, we will also integrate the software delivered by Festina Finance in-house. The new system is developed under the supervision of their experts, but we will eventually do it ourselves. This means we are not infinitely depending on Festina Finance and a lot will still be in our own hands.”

Can a small party, such as Festina Finance, stand up to a large player like APG should the Danish company deem this necessary?
“Absolutely, but the good news is that the majority of the software components we need have already been built for the implementation at PensionDanmark. I have attended a session myself during which specialists of APG and Festina Finance collaborated enthusiastically at the interface of the pension scheme and IT. And I have not witnessed anyone sitting silently in a corner.

Is that also an example of the cultural fit between both organizations, what was one of the reasons to choose Festina Finance?
“Sure, I believe the employees of both organizations get along really well and we may conclude that the Danish and Dutch culture are really not that different. Another thing is that the pension systems of both countries belong to the absolute best.” 

You could compare the system of Festina Finance with LEGO blocks.

The choice for Festina Finance was also made because they would offer ‘state of the art’ technology. Can you give us some examples?
“The system they offer is structured completely modular. You could compare it with LEGO blocks. One LEGO block can be, for example, that the child of a deceased participant receives an orphan's pension until he or she reaches the age of 18. Another block can ensure that the orphan's pension continues until he or she reaches the age of 21 when the child is demonstrably enrolled in a study. This already involves two LEGO blocks. That's how we build the pension scheme entirely with blocks in a modular system. Festina Finance has built its software low-code. You usually don't have to touch the Java code, the actual blocks, behind it. The only thing that needs to be done, is programming the blocks in the correct order. And those blocks already exist as the schemes in Denmark and the Netherlands demonstrate a high degree of similarity. That provides us with the ability to implement the adjustments based on legislation, expected as of 2023, rather late in the process in a controlled manner. We believe that will buy us some time. The system is also flexible and fast, offering us the opportunity to properly monitor the audit trail, which is important for compliance.”

Does the fact that the system is low-code and flexible have consequences for the employment opportunities at APG?
“Not for the near future at least, because we still have a lot to accomplish together. We still need our current systems GPS and Lifetime for a long time. We expect to use the three systems side by side until at least 2030 and maybe even longer. The system of Festina Finance requires different skills, more configuration, less writing of code. We have agreed with the Works Council that we give everyone the opportunity to retrain their skills. But for the coming years we need more people for the pension administration, rather than less.”

Finally, what are your expectations and hope for the collaboration with Festina Finance from the perspective of your position as member of the Board of Directors?
I expect us to make a huge step forward with Festina Finance, mainly in the transition to the new pension scheme and in the speed of that transition. In addition, I have high expectations when it comes to further automating our processes. That is important for the quality we deliver and that participants experience in, for example, the speed of our service provision. Further automation enables us to keep our basic service provision in order in terms of costs and at the same time creates time and space to make the difference towards participants and employers. We are now gradually making that shift and I hope that in approximately 2.5 years’ time we will be able to show for the first time what our new service provision looks like: qualitatively faster and with more attention and budgetary space for personal service to participants and employers.”

Read the press release of APG and Festina Finance here

Volgende publicatie:
“By July we will know how feasible the new system is”

“By July we will know how feasible the new system is”

Published on: 17 May 2022

Next year, the rules for a new, future-proof pension system are expected to take effect. But in the meantime, much work remains to be done. Where do we stand? And what’s in store for the next eight months? Tinka den Arend, strategic policy officer at APG, takes us through the process that will culminate in a future-proof pension system on January 1, 2023.



Where are we, on the road to the new system in 2023?
“Carola Schouten - the Minister for Poverty Policy, Participation and Pensions - submitted the Future Pensions Bill to the House of Representatives on March 30, 2022. This bill forms the basis for the new system in broad lines. Last year, a draft of the bill was already known. This draft has now been amended on the basis of 800 reactions during a public consultation, tests by advisory bodies and the advice of the Council of State.  Now that the bill has been submitted to the House of Representatives, the next item is the Social Affairs and Employment Committee. This will be followed by the plenary debate.  

The Commission first organized two roundtable discussions, in which it collected the opinions of experts and interest groups. The first discussion, with 18 experts, took place on April 22. The roundtable with the interest groups was held on May 10.”

What kind of experts and interest groups should we think of?

“They are mostly scientists, such as Kees Goudswaard (professor of economics and endowed professor of social security at Leiden University, ed.), Casper van Ewijk (professor of macroeconomics at the University of Amsterdam, ed.) and Bas Werker (professor of econometrics and finance at Tilburg University, ed.). But people from the field are also participating, such as Agnes Joseph, an actuary at Achmea. The interest groups include employers’ associations such as VNO-NCW, trade unions - CNV, FNV - and senior citizens’ associations such as KBO Brabant.”

How does such a roundtable discussion work?

“Each participant has submitted a position paper in advance, outlining their views in a concise manner. During the roundtable discussion, each participant is given a few minutes to explain and defend these positions. This is followed by a conversation between members of parliament and participants, in which members of parliament can ask further questions.”  

How do participants know if the House committee is doing anything with their input?

“They don’t know that right away. But if you look at the parliamentary questions about the submitted Future of Pensions Act to the cabinet after the April 22 meeting, you can see a lot of the input from experts in it.”

Can you give an example of input that we have seen reflected in Parliamentary questions?

“An important example is the input from Casper van Ewijk, Bas Werker, Theo Nijman, WTW and Ortec on the entry method. During the entry process, pension entitlements accrued under the old pension system are converted into pension entitlements under the new system. In this case it means that the collective assets of a pension fund are converted into personal pension assets for participants. The Future of Pensions Act offers a choice between two methods for this: the VB-ALM method and the standard method. The experts rightly note that the VB-ALM method is not useful for this purpose. Because when using this method, you have to make arbitrary assumptions. By definition, these therefore become open to discussion. And since the outcome of the VB-ALM method is very sensitive to those assumptions, there is a good chance that legal disputes will arise. In any case, it is not advisable to use two methods.”

Why not?

By definition, one method will work out better for one group and another method for another group. After all, if a fund chooses the standard method, for example, there are always participants who will wonder how much their pension entitlements would have been when using the VB-ALM method. It is more advisable for each fund to use the same entry method. And the standard method is the most suitable for this, partly because it is easier to implement and the results are easier to explain to participants and other stakeholders. This method does, however, require more leeway to be able to compensate for disproportionately negative effects.”

Are there any other examples of such input?

“The Dutch Pension Federation and the Association of Insurers have drawn attention to the feasibility of the new rules for survivor’s pensions. In order to be able to guide participants in their choices at the right time, pension administrators need information from the UWV. This will prevent participants from falling between the cracks, for example after a period of unemployment. This point of attention was also adopted by many members of Parliament in their questions to the minister.”

When will we know the extent to which the bill will be amended?

“We will probably know this by July 2022. More will gradually be known about the content of the possible changes in the near future. The written questions submitted to the minister on April 26 run to 108 pages. A number of them, including the questions about the VB-ALM method and data exchange, are being asked by many groups. There could be some changes in the bill on those points, but whether that happens remains to be seen. The Cabinet can still modify the bill with amendment bills and the House of Representatives can also amend the bill itself. If the bill is adopted by the House of Representatives, the legislative text will then be fixed and the bill will go to the Senate. The Senate can adopt or reject the bill, but can no longer amend it.

In addition, there will probably also be changes to the secondary legislation, which will flesh out the bill in more detail. Consultation has also taken place in this regard, which has resulted in 44 responses. We expect clarity about the final secondary legislation no later than January 1, 2023.”

Will that date of January 1, 2023 be met?

“The government seems to be pulling out all the stops to meet this date, but at the same time you can see that the House of Representatives attaches importance to a thorough debate. So far, the one does not exclude the other, but this requires a lot of effort from both parties. From APG’s perspective, we have an interest in both timely and careful consideration. From our perspective, enforceability and explainability are particularly essential. It will be interesting to see whether the choices that are made contribute to feasibility and explicability.”

Volgende publicatie:
“Now that I know you people, I don’t think of pensions as boring at all anymore”

“Now that I know you people, I don’t think of pensions as boring at all anymore”

Published on: 11 June 2021

Imagine: you are 14 years old and get the opportunity to take the reins at APG for half a day. Chayma Charafi, a student at Sintermeertencollege in Heerlen, seized that opportunity with both hands. As part of the national initiative “Tomorrow’s Boss”, Growth Factory “boss” Anne-Marie Le Doux handed over her chair to Chayma. Virtually, that is. But it didn’t make the day any less special. And instructive, for APG too. “We can seriously learn a lot from how young people view pensions.”


“Now that I’ve gotten to know a few of the people that work here, I no longer think of pensions as boring,” Chayma exclaims enthusiastically at the end of the morning program. A nice by-product of the assignment that morning: finding an answer to the question of how APG can make the learning programs on complex issues such as pensions and investments more attractive to young employees. Anne-Marie Le Doux and some other coworkers are helping Chayma this morning to make her temporary new role as memorable as possible.


More images, less text

“I expect to learn a lot today and am looking forward to it,” Chayma posted on APG’s Facebook and Linkedin account in the morning. And that mission seems to have succeeded. In fact, Chayma is also teaching APG a lot. In her presentation, she comes up with a number of apt recommendations to better reach young APG employees. “Use more images and less text. I’m seeing this in the teaching materials at our school, too. We enjoy watching interesting videos with a good storyline much more than having to read a long, boring piece of text.” This is a big eye-opener for the people Chayma hangs out with that morning. Anne-Marie: “That really is today’s theme: if you make learning fun, it also gets absorbed better. At APG we are sometimes inclined to take our work far too seriously. And that is reflected in the way we communicate about it or provide information. Chayma makes us realize that it is not effective to make things too heavy. Because in learning programs for young employees, they just don’t even absorb that.”

Colleagues in videos

Other recommendations from the student? “Make more use of social media to refer to interesting information or channels. It’s really not a bad thing if it’s not all created by APG itself, but I do think it’s a good idea to have employees who have a lot of knowledge about pensions and investing tell you about it in videos.” Birte van Ouwerkerk, who helped with the presentation, notes that Chayma’s generation thinks much more in images. “We still need to create that image in our minds, whereas young people, they just get it right away. That’s very valuable.” 



As Chayma talks, you can see the people she worked with smile. Raban van Deursen: “We can seriously learn a lot by looking at our work through the eyes of a 14-year-old. When we asked Chayma how young people would look at retirement, her immediate response was: have you asked them yourself?” Ronald van Hengel was also impressed by the young boss’ analyses that morning: “Young people really have a different outlook. Sharper even. And that keeps us alert. I’m impressed by how quickly she understood the ‘problem’ and went to work on it.”

Get to work

Tomorrow’s Boss is an initiative by JINC for schoolchildren from disadvantaged neighborhoods who could use a helping hand to get a fair(er) chance on the labor market. According to Anne-Marie, Chayma doesn’t really need that support: “I met Chayma a few times before and got to know her as a super enterprising type. She just gets to work and gets things done! We adults can also learn something from that.”

Being educational is great, of course, but what is the real point of Tomorrow’s Boss? Being the boss of course! Did you enjoy that? “I think it worked out quite well to be in charge. I was able to come up with my own ideas and also implement them,” Chayma says. When asked if she will be working at APG soon? “Who knows. Someday.”

Right now, the focus is on the things that really matter to a teenager: taking pictures, playing sports and having dinner with girlfriends. Right you are, Chayma.

Volgende publicatie:
The Netherlands in 2041

The Netherlands in 2041

Published on: 21 May 2021

How will we be living in 2041? In a series of six articles, we are painting a picture of the Netherlands of the future. How wealthy will we be then? How will we be living? How will we be working? How will we be consuming? How will we be spending our leisure time? In this episode we are wondering: How social will we still be by then?


How social will we be in 2041? Will we still have any consideration for each other? Or will individualization have progressed to the point that we have nothing left for a neighbor? Will there be such a thing as solidarity between rich and poor, old and young, fat and skinny, sick and healthy, man and woman, Dutch person and newcomer? In the media we read about a growing lack of understanding. About groups that are in stronger opposition against each other. Will it soon be every man for himself and shouters before all of us? Since the outbreak of the corona crisis, and especially in times of lockdown, according to the Social and Cultural Planning Office (SCP), we sometimes find it difficult to look beyond the boundaries of self-interest. Take volunteering at the community center or at the sports club. In Europe, we were ahead for a long time, with thirty percent of the Dutch being active as volunteers. In the midst of the lockdown, half of them indicate that they have less time for this. The number of people participating in demonstrations or joining movements has increased. The question is whether we are doing this out of solidarity with those in need or for own interests.

Is our willingness to selflessly do something for others diminishing? According to the SCP (Social and Cultural Planning Office) we are experiencing more hardening in society, but as yet no significant decline in solidarity.

And Trudie Knijn, emeritus professor of social sciences, does not see things in such a gloomy light either. “There are some things we currently can’t do as well for others, but we still seem to be aware of people with needs. Lonely elderly people, undocumented people, vulnerable young people. A charity like the Food Bank has been running at full capacity throughout the crisis.”


Solidarity with whom?

