“I enjoy providing leadership in a context of uncertainties”

Published on: 31 March 2022

Just under three more years and then the first pension fund will transfer to the new system. This transition must run smoothly for all parties – employers, participants and funds. That is why 2022 for APG is fully dominated by execution, says APG’s CEO Annette Mosman. “The most important thing is that we first get the primary process in order. That has to be done right the first time. It is the litmus test of the new pension system.” 


“2021 was the last year APG could afford to talk about preparing for the new pension agreement. This year is all about implementation,” says, APG’s CEO Annette Mosman. “As we speak, the bill is in the House of Representatives for approval. The transition to the new pension system is therefore becoming a reality. And now it’s our turn. You can feel that in every fiber of our organization. We’ve thought about it for a long time, we’ve helped create the law, and now we have to renovate our house while the store stays open.”

And meanwhile, 2022 has begun very dramatically. What is the impact of that on you, on the organization?
“Everything is relative when you see what is happening now in Ukraine. That affects me as a person and it affects our employees. There are people working at APG who are from Ukraine, people with relatives there and we have Russian colleagues as well. It affects the organization as a whole, but it also affects the energy prices we all pay, our economy, our investments, cybersecurity. But most of all, it is a humanitarian disaster that is happening right now.”

What is number one on the 2022 priority list?
“For APG and our pension fund clients, the first priority is obviously the Pension of the Future. In the next six months, we will be making agreements with our clients about which fund will be transferred when. Before we transfer the first fund on January 1, 2025, there is still a great deal of preparation to be done. This includes, for example, the implementation of the policy administration and the entry process, but also the development of our employees’ competencies. And secondly: last year was an excellent investment year. We can be proud of APG’s leading position as a responsible investor. But that position is under pressure. Clients and society are demanding more speed on sustainability issues. So, we have to move. In a smart way. By focusing on and accelerating the digitization of our operations. And by making clear choices on the theme of responsible investment, together with our fund clients.

Finally, we need to move even more toward a single APG. We must learn more from each other’s areas of expertise. With the new pension contract, we are seeing asset management and pension management increasingly converging. They used to be two separate, specialist fields. Our magnificent new working environment, EDGE West, helps in this respect. Literally. I spoke to a colleague who now works there and he told me: ‘I’ve been with APG for fifteen years now, but in one week I’ve already met more coworkers than in I did in recent years.’ That’s wonderful. The new APG is starting with the direct collaboration between people.”

The road to the new system is complex. Many parties with different interests. A system that has not yet been worked out in detail. How difficult is it to find your way in it as an administrator?​​​​​​​
“Clear choices’ is the theme of the annual report and that really means that we have made, had to make, clear choices and have put some things on the backburner. We are continuing to experiment; we are continuing to think about new propositions in terms of the financial fitness of the participant. But the most important thing now is to first get the primary process in order. We are going to convert 1,700 billion euros for the transition in the Netherlands. That has to be done right the first time. It is the litmus test for the new pension system. It is crucial for our pension fund clients and their participants that the pots are calculated correctly.”

But are you going to be able to figure that out together?“We work for eight funds. Each fund has its own ambitions and different emphases. Whether it’s data quality, their new client missions or improving ‘my pension’. But that is no small feat, because everyone wants their full agenda accomplished. However, there is also a clear common goal: a smooth and controlled transition to the new pension system. In which we promote the interests of all participants in the best possible way.”

The fact is that not everything is known about the new system yet. How do you lead that process?
“We have a lot of expertise at APG. Still, it is not easy, because we have never before had to face a period in which we had to make such important decisions, while the picture has not yet crystallized. You may call the context we are operating in unclear, but I don’t see it that way. There are always uncertainties. I actually enjoy providing leadership in a context of uncertainties. For me, the glass is usually half full. And besides: there is a lot we do know. We know what the law stands for, we know the direction it is going in. You can also be the master of your own destiny in that process.”

Administrative calm is crucial in this respect, Mosman points out. “We have a stable executive board, which was also involved in the formulation of the strategy in this composition and really lived through it. That also applies to the majority of the leadership team. And that administrative calm is also there because of the good relationship with the Works Council, the Supervisory Board and the shareholders. I am genuinely pleased that the relationships with these important stakeholders has improved and been strengthened. We have achieved this through intensive and genuine contact, in which we have not avoided difficult discussions and dilemmas.”

APG will take on more of the characteristics of a technology- and data-driven as well as participant-oriented organization

2021 was your first year as board chair. Are you satisfied with how things are going?“Satisfied?” Laughs, “I’m never quite satisfied. But to be honest: I can look back on a challenging year that has also been a very good year. It was a year in which our strategy was approved; that was an important milestone. And at the end of 2021, there was the decision to set up our policy on equity administration in collaboration with an external party, Festina Finance. We are taking the leap forward with the very latest technology, in the interests of participants and funds. And I am feeling very confident about that.”

