APG as employer

APG as employer

What is it like to work at APG? What challenges do we face? What do we have to offer and what do we stand for?
Read it here.

About APG
Collection Contents
17 Publications

Thijs Knaap about the work of professional investors in youth podcast

Published on: 15 July 2022

In episode 109 of the podcast series Jong Beleggen, the chief economist of APG talks about his work enthusiastically and almost breathlessly. He does that based on the many questions that are fired at him.


What is it like to work as chief economist at a pension provider such as APG?

How does APG invest more than 550 billion euros on behalf of ABP and its other pension fund clients?

How is the asset allocation determined for a professional investor?

What are the expectations in the financial markets for the future? And what will actually change in pension administration?


If you want to catch up on investing in the pension world in an hour, listen to this podcast.

Volgende publicatie:
APG receives social enterprise certificate

“Let people do the work they do best”

Published on: 30 June 2022

Manager of Shared IT Services Eric Helsloot sees leveraging talents as a strength for the organization

APG’s ambition is to grow into an even more sustainable and inclusive organization. Achieving Aspirant status on the Performance Ladder for Social Engagement will contribute to this goal. This national TNO certificate for social enterprise shows that APG makes an above-average contribution to employment opportunities for vulnerable groups in the labor market. Eric Helsloot, manager of Shared IT Services, sees this as a great opportunity to provide a platform for even more talents: “In my own team there is always room for unique individuals.”


Obtaining Aspirant status on the Performance Ladder Social Enterprise (see box) is “nice and looks great” on APG’s website. But the next important step is to live up to the content behind it, says Eric Helsloot. “Inclusiveness is very valuable to an organization. It’s now up to us to provide that safe and challenging work environment for anyone who needs it.”


Color palette
Words that Helsloot translates into actions. Because the manager could really only think of one way to make his Shared IT Services department the best IT team: to leverage the insights and experiences of unique individuals as much as possible. “I’m a big supporter of diversity and inclusion and I try to express that at SIS,” he says. And in the complicated world of IT, that’s not a given, Helsloot explains. “After all, that world consists mostly of men and with us of somewhat older age.” And yet for several years, Eric has had a management team that is half women. And of all the executives, even more than half are women.

“But we don’t just look at gender, we also look at team composition based on character and work attitude, for example, using management drive profiles. The result is that the management team of SIS now has a well-composed color palette in which coworkers are complementary to each other, keep each other sharp and strengthen each other.” And it doesn't stop there. SIS also employs people with a migration background. “By bringing other cultures into the organization, we enrich ourselves even more.”

The work at Shared IT Services is very diverse and is carried out by a total of 300 employees with varying levels of education, and from real implementers to very analytically minded employees. Helsloot therefore feels it is a department that is ideally suited to take on inclusion. “If you can create suitable workplaces anywhere, it’s here. So, I’m happy to participate in fulfilling the participation ambitions that come with the Aspirant status we just obtained.”

Core qualities
To illustrate how you can offer marginalized people a job, Helsloot points to IT security, a business unit where analysis is central: looking at a lot of data, working in a very structured way, excluding things on the basis of reduction. Activities that require a high level of concentration, for example, are a plus. And that can be one of the core qualities of people with an autism spectrum disorder, for example, Eric says. “In the past, you might not have thought of hiring someone from that target group. Because ‘that’s someone who comes with baggage’ and having someone like that on your team ‘just gets tricky’. But I say: come on in. I put people to work based on their qualities and let them do the work they do best.”


To get that best IT team with unique individuals, Helsloot works closely with people manager Gonneke Cammel-Ooms and Det Olde Hampsink, Head of SIS Support. “They are both specialized in diversity and inclusion and from HR and external organizations we get advice on and access to the target group. In this way, as an organization, we are moving closer to an inclusive workplace, one step at a time.” To inspire his own employees in this area, Helsloot facilitates unconscious bias training. “We all have our unconscious biases. And by becoming aware of them, you can contribute to an inclusive workplace, because then you can do something about it.  And to ensure that everyone feels at home and all employees can work together I encourage a safe working environment where everyone can speak up in a respectful way about how things are going and where you can indicate what you need to go to work satisfied and appreciated. If you are bothered by something I do or say, please speak to me. Do you work best in a stimulus-free environment? Who am I to deny you that quiet work environment?”



His approach is bearing fruit, the manager of SIS observes. “A training course like this, for example, opens people’s eyes and they actually start working with those insights.” But there is also resistance he admits. “Others say in all honesty ‘when are we going to stop with this nonsense, let’s just get back to work’. That too is a reflection of society. It’s up to us to then engage in dialogue and try to understand each other’s perspectives. In this way, we can eliminate the fear of the unknown.”


For Helsloot, the motivation to make a social contribution in this way is at least deeply rooted. “I am also involved in APG’s Buitenboordmotor (Outboard Motor). In it, we guide employees to other work. Not because we want to get rid of them, but because they might find their passion in a sector like healthcare, education or installation. This is also a way of getting the right people with the right skills and experience in the right place. That makes you happier, both as a company and as a person.”

2 questions about the Social Performance Ladder

What is the PSO certificate?
The PSO is a scientifically based quality mark of TNO that gives insight in the extent to which organizations do more than average social business aimed at the participation of vulnerable groups in the labor market. The PSO identifies at company level how the number of marginalized employees relates to the total number of employees during a reference year. This is called the “direct social contribution”. The indirect social contribution is aimed at purchasing and/or outsourcing work to companies with a PSO certificate.

In addition to the total social contribution, an organization must also meet the qualitative requirements. These include offering suitable work to an employee from this target group and ensuring proper supervision. The PSO is designed as a performance ladder with four levels: aspirant status and steps 1, 2 and 3. APG’s ambition is to achieve step 1 by 2024.


Why do the PSO certificate and participation jobs matter to APG?
APG wants to contribute to an inclusive labor market. The creation and filling of 10 jobs for employees is the first step in this direction. Ronald Wuijster, chairman of the D&I Board, has taken the initiative to help people from outside the organization find suitable jobs. This was partly inspired by our client PWRI, the fund for employees and pensioners in the sheltered employment sector, and is in line with APG’s social role. The guidance is provided by creating and filling at least 4 jobs in collaboration with organizations that have experience in mediating and coaching these talents.

Volgende publicatie:
APG expands collaboration with non-profit organization JINC to Amsterdam

APG expands collaboration with non-profit organization JINC to Amsterdam

Published on: 3 June 2022

APG stands for a society in which your background does not determine your future. As a partner of JINC, APG therefore invests in the talent development of children in South Limburg. This collaboration will be extended to Amsterdam, where employees will volunteer for the various projects of the non-profit organization. Annette Mosman, CEO APG, signed a new collaboration agreement for this. “Young people are the future, so if we can make a difference for a number of young people, we have made the world a little more beautiful.”


JINC is fighting for a Netherlands where the zip code is no longer a predictor of success on the labor market. The non-profit organization speaks of hundreds of thousands of Dutch children who grow up in an environment with a lot of unemployment and few role models. With the new cooperation agreement, APG is now also giving concrete form to social involvement in the Amsterdam region and helps to give children a good start in the labor market. For APG, the expansion is a very logical step. Annette Mosman: “I learned from home that you have to be there for your neighbors and people in your area. APG's roots are in Amsterdam and Heerlen, which is why I think it's so cool that, in addition to all the great things we already do as an organisation, we also want to make an impact in our immediate environment."


Boss of tomorrow

APG employees who work at the Heerlen office have been working on various projects on a voluntary basis in the South Limburg region since 2019. During the Lightning Internship, pupils from primary school, pre-vocational secondary education and practical education visit a number of departments of the organization. During the job application training courses, APG employees teach young people how to prepare for a job interview. And on the day of the Boss of Tomorrow, a student may take the place of a manager. In this context, APG received fifteen-year-old Danique from Kerkrade this week.


Hidden Qualities

Mosman notes that the collaboration with JINC cuts both ways. By dedicating itself to JINC, APG also invests in the talent development of its own employees. Mosman: “For example, they learn how to get young people on board with simple language, humor and the ability to put things into perspective. In addition, employees learn about society, about young people, but also about themselves. Because anyone who starts working as a trainer or coach often comes across all kinds of hidden qualities.”


Make a difference
The collaboration is also in line with APG as a pension provider. “We work with pride and conviction for the 4.6 million participants of our funds. We want to make a difference for these participants by ensuring a good pension and by making our contribution to a liveable world. Our pension system contributes to reducing income inequality. So making a contribution to reducing social inequality suits us very well.”


In addition, the extension of the contract fits in with APG's sustainability ambition. Local social involvement is one of the four topics that the organization focuses on. Mosman: “We want to support a liveable, vital and inclusive society with a sponsor budget and the voluntary commitment of employees. JINC's activities fit in well with this.” At the forefront, however, are the more than 65,000 primary and pre-vocational secondary education students who are given the opportunity to grow through the efforts of companies. As a result, they discover which professions exist, which activities belong to them and what they like and dislike. “And that's important,” adds Angelique Middeldorp of JINC. “Children have to choose where to go at a young age, and many of them barely know what's for sale in the labor market.”

Volgende publicatie:
"That collegiality is even more important than all financial arrangements"

"That collegiality is even more important than all financial arrangements"

Published on: 1 June 2022

Today, June 1, is Global Day of Parents. This day recognizes the crucial care and dedication of parents in raising their children. After all, this is not always easy to achieve, especially with a full-time job.