To reassure you in advance: no matter how self-centered we might be in 2041, there will always be such a thing as "passive solidarity”. We all pay taxes. With taxes, the government can put together support packages again during a new pandemic and enforce solidarity with lockdowns. And even if new plagues do not occur, the state will continue to redistribute wealth. The only question is: who gets what? “In a rich country like the Netherlands, the population has traditionally been in favor of social protection for the elderly, more so than for the sick and people with disabilities,” Professor of Social Policy at the University of Leuven Wim van Oorschot tells us. He is working on the question: who is entitled to what, in our eyes? According to him, our feelings of solidarity are even lower for the unemployed than for the sick and disabled. For the poor even lower and for immigrants even lower. Van Oorschot wants to say: not every needy person can count on the same degree of solidarity. In the eyes of the law, everyone is equal, but when it comes to the claim one makes on subsidies or the support people get from institutions or society, some are more equal than others. Widows more equal than divorced women, divorced mothers more equal than divorced fathers, workers with a permanent contract more than flex workers, families more than singles. “Our willingness to help others depends a lot on how we see that other person. And whether we can identify with that person’s needs.”

We judge a needy person's "worthiness to receive help” on five criteria. Control, attitude, reciprocity, identity and need. 'CARIN,' Van Oorschot's own term. We are more willing to help a needy person if we feel that he does not have himself to blame for being in needy circumstances, if the needy person is grateful instead of demanding, if the needy person gives something in return for the help received, if we can identify with the needy person ourselves, and if we think we can estimate the degree of need. “We are conditional cooperators,” van Oorschot says. “We contribute our fair share when we see that the other person is doing the same.”


Worthy of help

Conditional cooperators: I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine. How enduring is this conditional solidarity? Because lately even our solidarity with the elderly has been under pressure. If the elderly make demands on Old Age Security and pension or occupy a large house at the expense of young families, we see them less as "worthy of help". Young people think: those old people don’t have it so bad. They are squandering our money, eroding the foundation of the pension system. The "paradox of redistribution" is what the American sociologist Richard Coughlin calls this. Will solidarity as the basis for the pension system still be strong enough in 2041? And if we are already beginning to feel less solidarity for the elderly, what will be left for migrants? Is the welfare state only “for us”?

     These are all difficult questions. This is another reason why we will gladly entrust solidarity to the government in 2041. It does regulate the supervision of the rights of vulnerable fellow citizens. It redistributes wealth. But we must be careful, warns Van Oorschot, that in doing so we also transfer solidarity “as a value” to anonymous institutions. To governments that stand between “donor” and “recipient”. Because as the feeling of gratitude disappears for the “recipient”, the sense of purpose disappears for the “donor”. Solidarity from communal pots can eventually undermine the legitimacy of the welfare state.”


Reinventing solidarity

Back to the original question: what will solidarity look like in 2041? More visibly socially engaged pension funds and other, previously anonymous institutions? A social service obligation for young people? Will the government hand out credit points and deductions to volunteers? Or will the business community lead the way? Or social enterprises that combine ideal and profit? Or will it come from within ourselves as the volunteer base ages and there is less volunteering action from young people? Are we going to rate and like each other at socials? In 2041, will we monitor each other's efforts? Will this move towards social control or coercion?

Trudie Knijn conducted European comparative research into people's motivation to join a solidarity initiative and already saw that we are not doing so badly in the Netherlands. Take the Food Bank. Both the volunteer and the end user are interested in the contact, in the exchange. The feeling of belonging to something. It is therefore important that we appreciate an initiator or volunteer and involve them in activities. Many charities date back to the 1990s, when the government left many gaps. They had to make do without support for a long time. Now they get subsidies, but in return they have to comply with procedures. Top down organized organizations. Demarcated tasks, red tape. Government organizations in disguise. That can repel people.

Can we learn anything from the social movements that the SCP thinks we want so badly? We have seen many examples of this on TV recently. Virus madness, farmers on tractors. Angry people standing up for themselves - but also cheerfully dressed climate protesters, Black Lives Matter and moving solidarity actions for nurses. Will we organize solidarity more like a movement on the way to 2041? It could well be, Knijn believes. “Movements strive for impact; their goal is a quick, lasting influence on society. Unlike charities, they are organized flat, from grass roots. There is more democracy and more freedom. Everyone has a say, and every contribution is valued. It gets to the heart of the social beings we will always be: we want to belong somewhere.”

Volgende publicatie:
The Netherlands in 2041

The Netherlands in 2041

Published on: 12 May 2021

“We want to experience it by actively adding something ourselves, learning, changing, improving, having meaning”

Are sports associations and allotment gardens already using social media intelligently? “There is still room for improvement,” says Van der Aalst. Old-school clubs still have the greatest difficulty in attracting volunteers and members. If they still want to be around in 2041, administrators and bosses must abandon the hierarchical approach, expecting volunteers to provide the hands. During these Covid times, gyms are already proving have a better understanding. They are offering online work-outs and customized programs. But your membership base, or rather, your community, really thrives in loosely-bound connections, as we are seeing in urban culture & sports. There, the adage ‘each one teach one’ applies. Everyone is teacher and student, trainer and player, in an open culture where people respect each other and give each other the space to set up and promote events. In our free time, we no longer want to just passively experience something. We want to experience it by actively adding something ourselves, learning, changing, improving, having meaning.”


The new hedonism

There is that word again, finally. Experience, the experience economy. For a long time, we didn't hear about that promise. It was heard mainly in the tourism industry. We used to want to be mainly entertained on day trips and vacations, to experience things in the sense of undergoing them, but now that is no longer enough. It is a little different now: we now want to participate, to engage. To contribute something positive to the local population by buying local products. Painting in Greece, cooking in Italy, tending cows at a shelter in Estonia, rescuing stray dogs in Bulgaria, helping refugees on Morea. “A small-scale, but rapidly growing form of tourism,” says Richards. In our day-to-day, fragmented time off we are busy driving the children to their activities and fulfilling other social obligations that have to be rushed through. During our two weeks of vacation, we are still too restless to do nothing at the beach all day. That is why we mix lazing around with learning, relaxation with development.”


Thus, our hedonism is joined by ‘eudemonism’. A higher kind of bliss that - according to the Greek philosopher Aristotle - can only be achieved through acts that promote the well-being of others. “This already showed up in the 1960s in tourism,” Bastiaansen says. “Then it flattened out in the neoliberal me, me, me times, but now it’s making a big come-back.”

Van der Aalst is also seeing that an awareness of the climate catastrophe, the depletion of the earth and the degradation of the neighborhood makes more people want to get involved in something. The number of one-person households is increasing, people are increasingly getting away from old social structures. They automatically start looking for new meanings and commitments. This can be done on a small scale, as a buddy or caregiver, but also in groups, by collecting litter together, fishing plastic out of canals, cleaning up the street. It is less every man for himself. We are seeing things less as consumers and more as citizens. But we also want to have fun. I expect that more and more professional events will be created around this, with music, catering, training, and competition elements. Connecting Dutch people and newcomers, allocating budgets, challenging them to develop attractive concepts from diverse cultures together, scaling up the winning concepts.”

“As soon as the furniture stores and amusement parks re-open, the woods will empty out again”

Turning inward

In order to escape all the events and social pressures, the leisure desires of others will be limited to doing nothing. Turning inward, doing things that don't cost anything. At most an hour’s walk in nature, as we began to do en masse during Covid times. But Bastiaansen does not think that this influx into nature is here to stay. “A year and a half of lockdown is not enough to allow nature experiences to nestle deeply in our system. As soon as the furniture stores and amusement parks re-open, the woods will empty out again.”

Richards doesn’t think so. He points to the greatly diminished “social legitimacy” of flying vacations. “Flying is the new smoking. And after Barcelona and Amsterdam, other popular cities will also start banning tourists. So, people will be going on staycations, discovering their own local areas. But nature will pay for that. Will nature be turned into a reserve in order to protect it from the crowds? Actually, we have no nature here at all. No primeval forests or rock formations. In the Netherlands, we create nature, such as the Oostvaardersplassen. Even though they are not open to the public. I foresee State Forestry Services or Nature Monuments putting a fence around our most beautiful forests and charging an entrance fee.”


Just like at the Safari Park, we’ll be riding in quiet golf carts on a track through abandoned fields and pastures returned to nature, where wolves and bears roam once again. Or will that not be necessary? Will we accept that many experiences are no longer real and settle for our VR glasses, safe at home on the couch?

“China already has a virtual zoo, Guangzhou Zoological Garden,” says van der Aalst. “I expect we'll see more of this as we move away from keeping animals in cages, just as we are no longer allowing this in the circus.”


Real life

But no matter how virtual it gets, Van der Aalst thinks, we will always want to share our leisure experiences physically with others, in real life. Games, festivals, concerts and events are leading the way in this respect. They are already more hybrid in design, less tied to place and time. Do you remember hunting for virtual Pokémons? That was already one continuous experience. More than just a live stream, the Roadburn metal festival in Tilburg now offers a platform to its loyal visitors, seventy percent of whom come from outside the Netherlands, so that they can have fun together before and after the event. The rapper Travis Scott appeared as an avatar in the game Fortnite for a ten-minute concert, attracted thirty million gamers and earned sixteen million Euros from the sale of merchandise and fees. He would have had to do twenty live shows to earn that much otherwise.”


There are plenty of earning models. Even though we, as well as the artists, are yearning for a live performance. “But even live, the digital will mix with the real,” predicts Van der Aalst. “In the Ziggo Dome we will all be wearing AR glasses while watching Michael Jackson or another dead artist. The ‘real’ very last concert of the Rolling Stones is no longer something unique and one-off. Because there are so many options, we are better informed of where else we can have experiences we like, and we will be going out more and exploring more again.”



Illustration Joyce Schellekens


How will we live in 2041? In a series of six articles, we describe the Netherlands of the future. How rich will we be then? How will we live? How will we work? How will we consume? How social will we still be then?

In this fourth episode, we are asking ourselves: how will we spend our leisure time in the future?


Did you know that out of the 112 hours we are awake every week, we have as many as 44 hours of leisure time? That sounds like an ocean of time to get out and spontaneously do fun things with friends. To go out and explore. But when we look at how we actually spend that free time, aside from lying around on the couch and staring up at the ceiling, a pretty ingrained pattern emerges. According to the Social and Cultural Planningbureau (SCP), 40 percent is used on ‘media use’, 30 on ‘relaxation’, 20 on ‘social contacts’, and the rest sometimes on ‘volunteer work’. Greg Richards, professor of leisure studies in Tilburg says, “And besides our media use, we also limit everything strictly to weekends, because during the week is all about work. The structure we give our live has been the same for the past fifty years.”


Will that still be the same in 2041? Peter van der Aalst, teacher of Leisure & Events at the Breda University of Applied Sciences believes that “by 2014, everything will be merged together”. He believes that the figures of the SCP reveal a dynamic in our leisure time that has been going on for a while. “Everything is mixed together. Twenty years ago, we couldn’t imagine ourselves being connected to the entire world from a small computer on our lap while traveling in a train, arranging a vacation on the spot, based on the opinion of many other people all over the world. Futuristic? These days, we just call it a smartphone and our eighty-year-old grandmother has one too.”


Mixing up free time and work

Not only is the way we spend our leisure time going to blend, but also our work times and leisure times will be merging. In 2014, will we even be able to still distinguish between the two? With AR glasses on, will we be outside somewhere, virtually scrumming with coworkers while we’re actually at home on the couch in our underwear playing a board game with our kids? “It is becoming increasingly difficult to disconnect ourselves from our work,” says Marcel Bastiaansen, professor of leisure and tourism. “As a result, our leisure time is becoming increasingly fragmented: splinters that we no longer experience as leisure time either. It is possible that in the future the amount of leisure time will continue to increase, but not necessarily the quality.”


Is it also possible that mixing up less work and more leisure time will lead us to see our work as something on the side, like a hobby? “I’m afraid that is only true for the creative professions, where we already experience a lot of autonomy now,” Van der Aalst says. “The digital nomads, who provide their communication advice from a sunny resort or a vacation home in Drenthe.” Or will the simple professions also get more free interpretation of their craft? The artist-painter, the cleaner who also arranges flowers and decorates the house differently? Or the other way around: will amateurism and unpaid volunteer work be reimbursed in the future? Transferring the last toads, counting the last butterflies.... According to the SCP, do we really want to spend less of our leisure time gaming online? At least, we are saying we want to spend more time with people physically and we want to do more volunteer work.

“Saying something is not the same as doing it,” Bastiaansen knows. “I do think we will increasingly become more conscious of what we are leaving all around us.” Van der Aalst points out that an important aspect of online gaming already is building and maintaining social contacts. “Often international, worldwide. And who is not in various Whatsapp groups for family, friends, coworkers or communities for specific areas of interest? These often also organize meetings in real life. Our social contact is only increasing, even though it can sometimes be experienced as fleeting.”



In the year 2000, American professor Robert N. Putnam wrote the book Bowling Alone: The Collapse of American Community. Although online life was primitive at the time, he saw how our social structures were increasingly disintegrating, how fewer and fewer people cared about each other. But in 2016, when the Internet revolution was already happening, he wrote an additional chapter to it, describing with hope the many initiatives he saw suddenly emerging. How small communities are reinventing old forms of volunteerism and social activism. Assisted in part by our smartphones.

Volgende publicatie:
Politicians are not sufficiently aware of the feasibility of the new pension system

Politicians are not sufficiently aware of the feasibility of the new pension system

Published on: 6 May 2021

Examples of implementation problems in government organizations are there for the taking. Nevertheless, political The Hague is currently not paying attention to the lessons learned from this. According to APG policymaker Johan Barnard, this is worrying, because we are on the eve of the introduction of a completely new pension system. If the bill for this is postponed, according to Barnard, the extra time must therefore be spent on the comprehensibility, explainability and feasibility of our new pension system.


