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#7 JULY/ AUGUST/ SEPTEMBER 2012 € 5,99

DUTCH POLITICS FOR DUMMIES A GUIDE TO HELP YOU ENJOY ELECTIONS ON SEPT. 12

THERE’S NO FUTURE WITHOUT EUROPE SAYS CHAIR OF HOLLAND FINANCIAL CENTRE SJOERD VAN KEULEN

INVESTING ANNO 2012 CRISIS OR NO CRISIS,

THERE’S MONEY TO BE MADE IN THE NETHERLANDS WE TRUST – FLOURISHING DUTCH ‘TRUST FIRMS’

THE BENEFITS OF CREDIT MANAGEMENT

www.theinternationalcorrespondent.com

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‘WE’LL OUTDO THE TATE IN LONDON’ THE STEDELIJK MUSEUM REOPENS

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Contents 10 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT

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SOFTWARE, HARD MARKET The Netherlands takes pride in being the ‘Digital Gateway to Europe’. Over the last decade, the Dutch have invested heavily in digital infrastructure, which largely benefits the ICT and software industries. As the rest of the economy treads water in uncertainty, Dutch software is proving to be quite a resilient market.

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REVOLUTION IN INVESTING The economic crisis has launched a shakedown in the investment world. Together with the maturing of internet technology, the volatility of the economy is causing a re-think of how things are done, what is to be done, and who does it. Banks have lost their authority, some say, and the action is now in DIY (do it yourself) investing.

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‘I THINK WE’LL EVEN OUTDO THE TATE IN LONDON’ After eight years of stalling and building, the renewed Stedelijk Museum will open its doors in September. A futuristic extension turns the once dull Museum Square into something like the Centre Pompidou. Jeroen Jansen spoke with the museum’s business director Patrick van Mil and architect Mels Crouwel.

ART: MOVING WITH THE TIMES -Change doesn’t scare David Smith. His father’s gallery in Amsterdam is known for classic and antique works from artists like Chagall and Monet. But now it houses the largest collection of aboriginal art outside of Australia.

88 ‘YOU MUST CONTINUE WHERE OTHERS WOULD QUIT…’ -says Olcay Gülsen, owner of the fashion brand Supertrash, now sold in nearly 24 countries all over the world. She tells Karine Bloem how she built her empire from scratch.

23 WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM SOUTH KOREA’S APPROACH TO MANAGING A FINANCIAL CRISIS? -South Korea, known as the Miracle of the Han River, is an outstanding success story of geopolitical competence, human resource management and unmatched economic growth. Expert Sanjay Sharma analyses the secrets of this country’s success in his column The Big Issue.

19 IS EUROPE ON THE BRINK OF BECOMING A POLITICAL SUPER-STATE? -In Silly Questions, the International Correspondent posed this issue to Nico Groenendijk, Associate Professor in Public Finance and European Integration at the University of Twente.

68 TOP 10: GOLDEN SPEAKERS -An Olympic medal brings more than eternal fame. It brings hard cash as well, not only through advertising revenues, but also in the booming industry of inspirational speeches. The International Correspondent introduces the ten most popular Dutch motivators with a golden past on the pitch.

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IN THE NETHERLANDS WE TRUST Chances are you’ve never heard of Citco, TMF and Intertrust, but these companies service over half the world’s hundred largest multinationals. They are ‘trust firms’ and part of a flourishing Dutch industry that caters to multinationals that want to benefit from Holland’s favorable tax climate. As Martin van Geest explains.

ONLINE

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CHEF’S TABLE: VEGETABLES WITH A STORY Niven Kunz is no nice guy when he’s in his kitchen. But Michelin stars are not awarded for niceness and Niven is the youngest Dutch chef to have been ‘starred’. Read Linda Lodding’s encounter with the chef who loves veggies.

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November 6, 2012

The Race for the White House Follow the exclusive coverage of our correspondent in the US at www.theinternationalcorrespondent.com/us-elections


Contents the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 11

COVER: Sjoerd

van Keulen, Chair of the Holland Financial Centre

Photography: Pascal Bier

Photography: Novum/ Dirk Hol

Photography: Pascal Bier

Photography: Novum/ Dirk Hol

INTRODUCING: SYBRAND VAN HAERSMA BUMA, NEW LEADER OF THE CHRISTIAN DEMOCRAT PARTY

‘I THINK THE EUROPEAN POLITICAL UNION WILL ACQUIRE SHAPE QUITE SOON NOW.’