Mike Jongerius works in APG's HR department and became a father for the third time in April. How does he combine looking after his children with his job?


Before, June 1 was not Global Day of Parents, but Children's Day. In several countries, such as Poland, Romania, Russia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Portugal, China, USA and Germany, Children's Day is still considered a festivity. Parents take their offspring on an outing and give them gifts. In 2012, the United Nations designated June 1 as Global Day of Parents. Since then, Children's Day on the Dutch calendar has moved to June 25. But few parents here are probably familiar with these holidays.

Mike Jongerius (38), who has been working for the HR team Data & Analytics for six months, had in any case never heard of it, even though he has now quite mastered parenting: his wife and he have two sons and a daughter. Their oldest child is 4, the youngest almost 2 months.


On full pay

Mike is a committed father. It is natural for him to be closely involved in the care of his children. Several official arrangements aid him. In April, for example, after Elias was born, he was given five days of fully paid post-birth leave. And since July 2020, it is possible to take five extra weeks of additional post-birth leave in the first six months. Under the Dutch Work and Care Act, 70% of the wages continued to be paid in that case. However, APG supplements this benefit up to 100% of the salary. "I use the full five weeks," Mike says. It is a popular arrangement: in 2021, 81 new parents at APG made use of it.

Flexible working

"Being able to work flexibly is something that really helps you as a parent. If necessary, I can start a little later at home or leave for the office after rush hour, when the children have gone to school or childcare. That flexibility – and a manager who thinks along with you – is even more important than all financial arrangements. Having a job, a baby and two young children is quite a busy life. That means you're less focused at times and then it's nice if a colleague is willing to do something more at a time when things at home don't go as smoothly as planned. I can determine my working hours to a certain extent. The fact that you can arrange this within your team, that sense of mutual collegiality, is very valuable to get everything done. This makes the combination of care and work manageable as a young parent."


Extra childcare contribution

When his wife goes back to work, Elias, like his sister, will also go to childcare twice a week. His eldest brother attends after-school care. A hefty expense for parents – despite all childcare allowances. This allowance is jointly financed by the government and the employer. How much you receive monthly depends on the level of income, the number of children and the type of childcare - which is also subject to a maximum hourly rate. With three children, that can be quite expensive. "I think we've already spent around 700 euros per month on childcare for two children," Mike estimates. "In any case, it's our biggest expense."

APG bears part of this with an extra childcare contribution of 300 euros net per year. Of course, on the total amount that is a drop in the ocean. "But other employers don't offer that," says Mike. "So it's quite nice." He shared that opinion with 471 other APG employees who were entitled to this in 2021.


Higher contribution for working parents
There is light at the end of the tunnel. The Rutte IV government wants to increase the childcare allowance for working parents to 95% in the coming years. This is set out in the government's coalition agreement ‘Omzien naar elkaar, vooruitkijken naar de toekomst’ (Looking after each other, looking ahead to the future).

It will take a while before that is finalized, so let's celebrate the Global Day of Parents first. And then perhaps Children's Day, with festivities and presents? Mike doubts the latter. "I'll stick to Sinterklaas for the time being."



Volgende publicatie:
"Money doesn't make you happy, but worries about money do make you unhappy"

"Money doesn't make you happy, but worries about money do make you unhappy"

Published on: 31 May 2022

In the Netherlands, too, the current inflation rate means that a growing number of people are rapidly getting into financial difficulty. And that doesn't just affect their finances; it also affects their peace of mind. Making people financially resilient is important, according to Experts. Especially now and employers have a role to play here too. That's why Heleen Kuiten, managing director of HR at APG, took part in a roundtable discussion on this topic. "We can help employees to set up their financial picture in the best possible way.”

Geldvinder, APG's very own startup, is holding a roundtable discussion on Tuesday, June 7, focusing on financial fitness among employees. The current economic climate is a current reason for this, says Richard Coonen, CCO & Business Developer of the online platform. "Just when we can spend our money anywhere again after the corona crisis, many families are struggling financially. 62% of employers have employees with money worries and 46% are experiencing wage garnishments." But working on financial fitness is not just about solving problems, Coonen explains. "It's about making and keeping people financially resilient. So that they can deal well with financial setbacks and windfalls.”


On June 7, Richard Coonen and Heleen Kuijten, managing director of HR at APG, will discuss why financial fitness is so important during an online webinar with other HR directors, scientists, and experts. Two questions will be central: why is financial fitness just as important as physical and mental fitness? And: how do you pay attention to this as an employer? With, as an extension, an equally important question: what happens if you do nothing?

To start with the answer to that last question: according to Kuijten, doing nothing is actually not an option for an employer. “Employees are responsible for what they do in their private lives. And therefore also responsible for their finances. What we can do is help to get the finances in order as well as possible. To prevent people from dropping out.” According to Kuijten, this attitude fits well with being a good employer, but also with the social role that APG wants to fulfill.

Despite this personal responsibility, Kuijten knows that money problems cannot always be foreseen. She mentions inflation, student debt, or divorce as possible causes. "In the Netherlands people with an average and higher income currently end up in debt counseling and people with a job increasingly knock on the door of the Voedselbank. In the newspaper, I read about a woman who lives with three children in a caravan. She thought she had it all together: marriage, house with excess value. But after her husband's divorce, it turned out that they couldn't buy two houses from that excess value after all. And there she was.”

Beyond the front door
In her immediate surroundings, Kuijten "fortunately" sees no distressing cases. But she is concerned about friends who work as self-employed workers. "They earn well, but what about when they retire? If you are employed, you are obliged to save. But a self-employed person might have to sell his house to make ends meet later on." Kuijten also sees those cases come up when she looks at APG. "The general, but generalist, image is of course that you earn a great living at a company like APG. But we also know that these kinds of problems take place right behind the front door. And in the cases where we do know, employees are struggling with wage arrears or have a partner who, as a self-employed worker, saw their income disappear due to corona.”

Three Pillars
Often you only find out what is going on in someone's life when that employee drops out, says Kuijten. And where physical symptoms are initially thought of, she says mental and financial health definitely plays a role as well. "You don't drop out on one piece; it's a combination of those three pillars that gets pulled out from under you." The managing director of HR illustrates this with a personal experience. "When my father went bankrupt, I saw as a child what that entailed. The grief, the worry... Money doesn't make you happy, but worries about money do make you unhappy. And you take that with you all day long. Especially if you are a breadwinner and have children, it is constantly in your head, and in your body.”

As far as Kuijten is concerned, it is quite simple to give an employee a helping hand. "Of course, as an employer you can say, 'you earn enough, how can this happen?' But we have to take this issue seriously." Kuijten then thinks for example of a periodic financial examination. "Just like you have the periodic medical examination. Have you graduated and do you have student debt? Are you getting divorced? Is your retirement in sight, and do you want to stop working earlier? As an employer, you can offer the employee to start the conversation at those moments. You can also offer a financial planning course or a session with a money coach. At APG, employees receive a vitality budget with which they can go to the gym. And we also offer employees the opportunity to use Geldvinder in our current collective agreement.”

"This online platform was developed by APG in co-creation with 20 employers, 3 employers' umbrella organizations, and trade union representation," adds Coonen. "It shows employees how they stand financially now and in the future, what the financial consequences of certain (career) choices are, what they can improve and how they can do so. And this by providing insight into matters such as income and expenditure, buffers and risks, assets and debts." And also pensions stresses Coonen: "The pension system is subject to major changes in the coming years and a more active role is required from people. Geldvinder helps to find a way through this tricky matter.”

Taking the step to actually use such options can be big, Kuijten realizes. " Embarrassment can play a role. By naming it as an employer and opening the door for a conversation, you show that it can happen to anyone."
There are limits to offering help, though, adds the managing director of HR. "Of course, it's someone's right not to report financial concerns. But as an executive, you do hope that the bond of trust with your team is so good that people raise the alarm in time.”

Roundtable event Financial Fitness - Tuesday, June 7 at 15:00

The conversation will be recorded in a studio and can be attended via live stream. Sign up via this link: Webinar - Financieel fit zijn, net zo belangrijk als fysiek en mentaal (geldvinder.nl)

Seated at the table are Heleen Kuijten (CHRO APG), Richard Coonen

(CCO & Business Developer Geldvinder), Paul-Peter Feld (Chief HR Officer Enexis), Renée-Andrée Koornstra (Director HRM Occupational Health & Environment VU Amsterdam), Tinka van Vuuren (Professor in Strategic Human Resources Management and Vitality Management), Clairette van der Lans

(Project leader financially fit employees at Wijzer in Geldzaken), Dr. Darya Moghimi

(Senior Human Resources Business Consultant  Work & Organizational Psychologist), Anouschka Laheij (Conversation leader).

Volgende publicatie:
“The software I build looks for errors and fraud”

“The software I build looks for errors and fraud”

Published on: 2 May 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.

British Hillary Ovaga (39) is a DevOps Engineer. “I was excited about an adventure like that in the Netherlands.”

How did you end up at APG?

“I used to work at a company in the UK that supplies important software to APG. After about nine years, I was ready for a new challenge and a new environment. I like the idea of an adventure abroad. By chance, APG associates approached me for an expat position. I was instantly attracted to that. In 2019, I applied to APG and was then hired as a Senior Business Application Consultant. Now that’s called DevOps Engineer 4.”


What attracted you to the Netherlands?

