A young bridge builder between generations

July 20, 2023

Our guest in episode 27 of ESG (Even Samen Gevat) is Nikki Trip. Just like Werner Schouten, with whom Marloes and Aldert spoke in the previous episode, Nikki is young and full of energy and ideas – especially when it comes to pensions, sustainability and getting more young people involved in politics.

At the young age of 26, Nikki Trip is devoted in particular to a fair pension for all generations. That started with her bachelor’s degree thesis on the social role of pension funds, after which she did a course for pension fund directors. Today she occupies various positions related to young people and pensions. Besides her work as a sustainability specialist at AF Advisors, where she gives advice on sustainable fund management, she’s also

  • the founder and chairperson of JIIP, a network for young people in the pension sector;
  • chairperson and co-founder of Stem op een Jongere (Vote for a Young Person), an initiative for greater participation in politics for young people; and
  • co-chairperson of Netwerk 2100 (Network 2100), an ‘intergenerational network’ of non-executive directors and young up-and-coming executive directors. 

Clear choices

Nikki’s work at AF Advisors and her board positions all have at least one thing in common: creating value. That’s obvious in the area of asset management, but pension funds naturally also need to create value. ‘The amount that people receive when they’re old is actually so limited’, says Nikki. ‘You can offer people so much more value if you invest in nice or good things so that you actually create extra value.’ Nikki feels that pension funds should make choices in that respect too: ‘Everyone needs to take a position and think about its impact’, such as when investing in the fossil fuel industry. ‘Fossil fuel just doesn’t fit in with the economy or the society of the future any more.’ And the choices that you make as a pension fund or investor need to be reported transparently: ‘If you want to work on engagement, then you really need to go for it. And if you get out of a sector, you also really need to go for it. You need to make a lot of noise.’ That’s when you make an impact, according to Nikki. ‘Wouldn’t it be amazing if the entire Dutch pension sector got out of fossil fuel all at once? That would certainly make the headlines everywhere. Now they’re all doing that separately from each other – and that’s a missed opportunity.

Vested interests

Nikki sees that ‘things actually are changing from the inside out.’ Part of that can be credited to the efforts of young people who consciously choose to get involved in ESG and sustainability at their place of employment. But it’s a tough battle. ‘That powerful lobby of vested interests and most of the people in the boardroom: even if they wanted to change, they’ve been part of an old system for a very long time. You see the same thing in the pension sector ‘where few young people make it to the boardroom’. She herself might even want to have a seat in the Upper House of the Dutch Parliament, even though she hasn’t yet picked a party. ‘Not necessarily for myself, but to open the door to try to get others inside. That’s what seems so great to me about power: being able to join in those high-level negotiations or make the pie bigger.’

Intergenerational bridge builder

The main theme in Nikki’s career is certainly clear: she devotes herself to areas where few young people – or none at all – have been active so far. That’s why she’s joined Netwerk 2010, ‘a group of ambitious, idealistic young people who really are thinking about 2100 and the perspective after that.’ One way she does that is by embedding ‘broad-based prosperity’ in non-executive boards and by working with people who are currently members of those boards. In other words: people in companies who may now ‘be fighting a lonely battle or who are trying to bring in true price accounting. We’ve allied ourselves with them too in order to learn from them, to get as many people as possible in the right places to exert their influence on large organisations, for instance, to guide them towards broad-based prosperity rather than purely financial prosperity.’

F.l.t.r. Aldert Veldhuisen, Nikki Trip, Marloes Bergevoet

Fresh perspective

Young people are the future, but they also need to be given the chance to play an active role in that future and have a say about their pension, for instance. Nikki realises she won’t be young forever – in the JIIP network a person is considered young until they pass the age of 35 – and wants to make sure that she herself makes room for the next generation, or someone ‘with a fresher perspective’. Even if she herself has influence or power, she still wants to stand up for the role and influence of young people and diversity in a broader sense. ‘Already today, pension funds have members who will still be around in 2100. Their responsibility for the pension benefits that they’ll have to pay out in 2100 is not currently on the agenda.’

New pension law

For the most part, Nikki is positive about the new pension law. She mentions a few big changes:

  • Every member will get their own ‘pension pot’, which is fairer: that will make it easier to weigh up the promises to older generations and the benefits to younger generations.
  • That personal pension pot will make it a little easier to take your pension with you if you change jobs. And changing jobs is something the current generation does quite a lot.
  • When you retire, you are allowed to cash in up to ten per cent of your accrued funds all at once.

But there are also some snags, which isn’t strange for such an extensive law and major change to the system. For instance, the new system places the emphasis on the first stage of pension accrual, and young women could be disadvantaged. She’s not the only one who thinks that: the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights thinks so too. ‘The first euro that you pay into your pension scheme is the most important because that will yield the longest return for your own pension pot. Young people, and especially young women, work less, for example, or are paid less – the pay gap is a reality – which means that you contribute less to your pension scheme at the beginning of your career. That adds up, and at a certain point your pension will fall short.’ So that pay gap needs to be tackled. But young people also often work without building up pension, such as self-employed individuals, and in the new system it’s difficult to make up for that when they get older. In addition, members of a pension fund have no say in where their pension money should be invested. She’d like to see a solution to that in the future, like by allowing members to choose for themselves whether to join a green pension fund. Because without ‘a liveable world, your pension is not going to do you a bit of good.’

ESG Even Samen Gevat is a podcast series (in Dutch) in which Aldert Veldhuisen and Marloes Bergevoet talk to accelerators of the sustainable transition. They discuss topics related to the “E”, like green energy, CO2 emissions, raw materials, biodiversity, the “S” of health, diversity and inclusiveness and the “G” such as laws and regulations and international cooperation.

Also published in this series are:

The energy transition in 10 dilemmas – with Roy op het Veld

En route to an impact economy – with Werner Schouten

The footprintarian: food for thought – with Kees Aarts

Follow Even Samen Gevat here so you don’t miss an episode!

ESG nikki trip