What will 2021 bring in economic and political terms? What will happen with the new pension contract? And with which innovations does APG respond to this? Five APG specialists tell us about their anticipations.
When the lockdown is over, you don't suddenly go to the hairdresser three times in a row"
"I assume the economy will do better in 2021 than it did in 2020. But I do keep my options open. How often will the lockdown be extended? What is the impact of the coronavirus mutants? How smoothly does the vaccination process go? There's still a lot of uncertainty. If everything goes well and we get the virus under control quickly, there's a bigger chance that governments will phase out the support measures and companies will still have to pay tax. Which in turn can lead to a wave of bankruptcies and rising unemployment.
Sentiment in the stock markets is still surprisingly good, helped by the low interest rates and the intervention of governments and central banks. Even though entire sectors were paralyzed by the lockdowns. But those stock prices don't tell the whole story. Don't forget, SMEs and freelancers aren't listed.
It's not just the stock prices that can go either way, the same goes for consumer spending. On the one hand, many permanent employees have been able to spend little money since corona; perhaps they'll start spending a lot again as soon as the shops and the catering industry reopen. But then again, that catch-up demand will be limited: you don't suddenly go to the hairdresser three times in a row. Or eat out every day. On the other hand, some people are financially stuck or keep a tight hand on the purse strings because of all the uncertainty.
Hopefully, once most people are vaccinated, consumers and businesses alike will start spending more on major purchases or investments over the course of this year. Then the global economy will gather steam again. And we may even get to a point where inflation temporarily rises due to bottlenecks. But interest rate hikes by central banks are really still a thing of the future. On the positive side, gone are drawn-out problems like Brexit, and the question of who will be the next US president. I expect a positive stimulus for global climate policy from Biden."
This year, we'll investigate how high or how stable people want their pension to be"
"There is quite broad political support for the Pension Agreement. In addition to the coalition parties, Groen Links, PvdA and SGP were also in favor. So whatever the composition of the new government, that new pension system will most likely come. Despite the fact that political parties - now that the Rutte III government is outgoing - are no longer bound by the coalition agreement.
Several important milestones towards the new Pension System are planned for this year. For example, anyone can now respond online to the "future pensions bill". This consultation round will run until February 12th. This bill is part of the broader Pension Agreement. It includes the new rules for the pension accrued by the employee and employer. The responses from this Internet consultation will be used to improve the bill so that the law can take effect in 2022, as soon as the House of Representatives and the Senate have approved. After that, the social partners and pension providers have until 2026 to switch to the new system.
The pension sector hopes to receive details about the new pension system and how to get there as soon as possible. At APG, we will of course see whether the system can be explained and implemented. We also look at possible implementation risks and the best way to deal with them. In the new system, the pension will be more directly in line with what is happening on the financial markets. This year, we'll be investigating what people think of this, and "how high versus how stable" they want their pension to be. We want to facilitate pension funds to meet the wishes of pensioners and employees as closely as possible. That's why we'll be discussing this with them this year. I think the great thing is that the new system is becoming simpler and easier to explain.
APG is going to collaborate more with other companies, because together, you really do know more"
With the arrival of the new pension system, a lot will change for employees and pensioners. They will have their own pension account into which the pension premium will be paid. You save for yourself, see the fluctuations in your own pension fund. A complicated change. We have to divide the total assets of over 1500 billion euros fairly over millions of personal pension assets. The new pension scheme will be less complex and easier to understand, but getting there still throws up many obstacles. Things like adjusting ICT systems, legal issues, you name it. Fortunately, we still have a few years.
All pension players have to deal with this. That's why APG is increasingly collaborating with pension funds and other pension providers, such as PGGM and MN Services. Not only to collect premiums together and to pay out pensions, but also to learn from each other and save costs. And to find out how we can best communicate with our participants about the coming changes.