DUTCH POLITICS 101: A SKETCH OF THE POLITICAL LANDSCAPE TO HELP YOU ENJOY THE IMMINENT ELECTIONS

TThe CDA used to be central to power in The Netherlands. But it’s been decimated in recent elections. Can Buma raise it from the nearly-dead?

Sjoerd van Keulen is Chair of the Holland Financial Centre, a meeting place for the financial sector. He argues that the politicians in The Hague are far too cautious in their plans for reforming the financial sector. Their election programmes are devoid of innovative ideas. And bankers should quit thinking only of themselves.

Ten years ago Dutch politics was known for being boring. ‘The Netherlands is governed on the basis of compromises,’ wrote the New York Times in 2000. ‘The main participants in Dutch politics are grey civil servants who cycle to work every day with their lunch box in a basket on the handlebar.’ How things have changed! Today, Dutch politics are a roller-coaster ride with populists –left and right-wing- occupying the carriages.

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Editorial

Colophon the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 13

THE INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT Dutch Business in Global Perspective www.theinternationalcorrespondent.com

TEST CASE Photography: Pascal Bier

The upcoming elections will be fought over Europe. To be more precise: it will be fought over the level of influence ‘Brussels’ has in the political circles of The Hague, the level of The Netherlands’ contribution to solving Europe’s enormous economic problems, and the budgetary rules for member states agreed years ago, partly under pressure from The Netherlands. If it’s left up to Emile Roemer of the extreme-left Socialist Party (SP), we’ll abandon the ‘three percent rule’ regarding budget deficits. According to this popular politician, currently number one in the polls, the political influence of Europe must be pushed back. Geert Wilders (PVV) even argues that The Netherlands should exit the euro zone. ‘We can’t continue being responsible for political choices in southern countries like Greece and Italy,’ he says. Since crashing the last cabinet, the platinum-blonde politician has launched research into a possible return to our former national currency, the guilder. A pointless exercise, but it illustrates the sentiment in the Dutch political arena. The political establishment is in difficulty. The centre parties have traditionally been in favor of Europe, but it’s tough to sell Brussels’ growing influence to a restive electorate. The social liberals (D66) call for research into a central approach to the monetary and economic problems. Party leader Alexander Pechtold stresses that the crisis is too big to be handled from a national perspective. The liberal VVD of our demissionaire premier Mark Rutte, traditionally very pro-Europe, is critical about some current proposals but supports European economic policy. Ditto both the Christian democrats (CDA) and social democrats (PvdA). This half-hearted attitude by the political establishment isn’t helpful. Voters don’t like dithering. HOLLANDE Apart from being sharply divided, politics in The Netherlands has splintered in the past ten years. More than 20 parties are contesting the upcoming elections. More than seven of them will get over 15 seats in parliament, according to the polls. That makes it difficult to achieve co-

operation after the elections. It remains to be seen whether the parties can come to an agreement about dealing with the crisis. A ‘Belgian situation’ looms: in 2011 our southern neighbors took over a year to create a new government. The Dutch elections are also a testcase on Europe. Will the anti-Europe noises in the member states continue, or will Brussels get the necessary support to take measures to cope with the economic problems? The signs aren’t encouraging. Greece needed two sets of elections this year to force Europhile politics on an unwilling population. In June, the French electorate dismissed Europhile Nicolas Sarkozy in favor of the more critical Francois Hollande. He’s in favor of a more flexible approach to European budget regulations. Early next year, the Italians also go to the polls. In October, Angela Merkel will face the voting public. Will the current European governing elite remain in power? INVESTMENTS Despite the high stakes in these elections, the debate in The Hague is lukewarm. Most parties agree on the need for budget cuts, but differ on the extent of the cuts. Their plans are uncreative. Most are just proposing more pointed measures from their usual policy grab-bags. And that is a missed chance. The crisis offers a great opportunity to review current policy and present a broad programme for shaping the future, to force new plans and take innovative measures on long-standing problems in areas like health, ageing, the employment market, the housing market and the economy. In this issue of The International Correspondent, apart from a lot of insight into the politics, we also focus attention on the investment possibilities in The Netherlands. We offer an oversight on the state of the investment world in 2012. And we introduce a few investment advisers who put forward their ideas. Despite the economic climate, they see enough opportunities to keep investing. It projects a series of inspiring portraits of visionary people. The ladies and gentlemen of The Hague could get inspiration here. Do enjoy our pages, Floris Muller Publisher