“My dad lived here for a while in the 1980s on a scholarship, the Netherlands Fellowship Program. He told us wonderful stories about the country and we used to have postcards from his Dutch friends around the house. That made me feel that I had an affinity with the country, even though I am very different from my father. He is much better at language and has learned to speak Dutch, but it’s not that easy for me yet. It is something I really want to do, and APG facilitates language lessons, but I have been so busy with work and fatherhood lately that I just haven’t been able to get around to it so far.”


How do you like the Netherlands now that you are actually living here

“I think it is a great country. The people are a bit more relaxed than they are in England. I also really like the cycling culture here. Dutch people are very helpful in many ways, especially when it comes to language. If I had gone to Germany, I would have been under much more pressure to learn the language. But you people are so good at English and don’t expect expats to speak your language. I do have difficulty sometimes with how direct you are though. In England, we carefully ‘wrap’ a message; here you just say it as it is. I had to get used to that. But it does have some advantages. Another thing I like about the Netherlands, incidentally, is the tax advantage expats like me get (the 30-percent scheme for knowledge migrants, ed.) That makes up for the high cost of moving to another county, to some extent.”


And so, now you are a DevOps Engineer 4. That sounds like a secret language. What exactly do you do?

“I work with a team that focuses on the design, creation and maintenance of the software around the reconciliation process and corporate action. I’m one of the Business Application Consultants for the reconciliation software.”


Pardon me?

“The reconciliation process is the daily mandatory and essential final stage of any asset management and investment business. APG buys and sells; we pay people and people pay us. All those transactions have to be checked. Very simply put: if we sold five shares, did the other party really receive five shares, and were we paid the right amount for them? The software we have built verifies this. This step is essential to detect, for example, errors, discrepancies, inconsistencies and fraud. Failing to do this can lead to losing control of cash and assets, fines, reputational damage and potentially a negative impact on returns, which is ultimately bad news for both APG and pension clients and the hard-working public that contributes to pension funds. I am involved in designing and building that software. I have to make sure, along with my coworkers, that it does what it is supposed to do. If our users encounter a problem, it is partly my responsibility to solve it as quickly as possible.”

It gives me great satisfaction that we are the last watchdog inside the company

What do you like about your job?

“A lot of things. First of all, I love this sector. I happened to get into it after university and initially didn’t know if it was a good fit for me, but over time I’ve become really fascinated with it. The focus on data is also very interesting to me. Data is the new gold, and everything runs within our system. It also gives me a lot of satisfaction that we are the final watchdog in the company. There are multiple departments that keep an eye on everything, but in the end it all comes down to our system to detect errors and potential fraud. That is very satisfying to me. I am also lucky to work with nice, respectful and dedicated coworkers, real team players that are great to work with. And I like the way the company takes care of its employees. As an expat, everything was also arranged for me. I could go on like this for a while, but I’ll leave it at one last comment: I think it’s great that you get a lot of opportunities to learn and grow here, and that this is also encouraged.”

You’re managing people’s pension money, so you need to be sure you’re making good, responsible, and sustainable choices

So, working in the pension sector is not boring to you?

“No, it’s not. As a little boy, it would never have occurred to me to work in this industry, but now that I’m doing it, I like it very much. What APG does is in line with what’s important to me. They invest responsibly and sustainably. Plus, no other company has to justify those investments as much as APG. You manage people’s pension money, so you have to be sure that you are making good, responsible, and sustainable choices. In my view, that is far from boring. And I haven’t even mentioned all the innovations we get to work on, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and cloud computing. When you hear the word pension, you think of old people with canes, which is probably a boring image, but that’s not at all how I experience it at APG.”


What does the average day at work look like for you?

“We are still working from home a lot. I think that’s a shame, because I always liked going to the office. The first thing I do in the morning is check whether there are any problems with the software. If there are, that’s the priority, of course, and we have to solve it as quickly as possible. If there are no problems, we have a daily meeting at nine o’clock. In it, we discuss what we are going to do that day and whether we are experiencing any particular obstacles in achieving our bi-weekly goals. Then we have time to focus on our tasks, in my case mainly designing and building the software. That focus is also important, because you have to be able to concentrate to do your job effectively.”


What gives you satisfaction in your work?

“Getting things done. Solving software problems and making sure the company has everything it needs for unimpeded business operations. Completing and finalizing new software that I have built and knowing that it adds value to the business. It gives me a lot of energy to know that I am contributing to that. Being fairly rewarded for doing this also motivates me. Working here broadens my horizon, I am learning so many new things. And being an expat here feels like a big adventure. I am sort of a part of society, even though my Dutch is terrible.”

What do you do when you’re not working?

“I am a single dad with a 7-year-old son, which takes up a big part of my life. Play dates with other kids, watching Boss Baby and Magic School Bus with him and going to soccer on Saturdays. When I can, I go out for a beer with some friends. I also really like to learn new things and enjoy watching documentaries about history, cosmology, nature, psychology and physics. And I watch movies and series when I have time for it. If I want to put my brain at zero for a while, I watch Family Guy, BoJack Horseman or Green Eggs and Ham. I don’t lead as active a life as I would like, simply because as a single dad I don’t have a lot of time for it. I do run a few times a week and I go for a long walk every day.”


How are APG clients concretely affected by your work?

“If I do my job well, APG doesn’t get fined and customers don’t get bad news. If I make sure - along with my team - that the system does what it's supposed to do, then no money will be lost due to human error or fraudulent activity. It’s an important step.”

Volgende publicatie:
Exchanging a religious holiday gives room to all faiths

Exchanging a religious holiday gives room to all faiths

Published on: 25 April 2022

What if an employee wants to be free on the day that Muslims celebrate Sugar Feast and wants to work on Good Friday, for example? No problem at APG. We stand for an inclusive work environment where everyone can be themselves. This also includes celebrating religious holidays. And not just on the days that Dutch employees have officially off. Colleague Mohammed Elfayda is very happy with that. “I really get all the space to exercise my faith.”


This Ramadan is a very special one for Mohammed Elfayda, Product Owner Swift & Payment Services at APG. “Because corona is 'over' and we are now at home with the three of us instead of the two of us. For my family it is really a month of reflection and self-reflection.”

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and it started on April 1 this year. It is a very important month. "During this period, Muslims commemorate Muhammad receiving his first message from God. Everything that God told him was written down in the Quran. And we do that commemoration by fasting; one of the five pillars of Islam, in addition to profession of faith, prayer, almsgiving and a pilgrimage to Mecca. And that means that we Muslims do not eat or drink anything between sunrise and sunset. No, not even a drink of water."


His work does not suffer from fasting, says Mohammed. "We are allowed to set our own working hours at APG and that is ideal, really. So, during this month, I get up before dawn to have something to eat, which means that my nights are always broken up during Ramadan. But then I have the freedom to start work an hour later. Another advantage is that I have the opportunity to do my prayers in Heerlen as well as in Amsterdam."

No, not even a drink of water

Set tables
When Mohammed thinks back to the old days, he automatically gets a smile on his face. "The whole family together, long, set tables and everyone was happy. The last two years were different because of Covid. And this year is still not like before; everyone is still cautious. And rightly so. This year we have been sharing meals only with my parents or parents-in-law and not with the whole family. And we do that only at our house. Because our 9-month-old son is used to going to sleep around eight o’clock. And because sunset is currently around 8:45 p.m., the family comes to our place."


Fixed traditions

According to Mohammed it is a tradition to break your fast with a glass or milk and a date in the evening. Followed by a cup of soup. "That may be traditional harira or a tomato-vegetable soup. My own tradition is to have some bread with Bufkes party sauce on it, with the soup, haha. Once I finish that, I’m pretty full. About an hour and a half after dinner, we go the mosque for evening prayers."


A lot of sweet stuff
Now that Ramadan is almost over, Mohammed is looking forward to the Sugar Fest. That may take place on May 2, the exact day depends on the new moon. “Around the last days of Ramadan, people check whether the new moon has been seen. When it is Eid, you actually only know the night before. On that morning of the first day of the tenth month, called shawwal, we get up early, take care of ourselves and go to the mosque. After the prayer, something is eaten, for example dates or other sweets, to indicate that the fast is really over. Then the party begins. We visit family, eat more sweets and exchange presents. And if possible, we also visit the graves of deceased loved ones.”
In terms of work, nothing stands in the way for Mohammed to celebrate the Sugar Fest. “APG has launched a diversity day. That means that every employee can exchange Good Friday for a religious holiday of their choice.”

Volgende publicatie:
APG sponsors Topvrouwen Limburg

APG sponsors Topvrouwen Limburg

Published on: 6 April 2022

Promoting more female leadership throughout the Netherlands. With that goal in mind, Francine van Dierendonck has signed a sponsorship contract with Topvrouwen Limburg on behalf of APG. "APG has a special bond with the Limburg region, and therefore it wants to draw extra attention to diversity here too."

Stichting Topvrouwen Limburg is a foundation that aims to promote and develop female entrepreneurship and leadership in the southern province. And that is a mission APG is happy to join. Francine van Dierendonck, member of the board of directors and responsible for Fund Operations and Participant and Employer Services, explains why: "As a major employer, APG wants to promote female leadership throughout the Netherlands. APG has a special bond with the Limburg region, and therefore it wants to draw extra attention to diversity here too. Wouldn't it be great if the Limburg Top Woman 2022 can soon be seen as a role model by all colleagues within APG, men and women? To be inspired and motivated by her in their further careers."