In the coming years, people will have plenty of questions about their financial future. They are increasingly in need of a guide to help them with user-friendly solutions and tailor-made advice. Who gives them control over all their financial affairs and prepares workers well for the transition to retirement, for example.
To be able to work in a more customer-oriented way, we want to collaborate more in the coming years with specialized companies with whom we can develop apps, devise new ICT solutions or use data more intelligently, for example. Such as a digital planner that gives you an instant overview of your financial future. Together with other companies, from startups to Nibud, we want to ensure that, as a working or retired person, you can use all kinds of data to see, for example, how much money you will need later on for any desired standard of living. Reasoning from your current lifestyle. We know from research that employees often overestimate how much money they really need later on.
Thanks to cloud technology, we're increasingly able to get the most out of our data"
Innovation specialists Tom Romanowski and Anne-Marie le Doux about innovations and APG's innovation lab.
Tom Romanowski: "Under the new pension contract, every participant will soon have their own, personal pension. This is in line with the social trend towards more individualization. The sector is facing the necessary challenges.
Pension administrators such as APG are now working on all kinds of innovations. And technology continues to increase the possibilities. For example, thanks to cloud technology, we can get the most out of our data in a secure way, without this being at the expense of the privacy of participants. For instance, machine learning helps call center employees so that they can better predict the participants' follow-up questions.
Participants will be given more responsibility and will need advice when making financial decisions. Partly for this reason, APG has already launched Kandoor.nl, where you can get answers on all conceivable financial questions."
Anne-Marie le Doux: "We come up with these kinds of innovative solutions in the GroeiFabriek, APG's innovation lab. In this breeding ground, we focus not only on participants and pensioners, but also on employers and the pension funds that are customers of APG. Employers, for example, they want to know how they can help their employees to be better off financially. Together with a number of employers, we've developed an online platform that enables employees to learn more about their 'financial fitness score' and help them set realistic goals to improve them. And this year, we're also working on innovations that enable employers to make better HR decisions."
Voice machines, facial recognition and predicting questions
Times are changing and pensions change along with it. While the pension system is radically revolutionized, the developments in service provision are also moving on. What is the role of innovation in this process?
Chris Veerkamp of the GroeiFabriek, the ‘breeding ground’ of APG, elaborates on the way in which they help pension participants move forward by using advanced technologies.
Pension participants living abroad, every year have to prove they are still alive. These days, they sometimes have to go to the embassy in order to fulfil that process where they have to identify themselves and are given a signed form that has to be sent to the pension fund. Time-consuming and cumbersome. There had to be an easier way to accomplish this, APG suspected, and the GroeiFabriek and a team from the organization came up with a solution. That solution was an app pension participants are able to use to identify themselves by means of facial recognition. An experiment with this solution turned out to be a success and is now being implemented within APG.
“A small solution with a major effect for that target group”, says Chris Veerkamp, one of the three Business Innovation Managers within the GroeiFabriek. In that position, Veerkamp is responsible for inventing several solutions for both pension participants and employers. “We always start with a problem experienced by the target group. What is the best solution for that problem? We explore new and innovative ways to, for example, improve the service provision and customer satisfaction. It all starts with an idea, after which we investigate during a period of experiment whether it is feasible and what we need to execute that idea in concrete terms.”
The GroeiFabriek tries to improve the service provision in smart ways. Of an entirely different nature is the deployment of a voice machine the GroeiFabriek is working on right now. That voice machine has to enable APG to develop new solutions with voice control. An example could be for pension participants to be able to ask questions to their smart speaker (like a Google Home) instead of to an agent of the customer service. Such device can also be implemented at employers, if they want to know for instance how many of their employees will retire in the next five years. Instead of wrestling through all kinds of reports, an employer only has to ask the question to the device after which a response is given immediately.
