‘Now is an excellent time to review your entire benefits package’

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Now is an excellent time to review your entire benefits package

Introducing Deloitte’s new Benefits and Pension Partner: Heleen Vaandrager

The new Dutch pension legislation offers a good opportunity for organisations to thoroughly review their entire employee benefits package. Deloitte’s new Benefits & Pension partner, Heleen Vaandrager, is here to help Dutch clients adapt. “In doing so, organisations can adjust benefits to employee preferences and to current societal developments around flexibility and sustainability.”

We spoke to Heleen Vaandrager a day after Dutch Social Affairs and Employment Minister Wouter Koolmees announced the one-year postponement of the new pension agreement. “This might give organisations some relief, but it doesn't mean we can sit back,” says Vaandrager. “Giving internal direction to this new agreement is complex, so you really need to get started. If you do this on time, you will see that the required adaptations also offer opportunities.”

As of June 1, Vaandrager will take up her new position as Deloitte's Benefits & Pension Partner, part of our Financial Advisory practice. Previously, she worked for seven years at financial services organisation AON as Chief Commercial Officer, among other positions. Prior to Aon, Vaandrager worked at AEGON Global Pensions and Generali Employee Benefits.

You say this new legislation is complex but also offers opportunities. Can you explain?
Until now, pension benefits usually were a separate part of the larger benefits package. With the new pension agreement, they will become part of it. Employers can give their own substance to the agreement. That won’t be easy, but it is also a great opportunity for employers and employees. Employers can review their entire benefits package and shape it into one that reflects their values. For example, they can give employees more flexibility, allow them to save more for their pensions, offer part-time retirement or extra days off. The younger generation of workers wants to have more say in choosing its benefits packages. That freedom of choice also makes you more interesting as an employer in the talent wars.”

What are the major challenges facing companies regarding these changes?
"A new benefits package cannot be shaped overnight. Because you’re operating at the intersection between HR and finance, one world wants the very best for its employees while the other looks at figures and funding ratios. In addition, a new package requires lots of consultation with the Works Council, the Participation Council and trade unions. Some departments in multinationals must also consult their head offices. Dutch pension policy—as pensions change from guaranteed pensions to investment plans—is seen as a front-runner, so other countries are paying close attention. Multinationals will soon be able to use the lessons learned here should pension agreements or rules in other countries change.

Another major challenge is pension communications. As employees are given more options, they also need to be better informed about their choices and their consequences. Employers have a great responsibility to help them. So, we have a very interesting couple of years ahead of us.”

You have been working in this industry for more than 30 years. What do you like about it?
"All stakeholders within and around an organisation have different interests and ideas about good benefits. I find it very interesting to use sound arguments to bring these parties together. What also appeals to me is the versatility of this sector. Large organisations can make a huge impact on sustainability, for example by doing away with a gas-dependent car and allowing employees to choose either an electric leased one or a public transport subscription. They can contribute to the well-being of employees by offering healthy lunches or a gym subscription. I see it as my role to help organisations make an impact that matters.”

Making an impact that matters is also Deloitte's purpose, so it sounds as if you and Deloitte are a perfect fit.
“Ha ha, absolutely! But it's not just this important purpose that made me choose Deloitte. Deloitte has a great reputation in our industry. We are currently advising hundreds of large multinationals and pension boards at a strategic level about their benefits and pensions. In our advice, we combine our substantive expertise with our experience in implementing new benefits packages. We know the regulations, we know about project and change management, and we know how to develop and implement new IT tooling. I can both add to this knowledge and learn from it.

I also chose Deloitte because diversity and inclusion are high on our agenda. I have been working on that since my first internship at the European Union in Brussels. At AON, I coached several talented women, and I was involved in a foundation for young people who still had a way to go before entering the labour market. I have always worked from the conviction that diversity contributes to the success of a team. A more diverse team is more creative and looks at problems from multiple angles. I also believe that everyone should be given the same opportunity to use his or her qualities.”

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