EDITION #7 July/August/September 2012 PUBLISHER & EDITOR Floris Müller floris.muller@theinternationalcorrespondent.nl ADJUNCT EDITOR Niala Maharaj niala.maharaj@theinternationalcorrespondent.nl CONTRIBUTORS Carsten, Cramer, Fenna Ferwerda, Philip Gangan, Martin van Geest, Jeroen Jansen, Joost van Kleef, David Lemereis, Linda Lodding, Mark Maathuis, Niala Maharaj, Floris Müller, Paul Rodenburg,Sanjay Sharma, Christiaan van der Sluijs DESIGN AND ART DIRECTION Pascal Bier PHOTOGRAPHY Maarten Bezem,Novum, Donald van Opzeeland, Reuters, Pascal Bier SPECIAL THANKS TO Wendy van Bavel, Alvie Bhailal, Arno Bier de Jong, Marjolein Hof, Bob Huuskes, Yorick Letterie, Fred Louwerens, Marc Neuman, Bart Roling, Carlos Smit, Cees Smit, Marjolein Tegelaar, Martijn van Veelen, Cees Vermaas, Rene Verwey, Rutger Vos, Mannes Westhuis, Sabine Woelfel WEB DEVELOPMENT Pascal Bier SALES & MARKETING Teye Brandsma teye.brandsma@correspondentmedia.nl ACCOUNTANCY Jeroen van Evert, Ramon Groen MAIN PRINTING Westdeutsche Verlags- und Druckerei GmbH DISTRIBUTION COORDINATOR Reinout van der Meer DISTRIBUTION Van Gelderen/ Van Gelderen Inflight The International Correspondent is the business magazine for the international community in The Netherlands. It offers quality reports on finance and economics as well as expositions of Dutch politics, education, innovation and lifestyle. It also provides independent advice on living in, working in, and enjoying The Netherlands. The International Correspondent appears every two months and is published in collaboration with partners in business, government and the education sector. It is also distributed by AKO and Bruna bookshops and magazine stores in the Randstad and surrounding cities. The International Correspondent is not dependent on the government and receives no funding or other assistance from official sources. The editors try to ensure the correctness of all information in this magazine. However, mistakes and omissions are, regrettably, possible. No rights may therefore be derived from the material published. We are perfectly willing to publish corrections in the following issue, if they are brought to our attention. For questions or information, please contact the publisher. All rights reserved. Nothing in this edition may be multiplied, stored in an automated database, or made public, in any form or by any means, whether electronic, mechanical, by photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission of the publisher. The International Correspondent is published by Correspondent Media

CORRESPONDENT MEDIA Let’s do something extraordinary info@correspondentmedia.nl www.correspondentmedia.nl +31(0)88-CORRESPONDENT P.O. Box 75526 1070 AM Amsterdam The Netherlands Chamber of Commerce Nr. 34394092 Rabobank Amsterdam 12.58.16.030 Read earlier editions of The International Correspondent at theinternationalcorrespondent.com Read The International Correspondent on your tabelt. Sign in on Tablisto.nl Follow The International Correspondent on Facebook: facebook.com/TheInternationalCorrespondent The International Correspondent is official media partner of China Times, Expatica.com, Iamexpat.nl, Socius and Zuidasborrel.nl Let us know what you think of this issue readers@theinternationalcorrespondent.com

Errata In our last issue we erroneously attributed the interview with Chef Alain Alders and the article entitiled Places to Go to Marco de Vries. The writer was in fact Linda Lodding. In the article ‘Europe in 10 days’, the total journey travelled was 8,950 km, not 90,000 as published. In our Advice section, the article on Capital Language contained a spelling error. Preparation was spelt ‘preperation’. We regret these mistakes. If you notice errors in this edition of the magazine, or you wish to comment on anything we publish, please mail us at info@correspondentmedia.com


