I know that almost everyone thinks they are underpaid. Unfortunately, that group of people includes some members of our team.
Recently our parent company commissioned a management consultancy to benchmark the pay of everyone in the corporate finance function, including the pension investment teams. This study has been endorsed by our board of trustees, who want to benchmark us against our peers. They have funded a separate, parallel study focusing on the pay of executive management of Dutch pension schemes.
There are two schools of thought on this: one says that pension funds should outgun Wall Street in the search for the best finance professionals in the world. The adherents of this way of thinking are largely Canadian pension funds.
The second school of thought accepts that running a pension fund is important and deserves good pay, but that there is a ‘satisfaction premium’ that comes with managing the pension money of ordinary people and retirees. Bonuses are a no-no for this school, which is increasingly influential in our country.
My wishful thinking is that there is a happy medium between the two camps, but I don’t think I am underpaid for what I do. I appreciate that I don’t have to attend client meetings or do marketing presentations like a chief investment officer at a commercial asset manager usually does. I don’t expect a Wall Street bonus: if I did, I would not work at Wasserdicht.
The management consultants look typical of their breed when they visit us to do their ‘qualitative discussion interactions’. They are immaculately dressed in neat, understated suits. This goes for the two men and the woman in the group. None of them looks over 25.
When the day comes for them to present their findings to senior management they look even more more immaculate but their message is rather bland. They tell us that the corporate finance function pays ‘exactly the median of the salary of the equivalent corporate finance function of comparable peers’.
The Dutch pension investment function, we are told, pays just above the median in comparison with its peers. Gerd, our investment strategist, is scathing when we discuss the report in the afternoon over coffee.
‘Typical management consulting nonsense,’ he says. ‘The piper always plays the tune of the one who pays. I should have gone into their business and I could have earned whole lot more money in return for spouting a whole load of nonsense.’ I make a note to put Gerd forward for a pay rise, nevertheless, when his next performance review comes round.
The next day I discuss the report with Rolf, our chairman of trustees. I want to know if he actually learned anything from it. ‘Yes’, he says. ‘We also wanted to know how how well we pay our investment consultants.’ And the answer? ‘They told us we pay them far too little.’
Pieter Mullen is investment director at Wasserdicht Pension Funds