What do you see as the biggest challenge?​​​​​​​“The labor market. Finding good people. We have very good people at APG, but the enormity of the work that is coming our way is really a big challenge. That is also the reason we are entering into more partnerships, such as working with an external party on the entry process.”

The system is changing, and so is APG. Can you paint a picture of the administrator that will be required in the new system?
“APG will take on more of the characteristics of a technology- and data-driven as well as participant-oriented organization. Of course, we must continue to excel in investing and administering. Those will always be important competencies. But the focus will shift to the front end. We are moving towards a system in which there is more uncertainty among participants. As a pension sector, we will have to explain more. We are therefore becoming more of a communications company. We’ve already taken steps in that direction, but the shift will really continue in the next few years. In any case, change is the new constant. I am convinced of that. We are now focusing on this transition, but we will have to continuously improve and develop in all areas as an organization.”

2025 is three years away. Will APG be the organization you envision by then? Isn’t that a bit too soon?
“We have been able to excel by being a specialist in the field of administration and investment. The coming transition will demand a lot from the organization and its people. But I’ve also come to know APG as an organization that can switch gears surprisingly quickly. Whether it’s the start of the corona crisis, where we had to switch to working from home in one weekend, or the global Log4j vulnerability, which we also had to arm ourselves against at the end of 2021: the moment there is a crisis, everyone goes into ‘we can do this’ mode. Because people here are so driven. Everyone works with passion for the pension funds, and for the participants. Whatever we have to do, we’re there for it. And that gives me the confidence that things will turn out all right.”

You prefer to talk about a change program rather than a culture program. Why?
“I’m cautious with the term culture program, because changing culture is something you do every day. In the past year I have tried to communicate a lot, with this guiding principle: make it concrete. But there are limits to that. I can’t make it more concrete for every employee. It’s also about enabling employees and managers to translate the situation into their own work. Unfortunately, I can’t have individual conversations with 3,000 people. For me, the most important thing is still to offer the promising perspective and to give confidence: we are all in this together.”


Collectivity remains an essential element in the new system as well. Why do you think that’s so important?
“If I look at myself: I’m 55 and only now am I starting to think about what I’ll be like in ten years. What about my house, my current mortgage? And I’m not the only one in this position. For many people, the horizon is too short to make significant changes. So that’s why I think accruing a pension through your employer, and especially its compulsory nature, is so important. My children will now be ‘forced’ to save, or rather invest, for their future. You may call that paternalistic, but I wasn’t doing it when I was young and they are not doing it now either. The fact that it will be mandatory for them means that they will also be able to have a good life in their old age. That’s what makes our system so great.”

But the reconstruction was badly needed.
“It is not surprising that this system needs to be renewed after a hundred years. After all, a lot has changed. We no longer work for a single employer our entire lives, we are increasingly living longer, many people are self-employed, whether temporarily or for their entire career. We are certainly aware that for some time now there has been little or no possibility of indexation, so the limits of the system are already being felt by current pensioners. And with this step, we will be able to take that yoke off the old system and give us the opportunities to be able to invest a bit more broadly. It is often said that the new system will make things simpler. But for the participant it is simpler to know: I get a thousand euros a month. Now we are saying: this is what you get now, but that may change depending on the economic situation. That’s why communication with the participant is more important than ever. Really getting to know the participants, where their concerns lie, is becoming crucial.”

So, isn’t it time to prepare the participant?
“Yes, absolutely. We have a duty to prepare participants for the transition to the new system. But I also think that it will only become really concrete for them when they are informed about exactly how the changes will affect them individually. That is when it will become relevant. And then there will certainly be a lot of questions. Fortunately, we have innovations such as Kandoor, which received a million questions last year, but also Geldvinder and Prikkl. These are initiatives that contribute to timely thinking about income for now and for the future. In recent years we have invested a lot in these initiatives, so that we can be ready when the time comes.”

But isn’t it mostly about trust? As a participant, you suddenly get a different pot of money. Is it correct, how can I be sure my fund is managing it properly? How do you get ahead of questions like that?
“I see it as a joint responsibility of government, social partners, pension funds and administrators to improve trust in our pension system.

We have a special role in this as the largest pension administrator in the Netherlands. We help everyone, we facilitate, and we provide the calculations behind the proposals. And later we will ensure a controlled transition to the new system, with solid pension administration and excellent investment results. We also have a responsibility to properly explain the changes that will affect participants. Clear communication to the participant is a precondition for confidence in the new system. But the trust must also be created among the social partners, i.e. employees and employers. Decisions on how each pot in each pension fund is distributed across the generations - the average system - are made by the social partners. They will have to make the right choices. And, incidentally, I have every confidence that they will.”



Curious about the entire APG Annual Report 2021? Read it here as a PDF or go to the special website.