"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."