“We make ideas concrete, one step at a time,” Veerkamp says. “We continuously ask: Is this possible, does that fit, is that working? We constantly check whether we are still on the right track and always with the target group: Is this what we want to solve, is this the way we want to do it, do you think that’s fitting? Would that help you? And are we able, as APG, to execute this? If the answer to one of those questions is No, we stop.” As with all experiments, not all of them are successful. There once was an idea for a dating app to combat loneliness amongst the elderly, but that idea never took root. The idea to let people get used to pension savings by saving small amounts at daily purchases, was also parked after an initial phase. “If you are dealing with innovation, you must experiment as much as possible and also hear from our target group as soon as possible that you are doing the wrong thing. That may sound strange, but that is how you learn. If a solution appears not to be fitting or feasible, you just have to stop.”
Once a project is completed - whether or not successful - the GroeiFabriek proceeds to yet another possible solution. Another experiment that is now conducted involves the call center. “Based on all data gathered from the conversations held, there is a smart way to make connections with algorithms”, Veerkamp explains. “This results in us being able to predict what someone’s next question will be. Call center agents are now shown a tool stating what a customer is likely to ask. Then they are prepared for it and provide better assistance to the customer.”
The GroeiFabriek also collaborates quite often with third parties, such as universities and colleges, says Veerkamp. “By doing things together with others, you gain new insights and obtain different knowledge. That sometimes works better than doing it yourself and on your own.”
The new pension system also brings new challenges. Take the lumpsum, for instance, included in the agreement. People who retire are allowed in the future to withdraw 10 percent of their pension payment at once as a lumpsum. “That is a new choice people will be facing, in addition to matters such as the high/low construction or early retirement. The choice process is already difficult at the moment and the level of difficulty will only increase. That is an issue we will dedicate our attention to. When that time comes, what new problems will arise or what problems become bigger? And what kind of solutions could and should we develop to address these issues? We want to respond to those problems proactively.”
It is simply not an option not to innovate, according to Veerkamp. “APG is the largest pension service provider in the Netherlands. The world is changing rapidly and the standard for customer experiences is developing along with it. The new laws and regulations also entail many changes in the pension industry. We must look ahead to be able to move along with the developments in order to offer customers at least the same level of service compared to the service providers people know from products and services other than pension. It is better to anticipate than to respond. Innovation enables us to see on time what is needed tomorrow and translate that to the present.”
Founder Tom Romanowski about financial platform Kandoor
As long as the government is still providing generous support to the millions of Dutch affected by the crisis, financial platform Kandoor has not seen a rise in work pressure yet. But it will not take long for that to change, is the opinion of founder Tom Romanowski.
The nails of the crisis are already scratching on your front door, you fear for your income, you could really use some help and you enter “Help with... In the top five of the lists of suggestions within your search engine, the keywords “low income”, “losing weight”, “debts”, “depression” and “divorce” are competing for the top position. Comforting to know you are not the only one with worries. But what to do now? The ads of financial consultancy offices are forcing their way in, while you are only looking for someone who thinks along selflessly about the loss of income, so you are able to continue.
Ability to continue
Ability to continue - Kan door! That is exactly what business expert Tom Romanowski (38) thought five years ago when pension provider APG asked him to think about a platform providing people with an answer to their financial questions. There already were plenty of questionable forums with desperate people and fortune hunters, and foreign companies were very eager to shake up the market completely. But APG was looking for something different. “Not a system with perverse incentives where others are making money out of your problem”, Romanowski says. “APG wants to contribute to a healthy financial system, a humane economy, based on helping each other. The so-called sharing economy, assisted by technology and the independent commitment of people who understand their business. It is all about trust. When you are indebted to the hilt, you do not talk about it until you really see no way out anymore and start looking for a smart uncle or friend. Someone who makes you feel safe, with whom you are able to discuss the issue after which you are able to continue.”