The House of Representatives has a blind spot for the implementation of government policy. Because parliament is not always fully and timely informed, but also because the House has too little interest in implementation. Moreover, the House of Representatives and the government have neglected implementation for years. Here are two important conclusions from the report "Klem tussen balie en beleid" (Stuck between desk and policy), about the extensive, regularly occurring implementation problems in the government.


It is a relevant report because it draws lessons from a wide range of cases where things went wrong, including the allowance case (Toeslagenaffaire). But anyone who expected a substantive discussion about causes and solutions to dominate politics in recent weeks was disappointed. Because despite the efforts of informateur Tjeenk Willink (who investigates whether a proposed government formation will succeed), political attention is mainly focused on the question of who should be held responsible for what. Read: who should be removed from politics.


This lack of substantive discussion is all the more poignant because since the publication of "Klem tussen balie en beleid", we've seen one signal after another about new impending implementation problems - even in recent weeks. On April 12, procurator general Rinus Otte noted in an interview in Trouw that the Public Prosecution Service and the judiciary are not given enough time to introduce a reinforcement of the victim's position in criminal proceedings. According to Otten, the reinforcement was not well thought out. In the NRC of 20 April, chairman Maarten Camps said "that the UWV can do without plans from The Hague for now". He prefers to talk first about how the UWV (Employee Insurance Agency) can attract enough insurance doctors. The new Environmental Act will be introduced on January 1, 2022. At least, that's the plan. The four big cities have written an urgent letter about the unfeasibility of that date - on April 25, FD reported  that only 9 of the 352 municipalities had their ICT organized. And according to the Court of Audit, the AIVD (General Intelligence and Security Service) and MIVD (Military Intelligence and Security Service) spend so much time on the implementation and requirements of the new "Intelligence and Security Services Act 2017" that their intelligence position is under pressure. 


The Council of State has established that the necessity of new laws is not sufficiently demonstrated and that they are insufficiently tested for feasibility and 'practicability' for citizens and government organizations. Thom de Graaf, Arno Visser and Reinier van Zutphen, (vice-president of the Council of State, president of the Court of Audit and the national ombudsman respectively) also collectively shared their concerns about the implementation quality of the government policy (Buitenhof, 25 April). There they let it be known that responsibility for this also lies with parliament.


You may see the storm building. Because is there enough attention for implementation and practicability when it comes to pensions? The first signs are not very encouraging. On January 12 last, the bill "Lump sum, Early Retirement Scheme (RVU) and leave savings" was passed. But the introduction of the part that should make a pension payment of 10% of the pension assets possible at once (Lump sum) was immediately postponed until 2023. First, they have to investigate whether the implementation can be organized in a less complex way.


And then there's the introduction of a completely new pension system. That transition is many times more complex. The judgment of the Dutch Advisory Board on Regulatory Burden was quite harsh: "don't submit it, unless the points for advice are taken into account". According to the Advisory Board, the bill has not been described clearly enough, which means that it is difficult to assess whether additional implementation costs (in a financial sense) are justified. The Advisory Board also raises the question of whether the new system is easier to explain. And to see whether participants will be able to cope with the new system, it demands a 'capacity test'.


The Hague has recently been talking about the need for a new political culture of "power and countervailing power". We expect comprehensible, explainable and certainly enforceable legislation from a new government that wants to make serious work of that culture. Some expect the bill for the new pension system to be postponed. In that case, in the interest of the participants, the extra time should mainly be spent on those aspects of comprehensibility, explainability and feasibility. I'm not convinced that politicians are currently paying enough attention to this.


Could it be a coincidence that none of the seven members of the parliamentary committee of inquiry for implementing organizations has returned to the House?

Volgende publicatie:
The Netherlands in 2041

The Netherlands in 2041

Published on: 29 April 2021

How will we live in 2041? In a series of six articles, we sketch the Netherlands of the Future. How rich will we be? How do we live? How do we consume? How social are we still? How do we spend our free time? In this third episode, we ask ourselves: how will we work in the future?


Working in 2021: that means sitting and waiting in a building from nine to five. That is, if we are still allowed to come into the office during a pandemic. At the office, we think of home and at home, we long for the office. But American futurologist Thomas Frey believes that in 2041, after two more disruptive virus pandemics, the many vacant offices have now been converted into homes. And because the government still, to our despair, demands that we work at home, at the kitchen table with children, we have found a solution, according to Frey.


"By then, we'll be working from a mobile office. Everyone enjoys peace and concentration in their own, renovated camper. A mobile workplace with darkened windows and stable Internet. Can be set up at will as a workplace, film studio, tattoo parlor, a base for a raging reporter, pawnshop, fertility clinic or simply as a mobile office for a knowledge worker. Our desk on wheels is full of technology and robotics, with whom we chat just as pleasantly as with that colleague at the coffee machine. Algorithms propel us through the day, dots on the horizon markers keep us focused on the goals. As a moving billboard, we advertise our business, pick up an appointment for a meet-up and drop it off before the next one starts. Although we mainly meet virtually, with VR lenses that immerse us in a laboratory in India, or with AR glasses that lay a layer over the production facility to be renovated in China."


Knowledge worker

Okay. Let's just take a step back. We'll try to hook up with Frey again later. We will still need his optimism, because we will first dive into the prospects of the 'knowledge worker' with philosopher and digital fitness pioneer Martijn Aslander. And those prospects aren't particularly rosy. "In twenty years, most of the Netherlands will call themselves knowledge workers," says Aslander. 'We all gather, process, analyze, cluster and share knowledge all day long. But hopefully, we'll go about it a bit smarter than now.

At the moment, the knowledge worker works as if he were a conveyor belt worker. Someone who delivers a certain production on one specific working day. While his best ideas are born in the shower, we expect him to spend all day looking at a screen. We're effectively forcing him to put on a play.


According to Aslander, those days are coming to an end. "We're in these hip open-plan offices with slides, once forced upon us by old gurus of 'the new way of working'. Disastrous for our concentration. All day long, we're distracted by stimuli and talk and get nowhere. Take our working hours, for example. Twenty percent of us are at our best in the evening, whereas twenty percent function optimally in the morning at seven o'clock. Then why do we judge each other on fixed working hours? No wonder so many people suffer from stress and burnout, public health enemy number one."


Time confetti

Didn't the 1950s promise us that automation would take a lot of work off our hands? Why does it take so long before we can spend our days in idleness? "Simple," says Aslander, "we've been standing still for seventy years. At the time, we sat at a desk with some drawers, a couple of mail trays, a telephone with a cord, and a typewriter. Now, we're still tapping a keyboard - with two fingers, because we've never learned to touch type. We use a plane to drive on the highway."


Aslander made a study of the errors of the knowledge worker. He says we create documents throughout the day, send them to twelve others who make changes to them, and then save the new version separately. "We think this is work. One phone call down the line and we have a perspective that immediately renders the latest version worthless. In between all the time confetti - checking e-mail, texting, tweeting, chat - we shove around paper and put it away in folders and sub-folders, which all look alike. We hide bits of information all over the place, like squirrels do with acorns. But… where did we put it all? Our spatial and visual recall is the most highly developed skill of our brain, but it's not being used."

Aslanders' point: we have forgotten the purpose of work. We confuse it with a fifteen-year steady job doing the same trick. Okay, we network more than before and we now meet standing up and we scrum agile. "But what are the benefits if we can't access the right information right away? A quarter of our energy is spent on thinking. It's a shame to spend that on tracking down that one observation, that golden idea that you sent yourself in an e-mail last week."


Monetary capital

When we put money in the bank, Aslander says, our monetary capital grows. But we put our information capital in an old sock. We hide that sock under the mattress so that no one can reach it, including ourselves. "In the meantime, the amount of information that comes our way every day is increasing rapidly. We must therefore process information more intelligently. But we don't learn that skill at school or in organizations. If knowledge work is a craft, few have mastered it. Most of us just plod along. Which of us has adapted to the dynamics of 2041 in time and survives the competition? I think the speed and ease with which you're of value to others will determine your success. Take care of your information capital and your social capital, so that you are less dependent on monetary capital."


In the meantime, our employers are preparing for the digital future by delving into AI, Big Data, blockchain. Exciting developments, according to Aslander, but pointless if employees don't even grasp the finer points of Outlook or Excel. "We're not digitally fit. We can't even deal with the tools we currently use: an Ikea set of Allen keys to build an entire house with. If you look at our work tools from the future, most of them will drop out. Tools must store information, be searchable, sortable, able to organize, reorder, metadatable, and shareable. I use Evernote. I scanned everything I had using a super scanner, 93,000 notes in total. I found my swimming certificate and that particular taxi bill from 1989 in just a second."

Welcome to 'the new work reality'. Only when we have the basics in order and comply with a minimum of digital hygiene, if we can access everything immediately and everywhere and have knowledge and connections ready - then we'll be ready for the skills we can use to distinguish ourselves. Now and in 2041. "Thinking critically, being creative, doing business, communicating, working together," says Aslander. "Only then are you the solution to someone's problem. That's when you score in the elevator pitch, the boardroom, at a birthday party."


Regular jobs

Great for people with high-quality work at the top, but what will automation do to regular jobs in 2041? In 1867, Karl Marx predicted that the importance of the factor of low-grade work would continue to diminish. Shortly afterwards, engineer Frederick Taylor divided the work at Henry Ford's automotive plant into separate, endlessly repetitive tasks on the assembly line. And while in 2021, automation continues where industrialization left off, and we're still micromanaged by technology in call centers or as a food delivery service, one in four people experience their job as useless and meaningless. 21 percent of all work is performed by machines. By 2025, this will have risen to over fifty percent. Was Taylor trying to turn us into robots? Now we fear that robots will take jobs.

What is work, really? "Work," said the philosopher Voltaire, "saves a man from the three great evils: boredom, sin, and desire." For a long time, we saw work as a Christian duty: we earned our living by the sweat of our brow. Now, we see work more as a duty to ourselves - we want to develop. We get meaning from efforts, enjoy getting a job done. What will be left of that by the robots in 2041? Will the little work there is be something 'for on the side'? Will we be dutifully earning our money to waste our time in philosophizing and the arts, as the ancient Greeks did?


Cleaning sewers

"Task by task, our jobs are automated out of our existence," Thomas Frey acknowledges. "So will we still have our jobs later? Of course! Just not that job. Contrary to what we fear or fantasize, an era of super-employment awaits us." And not only that: Frey thinks that robots will make our work more fun. "They take over mundane jobs such as cleaning sewers or scrubbing toilets, but in most other jobs, we work with them as equals. My reason for believing that? An unimaginable amount of innovative technology awaits us. Hundreds of thousands of micro-industries have emerged, with work for hundreds of millions of people who are going to reshape life."


Moreover, in 2041, we see a revaluation of old professions, Frey believes. "The teacher, the coach, the journalist: these are the vital professions of tomorrow. When all the answers are available in the information society, asking questions becomes essential. More than ever, it's about trying things out, messing around, failing, reflecting and continuing to practice. Things that a robot can't do very well, but we can. In which professions does that happen? In journalism, we're still working as a raging reporter or as a brilliant news analyst, in addition to the robot fact-checker. But there are also data detectives and data ethicists. Robot personality trainers and drone traffic controllers. AI accountants, 3D homebuilders, cryptocurrency regulators, sensor troubleshooters, aerospace impact controllers, asteroid miners, gene therapists, mixed reality coaches, cultured meat designers. And yes, there will also be a lot of work for interior designers - for our mobile work camper."

Volgende publicatie:
The Netherlands of 2041

The Netherlands of 2041

Published on: 21 April 2021

How will we live in 2041? We outline the Netherlands of the future in a series of six articles. How rich will we be? How do we live? How will we work? How societal will we still be? And how will we spend our leisure time? In this second episode we wonder: How will we consume?


Prior to us marveling at the delicacies in the supermarket of the year 2041 with food designer Chloé Rutzerveld, an exciting moment first awaits us behind the one-way gates: the food pharmacy. We deliver a sample of our poop to obtain an update on our health. And we have the chip in our hand, containing our DNA food profile, read to assess the nutritional needs of our body. In exchange we will get the status of our intestinal flora and a shopping list. We pull some shots of personalized powders from the vending machine containing all the vitamins and minerals we need and then we head to the vegetable department. But... where are the vegetables? And where can I find the meat or the bakery? Everything seems to be mixed up here. The supermarket has become one huge, healthy candy shop. Fruit croquettes made of the trimmings of pineapple and melon, snacks containing unsold red beets and oyster mushrooms, freshly baked waffles made of scrapes of turnips - the warm carrot syrup dripping out. Well, at least food waste no longer is an issue. It has appeared to be a no-brainer. Although the population on earth has increased with one and a half billion people since 2021, it doesn't mean we are producing more food. Thanks to free thinkers, such as Rutzerveld, we started to use our imagination.


The supermarket once was a place where remnants were disposed of in containers at the end of the day and where the issue of plastic wasn't addressed very energetically. But in the course of the twenties and thirties, we started to take on our responsibilities in terms of food supply. We are now wandering festival sites with private initiatives and labs in which we grow our own vegetables and produce our own meat. We exchange recipes and taste each other’s dishes at hangouts established for this purpose. ”We, consumers, have started to produce”, says Rutzerveld.


Biological or industrial

We go back for a while before we start shopping in Rutzerveld's magic world. The future of food doesn't look promising in 2021. When we look at the reports of the UN climate panel IPCC and the World Wildlife Fund that are widely recognized by science, there are no more doubts that we are eating our planet and endanger our lives with our agriculture, livestock farming and fishing industry. Will we still light-heartedly eat a meatball in 2041?

