Nienke Bijlholt: Retirement, couldn't it be simpler?!

Nienke Bijlholt: Retirement, couldn't it be simpler?!

Pension system Pensionfunds Pension
Nienke Bijlholt (Truus van Gog Fotografie) 980x600.jpg

As a 'youngster of forty', she likes to learn from her fellow directors. But don't discount her own judgment and experience: she is at home in many markets and sectors. Financial Investigator spoke with Nienke Bijlholt, Chairperson of the Board of Pensioenfonds Notariaat and Director of Pensioenfonds Vliegend Personeel KLM.

By Lies van Rijssen

'In addition to my primary activities, I have always done other work. In secondary school, among others at the participation council and the student association, in my student days at a legal aid centre. During that period I was also on all kinds of committees related to student life. When I entered the labor market, I thought with some horror: 'Now I only have that job!' There is certainly plenty to do at a Zuidas office, but I still felt the need for more variety. I then asked the notarial professional organization KNB if I could do something extra there.

Precisely at that time, the structure of the social partners within the notarial profession was transformed into a Pension Chamber with an employers' and an employees' committee. The KNB asked me to participate in the employees' committee. I said yes and had no idea what I was getting into.

At our first meeting, a multitude of concepts came up that meant nothing to me. I then dug into the explanatory memorandums of the relevant legislation and regulations. For example, those for the Pension Act and the FTK. That helped me a lot. And as has happened to so many in the pension sector, I was captivated by the pension world.


It is my job to ensure that all those involved can ultimately make the right contribution.


Nice and smart people work here and the content of the work is very diverse with social, legal and financial aspects. The dynamics of the boardroom are also fascinating and interesting. I enjoyed being a member of the employees' committee for five years, the last three years as chairman.

At the end of my time there, in 2017, the employee pension fund - of the original notary clerks - and the fund of the notaries and junior notaries merged. Shortly after the merger, a board position became vacant in the merger fund, for which the KNB nominated me. That was a fairly organic process. I joined the Governance, Compliance, Communications and Pension Scheme committee. In my role as chairman of the employees' committee, I had already become familiar with the relevant regulations. From my notarial role, I had advised on corporate law for years in the (semi) public sector and gained knowledge of the world of educational organisations, housing corporations, healthcare institutions, governments, public-private partnerships and many implementing organisations, so with a multitude of matters in the field of governance. The new committee therefore suited me well. That is how I ended up deeper in the pension sector.

If you look closely, you will see many similarities between the different sectors in which I was active as a consultant. First of all, they were all social institutions. The system of the laws and regulations prevailing here is very similar. But the funny thing is that all those sectors are not equal at all. This is precisely why they can learn a lot from each other.


Can't it be simpler? If we set it up all over again, would we end up with this again?


Compare the healthcare sector and the pension sector. It is then striking that both have to do with outsourcing relationships. In the healthcare sector, this is caused by the fact that many institutions are not allowed to pay out profits in accordance with the law. This has long been a hot topic about which politicians do not dare to make a choice. This means that structures are being created within the healthcare sector to be able to pay out profit via detours. There is no other way. Only in this way can you attract venture capital that you need to get investments and innovations going. So you need outsourcing relationships for that.

In healthcare, the ideas about those relationships have not yet been fully developed. There is a lot of attention for this in the pension sector. After all, many funds have outsourced their implementation to a non-own administrative organisation. Conversely, internal supervision in the healthcare sector has long been highly professionalised. In the pension sector, this professionalization has only started since the Pension Fund Governance Reinforcement Act came into force in 2013.

My consultancy background has given me insight into such parallels and differences. I still advise healthcare institutions from abaud, a consultancy company that I run with two partners. This enables me to apply the experiences I gain in the healthcare sector to the pension sector and vice versa.


You need income for later because you incur costs. Aren't there ways in which we can reduce the costs for those who are no longer in work?


The notarial merger fund SPN, of which I am chairman, is an industry-wide pension fund. I am also a director at Pensioenfonds Vliegend Personeel KLM, a company pension fund. Both are fun funds to work for. They are also very different. Because the KLM fund is a co-shareholder of the administrative organization, it also has a different relationship with its administrative organization than the notarial fund.

In addition, in my opinion, KLM is a kind of brand that the pilots are proud of. This partly determines their strong bond with their fund. They are also strongly involved in their union and well informed. You are usually a pilot for life. As a result, the KLM fund has almost no sleepers. In the notarial profession, it is much more common for people to do something else after a while.

The main theme in my work is connecting with all those involved in the field. Everyone has so much to do. On the one hand because of the transition to the new pension system, and on the other hand also because of the enormous number of regular tasks, which is partly a result of the over-regulation that ends up on the pension funds' plate from Europe via DNB. Because of their strong focus on those tasks, there is a great risk that the connection between the people we need to achieve our common goal is lost.

To keep the connection, I have to look for all kinds of capacities in myself. It is my job and my great and continuous challenge to ensure that all those involved can ultimately make the right contribution. The most important competence I need for this is that I can empathize with others. This may seem a bit too simple and obvious, but it is. I constantly ask myself how I can do things differently and what else I can use to facilitate people and to make work run more smoothly. Where do I get my inspiration from? From the people I work with. It's that simple.


Nienke Bijlholt

Lawyer Nienke Bijlholt is Chairperson of Pensioenfonds Notariaat and Director of Pensioenfonds Vliegend Personeel KLM. She has a long working history in the notarial profession. Between 2008 and 2022, she successively worked as a Candidate Notary at Van Doorne, VBC Notarissen and Zuidbroek Notarissen. In addition to her notarial activities, Bijlholt performed consultancy work in the (semi) public sector (healthcare, corporation, education). Bijlholt now continues her consultancy work from abaud, the consultancy company of which she has been a co-owner since 2022.