As a sponsor, APG makes every effort to promote 'female entrepreneurship, female management, female energy and female business emotion' to stimulate and develop within their own organization'. According to Francine, practice is as follows: "In terms of promotions and appointments, we are alert to diversity and in recent years, APG has put a lot of effort into closing the pay gap. We also recently started an executive leadership program to develop talent in the organization. Because we don't yet have the male-female ratio in order in all layers of the organization, we offer this program as a priority to a group of talented women."

Making a difference
The annual election for the honorary title of Limburg Top Woman is one of the ways in which the foundation promotes female leadership. The election puts inspiring top women in the spotlight. The title is bestowed on 'a personality that radiates and gives confidence, and a top woman with an established reputation, who is passionate about doing the right thing for people and society'.
Hannie Bovens, Group Finance Project Manager at APG and also an unpaid board member at Stichting Topvrouwen Limburg, adds: "Together with the jury, we're now translating this into specific assessment criteria. These will be dynamic; each jury can put its own stamp on it and the zeitgeist also plays a role. The common theme is 'where, as a woman, you make the difference'. And how that makes you a role model for others."

Not automatically at the top
Hannie has been involved in promoting female leadership for a long time now. In the past, as a member of the top women's network within APG and from her role as a supervisory director at a housing corporation, the intention came about to set up a female supervisory director network in Limburg. That is how she came into contact with Topvrouwen Limburg. "Years ago, I thought that the promotion of women would all come automatically. However, when I look back on it, I notice something completely different. All women of my generation have also continued their education and have continued to work (many of them full-time) but unfortunately, that's not reflected in the figures of female managers."


Topvrouwen Limburg is for that matter not the same as or a split-off from Stichting Topvrouw van het Jaar, a foundation that focuses on women throughout the Netherlands. They do, however, pursue the same goal.

Sonja Stassen, Eef Langenveld, Francine van Dierendonck en Hannie Bovens. 

Volgende publicatie:
How citizen development leads to more fun and more efficient work

How citizen development leads to more fun and more efficient work

Published on: 5 April 2022

Organizations appear to recognize the value of citizen development increasingly more often. The same applies to APG. A so-called citizen developer is an employee who is not a professional developer but who is able to create small-scale applications. George Drost, Maarten Lafeber and Iris Schipper tell us how this approach makes the work easier and more fun. “The culture in the workplace changes if people are given the opportunity to learn new things.”

What does it take to become a citizen developer? It all starts with curiosity, says George (Digital Lead). “If a citizen developer performs repetitive work, he or she will be curious about a tool that is able to make that work easier.” You don't have to be a diehard programmer, Maarten (Strategist) adds. “Although it helps if you have some affinity with data. I already had some experience with programming because of my study Financial Engineering. But I think eighty percent of what I am programming, can be done by virtually everyone. It's all about taking the time and having the will to do it. It is also important not to be afraid of change.”


Because there are many low code/no code applications, George believes you can also start without much knowledge of programming. George: “If you don't know a lot about programming yet, it can also be a trigger to participate in a DataCamp training for instance.” (DataCamp is an online learning platform on data science, ed.) Many citizen developers often already have some knowledge of data and programming because they took these subjects during their study, such as Maarten. Iris (Junior Asset Management Professional) also practiced programming during her study Finance & Investment. “Especially when writing my master's thesis and for the subject statistics. But I wouldn't say that can be directly translated into what I am doing for my work.” To refresh her knowledge, she now takes the course data scientist of DataCamp.


“My manager encourages me to learn Python”, Iris continues. “That can be applied to my current task aiming at alternative data on the telecom and media sector. Those data have to be visualized so colleagues are able to quickly derive the information they need. We are using Python to write a script in order for the new data to be automatically visualized in a PDF report.” She believes she will soon be able to benefit from her knowledge of Python. “I still have to become a bit more adept, but I believe that I will quickly see things in the next assignment of my traineeship that can be done more efficient or easier. And that will be thanks to my DataCamp training.”

A citizen developer is someone who makes something possible, who is curious and who wants to learn new things

What motivates these colleagues is coming up with solutions that make their work more fun. “Your work is done quicker, meaning there will be more time to do other things. That enables you to complete more tasks. And the performance increases when someone enjoys what he or she is doing”, says George. Moreover, citizen developers create applications that reduce the likelihood of human mistakes. Strategist Maarten, for example, noticed that he and his colleagues often worked in CSV files. “Being economists, we create expectations for the future. That requires a lot of data we include in CSV files. But you don't seem to make any progress if you have to browse through a server and just hope that the file ‘versie3_nieuw.csv’ is the right one”, he says jokingly. “That is why we created a database into which all data we need are automatically uploaded. Such database can be compared with a site like bol.com. But instead of a product, you search for a dataset. Because the data are included in a database, they can be retrieved quicker, also by colleagues outside our team. Such database makes our work more robust and reduces the risk of mistakes.”


“If you are not fully mastering something yet, you need a way to learn it”, says George. “That's the reason why we work with communities at APG. These communities consist of experts and colleagues with knowledge and the same interests. There is always someone in the community available to help should you have any questions. That's how colleagues inspire one another to come up with creative ideas.” An example is the digitization group within Fiduciary Management, of which strategist Maarten is part. “Here we share, for instance, that a dashboard has been created within our team and offer our help should another team also want to create a dashboard. But our group also discusses digitization initiatives from outside our department. We believe it's important to closely follow all initiatives, also if none of us are directly involved. This because it could also apply to our work at some point.”  


In general, citizen developers thrive in an environment encouraging them to improve themselves, George explains. “When people are given the opportunity to learn new things, such as a certain tooling, it changes the culture in the workplace. There is room for new ideas and innovation.” It also contributes to employee satisfaction. And it stimulates an organization to work more efficiently and to develop the best possible solutions for clients. George: “A citizen developer is someone who makes something possible, who is curious and who wants to learn new things. You don't have to be an expert in programming. Some people will take it up quicker or easier than others, but that's okay. It's about trying to improve our digital collaboration on a daily basis.”

Volgende publicatie:
“Financial questions by young people are really all about now”

“Financial questions by young people are really all about now”

Published on: 29 March 2022

On 28 March, Money Week kicked off. The starting signal was given from the Kunsthal in Rotterdam, by Queen Máxima, honorary president of platform Wijzer in geldzaken (Wiser in money matters). Finance Minister Sigrid Kaag was also in attendance. Together they talked to four guest lecturers spread across four locations in the Netherlands by video link. Among them was DaCapo College in Geleen, where APG’s Head of Growth Management Anne-Marie Le Doux was teaching at that time.

Which class did you give the guest lesson to?
Anne-Marie: “These students are thirteen to sixteen years old and are in practical education phase two, also called the internship orientation phase. This phase is about awareness of talents - for example through internships - but attention is also given to, for example, independent living. Everything is geared towards the prospect of being able to work in retail, hospitality, facility services or technology, at the end of this phase.”

Money Week, like the guest lesson “Now for later”, is held under the umbrella of Wijzer in geldzaken (Wiser in money matters). This platform is an initiative of the Ministry of Finance, and is aimed at promoting financial fitness in the Netherlands. To achieve this, partners from the financial sector, science, government and educational, information and consumer organizations join forces.

In this 11th edition of Money Week, extra attention is being drawn, through Friday April 1, to the thousands of guest lessons and workshops offered at primary and secondary schools by people working in the financial sector. The guest lectures and workshops are held throughout the year. This year’s theme is “From Doekoe to Digi” and is about the increasing digitization of money (e.g. contactless payments, internet banking, digital payment requests and online investing).

What did you talk to them about? “I gave the guest lesson 'Now for later', developed by the Pension Federation. PGGM and APG were asked to delegate teachers for this. The lesson was created to get students thinking about their financial future. It is about what you can do now and in the years ahead to make sure you can continue to live comfortably after you retire. The lesson also gives insight into what pensions actually are, how they are accrued and what are important moments to watch out for when it comes to your retirement.”

Isn’t it difficult to get students in this age group interested in retirement?
“What you notice is that retirement is still very far from their minds. Their questions are really all about now. For example: how does the tax return for my side job work? How does my DiGiD work? Do I need my own health insurance? And how do I get that set up? I really had to adjust my narrative to that. Fortunately, the lesson is very well structured, it is very interactive and can easily be adapted to the level you are dealing with.

I did notice that as a teacher you really have to be a jack-of-all-trades. Teacher Debby knew all the students from top to bottom, knew exactly what was going on during the lesson, while at the same time keeping an eye on their energy levels, and knew how to make my story even livelier for her students. That is quite impressive. It is also nice for a guest lecturer when someone like that is available, even if they are just in the background.”

How did you build that bridge to pensions?
“For example, by talking about saving for a moped. We discussed that just as you can save for a moped, you can also save for unforeseen expenses - and thus also for retirement. We talked about the importance of looking ahead, using the example of a phone plan. We discussed ‘how to deal with your expensive phone subscription if you lose your side job’. The conclusion was that you really need to avoid debt or arrears, and you definitely want to stay away from a BKR registration. Attention to that is incredibly important because more than 37 percent of young people are in debt and one in four are already in arrears.”

Did you also talk about pension funds?
“Not so much about pension funds, but about the distinction between pension accrual as a self-employed person and pension accrual as an employee. A number of these students dream of starting their own hairdressing salon, or being self-employed in the construction industry. So how you accrue a pension as a self-employed person and what you need to set up for that is very relevant to them. This is a group that often starts work at a relatively young age. The sooner they start making healthy financial choices, the better they can live now and in the future.”

