On behalf of the board of SNPS, executive board member and also General Manager of the Shell Pensioenbureau (the Executive Office of SNPS) gives an overview of some important developments in 2020. At the very beginning of the corona crisis, columnist Thomas L. Friedman wrote in the New York Times about a historic turning point. He suggested the beginning of a new era: before corona and after corona (B.C and A.C). In this context, the comment in my notes about the year 2020 may be considered a speck in the storm: ‘secretariat zero prints’. Yet I see it as a positive aside at a time when corona was turning our lives upside down. In my 25-year career, I have never experienced anything like it.
The sheer exponential speed at which the virus took the world by storm and caused so much suffering is unprecedented. Lockdowns almost literally brought the economy to a standstill. As a result of the ensuing panic, the financial markets experienced their biggest freefall since World War II. Only to rise again shortly afterwards as if nothing had happened. Even though everyone thought “can these interest rates go down any further?”, the rates continued to drop.
Despite all these unparalleled developments, SNPS managed to perform well. Even before the first lockdown, we were, controlled, in crisis mode. And coincidence or not, eight months earlier we had conducted a regular crisis exercise with the board and team of Shell Pensioenbureau. That dry run helped us a lot. This made it easy for us to find each other, despite the working from home situation. Like a diesel engine, we motored through the turbulent markets.
"Despite all these unparalleled developments, SNPS managed to perform well. Even before the first lockdown, we were, controlled, in crisis mode."
But we also managed to stay on course with the board’s long-term priorities. Regardless of the ongoing issues, we achieved a lot in each of the seven strategic themes. For example, we performed the necessary work for the legislation and regulations surrounding the Pension Agreement and the future pension system. The Shell Pensioenbureau carefully mapped out what the new system could entail in the long and short term. It is painstaking work, which on the one hand helps us to be ready in time and on the other hand provides us with useful information to represent the interests of the fund.
We also made significant progress in the area of Socially Responsible Investment (SRI, or ESG). We adopted a new policy, which not only embraces the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but also chooses four SDGs as the focus of the policy: climate action, affordable and sustainable energy, gender equality and sustainable cities and communities. Participants and pensioners were then asked to rank the four SDGs in terms of importance. Affordable and sustainable energy emerged as the favourite. This SDG is seen as the most attractive and appropriate for SNPS participants.
All in all, we can now be more focused in our discussions with investee companies. Active shareholding is an important pillar in the SNPS investment strategy.
SNPS wants to make technology work for our participants, so we conducted pilots in 2019 and early 2020 with the video call function. The timing was - by coincidence - spot on. The official introduction coincided with the first lockdown in the Netherlands. As a result, many people quickly got used to video calling. We have rarely seen such a high adoption curve and approval rating at the launch of a new tool: a 9.
In the meantime, the SNPS communications in 2020 have become increasingly more accessible, for example on ESG. Within a new environment on Shellpensioen.nl, users can consult podcasts, videos and interactive modules for a quick update on policy and current developments in the field of sustainability. In addition, several communication experiments were carried out with various mobile applications, including a trial with SMS notifications. The aim is to inform participants about their pensions as personally as possible and via the most effective channels.
Finally, in December 2020 SNPS was awarded the Innovation Award of Investment & PensionsEurope, an international prize. This was a nice recognition of the well thought-out design of this scheme.
For me, all of this represents that extraordinary year: 2020. Therefore, I can look to the future with some pride and optimism. Getting through such a difficult period together is a reason to be grateful. Because at the end of the day, only one thing matters: the participants’ pensions. That has our full attention. In ordinary and extraordinary years.
Executive Board Member SNPS and General Manager of the Shell Pensioenbureau
On behalf of the board of SNPS, the executive board member and also General Manager of Shell Pensioenbureau (the board office of SNPS) gives an overview of a number of important developments in 2020.