Munsterhuis, exclusive hospitality Munsterhuis Autobedrijven 'OUDSTRAAT s.'(ENGELOsTHE.ETHERLANDSs4 sINFO MUNSTERHUISNL www.munsterhuis.nl


the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 17

In short

PRIME MINISTER MARK RUTTE FACED CRITICISM IN PARLIAMENT AFTER HE AGREED TO ALLOW AILING BANKSTO GET DIRECT SUPPORT FROM THE EUROZONE EMERGENCY FUND EMS. THE DECISION WILL HAVE TO BE APPROVED BY THE UPPER AND LOWER HOUSES OF THE DUTCH PARLIAMENT. Photography: European Commission Press Office


In short 18 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT

THE STILL BEFORE THE (POLITICAL) STORM Elections 2012 will soon wash over us. The political season is waiting in the wings. In the meantime, things are quiet this holiday season. Everyone is conserving energy for the battle to come. PENSION AGE RISES Next year, 200,000 to 225,000 Dutch citizens will have to wait for a month after their 65th birthday before they can start receiving their state pension. New legislation has been approved by both houses of parliament to raise the Dutch pensionable age in stages to 66 by 2019, and then to 67 in 2023. The change has become necessary because of the greying of the Dutch population and the rapid increase in numbers of people drawing state pensions. This is currently three million, 700,000 more than in 2000. One in five Dutch citizens is now a pensioner, according to the Central Bureau for Statistics. Raising the pensionable age benefits the State’s coffers, since pension payments have to be made for a shorter period and taxable income increases when people work longer. The increase is part of a package of austerity measures agreed by a five-party coalition after the government collapsed in April. The Labour party, Socialists and anti-immigration PVV voted against the rise. Social affairs minister Henk Kamp has agreed to look at ways to soften the blow for people on early retirement schemes who will have to bridge the gap between the end of their pre-pension and start of state benefits. Some 60,000 to 80,000 early retirees will be hit by the changes, according to the Telegraaf newspaper. The minister described the approval of the legislation as ‘an historic decision’. The state pension (AOW) age has been 65 since 1957. Pension funds have already warned the changes are being introduced too quickly, giving them little time to prepare.

EUTHANASIA RATES STAY THE SAME Legalisation has not led to an increase in the number of euthanasia cases in The Netherlands, states a team of Dutch researchers. Their findings, published in the British medical journal The Lancet, show that about three percent of all deaths in 2010 were the result of euthanasia or assisted suicide. This compares to pre-legalisation levels of 2.8 percent. When euthanasia was legalised in 2002, opponents warned that there would be an increase in the involuntary euthanasia of terminally ill or elderly patients. However Professor Bregje Onwuteaka-Philipsen of VU University Amsterdam says there has actually been a drop in such deaths. Based on interviews with 6,000 doctors and research into 7,000 deaths, the team found just 300 cases of euthanasia where the patient had not given explicit consent in 2010, compared with around 1,000 in the years prior to legalisation. Onwuteaka-Philipsen told the Dutch daily, de Volkskrant, that this was probably because there was more openness about euthanasia and it was discussed by doctors and patients at an earlier stage. The research team also found that around 600 people ended their lives by refusing food and drink. Euthanasia had been denied in around half of these cases. Euthanasia is only permitted in the Netherlands under strict conditions and must be approved by two doctors. [subheading] Foreign residence rate remains low The Netherlands has one of the lowest percentages of non-Dutch nationals living within its borders in the EU, according to new figures from the EU statistics office, Eurostat. Some 4% of the people living in the Netherlands are foreign nationals compared with 8.8% in Germany, 6.2% in Denmark and 10.6% in Belgium. Only Finland and eastern and central European countries have fewer foreigners, the Eurostat figures show. Of the 673,000 non-Dutch nationals, 334,500 come from another EU member state, accounting for just 2% of the total population. The EU average is 2.5%. In total, some 13 million EU citizens live in another member state. Minister Kamp calls new pension legislation ‘historic’

Photography: Novum/ Bart Maat


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SILLYQUESTIONS THE EUROPEAN SUPER-STATE