How did the conversation with Queen Máxima and Minister Kaag go?
“That was a bit chaotic because there were problems with the sound. As a result, none of the four conversations actually went very well. Too bad, but the teacher did tell me that her class really enjoyed the conversations with the Queen and the Minister. Feeling ‘seen’ is not something that comes naturally to this group.” 

Volgende publicatie:
“For me, as a trainee, this is one big candy store”

“For me, as a trainee, this is one big candy store”

Published on: 7 March 2022

Who are these people who 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 are taking you behind the scenes.

Zakaria Driouech (26) is a Finance & Risk trainee at APG. “As a trainee you are immediately given a lot of responsibility, which really surprised me.”


What exactly do you do as a Finance & Risk trainee?

“An internship at APG means that for two years you will carry out various assignments within Asset Management. There are various tracks, such as digital, quant, investment and portfolio. Because risk management appealed to me the most, I opted for the finance & risk track. That’s where you get to work with financial and operational risks.”


What is risk management? How do you manage risks?

“Risk management is a broad concept. At APG, various teams deal with it. There is asset risk, for example, which identifies the financial risks associated with current and potential investments. There is also a team that focuses on operational risks. It doesn't look so at the financial picture so much, but at the qualitative aspects of a possible investment: what are the business operations like, what is the management like, what is the reputation in a broad sense? Others assess the models used within APG to predict possible returns, for example. Are those models doing what they are supposed to do, are they suitable for the purposes they are used for?”


And what do you do in concrete terms?

As a trainee, you rotate. The first period I was in client risk. There it was my job to test risk models to see whether they are doing what they are supposed to do and whether the predictions approach reality within the limits. It was a lot of fun; I got to apply all kinds of skills that I had acquired during my studies in econometrics.”


And where are you now?

“At enterprise risk management. This department oversees the risks of business operations. A hypothetical example: suppose that the investment department accidentally invests in a company that is on the list of companies in which no investments are allowed. This would have to be reported according to the rules. If this does not happen, there is a chance that APG could suffer damage to its reputation, or that irresponsible investments could be made, possibly resulting in financial damage. I researched fraud risks and how best to identify them. I thought it was cool to learn about this operational side of risk management as well.”

What do you like about your traineeship?

“I’m gaining a lot of knowledge and experience and getting a good picture of what APG does in a broad sense. What I like most is that you have to network within the company to get your next assignment. That way you can keep challenging yourself. You would think that as a trainee you are not allowed to do very much, but nothing is less true. You're given a lot of responsibility straight away; you're actually fully involved. That really surprised me. And by experiencing it all, I can really discover what suits me best.”


And so far, which team is the best fit for you?

“I’ve gained surprising insights from the two teams I’ve been on so far, but to be perfectly honest I’m still convinced I want to go into the asset risk side of things. That’s where I will be doing my last assignment; something I’m really looking forward to.”


But didn’t you ever think, the pension sector is incredibly boring?

“I used to think that, but when someone from APG came to give a guest lecture during my studies, a world opened up for me. It is much more dynamic and challenging than I thought. Especially the field I'm in now, asset management, is far from boring. APG has many large investment projects in it. For me it’s like one big candy store. I have never been bored for a second.”

APG is not just in the business of making money, but is also really contributing something to the world

You could have worked at a bank instead. What made you choose pensions?

“Yes, I considered banking, that was definitely on my list and I even got an offer there. But once I went for an interview at APG, I was immediately sold. It was a good match on several levels. They offer so many opportunities in risk management, the area that interests me. I also think it's important that APG is not just about making money, like banks, but that it also really contributes something to the world. I was attracted to that social involvement.”


What motivates you, what are your incentives?

“I hope to be able to make a difference in overseeing the risks involved in investments, in order to be able to offer a good and safe pension to all participants. I like the fact that we do everything we can for the pensions of so many Dutch people.”


What do customers notice about your work in concrete terms?

“Indirectly, they will ultimately find that their pensions are being accrued in a safe way.”


What characteristics make you suitable for this job?

“I am very eager to learn, ambitious and have a lot of perseverance. That’s a good match with the challenges that APG has to offer.”


What do you do in your spare time?

“I like to work out. I do fitness at the rec center, indoor soccer... And I spend a lot of time with family and friends.”


What do your friends and family think of you working in the pension world?

“Well, I think everyone around me has a dusty image of the pension industry. But then when I tell them what APG Asset Management is involved in, the investments they make and the scope of it, they quickly become impressed. It’s such a huge player, they don’t expect that. My father works in education and other family members are also accruing their pensions with ABP, one of our clients. They sometimes joke about whether their pension is in good hands. I always tell them that their pensions couldn't be in better hands than APG’s.”

Do you want to know more about available traineeships at APG? You can find more information here!

Volgende publicatie:
"The smallest design changes can make a big difference"

"The smallest design changes can make a big difference"

Published on: 7 February 2022

Who are the people who choose to work in the pension sector? What do they do there all day for your pension? And do they really like their job? We take you behind the scenes.

Brettney Vlieland-Pijst (33) is a marketing & communication consultant and visual designer at APG. "It's a challenge for me to make information as simple as possible, so that it's accessible to everyone."

What exactly do you do at APG?

"Officially, I'm a marketing & communication consultant, but that's actually a catch-all term. One is a marketer, the other a content specialist. I'm a bit of an odd one out. The work I do is very diverse. I'm now a visual designer, because I'm now also involved in graphic design."


So what kind of work does it involve?

"For example, I prepare reports, but also the welcome card that pension participants receive and much more. The visual identity of a fund is extremely important. We manage people's money; a reliable, recognizable appearance is essential. Within APG, I mainly work for bpfBOUW, the pension fund for the construction industry."


How did you get here?

"I started at APG more than five years ago at the customer contact center, which is a good place to get to know the company and its customers. I then switched to the employers' desk, where I helped employers with collective agreement-related questions. After that, I became a content specialist at the marketing & communications department. In this position, I secured more and more graphic work. I was hired for that purpose too, I think. I've previously worked at an educational publishing company." 


What made you think: I'm going to work in the world of pensions, that's where it happens?

"Before APG, I was self-employed. I was constantly busy getting new assignments. Once I had children, I needed a little more security. In addition, I missed colleagues around me. I didn't have a lot of affinity with the pension world as such, but I do have a soft spot for construction. My now retired father worked in construction, and other family members still do. That's great fun, because they're my sounding board. If I have an idea, I present it to them; after all, they're the target group."

"Family members of mine work in construction. That's great fun, because they're my sounding board"

What did you do when you were self-employed?

"I was a photographer. I'm quite a careerist and that has taken me far. That's how I ended up in a book as one of the hundred best emerging photographers in the Netherlands. That was awesome."


Don't you miss your photography work?

"A bit, but luckily I still shoot regularly in my spare time. For bpfBOUW, I also take care of photography and video recordings with external parties. For example, we made a video about how a divorce affects your pension. I thought that was really fantastic, to find people who wanted to talk candidly about such a sensitive subject."


What gives you job satisfaction?

"I want to be able to make a difference. Taking photos is fun, but when I design something that makes people suddenly understand how to fill in something, I make a lot more impact. I have a weakness for target groups that, for example, have difficulty reading. It's a challenge for me to make content as simple as possible, so that it's accessible to everyone. You don't just do that in text, but also by using - say - two columns instead of one, so you get shorter sentences. And you can also make a huge difference with symbols and infographics. All information we provide must be clear, simple and well-arranged. It gives me satisfaction to contribute to that."

What qualities make you suitable for this job?

"My enthusiasm and creativity. I'm also someone who always thinks in possibilities: how can I achieve this?"


What does a working day look like for you?

"First, I check my email to see if anyone needs help. It could be anything; from editing a photo to posting a video to YouTube. People also often ask me whether I can check to see if something fits with the house style. Then I continue with my projects, such as the pension handbook. I don't have a specific daily routine. That also brings challenges; you have to plan everything well, because it's easy to be overwhelmed by the work. If you accept every small job, you no longer get to the most important work. But it wouldn't be like me to do the same thing every day. I like variety and change, I thrive on that."


What do you do when you're not at work?

"My son (6) and daughter (4) take up a lot of time. I like to take them on day trips, to the zoo for example. Other than that, I prefer to work. Yes, I'm a real workaholic."


How do people around you react when you tell them about your job?

"There's always a discussion about pensions and that there's nothing left for them. I then try to explain to them the importance of collectivity. That usually helps. If I tell them exactly what I do, they will understand why I'm here at APG. My friends will never think I have a boring job, they know me too well for that."


What do pension participants notice about your job?

"A lot, in my job, I make information more accessible and understandable for them. For example, we're currently working on a pension manual for employers. Many employers in the construction industry are informal. They're the first to know if something changes in the personal situation of their employees. For example, if someone is getting a divorce, the employer can provide a to-do list, including the aforementioned video, so that his employee knows exactly what to arrange. The smallest changes can make a big difference. To cite another example: forms were often not signed because they didn't have a specific field for that. Adding something as simple as that, and making a checklist with ticks - 'you must do this, you must hand it in this' - should improve things in the future. This also prevents forms having to be sent back and forth."

Volgende publicatie:
APG contributes to an inclusive investment world

APG contributes to an inclusive investment world

Published on: 4 February 2022

APG US is joining Out Investors, an organization that aims to make the investment world more accessible for LGBTQ+ professionals. Max Hartley, founder of the APG US LBGTQ+ affinity group and associate in private equity, explains why.


