Who are these people who consciously choose to work in the pensions industry? What do they do there all day for your pension? And what do they like about their work? We are taking you behind the scenes. Sander van de Ven is the Lead of Program Management Office (PMO) at APG.
“Being involved in something that has social impact is important to me.”
How do you explain your work when you’re at a party?
“Due to the transition to the renewed pension system, it is extra important that all the data of our pension members is in order. As you can probably imagine, there is a lot of data about them in our systems. That data all has to change along with this transition and that has to be done right, of course. I am working to ensure the quality of that data at APG, and specifically for fund client ABP.”
Can you make that a bit more concrete?
“You accrue a pension throughout your working life. During that time, you may change jobs or take a sabbatical, you might be unemployed for a while or become self-employed. These changes are all recorded in your pension administration. In addition, pension schemes change. All these different factors make pension administration and implementation complex. At ABP, we have millions of participants in sectors such as the police, defense, government and education. There are many exceptional cases within these groups; people sometimes receive supplements to their pension, we have to process changes in the regulations retroactively, you name it. The quality of our data is therefore important, as it all has to be correct.”
What do you do to ensure that quality?
“In my department, we fix errors and incompleteness in the current data system. And we are looking at how to proactively alert participants to supplements they are entitled to. We also check all the data. Is its input going well and are the calculations correct? ABP is a large fund, so that is a big job. Some participants also have a long history of pension accrual. Sometimes that goes back forty or fifty years. We have to ensure all that history is correct, put everything together and ensure the pension is right for the participant. As a department, we take a structured look at our own administration. What changes have there been, has legislation changed and where do we need to straighten things out? We analyze that and then figure out how to implement the changes. Whether this can be done automatically or has to be done manually. And what communication to the participant goes with that.”
And what exactly do you do?
“My role is to facilitate and coordinate this process. I support the project managers who are working on solving all kinds of problems that emerge from analyses. I also continuously coordinate with fund clients how we want to deal with certain situations and how to include stakeholders in this. I am mainly a sparring partner in this and I also bring different departments together.”
You are quite young for a managerial position. How did you get into this?
“I came in as a trainee and spent two years exploring different departments. So I saw quite a lot of the company and was well supported in that. In four years, I was able to make pretty big steps, which was amazing. At APG, those opportunities are certainly there. That’s how I ended up in this role. I also think it is good to keep an eye on talented young people. I have always been the youngest in teams and notice that it is valuable to share your impressions with the rest. Regardless of your age or experience. You can offer others a new perspective by doing so. And that’s really great!"
The pension sector doesn’t have a very sexy image. How do you view that?
"That’s true! But I have been noticing that something is changing. People around me are increasingly accosting me with the question: what is going to change? That’s a lot more often than - say - two years ago. I should add that these are not necessarily my peers, but mainly people over 40 and 50. I also get those questions from a lot of self-employed people, and I always tell them it’s really smart to do something for their pension now. Those are good conversations.”
What makes the pension world interesting to you?
“I have a background in public administration. The social and political field I currently work in particularly appeals to me. Being involved in something that has social impact, making provisions for people’s old age, that’s important to me. Plus, it is very relevant, because it concerns so many people! That context of social relevance, along with the political aspects - like the pension agreements and cabinet negotiations - is interesting to me. And then also, working with a great product in a public sector with private influences: that’s the best.”
You are also a soccer referee with the KNVB. Are there any parallels to your work?
“Definitely. Because in addition, I also captain my soccer team on Sunday mornings. Actually, there - just like at APG - I am always managing relationships and collaborating to achieve a result. Some team members need a softer approach, others thrive on a tougher one. The same applies in my role as referee. Letting others do their thing in a relaxed way, setting boundaries and playing the game in the best way possible. I like it when I don’t stand out and can let people excel. That really works for me, and I bring that to the workplace as well.”