SCI CRT Awards: Rising Star

Category: Capital Relief Trades ABS

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Winner: Meindert de Jong, director at PGGM

In a mere seven years Meindert de Jong has gone from graduate recruit to a director and invaluable member of PGGM’s credit & insurance linked investments team, which manages PFZW’s dedicated Credit Risk Sharing (CRS) investments mandate. During that time, his deep involvement and knowledge of CRS transactions has grown his excellent reputation beyond the team and throughout PGGM, across its partner banks and, increasingly, throughout the wider market.

As a son of a farmer and a nurse in the small town of Noordeloos in the Netherlands, working in finance - let alone CRS - wasn’t an immediately obvious career path, but an interest in economics in high school started to lay the way. Next, in what becomes quickly clear in any conversation with de Jong or his colleagues, was a typical decision – he selected a double degree programme combining economics and law, on the basis that the addition of law “would make it a bit more challenging and broaden the potential to learn”.

As his degree course went on, de Jong became increasingly interested in asset management and his three-month internship in the asset management department with pension fund services provider A&O Services put him firmly on the asset management track. Ultimately, he graduated for his double master’s degrees in Law and Financial Economics (with honours) from Erasmus University in Rotterdam, considered one of the top universities in the Netherlands.

Towards the end of his university career, he began applying for specific open positions, one of which was for PGGM. “That was, of course, attractive as one of the largest fund managers in the Netherlands and the role was also a front office one, which is what I hoped for - and once I’d read up on CRS, it really piqued my interest,” de Jong recalls. “A nice coincidence, though not a driver for my application, was that not only my mother but a number of other family members all work in the healthcare sector and are all participants in PFZW’s pension fund.”

The story of de Jong’s job application process remains a regularly shared anecdote by PGGM’s CRS team. He came in for a first-round interview with Mascha Canio, PGGM’s head of credit & insurance linked investments, on a Thursday in October and Canio was so impressed by his interview that she immediately progressed him to do the rest of the process on the same day, something not done before or since. He received an offer and started at the PGGM office in Zeist exactly one week after first being interviewed – still a record.

“I had another interview the next day with another firm, but it didn’t have the same spark and the appeal of working in an esoteric asset class made PGGM a very easy decision,” de Jong says. “With the benefit of hindsight, it was unquestionably the right one, as the job has surpassed my expectations and working with such a close and supportive team has helped me to develop and broaden my experience extensively, which is key to my enjoyment of the role.”

His colleagues report that thanks to his intelligence and broad academic background, he was able to pick up the many facets of SRT transactions quickly and remains a naturally modest and hardworking person. Since joining PGGM, de Jong has been engaged in more than 30 transactions in every continent in virtually all asset classes: from SMEs to large corporates and from trade finance to project finance.

He is able to rigorously asses quantitative data, perform qualitative due diligence and commercially negotiate transactions with risk-sharing counterparties. Apart from developing in-depth knowledge on SRT transactions, this has also enabled de Jong to gain exposure to the industry, and build valuable relationships.

De Jong has also added significant value by providing relevant insights on structural and regulatory matters, both internally and to counterparty banks. He has been a voting member of the team’s investment committee for the past three years and is able to lead new origination from start to closing.

As well as his involvement in deal structuring, de Jong is captain of the team’s centre of expertise in data and databases, spearheading efforts to improve the various tools the team uses - including its proprietary reporting tool SCORE, which he helped design and build. In addition, he is part of the team’s centre of expertise in regulation, playing his part in industry discussions on topics such as significant risk transfer, disclosure templates and STS.

Finally, de Jong featured as a speaker at this year’s Global ABS in a panel on securitisation as a tool for risk transfer. Such wider industry exposure underlines his increasing recognition as a true expert in the field.

Given de Jong’s aforementioned desire to continue to develop, growing towards expert status could be a next challenge. He is confident the evolving CRS market will provide ample opportunity for that.

“We see the idea that when done properly, securitisation can really contribute to both a functioning financial system and the real economy is being embraced by more regulators - notably within the EU – around such things as the ESMA templates, STS for synthetics and so on,” he says. “So we see CRS opening up still further and that will broaden the scope of what we look at – from different types of banks, to different types of portfolios and structures, to how to make it work in different regulatory settings – and that will keep me occupied for a long time to come.”