"I invest for the pensions of more than a quarter of all Dutch people, which makes me proud"

Published on: 3 February 2021

Who are those people who consciously choose to work in the pensions industry? What do they do all day for your retirement? And what do they like about their jobs? Come along for a journey behind the scenes.

Anke Cornelisse (26) did a traineeship at APG and now works as a portfolio manager.



So you just woke up one day and thought: the world of pensions, that's where I want to work in?

"Ha right, well, not quite. I actually wanted to work in a bank, because my father believes that's reprehensible, which only spurred me on. After an internship at a bank, I discovered that I liked asset management. That's where I discovered the combination of financial markets and economics. So when I started looking for that, I ended up at APG."


And then you got excited?

"Well, not straight away. At the time, the APG site was still rather boring, with photos of women in dull office suits, but I nevertheless decided to look into it further. I saw on LinkedIn that they also employed young people and after I called an APG trainee, I was convinced. It sounded much more interesting than I'd expected."


You were sold and signed up to do a traineeship. Just for the outsiders among us: what exactly does that mean?

"It's a kind of training within the company that lasts two years. You learn a lot in the full spectrum of the field and it's the perfect way of finding a job in asset management as a junior. There are hardly any junior positions available in asset management; everyone working in it already has an awful lot of experience. It's not easy to get a foot in the door when you're fresh out of school. A traineeship is your ticket in. By doing various assignments, you can find out which way of investing suits you and what you like best. Do I prefer to invest in 'fast' stocks and bonds or do I prefer to invest in property or toll roads, which involves you working on a deal more. I was more attracted to stocks and bonds, because they're closely linked to the daily fluctuations in the economy."

So now you have a job as a portfolio manager and you work with bonds. Isn't that the most boring asset class?

"It's true that there's not much return to be achieved now that the interest rates are so low. Bonds are the most risk-free asset class. Our main goal is therefore not to make a lot of money with the money we manage, but to ensure that the actual value of money does not decrease. But it's certainly not boring. It is in fact very dynamic. When something big happens in the world, it's immediately reflected in the bond market. Economics isn't an exact science, it's an ongoing quest for answers. The puzzle is never finished. There are so many factors involved. Just as you're thinking that you're finally starting to get the hang of things, a Covid crisis comes along the effects of which no one can predict. You never stop learning in this profession. You're in the middle of this economy that's constantly on the move."

Which qualities make you a real pension tiger?

"Well I'm very curious, I'm always trying to answer people's questions. I also really enjoy explaining how it all works. What about the coverage ratio? Why should or shouldn't you cut pensions. The people who understand least of it all are also the ones whom it matters to most. I therefore find it extremely important to explain this complex subject matter to my grandparents, for example."


Do you never think: if only I had chosen a bank?

"No, not all, I'm much better off here. Colleagues in the Zuidas district sometimes say condescendingly: "Oh APG, aren't they civil servants?" That just makes me laugh. At least I don't have to work until eleven in the evening like you guys, I'm just saying. At a commercial organization, you actively need to look for clients, that's not necessary at APG. That frees up a lot of room to focus on the content side of things. Instead of making rich individuals even richer, I now invest for the pensions of a quarter of all Dutch people. That motivates me enormously. Even though we don't see or speak to them, we all know whom we're doing it for. We work for the Netherlands plc. That makes me proud."

When I get into the nitty-gritty of things, they quickly lose interest

So what do you actually do in a day?

"I'm on the treasuries team. We invest in government bonds in developed markets such as Europe, America and Australia. Each day, we keep a close eye on the economies in those countries. In the mornings, we go through the relevant market and portfolio developments and check the political news. Are we seeing any crazy things happening in the market? What's going on in politics and what does that mean for our portfolio? Each quarter, we discuss among each other and with insights from external specialists how we view the world, and in particular the countries we invest in. What's our view of the economy and what does that mean for our investments? We use certain models to try to predict what the markets will be doing. Each day, we check whether the portfolios we manage are still in line with what the pension funds have asked of us. We pass on new orders to trading and they carry them out."


Are your friends and family as enthusiastic about your work as you are?

"Uhm, not as much, I'd say. For example, they like it that I can explain how the new pension system works, but when I get into the nitty-gritty of things, they quickly lose interest.  That's when they say: 'Anke, I really appreciate you telling me all this, but you don't have to explain it any further'."