“It is not difficult to imagine our future as heaven or hell", says philosopher Koert van Mensvoort of design agency Nature Next Network. “It's all about imagining a world in which you would like to live.” He wonders what our traditions are and how we can transform those traditions with technology into an attractive world. “That could mean we will not start doing things differently, but just smarter. In a mishmash of nostalgia and innovation. In twenty years, we will live better in an old-fashioned way.”


Just take local, chemically untreated food. It has been available for a very long time, but we often overlook it. We do have the convenience box that's delivered at our home address containing fresh local products and recipes that generate more income for farmers in the region. There are self-sufficient communities with community gardens, having a farmer in the role of steward. Still, sceptics such as food scientist Louise Fresco, do not consider biological agriculture as a serious alternative for industrial agriculture, plant-based produce not as a replacement for animal use and costly transport across the globe. We would be unable to feed the entire world. “But why”, Van Mensvoort says, “would a synthesis not be possible? What if we transform chemically untreated into an efficient process? Not by means of our own removal of weed, but by having us assisted by robots? That way, grandmother's quality will also become affordable to James or Mary. By the way, Fresco may not say it out loud, to me she once said that she had it calculated that no less than fifty billion people can be fed this way. Although it helps should we all become vegetarians.”


We have to look at the situation more in the light of history, according to Van Mensvoort. “Every time we believed the earth was full, it appeared that our planet was able to hold even more people. If the hunter-collector needed some acres of land for his family; the agricultural industry scaled up its food supply and industrialization eliminated our fear of ever being hungry again. Unhealthy food is now available round the clock. Time for the next phase: the quality of the past but in a truly efficient way.”

In his book The Wizard and the Prophet (2018) Charles Mann saw two other opposing viewpoints. The ‘prophets’ who respect the boundaries of the earth versus the ‘wizards’ who want to push those boundaries using technology. Van Mensvoort can imagine these two groups working together as a team. What does that look like in 2041?


Our food production in 2041

In the year 2041, we consume locally as much as possible, but we still import coffee, cocoa, avocados, quinoa, citrus fruit and bananas from far away countries. We just don't import these produce any longer, as already determined by the World Food Organization FAO, by getting soy and palm oil from South America and Asia. We turned it around. We help Africa to produce inexpensive food for millions, so a lot more people are able to carry on with the Western way of consuming.

First of all, we abandon our position as second food export country. We cease the export of agricultural dump, of shipping pigs’ ears to China. “At the same time, we climb up the ladder to end up first place in knowledge export”, says Van Mensvoort. “We ask the farmer: what is your product? Pork chops? Or is the product your knowledge, the way you transform soy into a meaty, tasty structure? Knowledge is much easier to disseminate and it earns you more money.”


We are not so much disseminating our expertise in monotonous land cultivation, agricultural chemicals, pigsties. We are disseminating our upscaling which we used to fight our own hunger. We are disseminating our drones in order to work the fields in Africa with precision agriculture. We are disseminating our water management, making our crops more resistant against weather variations and real circular agriculture where smart toilets help to separate urine and feces so the nutrients can return to the fields as fertilizer. Something we are unable to achieve in the Netherlands, we can now realize in Africa.


Meanwhile in the supermarket of 2041

We don't grab a bag of chemical orange carrots from what could be the vegetables department. We cross-pollinate forgotten carrot and turnip species ourselves, back into the original colors. Assisted by farmers, we download a growth recipe of our liking, plant seeds indoors, play with the amount of water, CO2 and light, and influence the taste, shape and nutrients of vegetables and fruit this way. We grow the crops ourselves against walls. The handymen among us take it a step further and play with shapes. They come up with cylindrical eggplants, cubical broccoli and a sandwich tomato with the perfect size and shape for a slice of bread. “No science fiction. Technically, it's already possible”, says Chloé Rutzerveld.


In her book Food Futures, How Design and Technology can Reshape our Food System, Rutzerveld shows how we can bridge the gap between nostalgia and science. “We are already happy to pay for basil plants in jars and squeezing our own juice. That's the way we will also bridge the conflict within ourselves, the gap between the civilian and the consumer that we are both. The civilian who says that he or she wants to eat sustainable and plant-based and is happy to pay a fair price, and the consumer who in practice indifferently grabs the discounted produce.”


To tempt us, for example, to no longer extract proteins from animals but from plants, we tap grass milk at the not-dairy department from a bioreactor in the shape of a cow. Technology can offer us a lot, said the futurologist Kevin Kelly, apart from two things. Trust and stories. The need for this is rooted deeply within us. Trust cannot be downloaded, it's something we have to earn. This can be supported by stories about what we are used to.


So, at the not-meat department, hamburgers made of in vitro meat are growing behind the windows of a snack bar vending machine. We feed meat machines with dough mixtures of algae and slices of belly pork, beef and foie gras made of seaweed are ejected by 3D printers. Do we insist on having a piece of meat for which an animal has been killed? The cultivation box still holds a few containers filled with grasshoppers. The bodies have been blown up to the size of cut-price insects. Legs, wings and antennas have been removed. A bombshell of protein, but it doesn't sell. Human meat is doing a lot better. If there's is a product that has no shortage of supply, it is definitely human meat. We don't eat it on our daily portion of bread yet, it still is something special. We cultivate our own body cells that are growing like a medallion on our body.


At the not-bread department of Rutzerveld we continue to play with the nostalgia of eating and the functionality thereof. “We unravel our daily bread and divide it into elements of joy and feeding. After which we build it into something new again without the disadvantages of old-fashioned production. So, no shiploads of wheat from abroad. We grow cell cultures from waste flows. We mix yeast or sourdough with the personalized powders containing the nutrients we received earlier from the pharmacy into a paste. Then we head to the ovens to turn the mixture into a fresh bread roll. With the crispy crust of a sprout, the cloudy texture of a cake and the juiciness of the inside of a tomato. Finally, the odors and colors of a pair of AR glasses take us back to that one fresh bakery on a little square in Naples.


We don't even pay too much for the modernisms at the checkout. “If we want consumers to act like the committed civilians they are insufficiently”, says Van Mensvoort, “we should not only tempt them, but also reward them.” Why do we earn money felling a tree, but do we have to pay for planting a tree? He came up with the eco-coin. “We add the aspect of the pension fund to consumers. Deposit now, the value later. No animal meat bought today? One coin. Didn't use the car? One coin. Once you saved fifty coins, you gathered enough stamps to get a discount. Just like in the olden days.”

Volgende publicatie:
The Netherlands of 2041

The Netherlands of 2041

Published on: 12 April 2021

How will we live in 2041? We outline the Netherlands of the future in a series of six articles. How rich will we be? How will we consume? How will we work? How societal will we still be? And how will we spend our leisure time? In this first episode we wonder: how will we live?


Looking down from the airplane, the Netherlands of 2041 still is that yellow & brown blanket of agricultural land. But when we examine the dark seams between those patches of land a little bit closer with architect and former Flemish Government Architect, Leo van Broeck, we can also see that the spread of boxes, distribution centers, mega-stalls, datacenters, solar parks, ribbon development and other landscape clutter has come to a standstill. Everything that's still there, is overgrown with vegetation. And what about our beloved church towers, ditches, bridges? All still there. The monotonous lands sprayed with poison have been replaced by more diverse agriculture and much more open nature – but wait a minute. Didn't we suffer from a housing crisis in 2021? An acute shortage of 331,000 houses according to ABF Research? The Dutch population has increased since then by 1.5 million people. Where do all those people live? “Not here, that's for sure”, says Van Broeck. “Not in the open space.”


In the rural areas

Back to the year 2021. The ‘game’ of musical chairs is ongoing on the housing market with less and less chairs and more and more participants. Ever since the central government abandoned the issue, slum landlords force the prices of housing up, foreign investors, project developers and municipalities only build expensive, profitable apartment complexes and social housing has disappeared to make way for the private sector. People with a median income move away from the cities. Starters are forced to live with their parents. The number of homeless people is increasing. And because seniors have to live independently for longer, they grow lonely in way too big family homes.

Everyone agrees on one thing. One million houses extra in ten years’ time. But where are those houses to be built? Outside or inside the city limits? Heated debates have been going on for years now. “I believe we have to leave it to the people”, says Co Verdaas, dike reeve, former state secretary for the PvdA and professor in area development. “According to my data, one-third of the people wants to live in the city, one-third just outside the city limits and one-third in a rural area. A mixture of everything. We have no other choice but to build outside the city limits. We make an exception for nature and good agricultural land, but along the radials A2, A12, A28 are still plenty of hectares to be found for at least 700,000 new houses.”


Ghost towns

It's a horror scenario for architect Van Broeck. “The Netherlands used to laugh at Flanders because of our chaotically built-up landscape. It is indeed true that you once gave consideration to the open space, but that has changed in a short period of time. You are now establishing entire ghost towns in the polder meadows. I visited Lelystad once, horrible. Not a living soul in the streets. You are asphalting everything to damnation.” According to Van Broeck, the Dutch worry way too much about the housing shortage. “You should be worried about the destruction of the eco-system instead. Expansion in the region emits twenty times more greenhouse gas than incorporation in the city. Global warming is caused by people who live outside the city centers. So, clear the rural areas and free up agricultural land. Nature becomes a reserve, a protected area.”

It is no longer possible to live bigger and bigger. We turn it around. Don't focus on more houses, but on more people in every house

Self-supporting residential towers

Is it possible to find enough meters outside the ring for those extra houses? “That number is highly exaggerated”, says Van Broeck. “The population growth is about to decrease in a couple of years. Let's start with the transformation of vacant offices and retail premises and building on residual lots. No more tiny houses in open fields, focus only on urban counterparts: micro-apartments in sky-high flats. Self-supporting towns on its own.”

According to the numbers presented by the Brinkgroep, half of the demand for housing can be solved by densification within the city limits. So, how about we start there? Verdaas doesn't believe that’s something the people want. “No Hong Kong or Singapore. Unlivable. People always look down on it, but most people are just looking to find a row house with a small garden, situated in the suburbs.” That's no longer feasible, says Van Broeck. “People have to adjust their housing preferences and fast. Over the course of one century, we shifted from 8 to 65 square meters per person. It is no longer possible to live bigger and bigger. Time's up. We turn it around. Don't focus on more houses, but on more people in every house.”


Concrete stop

As a Flemish Government Architect, Van Broeck once invented the ‘concrete stop’ that caused quite a commotion in his country but that was still implemented recently. Only build city-inward by decree, does that work? “Of course it works. But it merely is the start of a process. A realization. We will also stop building detached houses. Building villas is outdated. Do you insist on rural living? That's only possible in densified villages, compact micro-cities. But nothing in between anymore. Something in between means we will be covering even more land with asphalt. Commuter traffic already costs us billions of euros in traffic jams every year. You don't have to have a green heart to realize that. Being stuck in traffic for one and a half hour every day causes divorces and obesity. Lease cars will therefore also be prohibited and people get a house matching their salary in exchange. Teleworking will become the default option anyway.”

Can we really ask people to be confined in smaller areas? “Anything else is irresponsible. Surely, you also don't allow your child to make a fire in a dry forest?”

By 2041, it will be more comfortable to live in the city than it is to live outside the city limits

In our city

What does the city of 2041 look like? A human bio-industry? Near the metropolis Randstad, our plane is flying lower and through the streets. In between the mature trees, thick bushes and public, shady terraces on top of the roofs of residential towers and parking garages, the stacked and jam-packed houses don't stand out. Climbing plants are growing freely along anchor cables, facades and nest boxes. The streets are car-free. Cyclists on meander avenues are guests in low-traffic residential areas dominated by pedestrians and feral parks, the cooling elements of the city. Clinkers and tiles are removed everywhere to guard the city even more against heat and flooding due to global warming. The grass is allowed to grow high on water permeable little squares. The damp wetlands and the area surrounding city rivers are swamped with biodiversity. During extremely hot summers, the temperature here is lower than on the open land.

“And also worth to mention is that everything is located just around the corner: facilities, hospitals, schools, culture”, says Van Broeck. “By 2041, it will be more comfortable to live in the city than it is to live outside the city limits.”


Sensors and cameras

But doesn't this have a detrimental effect with so many people living together in such small areas? We don't see it but behind the social, green paradise a whole other world is hiding. Sensors and cameras are incorporated everywhere. These tools measure the hustle and bustle, peaks in pollen, air pollution, waste containers, throughput in the sewage system and the behavior of road users. In control rooms, algorithms are converting the gathered data. Residents use their watches to read the possibilities for action and adjust their behavior. They are the ones reporting a hole in the road and other irregularities. Digital violation of privacy by the government? This is unfortunately the order of the day. Plenty of issues still need to be improved. It is a laboratory in which we try things together and in which we safeguard our safety together. “Urbanites start dreaming and do things at their own initiative again”, says Van Broeck.


Inside our home

We penetrate a residential area of 2041 deeper. How do we live? “Flex housing, self-build groups, neighborhoods consisting of multiple generations. Plenty of living concepts to choose from”, says professor Housing Institutions & Governance Marja Elsinga. She uses the project 1M Homes to boost innovation and focuses mainly on quality and affordability. “Just take a look at the spartan portacabins for starters, students and people with a residence permit on vacant lots. The scattershot solutions of 2021. The emergency is serious and municipalities get away with it. Stackable, relocatable, but has it been made with circular materials? Does it have a minimum of comfort?”