A lot of stress
When will I get my holiday allowance? How much money will I be paid exactly? Can I get an advance payment? Is my employer allowed to withhold that amount? “Many questions can be answered quite easily, but every question can be asked in twenty-five different ways or more”, says Romanowski. “There are users who ask a question in a few words, other users need half a page to explain their issue. That already shows how people sometimes struggle when it comes to financial matters. They also wait as long as possible, allowing the stress to rise abnormally high. The government also extends more and more responsibility to us. The communal facilities have been cut back in the past years, the labor market became more flexible and the retirement age moved up. People underestimate the financial consequences these measures have for them.”
Of the meanwhile fifty thousand questions Kandoor receives every month, 98 percent is handled automatically by a chatbot. Questions that are too complicated or more personal are transferred by the “Kanbot”, as they call the chatbot at Kandoor, to one of the hundreds of guides. “We call our volunteers guides. Guides are experts. They include the chairs of pension funds, financial advisors, mortgage advisors and account managers. There are also many APG professionals among them. And they answer the questions in their spare time because they want to help people and at the same time to stay informed about what's going on in their field.‘
A moderator monitors if an independent consultant is not trying to get some business from the platform but that has not happened yet, according to Romanowski. “Guides also check each other’s answers to prevent people from being assisted incorrectly. It is a way for them to keep up to date with everything that is going on in their profession. A user commented: Kandoor is an online neighbor in my pocket. I was really happy with that comment as that is exactly what I was aiming to make. Someone else said: But what is the catch? There is no catch but people find that hard to believe.”
Increase in concerns about income
The success of Kandoor illustrates the importance of independent information, especially during the crisis at hand. Romanowski notices this from the questions asked. While three-quarters of the questions previously related to pension and taxes, he now sees more questions from sole-practitioners and employees with expiring contracts. But there is no big rush yet. “A lot of the questions are currently related to the entitlement to holiday allowance. I have witnessed an increase in concerns about income, but I do not see the sentiments on our platform like the ones on a forum such as Radar. Possibly because we do not feel the full pain yet because of the support provided by the government. But that pain will surely come.”
Kandoor is confronted with some harrowing cases though, but that has always been the case. “People who slip through the safety net, are not entitled to any form of support and who have reached rock-bottom. They are sent back and forth and eventually end up with us, feeling devastated. Despite the fact that we are not always able to help them practically, they appreciate being able to tell their story. We have experimented with a hotline to the Social Insurance Bank, but things have been made so complicated in the Netherlands that there is no person ultimately responsible for every problem.”
The engagement must be increased
Finances: it is not something we are enthused about. But Romanowski refuses to give up the fight. He aims to do more than just offering ad hoc first line support, he wants to be ahead of distress and help people structurally to get their financial planning in order. Even more so: he wants to make finances more fun.
“Or maybe not fun but engaging. The engagement must be increased. The health care industry has already succeeded pretty well with apps and suchlike. Checking out the pedometer every day, we are already more proactive than we used to be. Having people monitor their financial health will be a lot more difficult, but wouldn’t it be great if everybody starts monitoring his/her financial life-planning as of the age of eighteen? Of course, you have a lot less influence on your income, pension and investments than on daily exercise and the composition of your meal, but if we make it extremely accessible and reduce the process to small steps, maybe, just maybe you will enjoy it someday. This crisis could potentially be the time to add some discipline to your financial life.”
Great deal of knowledge
The guides of Kandoor are meanwhile doing what they do best: helping people move forward. They may be facing some busy times, especially if they are well versed in dismissal law and debt rescheduling. “They have not joined us to handle monotonous questions. They have a great deal of knowledge and experience and want to use this to help the people who need it the most. Well, this will be their time to shine.”
Any questions about financial matters? Pay a visit to www.kandoor.nl
Unfortunately, this article is not available in Dutch.
APG is taking over the data analytics activities for sustainable investing from Deloitte Nederland. This business unit is well known for its great expertise and knowledge at the cutting edge of artificial intelligence, big data, and sustainable investing. The thirteen employees will be working for APG in an independent business unit. The takeover will significantly accelerate APG’s use of artificial intelligence and big data for sustainable and responsible investing.
