Meet Jacqueline van Koert, who used to be the Change and Corporate Responsibility Manager at Zwitserleven. This Dutch pension insurance company is part of VIVAT, one of the largest insurance companies in the Netherlands. I met Jacqueline at the Dutch Investment Fair. Shortly after, Zwitserleven was recognized as the pension insurer with most responsible investment policy in the Netherlands. High time for this interview, in which she shared her views on the world in which she’d like to retire, trust and change.
What good is gold in a uninhabitable future?
By definition, the pension industry has a long-term orientation, helping people plan for their long-term future. We help secure that “pot of gold” at the end of someone’s working life. But I really feel strongly that we also have a duty to ensure that the world at that point in time is one in which we all aspire to live. What use is a pot of gold if you’re lonely in a world without proper healthcare, with environmental distress?
Making your pension work for a better future
People like you and me entrust pension funds with their hard-earned cash, often without giving it too much thought. Many people don’t realize how many hours a week they work for their pension – for their future really. So shouldn’t their money work for their future while we take care of it for them? That’s why we invest that money in companies that have a sustainable future. We integrate ESG (environmental, social, governance) criteria into the investment decisions. Our asset manager ACTIAM actively engages companies on various issues. They also help to develop policies and governance in line with our ESG criteria. This so-called engagement strategy creates the opportunity to work with companies towards long-term policy changes. Through active engagement, as investors, we can be a catalyst for change. In addition, we also exclude certain companies and even entire industries, like tobacco.
Facilitating change by making sustainability tangible
Most people simply lack knowledge on how sustainability is relevant and how it can be integrated into their daily lives. This is true at the personal level, and even more so at work, both among people within our company and with people in the insurance advisory business, our clients. Driving behavior change is easier when sustainability is translated into something really tangible and important. CO2 reduction is quite abstract, but total kilometers driven or the number of trees saved is something people can relate to much more easily. This year, we will communicate very concretely on this subject.
Opportunity for change
There’s real opportunity for the industry to claim a much larger role in society, to broaden our offering beyond retirement insurance. We can invest in a better future through responsible investment practices, but we can also create a better future for our end clients by adding care, vitality and independent living elements to our service offer. Wouldn’t it be great for us to be the specialist on fulfilling living post retirement? Creating such new service offerings would calls for collaboration with new business partners, something that would be fulfilling for our employees, too. We’re not ready for this at the moment, but it’s an inspiring vision of the future.
In the past decades, the financial services industry has lost a great deal of trust. Sustainability and true client focus provide such a great opportunity for the industry to restore trust by providing meaningful added value in society. This calls for leaders who exemplify and demand customer focus and collaboration.
For a better future
Zwitserleven is in a period of change. The people who will help bring the company forward are people who are open for change, with a positive outlook and willing to take responsibility for a better future of the company and the people we serve. Jacqueline closed the interview with “I really like change. I enjoy looking at both sides of the story and then directing my energy (and that of others) to drive positive change.”
For more information about Jacqueline please check out her LinkedIn profile. For more information on Zwitserleven, check out the (Dutch) Zwitserleven website. Information on their responsible investment practices in English is available on the website of ACTIAM, Zwitserleven’s asset management partner.
Written by Marjolein Baghuis (@mbaghuis) for Change in Context. To read about other interesting people, book reviews and other posts about leadership, change and sustainability, please subscribe.