“I often hear terms like pension crooks and pension mafia”

Published on: 20 April 2021

“You work in the pension sector? Wow, exciting...” Plenty of preconceived notions about working for a pension fund or administrator. Perhaps not all justified, as shown by a series of portraits about people who work there on a daily basis. People like Senior pension spokesman Fabian Schumans. “Working on your pension is making choices for your own happiness and that is never boring.”


What does a Senior pension spokesman do for an administrator like APG?

“I have individual conversations with participants that are in complex pension situations. I create and lead workshops and presentations for participants and courses for employees and pension ambassadors. The objective is to increase people’s knowledge about pensions and to enable employers to pick up their role.”

You are really out in the field, speaking directly with the pension participant. What is that like?

“As a pension administrator, APG has contact with the participant on several levels. For example, through our client contact center where every kind of question is asked. The conversations I have are about more complex situations, such as the threat of disability, an escalating labor dispute, or people who are terminally ill.”


Conversations in which emotions probably run high.

“I always reassure people at the beginning of a conversation. They talk about their pension so rarely that it often makes them nervous, insecure. And for people who might lose money, yes, some emotions come into play. And I give them room for that. It can also get pretty intense, people sometimes start cursing, they threaten to drive their car through our wall, or they might feel devastated, because they don’t know what to do.”


How do you deal with that?

“To tell you the truth, I’d rather deal with those emotions and questions than with people who stay flat. I have often heard terms like pension crooks and pension mafia. But that’s okay. That is when questions arise and I can go into it in-depth, answer questions and really deal with a situation.”


What qualities do you need for a job like yours?

“You can’t get blown away by anger and you need to approach people without prejudice. I always talk to people at eye level and sense what is going on when I am standing in front of a group.”


It is kind of a luxury to have a conversation with a pension spokesman. When exactly do you take action?

“There are twelve of us pension spokesmen for ABP and for 1.3 million active pension participants that is not very many, so we don’t promote it. We have Relationship managers at APG who will bring us in for employers at the right time.”


You talk about pensions all day long; how do you keep it up?

“Oh, that’s not very difficult. Pensions are not boring at all. They are constantly in the news and they are constantly developing. What I’m doing now is really my passion, so I can keep talking about it for a long time.”


Passion and pension in one sentence: that something you will have to explain.

“If I can solve misunderstandings, that makes me smile. That also happens when I can help people get a grip on making the right choices or when I hear that after they talked to me they realized they are in such a good position that they can retire sooner. And that inspires me to do my best for the participant every single day.”


I don’t talk to a bus driver for hours about how the coverage ratio is calculated

How do you hold the attention of your audience on the lesson?

“By keeping it light. With a joke and a wink. I think that helps them to absorb the content better too. As opposed to people who make pensions unnecessarily complicated and act almost mysterious about it. Then people stop listening. I look at the people I talk to. What is relevant to him or her? That is what I focus on. So, I don’t talk to a bus driver for hours about how the coverage ratio is calculated. I ask people how they want to live in the future and have a conversation with them about how that can be achieved. Pension is about a phase in life where you can do fun things and enjoy your freedom. What could be better than spending your time on that?”


What is the message you give people?

“Take charge of the end of your career. Don’t choose standard options because you don’t want to look at it in-depth, but look at your own desires and your own situation. Working on your pension is making choices for your own happiness and that is never boring.”


Was this what you dreamed of when you were a little boy?

“Not really. I studied criminal law and criminology in university, thought I might want to join the police force and looked for a job in that world and outside of Limburg. But before I even started in that sector, I ended up at the client contact center at APG as a temp. After that I moved up the ranks quite quickly. I accumulated knowledge about pension, spent some time in sales and then landed in my current team. I love the contact with the participant and I find APG so interesting as an employer that I’m not thinking of going anywhere else anytime soon. And in terms of the new pension contract, I actually feel I am very much needed here right now.”


Wouldn’t you like to still pursue the dreams of your youth?

“I want to be among people; that client contact is very valuable to me. I had a staff position before, but that didn’t suit me at the time. I prefer to be out in the field. And that is exciting for me, because I don’t want to start doing anything on autopilot.”