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Time for a change

Earlier this year, the investment team had a briefing from Rolf, the long-standing chairman of trustees of the Wasserdicht Pension Funds here in the Netherlands. Things are changing, at least in terms of our internal governance, and Rolf came along to tell us about it.

In common with other Dutch pension funds, we have a complicated structure of boards and committees – a visitation committee, participants council, an accountability body and the main board of trustees.

Thanks to a new law, the whole lot will be reorganised. ‘Starting from July, we are going to simplify the structure,’ Rolf tells us. ‘And we have chosen a streamlined board with internal supervision by non-executive trustees.’

‘These new rules are still pretty complicated,’ says my investment colleague Geert. 

‘That’s true,’ Rolf replies. ‘And it took some time to decide which model to opt for. But the good news is that the participants council will merge with the accountability body. We will also now have a pensioner on the board.’

‘Who will select the pensioner trustee and how will we ensure they are competent?’ I ask. ‘Well, as you know, the supervisor has to approve all appointments,’ Rolf replies. ‘Obviously we will undertake a thorough selection process to ensure we find the right person.’

Several days later, the trustees announce that they are seeking nominations for the position. Shortly after that, I speak to Rolf again. ‘We now have our pensioner nominee,’ he says. ‘He goes by the name of Arjan Visser. Used to work in the corporate finance department and seems to know what he is talking about.’

‘I have come across him already,’ I reply. ‘He is a neighbour of mine. He asks some sharp questions about our investment strategy and takes a keen interest in what we are doing. Too keen for my liking, sometimes.’

Several weeks later, an email from the board confirms Arjan’s approval by the regulator to become our new board member, as the representative of the pensioners.

Some time after that, the board is holding a social evening with the new appointees and the investment team has been invited along to get to know everybody. I spot Arjan on the other side of the room and he comes straight over to see me, drink in hand. ‘I’m so looking forward to working with you,’ he says. ‘As a pensioner, I have time on my hands, so I have a long list of questions. Where would you like to start?’

After a long talk with Arjan about deflation and the investment case for real assets, I talk to Rolf again. ‘Good to see Arjan is taking his job seriously,’ he says. ‘He certainly does,’ I reply. ‘But why didn’t we have an election for the new board position like some of the other pension funds?’

‘That’s easy, Rolf replies. ‘Arjan’s was the only application.’

Pieter Mullen is investment director at Wasserdicht Pension Funds

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