“DNB considered our governance and implementation to be very thorough”

Martin ten Brink

War in Ukraine

Martin"It is impossible to look back on the year 2021 without considering recent events in Ukraine. Although it has no bearing on the developments of SNPS in 2021, there may be quite substantial consequences. It is indescribable what is happening in Ukraine at the moment: shocking and frightening at the same time."

“Russian stocks and bonds will soon be withdrawn from SNPS portfolios "

Bas: "It is certainly a good thing that Russian investments will soon be excluded and disappear from our SNPS portfolio. SNPS is a relatively small fund and mainly invests in externally managed investment funds. Therefore we have no direct influence on any individual underlying investments. It is expected that the Russian stock and bond benchmarks now in use will be withdrawn from the SNPS portfolios. We are monitoring this closely.

“With this equity mandate, we can now also invest directly in companies”

Bas Koch 

High increases in stock market prices

Martin"Again, the world was focused on fighting the Covid-19 epidemic. We were continually concerned whether healthcare workers would be able to cope, and companies were hit hard. Nevertheless, for many investors 2021 was a successful investment year with financial recovery. We saw huge price increases on stock markets worldwide. As a result, returns for SNPS were very promising. Whether, as a participant, you have chosen an offensive, neutral or defensive Life-Cycle profile, you have in fact achieved a positive result in 2021. And that applies to both older and
younger participants."   

"Overall you have achieved a positive result over 2021"

Bas: "That is really good news. And for me personally, as I myself am also a participant of SNPS. I was even one of the very first participants when I started working for Shell in the autumn of 2013. When I look back on this past year, Covid-19 does stand out, as it did in 2020. Once again, we were forced to work from home for a good part of the year. In itself, this virtual working is quite manageable. But for our first board meeting in 2022 we were able to meet up again in person and I am very pleased with that. Physical contact really gives much more energy. After all, we are and will continue to be social creatures."

“We saw huge price increases in the stock markets worldwide"

Martin ten Brink

Investing in companies directly

Bas"In 2021 we started our own equity mandate. Because SNPS is still a young fund, we used to invest indirectly, both in investment funds and indices. With this equity mandate, we can now also invest in companies directly. This allows for a better alignment with our own asset management policy and a better focus on socially responsible investing, also known as ESG."

"Stronger focus on socially responsible investing"

Martin: "Absolutely. As long as you invest in an index fund, you are restricted by the choices of the fund manager. With this mandate we can invest in line with our own ESG criteria and favour certain companies or sectors. This increases our clout when it comes to socially responsible investing. Another advantage of our equity mandate is that we can hedge currency risks much better and make our own decisions in this area. Furthermore, we started investing in mortgages in 2021 and added inflation-linked bonds as a possible investment category. This will widen our diversification and open up new possibilities to respond more adequately to inflation risks over the next few years."

A head start on the Pension Agreement 

Bas"Another important detail is that in the autumn we were visited by De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB) for an extensive investment survey. That was a first for SNPS. The investigation focused mainly on the structure and implementation of our investment policy. For the supervisory practices of the DNB this was interesting, because with the Collective Variable Pension (CVP) SNPS already carries out a scheme that will be executed by several pension funds in the future, i.e. after the implementation of the Pension Agreement. The DNB investigation revealed a few minor areas for improvement, which are now being dealt with. Overall, as a pension fund, we came out of this quite well indeed."

"DNB considered our governance and implementation to be very sound, so we can be rightfully proud of that"

Martin: "Also, if you compare us to other pension funds. DNB considered our governance and implementation to be very solid, so we can be rightfully proud of that. Also this year we have taken steps in the area of communication withparticipants, such as video calls, e-mails and entertaining and short videos with hands-oninformation, etc. This has also improved the perception of participants on the topic of pensions, one of our strategic goals. Which is necessary, as many participants only start thinking about their pension when retirement is nearly upon them. Which isn't very smart. Our communication is aimed at giving participants more insight, helping them to choose for example an offensive or defensive profile, or the choice for a fixed or variable pension. In that regard, it is encouraging to see that our participants give SNPS a rating of 8.6 on average, which is one tenth of a point higher than the previous year."

“The DNB study revealed a number of small points for improvement”

Bas Koch 


Martin"Something else Bas, companies are increasingly suffering from cyber hackers. In your job at Shell, you advise joint ventures which Shell is involved in worldwide on cybersecurity. Given your experience, how significant are any cyber risks for a pension fund like SNPS?"

Bas: "There's definitely a risk; you can never completely rule this out. In my daily work, I see that many managers view cyber risk as something quite abstract. As if it could just happen to you, like being struck by lightning. But that is a serious underestimation of the danger that each and every organisation faces. It is a 'cat and mouse' game and, as a board, you must keep yourself well informed.  Within Shell I have started the Cyber Security Forum in which all joint venture partners of Shell participate. Every quarter, we discuss our own experiences with around 200 specialists and share our knowledge on cyber security. Last year as board of SNPS we organised a workshop to educate ourselves about possible cyber risks. How do you make sure that you are more in control in this area? That you have properly secured your sensitive data? After this workshop, we improved several aspects of our risk management framework.  Which has given us a better grip on cyber risks. For example, we have checked the clauses in the ongoing contracts with outsourcing parties, to have a better grip on cyber risks there as well."

Bas Koch

Bas Koch has worked for Shell since 2013, in several different IT roles. He is currently Manager Cyber Consultancy Services for all (non-operated) joint ventures of Shell. Bas joined the board of SNPS in 2019, focusing on both asset management and IT. His father ran his own pension consultancy business. As a child, Bas always found it difficult to clearly explain what his father was doing. No problems here nowadays.

Martin ten Brink   

For Martin ten Brink, 2021 was the first full year of his presidency of SNPS. Before that, he worked around the world for Shell in a variety of financial positions for over thirty years. Shortly after his own retirement, in May 2020, he became chairman of the two Dutch pension funds: SNPS and SSPF.  His guiding principle in times like this: focus on what is feasible, don't linger too long on what is not.