Achmea Investment Management (IM) is a leading Dutch Asset Management company that was founded in 2016. In the past, the company had faced various strategic changes, including the merger of a number of business activities from different Achmea entities and locations into one new company at a new location (Zeist). To match the direction and ambition of the merged entity, Achmea IM realized that a review of the operational side of its organization was urgently needed. In this article, we interview Achmea IM’s Chief Operating Officer, Robil Gergin, who shares insights into the company’s decision to carry out an organizational restructuring, focusing on the need to attract and retain talent to ensure a successful transformation process and a future-proof organization.
Chief Operating Officer,
Achmea Investment Management
Journal: Why did Achmea IM decide to embark on an organizational restructuring journey?
Robil Gergin: At Achmea IM, we were looking at strengthening the organization as well as making it more efficient and scalable to match the strategy and ambitions of this new and larger company. Transforming the organizational structure would also enable us to face new challenges in the years ahead, ensuring that we stay competitive and serve our clients in the best possible way.
Journal: Why do you see attracting and retaining talent as a prerequisite for success?
Robil Gergin: Attracting and retaining talent is one of the greatest challenges we have as a company and our success in doing so is critical for the long-term well-being of our company.
The situation with a newly merged company, Achmea IM, accentuated the need for a structured approach to talent attraction and retention in order to ensure a successful organizational transformation. A successful transformation was key to the company and we had to kick off the project in the right way, with the right approach and tools. We needed to prioritize and find out what matters most to the company. You could say that we had to ask ourselves the right questions and find the right answers.
Journal: One question must be: How do you succeed in fishing for the right talent?
Robil Gergin: Well, competing on salary only is not enough, nor is it a viable model in the long term. For Achmea IM, it is a matter of providing the best possible experience for new talent contemplating to join our company. Just like our peers, we need to convince them that our business (Achmea IM) is the best place to work. The market for talented people is tight and we and our competitors are all fishing in the same (small) pond – just like market players in other markets.
To identify and attract talent, we engage with several internal and external stakeholders. Together, we have created a clear and compelling story which explains how you can become part of the growth and success at Achmea IM. Also, and very significantly, we want to explain how candidates can help shape that growth at the same time as they shape their own personal development.
We also see that talent attracts talent. The opportunity to work with talented colleagues, who challenge you every day and help you grow and learn, should not be underestimated.
Journal: What role does technology play in attracting talent?
Robil Gergin: Younger generations, in particular, don’t want to spend too much time performing manual actions in legacy systems (the same can actually also be said for many of us from the slightly older generations!). Repeatedly undertaking the same cumbersome process is not appealing as a daily routine. Up-to-date technology and solutions allow for more efficient processes and, as a result, free up more time to spend on value-added and more interesting tasks like analysis, making improvements, giving better client service, and last but not least, boosting your own learning. Staying up-to-date with our technology platform also shows that we as a company are clearly committed to investing in staying relevant and competitive, now and in the future.
“Competing on salary only is not enough, nor is it a viable model in the long term. For Achmea IM, it is a matter of providing the best possible experience for new talent contemplating to join our company. Just like our peers, we need to convince them that our business (Achmea IM) is the best place to work.”
Journal: How do you balance the use of in-house staff versus external consultants?
Robil Gergin: With regard to staffing our organizational set-up, the majority of our staff are full-time employees and we have fewer external consultants who focus on specific topics or come with a specific area of expertise. We prefer this balance and have been able to achieve it. Just as we have succeeded in attracting the right kind of talent with skills that meet today’s needs and that give us the flexibility we need when it comes to meeting ongoing changes to our processes and tasks. Depending on new developments, new technology, client requests or projects (relating to business or regulatory), new skill sets and talent may still be required and we would not hesitate to hire external consultants to contribute the necessary knowledge and expertise.
Journal: How important is a clear vision and strong values to current and potential employees?
Robil Gergin: We think it is critical to be able to communicate that we have a clear mission, not to mention a ‘purpose’. Yes, we are a company that wants (and needs) to make a profit, but more importantly, we focus on the needs of our clients’ end-user: the individual pension holder – and on society at large. We are proud that Achmea IM is a company that embraces a multi-value, multi-stakeholder business model. We do not focus solely on ‘shareholder’ value, which is probably a reflection of our cooperative background.
Recently, when winning a large new business pitch, I believe our communication angle made a strong impression. Instead of communicating the gain of an extra €30 billion assets under management, we spoke about serving 670,000 new pension holders. Taking that perspective into your storytelling makes your business and achievements more tangible, while it also shows the responsibility we take on as a company.
Journal: What role does diversity, inclusion and corporate responsibility play in attracting talent?
Robil Gergin: Well, what kind of work environment attracts and retains talent? Challenges, autonomy, social arrangements, performance standards, steep learning curves, career opportunities, or the physical work space? As an employer, we need to be able to offer all of the these as they are all important. However, some may appreciate other aspects as well. I believe it is very important to have a broad and diverse workforce. It will help us to grow as a company and to retain and attract talent. It shows that we are inclusive, curious and challenge each other.
As mentioned previously, it is also very important that our company creates value, not only from a business perspective, but also from a wider community perspective. For me personally, and no doubt for many of my colleagues, it means a lot to be part of a company like Achmea. With roots going back over 200 years and the responsibilities we have as a company towards our clients, employees and the community, we play a very important role in people’s everyday lives. Achmea IM is an integral part of Achmea and aims to help our clients grow their assets over time. This is more important than ever with the current debate on the sustainability of people’s pensions in a low interest rate environment.
Journal: How do you encourage your employees to help build a strong brand that can attract talent?
Robil Gergin: I believe the Operations domain staff at Achmea IM (which includes the IT and Change domains as well as the reporting teams) plays a critical part in our commercial success. In recent years, we have invested in training and have engaged our staff and management members in personal branding, ensuring that each of them now acts as brand ambassadors. Essentially, this means that each colleague has completed several tests and a two-day training program to identify their personal skills and preferences as well as their ‘energy and allergy zones’. We encourage groups of colleagues to share their profiles and discuss how they can best cooperate to maximize their combined strengths and to capitalize on individual competencies. After restructuring the domain in 2018, we decided to broaden the personal branding training to our support staff. This initiative was very well received by the staff members as it shows our commitment to investing in our employees and in helping them to make an impact both inside our organization and externally for our clients and society.
I am convinced that having as many brand ambassadors on your staff as possible will help retain and nurture a healthy organization that will also attract new and valuable talent.