Or what about the skewed living. Elderly people who, according to the CBS, keep 140 m2 occupied and young families 35 m2. Both groups are stuck in their situation. Realtors are already trying to tempt seniors in order for them to free up their space and to move to courtyards for the elderly, attractive living arrangements with company, care and shared facilities. “But better would be: elderly people and young people who enter into housing forms together, communities in which people look out for one another”, says Elsinga. “As long as the final meters are not allocated to project developers. That would mean even more expensive apartment buildings. Let the residents take control again. Build strategically, facilitate initiatives and encourage flexible living.”


Open building

Building strategically, in practice, comes down to ‘open building’. This is an idea from the sixties, raised by the Dutch architect John Habraken. Large, firm bearers of concrete and the layout is flexible. This means we will come across the same styles in many places, but as long as the construction is of high architectural quality and furbished differently, it doesn't get boring. Studios can be disassembled easily and assembled again somewhere else. Apartments can be split or merged by moving a wall. You turn the outside into the inside and vice versa. Regardless of your stage in life, you no longer have to renovate or to move, because your house changes along with you.

“Living”, says Elsinga, “is a lifelong fundamental right. We have to get rid of housing as an object of speculation. In a country in which everyone participates, living is a stable long-term investment. Really something to consider for pension funds. Especially for my pension fund, ABP. As you grow older, you are not only entitled to pension but also to a life worthwhile living. To community and joyful moments.”


Making each other happy

In the living complex of 2041, the people together are generating power and storing excess water. Nobody has his or her own garden, but we cultivate our own vegetables and herbs in vertical vegetable gardens and meet neighbors in numerous, connected parks.

And what if we'd rather be on our own? If we want to enjoy our own company in the house of the future, something the scientists of this century are trying to enthuse us about? In our kitchen where the coffee machine is already on when the alarm goes off to wake us up, where the fridge sends us a list of groceries and where a machine prints food in 3D? The bathroom that is checking our health, the toilet that analyzes urine, the toothbrush that shares conclusions with the dentist?

Van Broeck believes that, by that time, it is more important to us that our shower reuses 100 percent of the water. That our stuff is made from fungi and can be disposed of on the compost heap. That our residential complex is equipped with a party room where children can invite their entire class and with a crafts corner including professional tools. “The selfishness is gone. My neighbor is not allowed to build any higher? My sun should not disappear? Living closely together in the city means making each other happy. We just don't have any other choice.”

Volgende publicatie:
“Stan sees little windows, while we are watching all the doors”

“Stan sees little windows, while we are watching all the doors”

Published on: 9 April 2021

Group IT Officer Frans van Kessel and ethical hacker Stan Hegt about cyber security at APG


Cybercrime: in 2021, you cannot get around it, especially as an organization with a lot of loot. And that applies to a pension administrator like APG too, of course. How do we protect 568 billion Euros worth of assets? How do we protect desirable and sensitive information? One way is to have the systems attacked by hackers on a regular basis. Ethical hackers, that is. A conversation with Group IT Officer Frans van Kessel and ethical hacker Stan Hegt about honey pots, the kill chain and simulating hacks. “We get to prepare for a real-life hack for months. For us, these kinds of assignment are the cherry on the cake.”


When APG systems are visited by hackers, no one in the organization knows if it is being done by malicious intruders or if it is a simulation – except for a handful of people, including Frans van Kessel, who is responsible for APG’s cyber security. Everything is done to make an exercise like that seem as real as possible. And in a sense, it is a real hack, which has been extensively prepared for a long time and executed by a team of ethical hackers, also called white hat hackers. Whizz kids who have made it their profession to try to infiltrate into the systems of companies and governments. Their goal is to help these organizations to keep their IT security intact or bring it up to snuff.


Stan Hegt from the IT security company Outflank is such an ethical hacker. Van Kessel hired him specifically to put APG’s IT security to the test. “Our people look at the cyber security primarily from a defensive perspective at APG. But hackers use an offensive perspective. They are always thinking along the lines of: what is the easiest way for me to get to the most interesting parts of the system? Someone from outside sees very different openings than we do. People like Stan and his team bring that perspective to the table. Stan sees all kinds of little windows while we are watching all the doors.”


Information services

In collaboration with the team from Outflank, Van Kessel and Hegt prepare a hack like that meticulously. It starts with mapping out the parties to whom APG could be an attractive target. Van Kessel: “We don’t just let a team of ethical hackers fire a load of buckshot into our systems. We try to get them to work in as focused a way as possible. First, we look at what kind of actors we might have to deal with. Then we map out which ‘crown jewels’ those parties might be interested in and what tactics, techniques and procedures they would use to get in. For foreign military information services, the participants’ files for defense could be very useful, for example. Information that shows certain investment flows could also be an interesting target for a foreign power.

With other actors, you expect more interest in access to the part of the system used to make payments. APG invests hundreds of billions for its clients. There are always parties that are interested in a big financial like that, including geopolitical interest.  Certain kinds of intellectual property – for example about the organization of the Dutch pension system – and models could be very valuable for a country like China. All in all, we are therefore dealing with a very diverse threat assessment. Based on that assessment, we map out the most likely targets. We then ask Stan and his team to focus on attacking there.”   


Once everything is prepared and the attack is ready to take place, Van Kessel takes a step back and Hegt goes to work. With a group, very consciously. Hegt: “The most dangerous hackers are always part of a team. They are strongest when they work together. The hacker sitting alone in a room in the attic is more of a TV cliché.”


What kind of hackers present the biggest threat? Hegt: “The last few years, the groups that have been the most dangerous are the ones that are active with ransomware. The best known of these is TA505, a hacker group from Russian-speaking countries. This group was also behind the attack on the Maastricht University.”

Kill chain
When it comes to the modus operandi of a hacker, you can distinguish several standard phases, Hegt explains. “A hacker works with the so-called cyber kill chain: reconnaissance, weaponization, delivery, exploitation, installation, command and control, and actions on objective. So, the first step is exploration: what are the possibilities for entering a system? Who works at the organization, who could be interesting to use for access? Then, a hacker will try to enter in one spot. For example, through a recruiter’s workplace, or through a server that is not well-protected. This is usually done with the help of malware. The third step is then to find a way to the crown jewels, for example, access to the system for making payments. That path is kind of a maze for the hacker. There are many ways to find a path. You could look for weak password of employees, for example. The last step is to carry out the actions on the crown jewels: a malicious payment by the system, or sending certain information in a way that leave those actions unnoticed.”


If a relatively large organization like APG only protects itself from cyber attacks from the outside, that is not enough, Van Kessel says. “It is no longer possible to prevent everything; there are always some employees that could be causing weak spot in your defense. Your inner world is a continuous point of attention. You must always assume that a hacker can get in. That is why we also focus a lot on detection and response. For us, the trick is to detect an attack as soon as possible. We do this by placing honeypots in certain places in the system – these are a kind of boobytrap the hacker steps in the moment he enters our network. That work is at least as creative as the hacker’s work. When we get undesired company, we investigate the threat and then move into containment and eradication: preventing the threat from spreading and completely removing the threat.”    


Hackers: what types of people should we imagine these are?  Hegt: “You have to be a real “professional idiot” and continually keep up to date. They are mostly relatively young men; you don’t see a lot of them that are over 50. The average is below 35, I think. And you can’t say that there are no successful hackers that are not educated, but many of them are highly educated. There is a lot of demand for them.” Van Kessel: “Even on the dark web you will run into these types of hackers; they present themselves with all kinds of certifications.”


Hegt himself, who studied math and computer science at the Eindhoven University of Technology is a “professional idiot” like that himself. “I’ve been hacking since I was ten years old and when I was fifteen, I started to hack by request of companies. Then I worked for KPMG for ten years. I did not expect this from a company like that, but it turned out that a very cool hackers’ club was working there. Five years ago, I got the opportunity to found Outflank with a few Dutch top hackers.”


Money laundering

Even though they may often be relatively young men, hackers are certainly not a homogenous group. Hegt: “There are a lot of cyber attack specialists. Invading a system is very different than finding a way to the crown jewels, once you’re in. And there are also hackers that are dedicated to laundering money. That is its own specialty.”


By having systems attacked on a regular basis in a way that, for most people involved, is not distinguishable from a real malicious cyber attack, APG is increasing its immunity. Hegt: “We also call that the vaccine effect. A test is like giving an injection, after which the body has an immune response. That is why it is so important that people don’t know that it is a test. They need to get defensive. We therefore only inform parties that could sound the alarm in advance, such as Microsoft. We get to prepare for a real-life test for months. That is great for us, but also for the APG employees that work on detection and monitoring. For us, these kinds of assignments are the cherry on the cake.”

Volgende publicatie:
“Eyes on the ball and do what we have agreed on”

“Eyes on the ball and do what we have agreed on”

Published on: 1 April 2021

How do you survive as a pension administrator of eight funds in a year overshadowed by Covid-19? Annette Mosman, our recently appointed CEO, believes it was the ultimate test case and that APG really held its own through it. “In 2020, employees started working from home overnight, we kept the pension administration of 4.7 million participants running from three thousand home offices, and we didn’t panic when the stock market fell hard. We turned out to be a robust, agile organization.”


A new CEO, a new sound? What will we notice about Annette Mosman’s approach?

“I’m starting this job with a clear premise. I am from within the organization, and I know the sector. As CEO, I am going to do things my own way: often by listening first and reacting later. I am always curious about other people’s visions. Accents will shift, but the route is rock-solid. First of all, we are going to perform really well. The coming years will be geared towards the end result: implementation of the new pension contract (NPC), in collaboration with our funds, in 2026 and being a strong social player at the same time. Because we are doing this for the financial fitness of 4.7 million people. To reach that goal, we will have to be consistent in the next few years: eyes on the ball and do what we have agreed on. We have to do it right: with our attention on our funds, employers and their participants, on each other and on our environment. We are in this for the long haul and the trajectory will have its ups and downs.”


What will be the highest priority for you in the next while?

“Our established strategy for the coming years. Our focus is now on its execution: introduction and implementation of the NPC is our first priority; everything comes after that. We will be making clear choices and carrying them out superbly. We will be doing that with a strong social profile: we are inextricably linked to the 4.7 participants of our funds, with employers and with other partners in society. If we do our job well, we will be a thought leader as a pension administrator and a key player in the sector.”



This is the first annual report where you are the CEO. Transparency plays a central role in the report. Why was that decided?

“For the second time in a row, we are publishing an integrated report. In it we show what value we add to our stakeholders: our clients, society, shareholders and the funds. We are aware of our role and are taking a critical look at it. This is the main theme of this annual report. We are not an ordinary company. We work for 8 funds and 4.7 million participants and manage almost 600 billion Euros. In addition to being a learning organization, APG also focuses on the social impact we have. Being transparent, like we are in this annual report, means that we are also showing our vulnerability and therefore also showing what did not go right. If something is wrong with out execution, or the collaboration with the Works Council is not running smoothly, we will communicate about this.”

The road to the NPC is long and complex. What exactly does that road look like now?

“We don’t want to be faced with any unpleasant surprises when we start the transition to the new pension system with our funds. That is a crucial component of our strategy and that is what our clients expect from us. It is also a precondition for transitioning to the new pension system. Compare it to an attic you need to clean out before you move. In our case, for example, that means working with our funds to tackle the complexity in the current plans. But it also means going through the pension administration and fixing it if something is unexpectedly wrong somewhere. Fixing this is complicated, especially when it has an impact on people’s wallets. In collaboration with the funds, we are trying to find solutions that are in the best interest of the participant.”

We play a certain role, but we never do this alone

What does that mean for APG in concrete terms?

The transition to the new pension contract will affect the work of almost all employees within APG in the coming years: from IT, pension administration, asset management, risk management, client contact and communication to HR. It will change our work in almost every respect. This will demand a lot from us as an organization and from our employees in the coming years. At the same time, it offers APG the opportunity to show that even in a new system we can live up to our position as a leading administrator. Because we are a leader in our field for good reasons. With our digitalization, participant orientation and pension expertise, we have all the ingredients needed to create a new proposition and to measure up to other financial parties. We also have eight loyal clients who are going to go through this process with us. So, let’s not stare into the headlights, but get on with implementing.”

In the past year, things went wrong in the execution a few times. How do you look back on that?

"That’s true. In August 2020, for example, an action surrounding the disability pension was completed. In the process, a total of 8,352 participants were retroactively awarded the pensions they were entitled to. Some 8,500 participants also received a rightful supplement for coinciding periods of service. For the participants in question, this made a big impact. And as a pension administrator, we understand this very well.  That is why we are doing everything we can to carefully inform participants and assist them in these kinds of situations. And we also learn from them. Over the past year, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced us all to start working from home, we have improved our processes enormously and where there were problems for participants, we have solved these as quickly as possible.”

Is the chance of errors really going to be less now?

The store is being renovated while sales continue. It seems like Covid-19 barely affected APG.

“The switch from office organization to home-based organization went smoothly. Operations - including paying pensions, collecting premiums, investing - were not compromised at any time. Pension fund clients, employers and participants hardly noticed that we supported or spoke to them from home instead of our offices. And in many cases, we are still doing that. I am very proud of that.


There is a lot of talk about APG’s role as a social player. How is APG going to fulfill that role in the next period?

