1. Why did you start working at NN?
My experience with NN Group goes back to my time as a student in Nijmegen. Together with the investment club “Pecunia Causa”, we visited NNIP and played an investment game. I enjoyed the game very much because it replicated the stock market reality and it was highly intense. As I got to know some of the employees, I got interested to find out more about NN Group and the opportunities that it could offer to me. I wanted to know more about investments and also about the different asset classes. I was curious about how the investment process is conducted and what investors pay attention to when they compute their analysis. From a technical point of view, I thought about exploring what really interests me and gaining hands-on experience. One year after, I joined a “Get to know NN” dinner where young employees from NN attended and shared their experiences with us, students. I recognized that I was with like-minded people and some of them have become friends until this day.
2. How would you describe the culture at NN?
What I mostly appreciated since the beginning was the focus on personality. Also, the people are highly competitive and result driven, but humble and willing to help at the same time. To give a concrete example, one of the employees from NNIP was about to write the CFA exam, which is quite intense and consuming a lot of energy and time. Under these circumstances, she still made time to meet me and answer to my lengthy questions about the positions available at that point in time. Now that I work at NN I see that she was a great ambassador for how people are valued here in the company. There is no better example than that. I noticed the importance placed on taking initiative and responsibility but also on people who don’t give up until they succeed. I could very much recognize myself under these values.
3. What do you like most in your job?
In the high yield space you get a front row seat to the latest developments that affect financial markets. The best example that I personally experienced was the COVID-19 pandemic, which is still ongoing at the time of writing. Because I was in contact with our investee companies, I was able to understand very early the true impact of the virus from a social and economic point of view. On top of that, there are many other issues that have potentially large impact and must be taken into consideration. For example, the impact of the oil price, the US-China tensions, the current US political situation, including elections later this year, and many others. In a nutshell, this asset class offers me a steep learning curve where every day is unique. As a matter of fact, I am fortunate to learn all these aspects from some of the most experienced investment professionals in the market.
4. How is the culture within the department?
I personally experience the high yield team as being very international, open to innovation, and where people feel free to speak their mind. The team consists of 22 people distributed over 3 teams across the world. We have the European HY team based in The Hague, the US HY team based in New York, and the Asian HY team based in Singapore. Every day we have calls where we discuss the recent market developments and new investment ideas. I believe that this dialogue fosters cooperation within the team and enhances our research capabilities. I also see a strong drive towards innovation because we are involved in new topics related to data science, behavioural finance, and ESG investing (Environmental, Social, and Governance). In fact, I am personally busy working on these projects and I can observe people’s attitude to do things better and also their strong drive to change. There is no doubt that in few years' time, high yield investments will be conducted differently than today. All in all, I person-ally feel that people can speak their mind and that their ideas are equally considered irrespective of personal back-ground or amount of experience.
5. What does an average working day look like for you?
I start my day with some pre-work reading from a book relevant to my background. After that, I do CFA exercises (currently studying for Level II) and start working at 09:00. I first read the morning briefings from various research houses and check whether there is any new relevant information about the companies I cover. If I have a management call than I attend and make sure I understand the new published information beforehand. After the call, I write a small note and post it on Papyrus (another innovative tool which originated in our team where other people can see your research). A normal day work involves analysing one or two of these companies. During the last months I worked on new issues as companies needed cash to weather the COVID-19 pandemic. This involved a lot of time spending on understanding the businesses and doing fundamental analysis. Because every company is different I feel that there is always something new to learn. Also, based on each company strategy, the sector or country where they operate, it is easy to differentiate between winners and losers. I usually close the day with another hour of CFA exercises and one hour of running on the beach in The Hague.