The new APG team will be tasked with identifying listed companies that make an important contribution to solutions for climate change, or for problems in the areas of health care and education. The team will complement the expertise already available at APG in the areas of artificial intelligence and big data. The technical infrastructure and the team’s smart algorithms are fully operational and are a very good fit with APG’s current investing activities.
The new business unit is also an excellent supplement to other innovative initiatives at APG, such as Kandoor, a smart digital platform where people can go to with all their financial questions. This helps APG further strengthen its innovative power and as such ensures optimal cross-pollination of high-tech knowledge, from which pension funds and their participants can profit as much as possible.
Ronald Wuijster, Interim member of the Executive Board of APG Group, responsible for asset management said: “We are constantly seeking out innovative and sustainable investment opportunities to achieve the highest possible return at the lowest possible costs. Using the unique knowledge this team has in relation to big data and artificial intelligence will make us even better at that.”
Gerard van Olphen, Chairman of APG’s Executive Board said: “By making smart and good investments, we contribute to the maximum possible pension value for the participants in the pension funds for which we work. This is another way in which we give pension funds and their participants more control over their financial future.”
Innovative pension administration
The takeover of the data analytics activities for sustainable investing is just one of APG’s many initiatives in the area of innovation. APG invests fully in new technology, both in relation to investments and pension administration.
Artificial intelligence is also being used to improve the service to pension fund participants. Algorithms are developed by a special team using, among other things, contact history, personal data, pension details, and the online browsing behavior of large groups of participants. By combining this information for different target groups, it can be predicted with high reliability when they will contact the pension fund in relation to which topic. These insights are used to proactively approach the pension fund participants, but also to communicate more efficiently and effectively with the participants.
APG announced earlier this year that together with PGGM, it had successfully completed the first phase of an experiment with a blockchain application for pension administration. In the long term this technology promises more flexibility and lower costs for pension funds and their participants. Most of the work will take place at the Smart Services Campus in Heerlen.
APG will use data science to further improve services to members of pension funds. Based on available data, such as age and marital status, it is possible to ask participants to "predict" and anticipate. APG wait no longer for a phone call, email or tweet, but participants will approach proactive and activate.
For example, with specific information about the effects of a new job for the accrual of pension are. APG expects this development over time, fewer emails and phone calls leads to the customer contact center. Furthermore, effective and efficient and euml, communicate more effectively with participants. This potentially results in a substantial saving for the affiliated pension funds. First, long-term pilot studies show that participants value the new service.
Context increasingly important
Participants increasingly expect better communication and service of their pension fund. Not least because as consumers of other service providers, such as banks, insurers and retailers also have extensive online service. In the improvement of the service to understand the context of the participant is becoming increasingly important. Every life stage and personal situation of the participant knows after all other needs for information about retirement.
Data science contributes to proactive service
To receive this context sharper focus puts APG data in science, including artificial intelligence. For this, built by a special team algorithms which will include use of contact history, personal pension information and online click behavior of large groups of participants. By combining this information for different audiences, to predict with great certainty when on any topic, contact the pension fund. For a participant can be determined by life event how likely it is that he is contacting or visiting the My Digital Fund environment. Furthermore, it is clear what kind of communication works best for an individual participant. These insights are used to access the participant proactive, but also efficient and euml,. Communicate more transparent and more effective with the participant
Raoul Willms, Director of Marketing Distribution APG Many people are still not aware of their retirement. While income for the future is something very important. We invest then still in full knowledge and modern technology and euml; n order to make consumers more involved and to take action when it comes to their retirement
A year ago presented APG, Province of Limburg and Maastricht University, the arrival of the Bright Lands Smart Services Campus in Heerlen. On September 12, 2016 Campus opens its doors officially in Heerlen.