“APG is a company, but it is really much more than that: as the biggest administrator, we play a certain role, but we never do this alone. If we do our job well in the coming years, other parties, such as funds, will want to collaborate with us and join forces with us. At the same time, I want to look beyond that: because with our knowledge and skills, we could mean a lot more for people and for society. Financial security affects your health, your wellbeing and your opportunities. Your pension is not a stand-alone thing. That is why I want to seek more connection with social partners, for example, around themes like health, financial education and poverty reduction. APG employees can actively contribute to that. Taking care of our environment means also taking care of the planet. We are investing with a view of the long term and in as responsible a way as possible. Our operations will be climate-neutral by 2030. That is why we are moving to a new, sustainable building at the end of the year. And we are working on a new mobility plan for all APG employees. We will be looking without any dogma at what is good for us and for our environment.”


Finally: what are you looking forward to most in 2021?

“Seeing coworkers again and being able to go back to the office. But I'm also looking forward to the steps we're going to take towards the new pension contract. That is really a very complex process. So, I hope that the politicians in The Hague will stick to the established timeline. I am still assuming that on January 1, 2026, all funds will have to make the transition, and we really need that time.”


View the Annual Report 2020 here. 


Read the interview with Ronald Wuijster, board member and person responsible for Asset Management and HR: “Selling from a sense of panic is never a good idea” - Ronald Wuijster on investing during a Covid year. 

Volgende publicatie:
Annual report 2020: Looking back at a special year

Annual report 2020: Looking back at a special year

Published on: 31 March 2021

Today, APG publishes its annual report for the year 2020. For APG, pensions are about people, life and living together. We want to make a difference and ensure a good income, now and later. Our 2020 annual report describes how we have worked on this in the past year; for eight pension funds, 22,000 employers and through them, for 4.7 million people in the Netherlands.

Key points for 2020:

  • Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the operation, including paying out pensions, collecting contributions and investing, was never jeopardized.
  • Customer satisfaction has grown again
  • We have given more people insight into their income for later and their pension assets
  • We have outperformed the market index, and the price per participant has again fallen. As such, we contributed to achieving more pension value for the members of the pension funds we work for
  • In 2020, together with the pension funds we work for, we started preparations for the transition to tomorrow's pension. Among other things, we have made progress in the fields of automation, innovation, streamlining of processes, simplifying and cleaning up the pension administration and further increasing the participant focus.

APG achieved a 6.6% return and an additional return of 94 basis points for its pension funds and their participants in 2020. At the same time, APG succeeded in lowering the average price per participant to € 66.30. Also, APG provided 1,015,000 participants with insight into pension assets and 1,965,000 participants with insight into income for later. APG's turnover in 2020 was more than € 762 million. The net result came to € 42 million. APG's reputation score rose to 72.6 in 2020.

View the full APG 2020 Annual Report here as pdf or visit our special website


Tomorrow, at you can read the interview with Annette Mosman (chairman of the APG Board of Directors) and Ronald Wuijster (member of the APG Board of Directors, responsible for Asset Management) about the annual report. 



Volgende publicatie:
“I’m convinced we can take on the competition”

“I’m convinced we can take on the competition”

Published on: 19 March 2021

Chairman of the Board, Annette Mosman talks on BNR about the new pension contract


Annette Mosman joined the BNR program Zakendoen (Doing Business) yesterday to talk about the introduction of the new pension contract (NPC), as well as the tight planning and the cost price per participant. APG’s investment policy also came up. One thing’s for sure: as pension administrator, APG needs to step up.


A hundred years of pension system is being overhauled: A huge reorganization. Moreover, as Mosman pointed out, we need to deliver a product in 2026, while we currently have no idea what this will look like. “In the meantime, we just have to get on and get ready for this.”

Certainty about the pension amount is making way for greater individual responsibility. However, as pensions are not really a topic that concerns most people, transparency and clear communications are more essential than ever, explained Mosman. We need a contract we can implement and justify. Certainly because there’s already a concern for that so-called unlucky generation - between 35 and 55 years - who won’t benefit from the old system but are confronted with commitments in the new one. The term ‘pension theft’ came up in this connection.

“It’s not pension theft; it’s more of a redistribution. There will still be a pension pot of some 1,800 billion but we’ll be distributing that across different generations. Those in political circles and employers’ and employees’ organizations - we are only the administrator - need to make sure that this continues to be fair on participants.”


Two variants

The law must be adopted on January 1, 2022. There are two variants: the new contract and the Improved Defined Contribution Scheme Act, which is arranged in a more individual way. It’s up to the funds and employers’ and employees’ organizations to make a choice. Mosman says, “As administrator we’re contributing ideas and making calculations. We work for eight funds and will be implementing both schemes. I think that the large funds will probably choose the new contract including the collective buffer.” This variant requires a lot of explanation to participants. “The other contract is simpler, which makes it cheaper. If you have a membership with small pensions, it’s perhaps a logical choice to go for the Improved Defined Contribution Scheme Act. Because the size of the pension is much more important than all the communications around this.”


Investing in Shell

The interview then focused on APG as large investor. Risk, return, costs and sustainability are criteria that APG considers when investing. “We’re about providing a good pension for everyone. Not only financially, but also in a sustainable world. We’ve made a conscious choice for engagement and inclusion and don’t only invest based on return considerations. By continuing to meet with Shell, we can also exert positive influence.”



“We have 100 years’ experience and 3,000 pension and investment experts in house.

And we’re really good administrators. So the more complex the system, the easier we can retain our competitive position. But when I think about the eight funds and the four-and-a-half million participants we work for, then all that complexity just undermines confidence in the new system.”

Capgemini, which has drafted the pension fund for the retail trade, claims that it will soon cost fifteen euro per participant in pension administration. Mosman: “We’re comparing apples to oranges here. You can compete on price, manage a simple pension pot and announce an amount to the participants. I’m not going to get into whether you can do that for fifteen euros. But I agree that our price needs to go down if the product becomes simpler. However, if you say that there needs to be more focus on income for later, you need to do something before it becomes a societal problem. Fortunately, our funds are of the opinion that participant communications, both during the transition and afterwards, are the top priority. And that’s included in the price.”


Listen to the entire broadcast here.

Volgende publicatie:
“Why wasn’t there a clearer choice between two different contracts?”

“Why wasn’t there a clearer choice between two different contracts?”

Published on: 11 February 2021

APG reacts to the Bill future of pensions

In 2026 the new pension system will start. Everybody who wanted to could react on the ‘Bill future pensions’ of Minister Koolmees until February 12 February. APG is one of the parties who had a reaction. The scope: the new system offers an opportunity to start with a clean slate and to make the Dutch pension system easier to understand for the participants. But to take away some of the disadvantages of the current system without losing the advantages for the participants, there are a number of points that deserve explicit attention.

APG head of Policy Peter Gortzak and strategic policy employee Tinka den Arend explain this.

APG is a pension provider and therefore has mostly reacted from that perspective. That reaction focuses on the main points of attention for a successful new system. ‘Taking away disadvantages of the current system without losing the advantages for participants’ is one of those. ‘Solidarity’, ‘freedom of choice’, and ‘open norms’ are also keywords. Gortzak: “The combination of much freedom of choice and solidarity creates a tension field. As a pension fund and provider, you must be able to take a certain measure of investment risk. But you can only take that risk in a responsible way if you do that together and therefore invest together. If you think it is more important to give your participants much freedom of choice in how there will be invested for their pension, then you can share fewer risks. And if there are fewer people to carry that risk, then you can also take less risk.”

Written towards each other
In the new system, two pension contracts are possible: the new pension contract and the improved premium agreement. In the improved premium agreement, there is less solidarity, more risk, and more freedom of choice. In the new contract, the participant runs less risk than in the improved premium agreement, because of the risk-sharing, as mentioned. However, from the bill, it appears that both contracts differ less from each other than what Gortzak and Den Arend had hoped for. Gortzak: “Now both contracts are written towards each other. Because of that, there is a threat that in the one contract there is not enough room for sharing of risks, and in the other contract not enough room for freedom of choice. The question is if that is wise. Why not choose much more explicitly for two completely different contracts?”

It is also important to offer sufficient wiggle room for the board of the fund. In the one hundred and sixty pages of the consultation document, it is indicated in twenty different places that further elaboration in the regulation is needed. Shouldn’t there be a new consultation around then as soon as that elaboration has taken place? Den Arend: “Indeed, partially you now don’t know exactly what you are reacting to. Actually, you should propose the whole thing again. But you can also waive that detailed elaboration and leave the details to the board members of the fund. Directors of pension funds are subjected to high standards nowadays. So, give them the responsibility and the space to move within certain norms and to be accountable for it.”

Den Arend illustrates the principle with an example. “The consultation document gives three criteria to measure the risk attitude of participants. But two of those are untested norms. We don’t know if the participants understand them and how they react to them. It would be better to do some research about that first. And then let the fund boards make the choice themselves. But even then that preparedness for risk with participants is just one of the factors that a fund board should base its policy on.“

Clean slate
No matter how important solidarity is for a good pension; you can hardly find that word in the consultation document. Gortzak and Den Arend find that worrisome. Den Arend: “In fact, you could call the new contract ‘the solidarity contract’. But it may not be called that because you could then draw the conclusion that the other contract is not solidary.”  
The faster and more direct the participants are taking advantage of the new system, the better it is. Therefore APG emphasizes in their reaction the importance of a clean slate. Gortzak: “In order to start with that clean slate, we plead for two things. First: make intercalation into it the standard option. That means that you carry over the existing pension agreements to the new system. If you don’t do that, then there will be two systems side by side. That is a nightmare for the execution, because then you have to do everything twice. The participants cannot take advantage of the advantages of the new system and you make them pay unnecessarily much. If you do intercalate, you are left with a single system for which you strive for maximum explainability for the participants.

The second thing that we plead for is that the rules of the new system apply for all new regulations of all types of pensions and coverages of risks – so including for the survivor’s pensions and the disability schemes. It now looks like the FTK (Financieel Toetsingskader [Financial Assessment Framework], part of the Pension Law in which the financial demands for pension funds have been recorded, red.) still remains intact for the payment phase of the improved premium regulation and possibly also for the disability pension and the orphan’s pension. APG pleads to not do that and to completely release the financial demands of the FTK.”

Blind faith
In order to make the transfer to the new system successful, that transfer must be ‘explainable, trustworthy and executable’, which is written in the reaction of APG. Den Arend: “In the bill, a framework is sketched to have the transition run carefully. For instance, steps to be taken, roles, and competencies. We can find ourselves for a large part in that proposition. But we still see a number of large risks. Trust can only arise if we can explain to participants, employers, and fund bodies that the transition will happen in a balanced way. For that, we need to use criteria and calculation methods that people understand. In order to transfer to the new system, you will have to convert pension agreements of participants according to capital – in fact, a pot of money. The methodology that is proposed now for that conversion should be scrapped from the law completely. It is too complex and not transparent enough. That makes it hardly possible to explain it. We need the trust of the participants very much. But if they don’t understand what it’s about, then you actually ask them to have blind faith. I think that is asking too much. On top of that, while using that methodology, there are many – debatable - suppositions.”

Are there any more risks? Den Arend: “Yes, because it remains to be seen if the funds and the providers can realize the new system on time. For a careful and well executable transition, additional measures are necessary.”


The complete reaction of APG on the consultation Bill future pensions.

Volgende publicatie:
“I wish all we had to process was the new contract”

“I wish all we had to process was the new contract”

Published on: 25 November 2020

Pension system reform requires drastic ICT operation


The Netherlands is on the eve of the largest-ever pension system reform in the world. That transition is causing quite a few headaches in the sector. One of the challenges is whether pension administrators’ existing ICT systems are suitable for this major change to the system. And if that is not the case, is there still enough time to set up a completely new ICT architecture?


To start with the pressing question: can the current systems be adapted to accommodate the new contract? According to Wim Henk Steenpoorte, who is responsible for the transition to the new system at APG, the two systems that APG is currently using are "very good systems in and of themselves, which are currently working just fine. Of course, you can see if you can modify existing systems, which is why we are now doing research into this. But because the character of the system is changing so fundamentally, I’m not ready to make any big claims that that route is the most sensible. That is why we are consciously looking broadly at different options: build it ourselves or buy or create it through an alliance.”


The fundamental change Steenpoorte is referring to concerns the transition within the Dutch pension system from defined benefit (DB) to defined contribution (DC). With a DB contract, the fund makes a promise about the amount of future pension benefits; in the case of a DC system, the participant knows what he or she is investing, but has less certainty about the amount of the pension payments.


According to Steenpoorte, what makes this ICT issue so difficult is that the administration of a pension contract becomes increasingly complicated over time. "They are contracts that store an enormous history. Changes are made every year. People get married or divorced, for example, and all those lifetime events have a major impact on the administration of their pension. This accumulation of changes makes administration intrinsically more and more complicated.”


A lot of pressure

In addition, apart from the two variants of the new pension contract, a number of other legislative changes already need to be implemented in the ICT systems. "I wish all we had to process was the new pension contract in whichever variant a fund chooses. But there is already a lot of pressure due to the bill on pension equalization, regarding divorce, lump-sum payment, standardization of survivor's pension, standardization of the partner concept, experimenting with legislation on pensions for the self-employed and evaluating communications regarding pensions. What we really want to avoid is having to make all these changes twice; once in the current system and once in the new system," says Steenpoorte. In any case, it going to be a very busy time for the people working on our current systems.