Now that APG is embracing and shaping diversity and inclusion more internally, it is time to also engage with external parties. As a step towards this goal, APG US has agreed to become a member of Out Investors, says Max Hartley. “I see this commitment as the first of many D&I-related partnerships that APG can enter into, with the goal of not only supporting professionals, but also learning best practices in recruitment, development, mentorship and other human capital initiatives.”

Good example

Each of the 90+ other member firms in Out Investors have their own frameworks and approach towards hiring and creating a supportive culture for LGBTQ+ employees, and would be extremely valuable for APG to be exposed and learn best practices and in turn, serve as a good example. In addition, membership to Out Investors allows LGBTQ+ and allies in the financial sector a place to network.

Steps taken

APG's dedication to ESG and D&I was Max's main reason for joining the organization and he thinks APG is making good strides in understanding diversity and inclusion in both recruiting practices and integrating them into APG’s values overall. “For example, D&I is a key diligence item in our private equity investments and APG is seen as a powerful force for the improvement of D&I in finance overall. “It’s very exciting to be part of an organization propagating such change.”

But it's not just about what APG does to the outside world. Making employees more aware of the steps that APG has taken in diversity and inclusion, stays important too. “That way we as individuals can become more aware and inclusive in our daily interactions with each other. One good step was in the US where we had our first annual Diversity Day in November, which was extremely well-attended and helpful in continuing the conversation on D&I at APG.”

About the APG US LGBTQ+ Affinity Group
The APG US LGBTQ+ group believes in inclusion and equality - meaning everyone is welcome! We openly acknowledge who we are with pride and we support APG internally and our local community externally. We want expand our professional LGBTQ+ networks through events that connect us to those inside and outside of our organization and we aim to partner with like-minded organization to do so.

Volgende publicatie:
"Metaverse can turn our interaction with participants on its head"

"Metaverse can turn our interaction with participants on its head"

Published on: 3 February 2022

What trends will we see this year? And what characterized last year? APG experts shed their light on this. Today Anne-Marie Le Doux (head of the Growth Factory) talks about important developments in the field of innovation. "Innovation should no longer just be about new, but also about sustainable."


The Growth Factory is part of APG and focuses on innovations around the needs of participants, employers and pension funds. In short: APG's clients. In doing so, the Growth Factory uses technologies and methods that have proven their worth in other sectors. Looking at her field, Le Doux sees a number of trends that may play an important role this year. These developments do not come out of the blue, but were often already present last year. Covid, for example, often appears to have a reinforcing influence on innovation trends.


Digital applications quickly come into the picture when it comes to innovation, and that also applies to the Growth Factory. Le Doux expects metaverse to continue as a trend for this year and beyond. "That is a kind of fusion of the physical and digital worlds. People who play Minecraft or Fortnite will be familiar with it. With the help of virtual reality (the user is completely in a digital 3D world, ed.) and augmented reality (a digital addition to the user's physical world; for example, the ability to see on your phone whether a TV or a piece of furniture fits in your living room, ed.) we can increasingly move into the digital world. Metaverse is still a concept, but one that can completely revolutionize our interaction with our fund clients' participants. After all, if a participant or company wants to approach us through Metaverse, we must adapt our services accordingly so that we can also serve them in that world. It is therefore definitely something we are keeping an eye on."

"A development that already played out last year and will continue this year is the need to separate innovation from growth," Le Doux says. "When people buy a new phone, it is good for economic growth, but it also has negative consequences for the environment and climate. In addition, over the past two years we have seen that there is a limit to the abundance we are used to. We've all seen the empty supermarket shelves, soaring energy prices and stores suddenly having to close at 8 p.m. Covid made us realize that scarcity can strike at any moment. Innovation should therefore not only be about new, but also about sustainable. You can buy a new phone, but there has to be a way of breaking down the old one in a circular way so that the raw materials can be reused. And that's really different from how it was."

We need to respond even more to the declining trust


Covid has severely tested people's trust in the past two years. "This has been going on for some time, but I don't expect trust in institutions to improve this year," Le Doux says. "We need to respond to this even more. We do this by responding to the call for more transparency and honest answers. That means that, as a company, you want to get the right and relevant information to the customer at the right time, in a way that suits them. At APG we are now working on a Digital Experience Platform, where members can find the answers to their pension questions. That pension information is the foundation, but I expect that there will also be increasing requests for information about how we invest or how we deal with personal data. The better you can answer these kinds of questions as a company, the greater the chance that you will strengthen the bond of trust with the customer. And preserving and strengthening that trust, looking ahead to the transition to the new pension system, is also very important for APG."

Technology trends

Le Doux: "Technology always plays a big role in innovation, like data fabric, cybersecurity mesh and hyperautomation. What you see is that by combining a number of these techniques, our processes are becoming more error-free, data-driven and more controlled. At the Growth Factory, we are now figuring out whether we can use these techniques to take some of the processes in our pension administration a big step further. For example, we are looking into whether RegTech - a combination of technologies including artificial intelligence, big data, cloud computing and machine learning - can help us meet compliance requirements in a fully automated way. All that technology reduces the chance of human error. Growth Factory has a stake in this by creating prototypes that we then assess with participants, funds and APG staff for added value."


Emerging opportunities

What is a trend now, will very soon be business as usual, Le Doux argues. "It is therefore important for APG to constantly look around us for emerging opportunities. What do we see happening in other sectors? What do our participants and employers expect from our services in a few years' time? How can we help funds to implement their strategy through the use of new technologies? It's up to us as Growth Factory to come up with solutions to these kinds of questions and test whether they work."

Volgende publicatie:
“Not everything is a battle, I had to learn that”

“Not everything is a battle, I had to learn that”

Published on: 26 January 2022

How well are pension administrators taking care of their own pension? Emile Toes represents his colleagues in the management board of the staff pension fund of APG. Approachable and with a straightforward mentality, but also stubborn where needed. “Results are especially achieved when there's a certain degree of friction.”


During pre-Corona times Emile Toes was regularly approached by his colleagues at the coffee machine, being a manager of the staff pension fund of APG: “Tell me, why has the pension contribution increased?” Or: “I hear the partner pensions will be retrenched, what's that all about?”

“Those types of decisions have an immediate impact on people's wallets,” Toes says. “No wonder they have questions about it. I then try to explain why such decision is necessary and what factors played a role in the considerations of the management board.”

No, he has never secretly avoided the coffee machine and, with that, the confrontation with colleagues. “I consider it an advantage for us managers to be present in the workplace. How often do you meet an ABP manager as a teacher or staff member of the defense department? One-on-one contact is impossible if you serve millions of participants. For us, as a small and independent company pension fund, the threshold is low and the lines nice and short.”

Toes has been a manager for the past two years on behalf of the employees in PPF-APG, providing the pension for 7000 participants of whom 2200 are active. In daily life, he works as a business consultant at APG. In that role he calculates, among other things, pension schemes and thinks along about the service provision to the associated funds. Toes therefore wears different hats: he is an employee of APG, participant and manager of the own pension fund and, in that latter role, also a customer of his own employer. Some type of Droste-effect you could say.


How do you keep those roles separated?

“You always have to ensure avoiding any semblance of a conflict of interest. It helps that everyone is aware of my double hat, I am very open about it. I do not perform any direct activities for PPF in my daily work at APG. And if, for example, an advice of APG is discussed during a board meeting to which I contributed, I don't cast my vote but step out to drink a cup of coffee. It also is an advantage fulfilling those different roles. Because I know a lot about pension administration, I am able to provide the management board with plenty of input.”


Why do you think were you elected as a board member back then?

“I have no doubt that my fellow candidate would have been suitable for this role as well. Perhaps I was eventually elected because I don't want to be technocratic but open and accessible. Managers are like people: complicated political hassle sometimes occurs because they want to do justice to all the interests involved or want to convey a difficult message in a less disturbing way. But it's better to just be honest and straightforward: saying you had to make a tough decision that may have a negative impact on some people.”


Can you give an example?

“Take the retrenchment of the partner pension for instance. A decision made by the social partners which is then assessed and executed by the fund. That was quite a significant adjustment, but one that was needed to keep the pension affordable in the future. This led to concern and dissatisfied reactions from some participants. I will then explain such decision: one-on-one, often more than an hour. Those conversations are not always pleasant and sometimes it is impossible to reach substantive consensus. But the exchange of views is still valuable. Another difficult topic is indexation. For the fifth year in a row we will also not be indexing in 2022, no matter how much we may want to. Our policy coverage ratio is 107.5 percent, which is lower than the legal requirement of 110 percent, even though we are moving into the right direction. That's something we try to explain thoroughly, for example during the participants’ meetings or the annual pensioners’ day, which, by the way, are both held digital since Corona.”


It may become possible to index at a coverage ratio of 105 percent in the future. Good news?

“Yes, but you also have to look to the future. It should not be the case of us indexing and having to cut back again in two years’ time because the coverage ratio has decreased too much. We want to avoid yo-yo policy. Moreover, it has to be balanced: if the payment of pensioners increases, what will be the consequences for the active participants? That are the things we discuss in the management board.”


And you obviously represent the interests of the employees within the board…

“The management board is constituted with equal representation: we have seats on behalf of employers, pensioners and employees. But we are not segregated, as managers we all look beyond the party we represent. It involves a lot of money and major interests. This means I cannot afford only highlighting the perspective of the active participants. I am a member of the board on behalf of everyone, also the pensioners and the sleepers.”


Not all employees of APG participate in the staff pension fund. Several hundred employees are accruing pension through ABP. Does that lead to mutual tensions?

