At NN, we want to be a positive force in the lives of our customers. We believe this also includes taking responsibility for the well-being of wider society. Over the past five years, Nationale-Nederlanden and Aegon worked with the From Debt to Opportunities (in Dutch, Van Schulden naar Kansen) programme to increase financial resilience in the Netherlands and reduce poverty caused by debt. During this period, the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (Hogeschool van Amsterdam) conducted research into the effectiveness of the projects that we support with volunteers and donations.
On 25 November the research results were presented during an online conference where NN Group Management Board member Tjeerd Bosklopper was present on behalf of Nationale-Nederlanden. As the programme transitions into a new chapter, we asked Tjeerd five questions about the results of the research and our broader impact on society.
Why did we start the From Debt to Opportunity programme?
'In the aftermath of the financial crisis, it became increasingly clear that payment arrears, debts and poverty will not disappear on their own. To address these issues, everyone needs to contribute. That includes the business community. We find it important to give something back to society and think we can make the most impact when we use our financial and administrative knowledge and skills. We have therefore chosen to focus on reducing debt and poverty.
'Furthermore, insurance is a product of solidarity, because you jointly bear a risk. That's why I think it's key for insurance companies to be there for the people around us. We can only really contribute if we join forces on a social level and learn together from what we do. We are pleased to have done this together with Aegon in recent years.'
How has NN contributed to reducing debt and poverty?
'We have supported local debt relief initiatives in Amsterdam, Arnhem, Rotterdam and Zwolle. To name a few: Talent Coach, Over Rood and the Union Nationale Marokkaanse Vrouwen Nederland (UNFM-NL). Over the years, more than 1,500 colleagues have volunteered in these projects. They have helped sort unopened post, worked as a coach, administration buddy or financial expert. With this we have made a difference for people who really need it. The research of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences shows that three out of four participants can manage better financially afterwards. That makes me very proud, and it shows that all these volunteers have done a fantastic job.'
How do we deal with our customers’ debts or money worries?
'Tax authorities, health insurers, friends and the bank are the most common creditors for people in financial difficulty. As an insurer that is at the heart of society, we naturally also have customers with payment arrears, for example on their mortgage or health insurance, or with money worries. As a creditor, we stand next to the customer who can no longer pay the bills, instead of against them. We look at how to tackle a problem together and come up with customised solutions. In addition, we regularly refer them to one of our social partners such as Geldfit.nl.'
How will we continue to fight debt now that the From Debt to Opportunity programme has come to an end?
'From Debt to Opportunities originated from the former Delta Lloyd Foundation. We have learned a lot from our collaboration with the various projects and research of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. We will continue to apply the lessons learned beyond 2021 in our overarching community investment programme NN Future Matters, through which we aim to foster financial well-being in all countries where we operate. In this way we will continue to support local debt relief initiatives and reduce poverty. We will also apply the insights to set up our services in such a way that we can better help customers with payment arrears and money worries. So although the name is changing, we will continue our commitment to society on this important subject!'
How do you personally contribute to reducing debt problems?
'The topic of debt and poverty is very close to my heart. It is important that we do not exclude people with debts. In 2018, the SchuldenlabNL foundation formed for public and private parties to work together on a debt-free Netherlands. I joined the SchuldenlabNL steering committee this summer and can now make a valuable contribution from my position.'