Speed required
He doesn't have to think long about what the ideal circumstances would be to make the transition go smoothly. "To begin with, speed up the process of arriving at new legislation. It has now been promised that this will be completed in December 2021, and in order to achieve this there cannot be any obstacles. But it is imperative for the decision-making process at the level of social partners and pension funds. Secondly, everyone would benefit from clarity regarding the process in which funds choose their options – with respect to the form of the contract, but also, for example, about the design of the solidarity reserve. The third requirement for a workable transition, is the conditions that are imposed on the integration (transferring participants’ pension entitlements from the old system to the new system, ed.).

That integration is going to be a complex job to begin with, but if there is also going to be an option to make individual objections, that is going to really complicate things. That also applies to retroactive changes. For a DC contract, that is almost impossible to do. Suppose, for example, a year’s worth of pension premium is invested retroactively. That premium can then no longer be invested in the financial markets of a year ago, but the participant is entitled to any returns achieved during that year. How are you going to solve that? Because we can only process changes on the day they are reported to the fund and the administrator; the so-called timeliness principle.”


There is also a possible scenario in which there is no integration. "All participants would then receive two pension contracts, one for the old system and one for the new one. Changes would then have to be processed in both the old and the new system. When there are questions from participants, the two systems would both have to be examined to find an answer,” Steenpoorte says.


Will APG be able to deal with this? Steenpoorte: "We are imagining every scenario, and ultimately, there is a solution for everything. But this would really be a nightmare - for funds and their participants, and for APG.”

Volgende publicatie:
Developers of new pension platform APG will continue independently

Developers of new pension platform APG will continue independently

Published on: 3 September 2020

APG will position a team of platform developers independently. The team, with ten employees, will continue under the name Hyfen. Hyfen is a spin-off from APG in wich the Belgian IT provider The Glue has acquired a majority share. APG remains involved as a shareholder and client.


In recent years, Hyfen has built a platform to connect administrations of parties in the pension sector. Previously complex and cross-business processes can be organized more efficiently and more customer-friendly with the help of the platform.


Hidde Terpoorten, director of Hyfen: “The first product we’re launching is Currently, the platform is being connected and taken into use with the first customers. Later this year the public go-live will follow in cooperation with the Dutch pension sector. Arranging a pension value transfer is a complicated and time-consuming affair for participants. This will change with the solution developed by Hyfen. By cooperating with four large pension providers, it will soon be possible to arrange a value transfer for members online simply and quickly.”


Gerard van Olphen, Chairman of the Executive Board of the APG Group: “By positioning Hyfen remotely, our pension fund clients and their participants continue to benefit from the knowledge and skills of these professionals - while at the same time giving other pension funds and participants access to their innovative services. I am convinced that Hidde and his team will be successful and look forward to further cooperation with pleasure and confidence.”


In addition to APG as shareholder and customer, the Belgian full-service IT provider The Glue joined the spin-off as a majority shareholder. The Glue is part of a big FinTech ecosystem and has extensive project and IT experience in the financial sector.


The Glue CEO Paul Grimbers: “Much remains to be done on the European playing field of pension service providers. By joining forces and focusing on the creation of platforms with innovative data exchange, we want to deliver added value in this domain.”


With the new set-up, Hyfen will be given the space to provide independent services to the pension sector and its participants and to use the accumulated knowledge for other processes within and outside the pension sector. Future possibilities are explored together with the consortium.

Volgende publicatie:
The quality of pension administration needs to go from Premier League to Champions League

The quality of pension administration needs to go from Premier League to Champions League

Published on: 20 April 2020

‘If the basis isn’t in order, you lose people’s trust’


APG can look back over a financially strong year. But some things also went wrong due to mistakes in the pension administration. The bar must be raised, say Chairman Gerard van Olphen and CFRO Annette Mosman. But first it’s all hands on deck to deal with the consequences of the coronavirus crisis.


Even APG’s Executive Board is working from home on account of the coronavirus crisis. Just like nearly all the three thousand other employees who now work from their dining tables or their attics to look after the pensions of 4.7 million participants (nearly a third of the Dutch population) for the eight affiliated pension funds including ABP, bpfBOUW and SPW. Pleased that the switch to working from home has gone so smoothly, Gerard van Olphen and Annette Mosman - responsible for finance, risk management and data - look back via video call over the first few weeks.

As a result of the coronavirus crisis everything that came before suddenly seems far removed. And yet it’s worth pausing to look back at 2019. It was a strong year for APG: pension values were further increased by good financial results, a fine return on investment and lower costs. But there were challenges too: for example APG as an investor slightly underperformed the market average, a few things went wrong with pension administration, and APG has some work to do to catch up in terms of making its own corporate management sustainable. So this year too there’s plenty of work to be done.


First of all, the coronavirus crisis: how is APG dealing with it?


Gerard: ‘First of all we're taking good care of our employees, both in the Netherlands and in Hong Kong and New York. We’re supporting people maximally in working from home and we’re paying extra attention to internal communication. We also understand and pay attention to the difficult situation that some colleagues are currently in, such as combining work with taking care of their child, informal care or other situations. We also pay special attention to the health of our people. We’re also offering our help externally. Employees with a background in care can be placed with hospitals on full pay. On behalf of the funds we have also made student accommodation that we own or rent available as emergency hospitals, and we are supporting hospitals in the North of Italy in which we invest. Furthermore we have invested nearly ninety million euros in corona bonds for our clients: the funds raised are used to combat the pandemic and its socio-economic consequences. In consultation with the affiliated funds we are also adopting an accommodating stance with companies in problem sectors with regard to possible reductions or holidays in contributions or dividends.’


Many people in the Netherlands are afraid their pensions will be reduced.


Gerard: ‘Well, we’re certainly not going to reduce them during the year. At the end of the year we will look and see whether that is necessary. In the first quarter of 2020 the coverage ratios of the pension funds fell as a result of falling stock prices and turbulent financial markets, but for any decision to reduce pensions we do not look at the current situation.’

Annette: ‘Pension is uncertain and subject to numerous influences that we explain to participants as best we can. So we can’t take away the growing uncertainty about future pensions, but we will see to it that monthly pension payments continue normally even in these uncertain times. People can count on their income just as always, and that contributes to peace and confidence in society.’

How do you look back at 2019?


Annette: ‘Financially it was a good year. First of all we sold our insurance company Loyalis in order to concentrate on our core activities. As a result we were able to pay a super dividend to the affiliated funds, which will largely end up in participants’ pensions. At the same time total revenues increased and we managed to reduce costs. In this way we maximize pension value and make sure that as big a proportion as possible of each euro paid in works to the benefit of the participants. It also enables us to invest more in communication with participants and employers, for which we have set up a new business unit.’


Not everything went well last year: for example there was negative publicity about errors in the pension administration.


Gerard: ‘Yes, there were a number of things that we simply didn’t do right. For example, at the beginning of last year, it was discovered that over 500 ABP participants had for years been receiving a partner supplement to which they were not entitled. In some cases people were suddenly asked to pay back thousands of euros. We came in for a lot of criticism over this. We hadn’t fully realized what an impact this would have on participants and hadn’t properly thought about an equitable solution. In the end, ABP called a halt to the demands for reimbursement and gave back the money that had been reimbursed. Conversely some 600 participants had received too little supplement; they have since been paid with retroactive effect. And then we found out that there were 16,000 people who hadn’t applied for disability pension because they didn’t know they were entitled to it. We immediately contacted these people to tell them how they could apply for this pension.’


Shouldn’t APG have opened up sooner about the mistakes and how they were dealt with? Participants had to take them to TV consumer programs like ‘Kassa’ and ‘Meldpunt’.


Annette: ‘The affiliated pension funds are the interface and the point of contact for the participant. So we must be more transparent toward the pension funds concerned about mistakes, problems with data and the possible solutions to them. If they’re informed in good time that something has gone wrong, they can pro-actively communicate with their participants and seek solutions. This would partly avoid problems ending up on Kassa.’

Gerard: ‘The annoying thing is that when we do something wrong, it’s the fund concerned that has to face the music. As administrator, we can’t take part in Kassa ourselves, much as we might like to take responsibility. For example, there was one couple on Kassa who had received three letters with corrections in two years. That damages credibility. It’s only natural that people then start to wonder about reliability and competence in general. It’s a struggle. This year we really need to pull our socks up and improve our quality.’


What specifically are you doing to prevent these kinds of incidents in the future?


Annette: ‘We learn from them. Together with the pension funds we’ve set to work determinedly on further simplifying pension regulations, systems and application procedures and we're busy with data cleansing and verification. We’re making employees aware that the bar’s been raised and we’re making use of new technology to be able to take the next step.’

Gerard: ‘The basis must be in order. Because if the pension administration is not right, you lose people’s trust, however much you might invest in communication with participants. With the new pension contract the bar will soon be raised even higher: all data will have to be correct and complete and seamlessly dovetailing with the data of the UWV (Employee Insurance Agency) and the National Insurance and Pension Agency. So we really need to work our way up from Premier League to Champions League.’


In view of the current crisis, does it still make sense to agree on a new pension contract that shifts the risk more toward the participant?


Gerard: ‘We’re going from a pension guarantee to a pension ambition: an estimate of future returns. The old system is no longer sustainable, but in the new system as far as we're concerned three principles remain unchanged: collectivity, solidarity between generations and an obligation to save for later. The coronavirus crisis does make it all the more urgent to cut through knots in the debate about the new pension contract. APG is actively thinking about this. We are working out how various scenarios would be, suggesting alternatives and looking at the specific implications for participants and employers, with the emphasis on comprehensibility and feasibility.’

Annette: ‘We also want to help people now to think about their future financial situation and making the right choices in good time. With this in mind, we’ve developed Clear Overview & Insight, with which you can compare your expected pension with your current pattern of income and expenditure and see whether you're going to have enough. APG aims to present itself as a trusted guide, offering people insight into their income now, in the near future and later.’


APG also positions itself as a responsible investor, and makes demands of its investees in terms of sustainability. However APG itself seems not yet to be meeting these demands overall. How are you going to change this?


Gerard: ‘The affiliated funds, particularly ABP, but also bpfBOUW, aim to be global forerunners in sustainability policy: responsible conduct in the areas of environment, working conditions, diversity and human rights. Together we have established firm ambitions which are aligned with the Climate Agreement, for example for CO2 emissions of the equity portfolio. We take account of these in our investment decisions and we talk to investee companies about them. But this of course implies that we must also set a good example, and that's where we still fall short. Our CO2 emissions as an organization are relatively high, from our establishments in the Netherlands, Asia and the US and because we travel a lot. We’re looking now at how we can reduce our environmental footprint, for example by making our offices more sustainable, more videoconferencing and thus less travel between establishments and for our work.’

Annette: ‘We aim to be transparent about our sustainability performance too, both as regards the investment policy pursued on behalf of the funds and in our own business management. This year we’ve taken the first step toward integrated reporting: one annual report in which we render account of progress toward both financial and non-financial objectives. That’s actually quite difficult. For example, before you can report properly on sustainability, you first have to know what goals you want to make measurable and to what extent. That’s what we're busy with now, so that next year we’ll be able to show what we’ve achieved across the entire breadth of our business, what’s going well and anything that still isn’t. There are many benefits to be derived from this. This transparency can also contribute to society’s confidence in us.’

Read the interview with Ronald Wuijster: ‘In both our investment and our remuneration decisions we look to the long term’


Read APG’s Annual Report 2019 here.

Volgende publicatie:
APG at retirement conference: blockchain and dinosaurs

APG at retirement conference: blockchain and dinosaurs

Published on: 7 June 2018

Unfortunately, this article is not available in Dutch.

Volgende publicatie:
Looking back at a successful Blockchain conference

Looking back at a successful Blockchain conference

Published on: 16 February 2018

On February 8th, APG & PGGM hosted the ‘Future of Pensions Blockchain Conference’ at Pakhuis West in Amsterdam. APG and PGGM decided back in 2015 to work together on several blockchain-based experiments to explore if they could improve the pension administration and industry as a whole. On this specific day, for the first time in public, they showed the results achieved.


Theo van Kessel (Director Business Improvement & Change at APG] & Peter Bannink (Manager Outsourcing & Innovation at PGGM) opened with a Q&A discussing the challenges faced in pensions and the challenges that face APG/PGGM today and in the future. The two well-known names in the industry set the tone for the day: “change and innovation is needed to stay ahead of the game.” Thereby the opening was a perfect introduction to what was next: four demos of the prototypes that are built so far. Two international speakers were invited to talk about decentralised asset management and how to solve issues around exchanging/curating data. TNO was next up discussing the opportunities and challenges when it comes to smart (pension) contracts. 


The day ended with a fantastic panel moderated by Hidde Terpoorten (Blockchain Lead at APG) discussing the future of blockchain in pensions, with Sandra van Heukelom (Lawyer and Partner at Pels Rijcken), Marjolijn Pouw (Innovation Manager at PGGM), Rutger van Zuidam (Founder at Dutchchain & Blockchaingers), and Fieke van der Lecq (Professor of Pension Markets at VU). The panel concluded that we shouldn’t stop at challenges, but rather explore the opportunities of this new technology and don’t be afraid of making a wrong step once in a while. This was also reflected in the forecasts for how long it will take for the first blockchain application to ‘go live’ in the pension industry, where 3 years was the furthest away guess. Thus, the panel ended the first edition of the conference with a clear message to the audience: 


‘There’s a lot to figure out still, but lets explore the future of pensions together!’


APG & PGGM look back at a very successful day in which they could show their progress and connect with the blockchain ecosystem. 