“It is the product of historical development. If two employees hold the same position but are both participating in a different pension fund, a comparison can easily be made. The coverage ratios are not equal, for instance. People also often think that we are more expensive than ABP. Indeed, the fixed costs are a challenge for a small fund because those costs have to be distributed among a smaller group of participants. That is why we, as the management board, aim for a further decrease of the costs every year, both in terms of administration and asset management. The investment policy is also compared quite often as we are both relying on APG for our asset management. When ABP announced to no longer invest in fossil materials, the staff pension fund also received questions from participants: ‘Will you be abolishing investments in fossil fuels as well?’ Or actually: ‘You won't be abolishing investments in fossil fuels, do you?’”

As an individual investor, that amount of 1.7 billion does not gain us a lot of clout on a global scale, that's true

And what was your reply to those questions?

“We want to take our time for careful deliberations on that matter. As the board, we work according to a certain model: Imaging, the formation of an opinion and decision-making. The first thing we are doing at the moment, is thoroughly mapping all consequences. We also consider the base of support among our participants. As it happens, we had just conducted a survey on responsible investing prior to the decision made by ABP. About 70 percent of the respondents believes we are allowed to be somewhat ambitious in that field. We also received questions from participants earlier this year about our interest in mining company Glencore, due to human rights violations during the extraction of cobalt. As the management board we then decided to no longer invest in Glencore.”


How much influence can you exert with invested assets of 1.7 billion euros, versus the hundreds of billion euros invested by ABP as the largest pension fund of the Netherlands? Don't you feel like a tiny mouse opposite a giant elephant?

“We are mainly seeking cooperation with other parties. As an individual investor, that amount of 1.7 billion does not gain us a lot of clout on a global scale, no, that's something you have to be realistic about. A fellow member of the board described that somewhat ironically the other day, with a fictitious newspaper headline: ‘PPF-APG gives China its final warning’. Yet, as the management board we are one hundred percent committed to realizing an as good as possible and responsible pension for our participants using those assets, regardless of the volume thereof.”


Many pension funds struggle with the communication towards their participants who find the information often way too complicated. You probably don't have those difficulties.

“There are plenty of people working here who are able to calculate the contribution themselves, that's true. But we also have participants whose UPO, the Uniform Pension Overview, is immediately tossed into a drawer. There are of course also people working here who are involved in other things than pension administration, such as IT or data management. Moreover, our communication also has to be understandable to partners and children of participants. This means we are just sharing all the basic information. At the same time, a relatively high number of participants have indeed more knowledge on pensions than the average company. So, at times we have to look for the proper level of communication. That is also one of the reasons why I like to engage in those personal conversations. Those conversations provide an opportunity for a more in-depth explanation.”


Why has PPF-APG not opted in the new pension system, given that higher level of knowledge, for the Flexible Contribution Scheme in which the participant bears more responsibility?

“The social partners have provisionally opted for the Solidary Contribution Scheme (in which investments are made collectively, ed). The decisive factor in this decision was the importance of solidarity. The Flexible Contribution Scheme does not allow for the sharing of investment risks. The choice is not final though, it is a working hypothesis. We do have the intention of switching to the new system as one of the first funds in the Netherlands, per January 1, 2025. A dual challenge: not just for us as the fund, but also for APG as the employer and administrative organization.”

An as high as possible pension at the lowest possible cost. That is what I am looking to achieve for our participants

Do you feel confident about that transition, wearing your hat of fund manager?

“I have no doubt whatsoever that the people within APG will be able to manage the transition to the new system. All the knowledge and expertise needed is available. And as a fund we are small and agile enough to ensure a smooth transition. We don't mind playing the role of pioneer. On the contrary, as the staff fund of APG we want to be a showcase for the transition. We are already making all the preparations. The new Law on the Future of Pensions requires, for example, that we ask participants about their view on handling risks in their pension. We will be conducting that risk preference survey in January. The next years will be busy because, being a small fund, we don't have an executive office. We get support from APG, but there still is a lot left for us to do ourselves.”

So, you almost have a second job you don't get paid for. What is your motivation as a pension manager? You wanted to become a physician once?

“Yes, I studied medical nursing care for a year, but that wasn't my thing after all. It was my childhood dream to become a physician, just like my four-year-old son is absolutely certain he wants to become a fire fighter. I do see some common grounds though between the medical world and the pension industry. Both industries revolve around the well-being of people and that's something I can also contribute to as a pension manager.”


With a sizeable dose of stubbornness, as you characterized yourself once. Is that hindering or helpful?

“Both. I am not easy to convince. But if I act too stubborn, there are plenty of people in the management board who can push me back into my place. My managerial position has also provided me with more appreciation for other arguments and insights. Not everything is a battle which is something I had to learn. My conviction has disadvantages, but also advantages. I truly stand for my opinion. People always know exactly what my opinion on certain matters is. If you don't take a stand, it will get you nowhere. Results are especially achieved when there's a certain level of friction during the discussion in order to obtain an as high as possible pension at the lowest possible cost. That is what I am looking to achieve for our participants. In addition, I also have a personal mission: being an accessible management board, really taking the time for our colleagues, regardless of whether good or bad news has to be conveyed about their pension. We are moving in the right direction, but there is always room for improvement.”

Who is Emile Toes?

His mother cut out an advert in the regional newspaper back in the days, seeking trainees for ASW, the pension fund for housing corporations. The company was looking for school-leavers without any knowledge of pensions. Emile Toes (1986) was perfectly fitting that profile. After a few years, ASW fused with Cordares, the pension fund for the construction industry, that in turn fused with APG. Toes moved along every time. His first pension role was employee Customer Team, fifteen years later he holds the position of business consultant at APG.


Gloves off

At the age of thirty Toes already was the (employees’) chairperson of the Accountability Council, advising and annually assessing the management of PPF-APG. As of February 2020 he has become a manager of the company pension fund on behalf of the employees of APG and five affiliated organizations. He inherited his discussion techniques from his home background, growing up as the youngest (and half of a twin) in a family with five children in Blaricum. Sharing thoughts during dinner about all kinds of topics: it was the order of the day.

Volgende publicatie:
“It's still nice not to be called a money-grabber”

“It's still nice not to be called a money-grabber”

Published on: 24 January 2022

Who are those people choosing to work in the pension industry? What is it they do all day for your pension? And do they truly enjoy their work? We take you with us to have a look behind the scenes.

Julian Steenman (26) is quant portfolio manager at APG. “People wrongly assume that a quant is a numb machine who is programming all day sitting behind a monitor.”


What does the work of a quant portfolio manager entail?

“A portfolio manager manages an investment portfolio. I work within the real estate team and participate in managing a real estate portfolio of APG.”


OK, and what is a quant?

“Quant stands for quantitative. It is a rather broad and vague concept in the investment world but in general, a quant is someone who looks at potential investments in a model-based and mathematical way. We try to explain the things happening on the stock exchange by means of mathematical relations, and cause and effect. In addition, we try to make sensible statements on what the future will hold. The field I am involved in specifically, is systemizing the investment process within the real estate team.”


How does that work?

“What we do within the real estate team, simply put, is answering the question: Do we want to invest in this? with either Yes or No. And ‘this’ can be a hotel for instance. The answer is always based on substantiated arguments and convictions. A large part can be standardized. We are working on a type of decision tree which has the question whether or not to invest at the top and that works its way down to more detailed information on why we should or shouldn't. By systemizing the process that way, you make sure everyone has to go through the same steps when making decisions. It also makes it easier to compare those decisions with one and other.”


How does one become such quant?

“If you studied mathematics or econometrics, the label ‘quant’ is easily applied. I studied mathematics at the university and gradually found out my interest for the financial world.”


Yet, ‘the financial world’ sounds a bit flashier than ‘the pension industry’. How did you end up at APG?

“I never really thought about the pension industry to be honest, but accidently ended up at APG to write my graduation thesis. APG is the largest asset manager in the Netherlands; that scale and complexity cannot be found anywhere else. I enjoyed it here so much that I decided to stay. So, I did a two years’ traineeship and have been working in this new job since October.”



And, no regrets yet about the choice you made?

“Absolutely not, I have definitely made the right choice.”


What do you love so much about this job?

“Multiple things. I consider the investment process a challenging, interesting puzzle. I also very much enjoy concretely contributing to the process itself, in together making sure that it gets increasingly easier to compare why we invest in hotel A and not in hotel B. That makes the process better to explain and also more transparent. And it's a pleasing plus that we serve a public interest. Yes, we are busy making money and we want to realize that by means of investments, but there also is an idea behind the reason. We do this to make sure the people will be receiving sufficient pension payments. I enjoy contributing to that goal, although that wasn't the initial reason for me to choose the pension industry. It's still nice not to be called a money-grabber.”


What drives you in your work?

“The fact that we invest for the pension of millions of people. That is quite different at many other asset managers where you try to earn money for a small number of millionaires. When I chose to write my thesis at APG, that wasn't my main motivation but I started to identify more and more with the missions of APG throughout the years. APG is a leading company within the financial industry in terms of sustainability, for example. Sustainability is important to me as well. I became a vegetarian a couple of years ago for environmental reasons. What drives me specifically in my work is unravelling that extremely complicated process involved in making an investment decision. And then to come up with smart, quantitative solutions gives me great satisfaction.”

When I am with friends, we always talk about my work at least once. They believe it's very interesting

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

“Well, they believe it's very interesting! I notice that many people started investing privately in the past years. So, everyone in my inner circle is very interested in what I do. Every time my friends and I come together in the evening, we always talk about my work at least once. They ask me, for example, what I am currently doing and how the entire investment process at such large asset manager goes.”


