Yvo van der Pol, is a Vice President for PGIM Investments, where as head of Benelux accounts he is responsible for intermediary distribution development with clients in the region. Mr. van der Pol develops and manages client relationships with banks, wealth managers, family offices, and insurance companies through which PGIM’s investment strategies are distributed. His responsibilities include working with head office and research teams to identify partnership opportunities and to deliver PGIM Investments’ asset management capabilities to prospects and clients. Before joining the firm, Mr. van der Pol spent nearly 10 years as an executive director at Goldman Sachs Asset Management, responsible for the wholesale channel in the Benelux, including banks, wealth managers, and family offices. Prior to that, he worked as a senior sales manager for Société Générale Asset Management, Robeco Asset Management, and AEGON Asset Management, responsible for distribution in the Netherlands towards banks, wealth managers, family offices, and insurance companies.
What led you to dedicate yourself to the financial sector? What would you be doing if you did not find a path in business?
After starting my job in a dealing room in 1997, I realized I preferred a longer sales cycle and building rapport in person, over working in a very hectic environment where one primarily focuses on price trading on a day-to-day bases. In that role, I met an asset manager who was setting up a fund distribution team. I decided to join their firm in 2001 and have worked in the fund industry ever since. If I was not in finance, I may have tried to become a professional road cyclist – if I also had the talent, physique and stamina. For now, it’s a great hobby!
What do you like most about your job? How do you stay motivated?
The combination of (financial) markets as well as working with and for private capital is great and I have enjoyed now for nearly 20 years. There have been so many trends over this period: clients who started using externally managed investment funds in the early 2000s, the rise of passive investments, the pressure on fees and the abolition of distribution fees around 2013, the regional, sector, factor, the thematic approach and now ESG which is becoming the default option for investors – all these developments over the years force you to adapt constantly.
In your opinion, what are the key drivers for successful fund distribution?
Scale and a diverse product suite are key – PGIM Investments leverages the scale of PGIM’s multi-manager model to bring a suite of actively managed UCITS funds to market from PGIM Fixed Income, Jennison Associates, QMA Wadhwani, PGIM Private Capital and PGIM Real Estate. This scale across asset classes is a key driver for success in an environment where financial intermediaries are looking to deploy more strategies with fewer partners. It is also more important than ever to work with clients to meet their evolving needs, as such, our approach is vehicle agnostic, meaning our priority is to bring our clients the investment strategies they seek, in whatever wrapper they may need.
On a more personal level, you need to be flexible, creative and have good understanding of one’s business and of course, to be able to build rapport with people at various levels within the client’s organization.
What is the greatest challenge in your role as Head of Benelux Accounts at PGIM Investments?
Although PGIM is the 10th largest asset manager globally, with an AuM of US$1.5trn, our footprint in Europe is relatively small. We have, however, continued to see our UCITS platform grow significantly, despite only launching our first UCITS funds around five years. At the start of 2020, our UCITS AuM was around US$5bn AuM, this is now almost double at US$9.2bn as of mid-March 2021. Since joining PGIM Investments at the end of 2019, one of my priority goals has been to create broader awareness around our brand and investment capabilities with professional investors. Additionally, we want to deepen and broaden relationships with our partners by providing them with investment solutions that help meet their investor demand.
Looking at the opportunity for PGIM broadly in Europe, the trend in asset management is moving toward us; in the sense that we are seeing the continued move toward managers offering both alternative and traditional products. This is how we have run our business for many years; with the fourth largest public fixed income business in the world, the third largest alternatives business, and the second largest real estate business.
What investment sectors and funds have clients been particularly interested in, in Q1 2021?
In the last year, we have built our offering to ensure we have products that resonate with European clients, hence our decision to launch a suite of ESG offerings. Most recently, we launched the PGIM Global Total Return ESG Bond Fund, which is managed by PGIM Fixed Income. Whilst ESG is already an integral part of PGIM Fixed Income’s investment process, there are few funds in the total return category with an explicit ESG mandate, so this strategy is in response to the client demand we are seeing. Last year we launched the PGIM Global Corporate ESG Bond Fund and we plan to continue to build out the ESG suite this year.
We have also seen an increase in demand again for emerging market equities. Despite the challenging environment for investors the last years, the core beliefs of our Jennison Emerging Markets Equity investment team has certainly helped to achieve a strong result throughout a volatile year. The PGIM Jennison Emerging Markets Equity Fund outperformed the MSCI Emerging Markets Index by more than 50% in 2020 – this was primarily driven by its active, benchmark agnostic approach, as well as through good stock picks in the fund’s three largest sectors: healthcare, consumer cyclicals and communication services.
Our PGIM Global Select Real Estate Securities Fund has also been resonating with clients, as real estate continues to play an important role in the strategic asset allocation of a portfolio. With interest rates low and seemingly steady, real estate should be a sector that provides both strong yields and total returns. According to FE Analytics1, PGIM Global Select Real Estate Securities Fund (UCITs) ranks top-percentile for 1- and 3-years performance, and has grown from approximately US$43.9Million in AUM million at the beginning of 2020 to approximately $307 million today.