Dennis van der Putten: Creating a Change Through Sustainable Investment

The 10 Most Innovative Business Leaders to Follow in 2021

The financial sector of the world has been constantly evolving since ancient times and still continues to grow every day. With over 20 years of experience in the financial sector, Dennis van der Putten, Acting Chief Commercial Officer at ACTIAM is an enthusiastic leader, who strives to bridge the gap between old school finance and sustainability every day through his work.

Early Life and Career

Dennis studied Economics at the University of Applied Sciences in Utrecht, after which he started working for Rabobank, which he saw as a way of combining both his technical and commercial skills. Through his leadership role at the company, he could explore his passion in making a social and meaningful contribution. Dennis quotes, “Interacting with people on different levels and steering discussions for meaningful outcomes is crucial for commercial success in a sustainable way.”

‘What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger’

The path to success is often riddled with challenges and Dennis has had his fair share of roadblocks, but he believes that the key to overcoming hurdles is to be flexible.  He adds, “The key is to be flexible and adept at interacting with people on different levels, steering towards the desired and meaningful outcomes. At one moment in time, we did a customer journey. Part of that was visiting clients. They shared their expectations regarding our products and where we did and did not live up to the expectations. That evening made me feel very humble and still reminds me of who we are doing it for.”

More About ACTIAM

ACTIAM believes that the financial sector has the fiduciary duty to lead the transition towards a sustainable society. ACTIAM is known to be “the sustainable investment specialist.” Their focus is on the wholesale and institutional market of Northern Europe. Dennis states that ACTIAM offers a combination of financial material ESG integration, compliance to international standards, ESG risk mitigation and insights into positive impacts. It offers a complete range of sustainable investment funds and solutions which is possible via active and passive management. Here, the front door strategies are: impact investing, enhanced index equities and active equity (Europe and SDG).

As of March 2021, ACTIAM manages assets of € 57 billion for insurers, pension funds, banks and intermediaries. The company has set strict requirements on its investments and follows a robust and careful selection process, without making concessions in its financial returns. This strict policy makes ACTIAM “Responsible for growth”.

Bringing Sustainability into The Financial Sector Industry

Dennis and his team focus on technology as the main driver of change in the financial sector industry. The ACTIAM interactive web-based ESG dashboard shows both the financial returns and social impact they collectively achieve. ACTIAM measures and report different sustainability and impact KPI’s, including carbon and water footprint, the exposure to the different SDGs and interacting versus the Planetary Boundaries. This innovative thought allows clients to follow ACTIAM’s voting and engagement activities. This is done to bridge the gap between old-school finance and sustainability. Collaboration is key to establish change. A perfect example of this is that in 2020, ACTIAM teamed up with other investors, representing €2 trillion in assets, to launch the investor initiative Satellite-based engagement towards zero deforestation. This group of investors enters into dialogue with companies to address deforestation cases found by satellite detection and to call for preventive measures, including supply chain transparency. ACTIAM just concluded the first phase of engagements with large publicly listed companies that source palm oil from Malaysia. For this innovative way it has received ‘the engagement-initiative of the year’ award from Environmental Finance.

Success and Sustainability

Dennis van der Putten has a twofold definition of success which is focussing both on his clients and also on our beloved planet. He believes customer success is a relationship-focused business strategy. It is ACTIAM’s primary focus to help its customers to achieve their goals when using ACTIAM funds or services. Second, this only makes sense and is successful if all that process is future-proof and sustainable. That means respecting the planetary boundaries and supporting the transition to a more sustainable world.

In the modern post-Covid world Dennis and his team believe that innovation is the key to remaining relevant to old and new clients and therefore for being successful. At ACTIAM, employees work with scientifically based goals and thus they base their activities on an innovative, data-driven approach. ACTIAM was the first Dutch fund and asset manager to create insight into the CO₂ footprint in all their investment funds. In March 2017, ACTIAM disclosed its water footprint model, allowing investors to calculate their footprint themselves. Dennis also believes combining innovation with relevance leads to success. He quotes, “One of my colleagues once told me: ‘baking blue bread would be innovative (and distinctive). Since no one eats it, no one bakes it’.”

Being an “Enthusiastic” Leader and More

Dennis describes himself as enthusiastic. He believes this character trait is important for a leader to motivate and bring out the most in people. Furthermore, his enthusiasm and energy are necessary to manage not only all commercial activities of ACTIAM, (including relationship management, acquisition and marketing), but also the Sustainability & Strategy team which is responsible for ACTIAM’s overall Sustainable Investment Policy and the screening, engagement and voting processes. Dennis says, “A regular day at work consists of a mixture of liaising with clients and prospects, projects, MT and team meetings as well as participating in different committees in which decisions are being made on ACTIAM’s strategic direction and business strategy.”

Dennis considers himself lucky to, since the beginning of his career, have been able to meet and gain experience in various disciplines: asset management, sustainability and commercial. He says this experience has helped him a lot throughout the years.

The best recognition for ACTIAM is not only the highest scores it receives for sustainable investing from Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) year after year but also the fact that ACTIAM was the first-ever winner of the ‘International Award on Investor Climate-Related Disclosures’, awarded by the French Ministry of Environment, Energy and the Sea. In addition, ACTIAM was qualified for the 2020 PRI Leaders’ Group focused on climate reporting. Earlier in his career, Dennis was nominated for ‘Financial talent of the year’ and ‘investment professional of the year’. On a personal note, Dennis states that he is proud to be elected as a game-changer in responsible investing most recently.

Motivating Employees and The Vision

ACTIAM aims to create a workplace that attracts, retains, and nourishes good people. Employees are continuously challenged to develop themselves on the job. Besides a competitive remuneration package, ACTIAM explores various activities in the field of career development, training opportunities, coaching, and succession planning.

For maintaining a balance in personal and professional life, ACTIAM enables staff to have flexibility in organizing the work (timing and location) and to choose the tools to use to get the best results.

ACTIAM plans on maintaining its leading position in both sustainable and impact investing and has the ambition to expand its funds and services to all institutional markets in Northern Europe.

Lastly, Dennis van der Putten quotes, “As a leader, you should be forward-looking and have a holistic approach.” 

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