“Painful but unavoidable” is how Angela Merkel described more political integration in Europe. “It’s our job to do what was left undone at the establishment of the euro.” Is Europe on the brink of becoming a political super-state? The International Correspondent put the question to Nico Groenendijk, Associate Professor in Public Finance and European Integration at the University of Twente. DOES MERKEL HAVE HER SIGHTS TRAINED ON THE CREATION OF A FEDERAL EUROPE? You can say the EU is already a federation, but one with some important flaws: these flaws have, ultimately, to be eliminated. If you decide to co-operate in the economic area, then you can’t avoid co-operating in other areas. DID BRUSSELS OVERLOOK THOSE OTHER AREAS IN THE PAST? There is free movement of capital and therefore a strong interlinking of the banking sector in various European countries, but banking supervision is divided up over 27 member states. There’s no central European supervision. There are no agreements made about liability and guarantees for customers when banks fail. There is no centralised organisation of rescue operations by member states. There is a monetary union, but there’s no mechanism for handling budget deficits and debts on the part of individual member-states. There is no consolidated issuing of bonds by the euro zone, although, in reality, the euro countries are more or less guaranteeing each others’ debts. IS EUROPE NOT TOO DIVIDED TO COOPERATE IN ALL THOSE AREAS? Europe is diverse. But that’s not the same as divided. We agree that we don’t want uniformity in language and culture. Brussels plays a prominent role in maintaining linguistic and cultural diversity and protecting minorities in Europe. But it’s clear that with the necessary far-reaching co-operation in areas like state finances, taxes, pensions, salaries, banking and insurance, Europe will intrude more in the future in areas that were the preserve of national governments. ANTI-EUROPEAN SENTIMENT IS RISING ALL OVER EUROPE. DOES THAT MAKE CO-OPERATION MORE DIFFICULT? The popularity of anti-European attitudes in countries that are doing well economically, such as The Netherlands, is not a new thing. It started long

Photography: European Commission Press Office

before the crisis. Europe is a complex project and it is relatively simple to lure voters by pushing a simple anti-EU message. HOW WILL BRUSSELS CONVINCE THE CRITICS THAT IT’S ALL FOR THEIR OWN GOOD? That’s a question of political leadership. At this moment, those antiEurope-noises are often fanned and used by national politicians who actually know better and take very reasonable positions behind closed doors in Brussels. This kind of schizophrenic behaviour does not create support. CRITICS SAY ‘BRUSSELS’ ISN’T VERY DEMOCRATIC IN IMPOSING HEAVY BUDGET CUTS AND CRISIS POLITICS ON GREECE, ITALY AND SPAIN. ALSO THAT THE EUROPEAN MOVERS AND SHAKERS, SUCH AS JOSÉ MANUEL BAROSSO AND HERMAN VAN ROMPUY, WEREN’T DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED. That’s factually incorrect and outdated. Particularly as a result of the Treaty of Lisbon, there’s now a situation where practically all the policy that is made in Brussels is in part made by the members of the European parliament -who were directly elected by European citizens. It can’t get more democratic than that. It’s true that European leaders like Barosso and Van Rompuy aren’t directly elected, but were selected by the European Parliament and government leaders respectively, but that kind of situtaion also happens at national level as well. IS THERE A FUTURE FOR EUROPE WITHOUT POLITICAL UNIFICATION? Nobody wants to go back to a situation without an internal market, with import duties on each other’s goods, with passport checks and queues at the borders, with limited choices for consumers, with 27 different currencies and with national governments making economic life tough for each other with export subsidies and devaluations.


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Photography: Novum/ JP/ str. John Peters

