On October 5, Daniëlle and I travelled to Amsterdam to interview Kay Mennens, an employee of APG. This company is one of the largest pension investors of the Netherlands and certainly very interesting for econometricians who are interested in pension investments and asset management.
The Company: APG
APG handles the asset management, administration, and communication of large, medium sized, and small pension funds in the public and private sectors. Each pension fund is unique in terms of size, members file, assets invested and challenges. At the moment, APG is taking care of the pension investments for more than 4.5 million people. APG has offices in Amsterdam, Heerlen, Utrecht, Brussels, New York and Hong Kong and employs over 4000 employees in total, most of them working in Heerlen where the back office is situated. In Hong Kong and New York two offices are located, since APG wants to be close to the local markets and companies to understand what is going on in the market. Kay Mennens works at the location in Amsterdam, where among other the European investments decisions are made.
The Employee: Kay Mennens
APG is located near the train station Amsterdam Zuid, so we only had to walk for a few minutes to their building. At the reception desk we asked for Mr. Mennens and after a few minutes of waiting, Kay arrived to welcome us. He guided us to a meeting room where we could enjoy a beverage while doing the interview. Originally, Kay is from Venlo, where he lived until he finished his secondary school in 2004. After secondary school, he moved to Tilburg where he studied econometrics and finished his master QF/AS in 2009. “My economics teacher advised me to take a look at econometrics, since I was interested in economics and mathematics. In the beginning I doubted between several technical studies, but when I looked at this study and its possibilities I was quickly convinced. I moved to Tilburg to study econometrics and that is something I have never regretted.” During his student time in Tilburg, Kay organized a conference and he was in the board of Asset | Econometrics of 2007-2008 as treasurer. For this reason, he was immediately enthusiastic and offered himself as volunteer when we asked if we could interview an employee of APG. “I thought it was too early to start working at the age of 22. Moreover, I think that a board year is a good addition to your study program. Therefore, I decided to do a board year in 2007.” He started working for APG in November 2009 directly after his graduation and quickly moved from Tilburg to Amsterdam. At this moment he is still living in Amsterdam together with his girlfriend, though he has moved several times within Amsterdam. In his free time he likes swimming and spending time with friends, most of them also living in Amsterdam. However, most of his free time he spends on his latest hobby: writing a master thesis. After one year of working experience, he decided to start a new master in investment management at the VU University Amsterdam. This master is developed by the association of investment analysts. In the beginning he had to follow classes in the evenings from 19:00 to 22:00. Fortunately, he passed all the courses, so now he can focus on writing his master thesis. “I chose this study program because it gives a really practical look on investments, instead of the theory that you learn when studying econometrics. This way I can use my knowledge immediately in practice.”
Kay’s Work at APG
Working at APG provides you many opportunities. The work culture is professional, international, socially-involved and focused on both personal as well professional development. Furthermore, working at a Dutch location of APG does not necessarily mean that you will never have business trips to other countries. “I have a lot of contact with companies in London and therefore I travel to London quite often. Sometimes we invest in products with some risks, for example in banks in Portugal or Spain. In these cases, we want to look how such a bank handles problems with customers who, for example, are not able to pay the interest on their loan. Therefore, we travel to these countries to get a good look at the situation in such a company on site.” However, these kinds of trips abroad take place sporadically. At a normal working day in Amsterdam, Kay starts working between 8:00 and 8:30 and normally he is finished around 18:00. “My day consists of looking at our investments, finding new data about investments and possible new investments, processing that data and looking for new investment possibilities.” Not often are there hard deadlines for Kay, since the time horizon of a pension fund is very long. Hence, it does not matter whether you invest in an asset today or tomorrow, although opportunities can disappear. An advantage of this, according to Kay, is that you have rather flexible working hours. At the moment, Kay does not have the intention to leave APG. “First I want to finish my master thesis and after that I have some possibilities to make promotion within the company, so my focus is here.”
Working at APG
After talking about his specific job at APG, Kay told us what it is like for most employees to work at APG and what the possibilities and advantages are for working at APG. “APG has a flat structure, so you can walk right into your manager’s office whenever you like. Within the company there are enough possibilities to grow into better positions. APG has employees working on various departments, such as pension administration, management, marketing, communication, asset management and finance. Obviously, most econometricians work on the management, asset management or finance department. After some research we found out that APG is looking for people that can strengthen their finance department. They are especially interested in financial specialists, econometricians or actuaries. Within the market of pension funds there are only a few competitors, which all have their own different clients. All these factors contribute to the fact that working at APG has a lot of benefits, which Kay sums up for us to get a clear view. “The first advantage is that APG is a big company, so there are a lot of people working at various positions, which means that there is always a job that suits someone who wants to work in the financial world. The second advantage is that the company operates on an international level, so you work together with colleagues from many different nationalities. Another advantage is that in most positions at APG you are not restricted to tight working times and therefore can work flexibly. Furthermore, the different departments often do some relaxing activities together to get a better connection. Of course there are a lot more advantages of working for this company.”
After Kay summed up some benefits of working at APG we had a clear view of who Kay is, what his work entails at APG and what kind of company APG is in general. Having received a good impression of APG, it was time to finish the interview with Kay. On behalf of Asset | Econometrics, we wished him good luck with his career and his master thesis, and traveled back to Tilburg.
Tekst by: Leon de Wit