Good question, how does that investment process go?

“Being a private person, you click on a button and you purchase a share. But there are many steps preceding such decision at an organization like APG. You conduct a due diligence investigation, as they call it within the real estate world: you gather as much information as possible. Just to stick to that hotel example: say we consider purchasing a certain hotel, we will first analyze such hotel entirely. How old is the building, what is the state of the rooms, does it require renovation, is the management reliable? We look at a company-specific level, but also at the location. What is our expectation of the development of rental prices of hotels at this location and of the inflation? We then put all of those pieces of information together in a valuation model. The goal is to use the outcomes to apply a valuation tag to that hotel, enabling us to assess whether or not it is an attractive investment. If the answer is Yes, we present it to an investment committee where all of our arguments are looked into once again. Is our expectation of the room prices realistic, for example? Only if we are able to properly substantiate why something is a good investment, we get the green light and are allowed to submit an offer.”


How much money are you actually managing?

“The total value of APG's real estate portfolio is somewhere between 50 and 60 billion. We manage those funds globally with a team of a little over fifty people. If you look at it that way, we manage 1 billion euros per person.”


Do you invest privately as well?

“Yes, but only within the spectrum allowed within APG. Because we are professionally involved in investing, we are not allowed to buy individual shares in private. If you invest privately in a certain company, such as Philips, that could affect your decisions at work, or the other way around. We are allowed to invest in funds and trackers (‘baskets’ of shares following the price of the entire AEX Index, ed.), so that is what I am doing.”


What does your workday look like?

“I often start my day reading the news related to the stock exchange and real estate, so I am aware of what is happening. Then I make a To-Do list of the two or three most important things I want to finish that day. Those priorities always involve that valuation model I was talking about earlier or systemizing the investment process. We have five to ten people in our team working on those matters.”


Are you tied to your monitor all day?

“Good heavens, no. That is the image many people have of quants, that they are numb machines programming and modelling little things all day at their computer. But that idea would be horrifying. I am fortunately also interacting with colleagues multiple times per day. That is very important to me. No, I don't recognize myself in the stereotypical image of a quant at all.”


What do you do in your spare time?

“I exercise a lot and like to run. I also enjoy reading, like to play chess and am a big fan of travelling – too bad the latter isn't possible at the moment.”

What are the character traits making you fit for the work you do?

“Apart from the fact that I truly understand quantitative matters and are able to think in an abstract way, I am good in creating the bridge with people with a lesser numerical background. Explaining complicated matters as simply as possible is something I am rather good at.”


What do APG customers specifically notice in terms of your work?

“That would eventually result in the amount of pension paid every month. If our investment results are good – even though real estate is only a small part of the whole – customers notice that in the fact that we don't have to cut down and that indexation takes place. And systemizing the process, what we are currently doing, leads to us eventually being able to make even better decisions and making those choices even better to explain.”

Volgende publicatie:
‘Most people don't understand what it is that I do’

‘Most people don't understand what it is that I do’

Published on: 11 January 2022

Who are those people who are consciously choosing to work in the pension industry? What is it they do all day for your pension? And do they truly enjoy their work? We take you with us to have a look behind the scenes. Latifa el Haddar (40) is all-round pension employee at APG. “To be honest: it sometimes drives me crazy altering an account number for the sixtieth time a day. But, luckily, not every day is this boring.”


‘All-round pension employee, that sounds like a jack of all trades. What is it you do exactly?

“I work at the department BTER, which stands for Bedrijfstakeigen regelingen (industry-wide schemes). I am engaged in all the additional schemes employers and employees of the BTER funds are able to utilize as per the CAO (Collective Labor Agreement). An example is the Tijdspaarfondsregeling (time saving fund scheme), intended for people covered by the CAO Construction & Infrastructure. Their holiday allowance and vacation days are deposited into a pot and we manage that pot. We are also involved in the Zwaarwerkregeling (heavy-duty labor scheme). That scheme, allowing employees to stop working sooner, can be applied for through our department. We will then make sure they get paid benefits until they are entitled to receive AOW (state pension). These people often use those benefits together with an early retirement. Participants currently receiving sickness or unemployment benefits, can also contact us to apply for a supplement arrangement. Our department is involved in a total of fifteen schemes.”


Does this mean your work is only indirectly pertaining to pensions?

“Yes, that's correct.”


Yet, you work in the pension industry. That industry is not known for being the most vibrant line of business.

“LOL, let's be honest: it can be extremely boring at times. It sometimes drives me crazy having to enter sixty account numbers in one day. But fortunately that's not the case on a daily basis.”


What is it you enjoy about your work?

“I enjoy being quite autonomous as a team. Our team consists of eight members and, if we believe things have to be done differently, we are able to take decisive decisions quickly and easily. The lines towards the management are short. I also very much enjoy the freedom I have. As long as you work the hours you are hired for, it doesn't really matter when you do this. A colleague of mine starts at five o’clock in the morning – rather her than me. You are able to log in whenever you want and if you go outside for a while in between, that's all good. There is no 9-to-5 mentality. That suits me.”


It probably wasn't your childhood dream to work at APG. How did you end up here?

“It came on my path really. After my HBO study, that I didn't complete because my parents decided to move back to Morocco in my third year and I had to face reality on my own, I worked for many temporary job agencies. At some point I was invited to a job interview at APG, or Cordares back then. During that same period I also had a job interview at Wibra, for the position of branch manager. I had to make a choice when both companies were willing to hire me.”


Why did you decide to opt for APG?

“After due consideration I decided it just wasn't my thing to open a store every day and to have full responsibility for such business. APG seemed like a nice employer offering plenty of prospect for the future. And that proved to be true. I have been working here for fifteen years now and was allowed to complete many training courses. I was able to obtain my green belt, for example, by learning to recognize improvements within processes. I am now holding the position of improvement specialist at my department. It is never an issue if people want to follow a training course or education. So, I am still glad to have chosen APG back then. Prior to my position at the BTER department starting four years ago, I worked at the customer service and was involved in pension for the construction industry, cleaning industry and housing corporations. I have meanwhile also joined the works council as a member. Every department has taught me something about myself. That entire journey through the company has shaped me into who I am today.”


Every department has taught me something about myself. That entire journey through the company has shaped me into who I am today

What do you tell people about your work at parties?

“Most people don't understand what it is that I do. If you say you work for a pension administrator but your work does not involve pensions that much, you already see some people raising their eyebrows. When I say I am an improvement specialist, the eyebrows are raised even higher. ‘Does this mean you are improving people all the time?’ People immediately think about karate when I mention my green belt.”


What does your workday look like?

“I usually start work around eight thirty. I work 28 hours per week and on Monday I check what else needs to be done apart from the standard production. We divide the work based on a sheet created upon my initiative. Everyone is free to pick up everything he or she wants to do. I usually opt for all the different flavors in order to keep my work as varied as possible. The questions we get have to be answered within ten workdays, but we always try to come up with a reply sooner. Now that we are all working from home, we make sure to organize a video call every day and to really switch on our cameras just to see one another. Other than that, we all perform our own tasks.”


When does your department move into action?

“The moment we receive a question from an employer or employee. Those questions are processed through the customer contact center, but also through portals of employers and through email. We have a separate inbox for every scheme. Participants do not call us directly, but I often contact them by telephone to handle certain matters. I find that more personal.”


What are the questions you receive most frequently?

“The top 3 is a bit embarrassing. What is my password? What is my login name? And: can you alter my account number? We have arranged the website in such a way that people should be able to find that information themselves quite easily, but apparently it is not the location for most construction workers to look for that information. They seem to find it easier to give us a call or to send an email.”


That doesn't seem like the most challenging work.

“No, and that's why you have to vary a little. Some questions are more challenging though. Employees in the construction industry, for instance, often want to know why their employer has not yet deposited money in their Tijdspaarfonds, or they ask about the procedure to provide their choice of trade union. Another example are employers asking how a certain calculation has come about. We have many schemes for which calculations have to be made, so not everything is easy. It is very diverse actually.”


What is it that gives you satisfaction?

“When I manage to implement a change my team supports and derives energy from.”


What would your immediate colleagues say about you if we would call them now?

“That I am very straight-forward. You can leave it up to me to name the elephant in the room. I am not afraid to give feedback and regularly ask for it myself. I am clear in what I need and I am very open. That also ensures a connection, I think. According to my manager, I am a natural driver within the team. I have no problem making people understand why certain things have to be done. It is not hard for me to set priorities; I actually enjoy it. I am good in maintaining an overview.”


What else do you do in your daily life?

“I am quite a busy bee. I am a member of the participation council at the school of my children, three girls aged 16, 14 and almost 10. That's how I get a better understanding of how education works and what is going on. I also volunteer at the karate club, as I enjoy being involved with young people. They call me ‘miss’ at that club, while I am only taking care of the membership administration and sometimes attach a belt if the children cannot do it themselves. I don't practice karate myself, but I am practicing kickboxing. I also attend spinning and zumba classes. I am actually always doing something. What I do to relax? Practicing sports is relaxation to me. But I also enjoy reading. I am a huge fan of Stephen King and own all of his books.”

What do pension participants specifically notice in terms of your work?

“Not much. We sometimes receive questions from participants. Whether they are allowed to use the money from their Tijdspaarfonds to retire early, for example.”


And, are they allowed?