Guests include, Henk Kamp, Minister of Economic Affairs, Z.K.H. Prince Constantijn, special envoy Startup Delta, Ralf Krewinkel, Mayor City of Heerlen and Ger Koopmans, deputy commissioner of the King in the province of Limburg.
Besides the official part of the opening program consists of a number of master classes and a Innofair 'Go Smart "where 40 organizations present themselves around data and smart services. These activities are open to those interested.
Smart Services Community
In an era of ever delivering ongoing digitalization smart services based on data analysis important contributions to solving economic and social issues. This includes topics such as financial services, data security, health, climate change, and civic education. The Bright Lands Smart Services Campus is an initiative to tie in light of this knowledge, talent and entrepreneurship in the region and connect: Data for services to improve the quality of life.
Large and small companies, research institutes together with startups and other organizations, the start of an open smart services community. A community that communicates with knowledge from other fields such as new materials, sustainable technologies, nutrition and health. Therein also lies the strength of Bright Lands.
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.
Big investors are increasingly making use of big data, where large amounts of data to be analyzed in order to distill trends.
Valentijn van Nieuwenhuijzen flips open his laptop on the first trading day of this year, he sees immediately that something unusual is going on. The figures Market Psych, the system that NN Investment Partners measures the sentiment in the market come in. Articles on innovation score higher than average in the digital media, but more importantly, words that are associated with stress and (Gloom) dominate the digital domain, just as the term.
The main strategy of the Dutch asset manager with eruo 187 billion under management decides to step on the brake, he unscrews the equity investments back and keep more cash on. That week shoot investors indeed stressed: go global stock markets sharply down and the Amsterdam AEX index will experience the worst first week of the year yet.
Big investors are increasingly making use of big data, where large amounts of data to be analyzed in order to distill trends. "Actually, we try to predict human behavior," says Richard Mathieson, director of the Scientific Active Equity team at BlackRock.
The world's largest asset manager in the world ($ 4,600 billion, converted some & euro; 4,200 billion) has been involved since 2008 engaged in the investment process and in San Francisco, the Mecca of the tech industry, a team of 25 data analysts put to work. BlackRock makes like NN using language analysis to measure sentiment. With special software are news sites, social media and other relevant sources scanned for words related to a positive or negative sentiment. That may be about a company or an industry, but also a political event that the FINANCE can put in motion le markets. For example, the debate on a brexit, a departure from the United Kingdom from the European Union. Since June 23, a referendum held on.
At this time point the polls in the UK on a neck-and-neck race between supporters and opponents, "said Mathieson. "But our analysis shows messages on Twitter that a majority prevailed that the UK remains in the EU." Mathieson has not taken a position yet on this information. "Therefore, the market is too volatile and we do not rely on . N analysis
"It is an additional resource, not d & eacute; source "also emphasizes Van Nieuwenhuijzen of NN. How the data on digital media weigh in a decision, since the main strategy has no hard figures. & Lsquo; Cause you never know what you decided in the scenario if you had not had that knowledge. But it adds 10% to 20% of information value. Information that is only input for the final decision.
NN Investment Partners uses the system about two years. For the much larger APG (& euro; 405 billion under management) began the experiment with big data in 2011. "Within five to ten years, investing using big data commonplace," says Ronald van Dijk, Managing Director at APG. "We now need to build knowledge about this way of investing."
APG has no special team for big data, but the asset that has the largest pension fund in the Netherlands (officials ABP) as its main customer, it frees up time for staff for this trend. They're especially when the team is already engaged in investing with computer models based on old-fashioned data such as macro data and analyst reports. This part of APG invests & euro; 60 billion.
Van Dijk says that the computer he uses to investment risk mapping 5% has become more accurate by using big data. According to him, the investment world only at the beginning of the big data revolution. "Many investors look at macro figures such as inflation and the growth of gross domestic product (GDP) in the previous quarter. But that's looking backwards. The data on, for example to analyze purchases on the internet you can find out what is happening now, what the sentiment is."
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