Volgende publicatie:
APG and PGGM develop a blockchain application for pension administration

APG and PGGM develop a blockchain application for pension administration

Published on: 12 October 2017

APG and PGGM have successfully completed the first phase of a joint experiment involving the development of a pension administration blockchain application. The two pension administration organizations will now be conducting further research with this prototype. Over time, the continued development of this prototype will produce a more flexible and transparent pension administration system at considerably lower costs.


Wim Henk Steenpoorte, member of the APG’s Executive Board: "We aim to create the maximum possible value for pension funds and their participants. By investing in smart applications, such as blockchain, we make our pension administration simpler and cheaper over time. This is good news for pension funds and their participants. We are pleased to be able to facilitate this development and partnership at the Smart Services Campus in Heerlen."


Paul Boomkamp, member of PGGM's Executive Board: "With this experiment we are building the pension infrastructure of tomorrow for our clients and their participants. It is an important step that we are able to take with the support of our largest client, PFZW. The first results make us excited and curious to learn and explore even more. Ultimately, this experiment has to show that blockchain technology has the potential to manage a policy administration at lower rates.. It is an excellent development that two of the largest pension administration organizations are joining forces to work on this kind of innovation."


Pension Administration Blockchain Application

The expectation is that blockchain technology has the potential for significantly improving the services pension funds provide to their participants. A key objective is to lower participant costs and to simplify pension administration, and make it more secure. In addition, the personal pension data will be become more accessible to participants.


The developed prototype is comparable to a pension administration system shared by all parties. This is controlled by means of so-called smart contracts. This is a set of a programmable rules that specify who can view, change, and use the data.

The use of blockchain technology makes it possible to store pension information in the nodes of the blockchain network. These nodes are points in the network and consist of, for example, pension providers, employers, and regulators. The nodes check the information, execute the programmed pension contracts, and synchronize with each other. This makes the storage of pension information secure and participants—at the push of a button—can see how much pension they have accrued.


Next Phase

The first results are very promising and at the same time, there is still much to learn about blockchain and the opportunities for pensions. In the coming period PGGM and APG therefore will continue the blockchain project. For this experiment are talks are held with various parties in the pension chain such as pension funds, regulators and information providers.

Together with PPF APG, the company pension fund of APG, a test case is developed in which the administration of the fund is implemented in blockchain. This fits the strategy of the fund for an efficient pension implementation.

Volgende publicatie:
Pension fund for practices of architects selects APG as its new pension provider

APG new pension provider for pPension fund for practices of architects

Published on: 30 March 2017

Efforts to prepare a seamless transition will be undertaken in the coming period. The administration and implementation of the pension scheme will be actually transferred to APG as of January 1, 2018. The agreement between the two parties will extend to 2023, with the option of renewal.


APG will ensure correct administration of pension rights, collection of pension contributions, and payment of retirement benefits for the PFA.


Willem Jan Boot, chairman of the board of PFA: “After a careful process, APG emerged to be the best pension provider. We feel that APG is a future-proof party and believe it is the party that can best service our participants and employers.”


Gerard van Olphen, Chairman of APG’s Executive Board said: “We are pleased that PFA has chosen APG. We would like to thank PFA’s board for their confidence in us. We will pull out all the stops in the coming period to ensure a smooth transition, so that we can provide optimal service to both the pension fund and the individual participants from January 1, 2018.”

Volgende publicatie:
Life Sight partly because APG Inadmin daughter, now also for smaller employers

Life Sight partly because APG Inadmin daughter, now also for smaller employers

Published on: 11 September 2016

By partnering with APG-daughter Inadmin is the product of Life Sight (formerly Towers Watson PPI) also within reach of smaller businesses. Life Sight piggybacks on the scale that APG provides Inadmin daughter. Annemiek Vollenbroek, director of Life Sight and Inadmin director Rik Douwes talk about their collaboration in Life Magazine Sight on 12 September.


Independent and open platform

"Last year we started to orient ourselves to a new administrator. Two criteria were top of the list of the Life Oversight Board. The administrator must be independent and provide an open platform. "Our principle is that we work together with independent parties, 'says Vollenbroek. Inadmin performs as APG daughter pension, investment and insurance administration of defined contribution (= Defined contribution, DC) for Premium Pension Institutions (PPIs), (corporate) pension funds, asset managers and insurers.


Good track record of flawless execution

The second requirement was that the contractor should be able to run the product of Life Sight immaculate and so had to have a good track record. Vollenbroek "That makes sense, but requires a lot of a performer because we have a unique concept. With us NextGenDC-investment concept, the participant will receive an investment mix that is tailored to their personal preferences and situation. That vary from employee to employee. Furthermore, the investment is in line with the investment horizon of the participant and takes into account the need to purchase a lifetime benefit to the effective date (investment purchase price oriented). Moreover, let us see what the net pension participant about expect. At that amount, we take account of inflation so that the participant will get a realistic view of his retirement income relative to its current income. "

Through the combination of these two requirements Life Sight quickly came off at Inadmin. That's not to say Life Sight board on thin ice is gone. "We have also looked at some foreign parties and examine whether Willis Towers Watson could do the performance itself. Moreover, we have asked for a second opinion to make sure we had seen no possibilities overlooked, "says Vollenbroek.


Lower costs through scale

Discussions on cooperation were initiated late last year. "The range of first contact to contract usually lasts for a year," says Rik Douwes, director of Inadmin. In the coming months the administration of Life Sight is about to Inadmin.

"We are very pleased with Sight Life as a customer," said Douwes, who founded earlier mortgage servicer Stater. "We are a subsidiary of APG and focus on others. We specialize in defined contribution. We only do the administration and communication, no other issues such as management support and asset management. The administration is not the most exciting part of a product, but should be good. It is a hygiënefactor.'

Inadmin work for multiple clients, who benefit from the economies of scale to lower costs. "This allows us to broaden our audience," says Vollenbroek. "Initially we focused only on larger companies. From now on, our product is also available for companies over 100 employees. "


Vollenbroek stresses the importance of a good performer. "The participant and the employer perceived the administration along with communication as the core of the product. I expect that the strength of our product through collaboration with Inadmin more will come forward. "

The power of Life Sight is the combination of communication and the way in which investments are tailored to the participants. "We are under staffing standard (default) lifecycle that fits that population," Vollenbroek explains. "Those default varies by company and by individual. That is unique. Other PPIs usually works with some variations of a lifecycle. "

The next step is the investment per participant. To give a good insight automated, a participant must answer some questions. "We do not want to bother participants with complicated questions about investing. Experience shows that they drop out. Therefore, we ask for the desired retirement income. Participants will issue examples of people with similar income 'says Vollenbroek. To determine the risk appetite, participants are asked how much income they need at least after retirement.

On the basis of the answers shall Life Sight uses algorithms to provide an optimal individual lifecycle fixed for the participant. "We expect thousands of scenarios and then select the scenario with the highest probability of the desired retirement given its risk posture. In this way we relieve the employer. Which need not concern themselves with individual pensions. "

By Investing

Vollenbroek and Douwes expect the automated solution is further refined. 'How more data we have, the better to provide insight. If we know more about for example the ability and the mortgage goes more towards personal financial planning. Then we can offer the participant an insight to change the mix or pour in as needed to reach his retirement goal, "says Vollenbroek.

For the foreseeable future Life Sight sees through investing after retirement as an important development. "PPIs now also get the opportunity to play a role in the distribution phase. This has major consequences, 'says Vollenbroek. Participants must make choices earlier example. In that case also we want to keep it simple communication. "

On improvements to the PPI product Sight and Life Inadmin produce continuously. "Good cooperation is necessary to adapt products on time," says Vollenbroek. "We are very satisfied with the cooperation. If Inadmin promises something, it comes true. If something can not, let us know in due time. Moreover, we have set up a governance model with a high contact frequency. This contributes to the good cooperation."


Read more:

Volgende publicatie:
APG invests in innovative technology, including blockchain

APG invests in innovative technology, including blockchain

Published on: 11 July 2016

APG is to work alongside other companies and knowledge institutions on practical applications of blockchain, artificial intelligence, and technology which contributes to reducing carbon emissions. APG will be earmarking a significant part of its innovation budget for this in the coming years. Developments in these fields are advancing at lightning speeds, and hold great promise for society. The insights and experiences acquired along the way will contribute to further improvements in APG’s operational management. The projects will be conducted on the Brightlands Smart Services Campus in Heerlen.


Gerard van Olphen, APG CEO: “Blockchain’s inherent promise, artificial intelligence and the effects of climate change will all exercise significant influence on the future of APG, the commercial world and society. By investing substantially now in such technical innovations, entering into partnerships with companies, start-ups and knowledge institutions, APG is contributing to the strength, synergy and speed needed for the Netherlands soon to be a leading player. Participants in affiliated pension funds will also benefit from this. So I am extremely proud that we are taking a first step in this direction here today.”


APG has put together a special team for the execution and supervision, led by Joep Beukers, Director of Innovation at APG. This team will ensure that smart applications will be developed on the campus for a range of sectors, in line with the chosen spearheads. For blockchain, this will include applications for the financial sector, logistics, the property sector and the medical field. The aspiration is to evolve into the European breeding ground for blockchain applications. A variety of companies will collaborate, making a contribution to the center. Research and study programs of several scientific institutions will also be used, including Dutch knowledge institution TNO and BISS (the Business Intelligence & Smart Services Institute). Finally, start-ups and scale-ups will be recruited, with a range of facilities being made available to them on-campus. This aspiration and working method also applies to applications involving artificial intelligence and climate solutions.


Consultations have taken place on the spearheads, among others with the Fintech representative in the Dutch cabinet, Willem Vermeend, who believes these innovations are vitally important for the Netherlands’ smart industry and the country’s financial sector. From his position as Endowed Professor of Smart Industry at the Open University in Heerlen, he will take on chairmanship of the project’s advisory and program board.

Volgende publicatie:
Towers Watson PPI and Inadmin sign cooperation agreement

Towers Watson PPI and Inadmin sign cooperation agreement

Published on: 18 April 2016

Towers Watson Foundation PPI and Inadmin S.A. will cooperate with each other with the aim that Inadmin will carry the pension on behalf of the Foundation. Inadmin now serves four out of 11 PPI in the Netherlands.


Optimal administration for a distinctive pension product

Ton Stores, Director at Towers Watson PPI: "Towers Watson PPI stands for professionalism and is one of the few independent market players to select the flexibility and the possibility of other partners in order to keep the quality of our service to clients at level. To keep good employees and employers insight into the exploit personal situation and the potential contribution scheme of a new generation, we will cooperate with Inadmin.


Fourth PPI shows confidence in open platform philosophy for pension

Rik Douwes, Managing Director of Inadmin "Foundation PPI Towers Watson is a leading player and I am therefore particularly pleased that they are going to work with us. This underlines the great strides we have made in the development of the investment administration. Towers Watson is the fourth PPI who believe in our open platform philosophy. Pension as PPIs, (corporate) pension funds, asset managers and insurers are so able in a short time-to-market to offer their products on the pension market without investing in their own infrastructure."

Volgende publicatie:
Pension Fund for Housing Associations extends contract with APG

Pension Fund for Housing Associations extends contract with APG

Published on: 14 March 2016

APG remains Pension Fund for Housing Corporation (SPW) provide asset management, pension administration and communication. 2016 per sector pension SPW has extended the contract with APG indefinitely.


Services for SPW

APG manages and invests SPW pension assets of over € 10 billion. In addition, APG ensures the proper administration of pension collection of premiums and payment of retirement benefits. Furthermore, APG is responsible for communication with (former) participants and pensioners of SPW. Finally APG advises the Board of SPW in the field of communications, legal and actuarial matters.


“High customer satisfaction”

Both SPW and APG are positive about the cooperation in recent Pension Fund for Housing Associations extends contract with APG years and looking with confidence to the future. The focus remains on further increasing the quality of service and reduce costs.

Jim Schuyt, CEO at SPW: "We are satisfied with the cooperation with APG. Besides a good investment result is at APG too much knowledge accumulated over our industry. Moreover, the communication is excellent. This results in high customer satisfaction among affiliated employers and participants."

Mark Boerkamp, Chief Operations Officer at APG: "We are obviously very pleased with this contract extension. In recent years we have worked hard to improve the service to SPW and its participants. At the same time we have managed to reduce costs. The coming years we will continue on this path."


Second contract extension APG quickly

The new agreement with APG SPW is the second contract extension in 2016. APG made earlier this year that the contract with Stichting Pensioenfonds Medical Specialists (SPMS) has been extended until 2021. Thus knows the pension provider in a short time both an industry and a professional pension fund longer bind.

Volgende publicatie:
Stichting Pensioenfonds Medisch Specialisten extends contract with APG

Stichting Pensioenfonds Medisch Specialisten extends contract with APG

Published on: 15 February 2016

With invested assets of €9 billion, SPMS is one of the 20 leading pension funds in the Netherlands. The pension fund has been affiliated to APG since 2011. APG administrates pension rights, collects contributions and makes pension payments on behalf of SPMS. APG is also responsible for communication with SPMS’ participants. Finally, APG advises the board of SPMS on communication, legal and actuarial matters.


Micon Bijl, cardiologist and chairman of the SPMS board: “SPMS is satisfied with the services provided by APG. Everything that we, as an occupational pension fund, laid down as a condition for a possible contract extension have been met. The board has therefore decided to extend the contract with APG until January 1, 2021.”


Mark Boerekamp, Chief Operations Officer at APG: “We have worked hard during the past few years to integrate the pension administration and bring the standard of services to the required quality level for SPMS. We are proud that SPMS is confirming its trust in APG and its workforce through this contract extension.”