DUTCH COMPANIES ATTRACT FOREIGN INVESTMENT ABU DHABI TO INVEST OIL DOLLARS IN DUTCH WIND ENERGY Abu Dhabi’s State Energy company, Taqa, is to invest billions of oil dollars in developing the largest wind-farm in the North Sea, the Telegraaf newspaper has reported. Construction is due to begin next year, after the mating season of the protected brown fish in July. The German company, Siemens, has been developing the project, in which 150 turbines will be built, enough to power over 1.5 million Dutch homes. Siemens has been looking for an investor for the windfarm for some time, says the paper. It now looks certain that Taqa will become the biggest shareholder in what will be the Netherlands’ largest windfarm for decades. The area of the North Sea where it will be built is well-known for its strong winds. BMW TO BUILD MINIS IN THE NETHERLANDS German car maker BMW will start producing the famous Mini car at the NedCar plant in Born, Limburg at the end of 2014. The Nedcar plant was sold by Mitsubishi to the VDL Group from Eindhoven for a nominal fee of one euro. All 1,500 workers at the plant will lose their jobs, reported the NRC Handelsblad newspaper in July, but they will also get a job guarantee once the BMW deal goes through. An agreement was made with the ministry of social affairs to pay all the staff unemployment benefits up to 100% of their current salary for the two years between the closure of the plant and its restart, sources said. BMW currently builds Minis in Oxford. Harald Krueger, member of the board of management at the BMW Group, told the British Daily Mail that the extra volume for its growth plans for the Mini, and the complexity of new models, means that additional production was needed in the medium term. ‘Our preferred option is to establish a contract manufacturer as a satellite production as close to our UK operations as possible, at the Nedcar plant in the Netherlands...’ he said. BMW will produce 60- to 90.000 Minis a year in Born up to 2020.

CHIP-MAKER ASML IN EQUITY TALKS Dutch chip machinery maker ASML is holding talks with TSMC and Samsung following a € 4.1bn investment in the company by Intel, the Financial Times has reported. The paper said ASML had offered all three companies the same terms to buy up to 25% of the company’s equity as well as contributing to a crucial research programme to develop the next generation of smaller computer chips. ‘We hope to be able to announce additional investments by our other customers in the coming weeks,’ chief executive Eric Meurice is quoted as saying. Analysts told the paper getting customers such as Intel to help foot the bill for research while making a strong commitment to the new technology is a coup for ASML and gives it an advantage over rival Nikon. ASML had been looking for a way to raise the billions needed to develop the next generation machinery for 18 months, according to the Dutch Financieele Dagblad. Intel has already committed to buying a 15 per cent stake in ASML, and analysts said TSMC and Samsung would be under pressure to take the remaining 10 per cent tranche on offer or risk falling behind in development. ‘It is like a penalty shoot-out. Intel has got their shot in and now it is all eyes on TSMC and Samsung,’ said Lee Simpson, semiconductor analyst at Jefferies. ‘Samsung has to keep up with the next generation of technology because it cannot risk losing clients such as Apple to Intel.’ ASML’s unusual funding deal highlights the enormous costs of developing machinery to make chips, as the industry begins to approach the end of Moore’s Law. Up to now, chip development has largely followed this 1960s prediction that the number of transistors on a computer chip will roughly double every two years. Smaller chips offer more computing power while using less energy, something that consumers desperately want for their smart phones, tablets and PCs. But as chips get smaller, Moore’s Law is becoming harder to achieve, and the pace of development has been slowing down.

VIEW OUR COMPANY PROFILES AT www.theinternationalcorrespondent.com/bigbusiness


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LOCALBUSINESS

ALL ROADS LEAD TO UTRECHT Photography: City of Utrecht Press Dept.

In 2010, Utrecht had the most competitive position in Europe, according to the European Competitive Index, whose researchers compared the city to 271 regions on the continent. One reason: Utrecht is reachable via many transport routes. And then there’s the scientific infrastructure of the city: a university, three colleges and many other educational institutions, as well as its burgeoning financial sector. This summer, Utrecht opened its own Expat Desk to lure companies and skilled personnel to the city. TRANSPORT CENTRE Utrecht stands right at the centre of The Netherlands and is the focal point of a well-developed road and rail network. Every minute, a train leaves Utrecht Central Station for 10 of the 12 provincial capitals in The Netherlands, as well as for international destinations in Germany and to the south of the country. The concrete station building has lost a lot of its grandeur since it was built in the 1960s and 70s; its hall is sorely in need of a make-over. The surrounding shopping centre, Hoog Catherijne, hailed at its opening as one of the largest and most luxurious of Europe, has declined into a bleak collection of discount retailers. The nearby Jaarbeurscomplex is no longer a site for international trade fairs, but rather a venue for cheap musicals aimed at a local public. The decline in the station district hasn’t passed unnoticed at City Hall. Investments will be made in the coming ten years to restore it to its former allure. EDUCATIONAL CENTRE Some 65,000 students study in Utrecht. The oldest educational institution, the University of Utrecht, was set up in 1634, originally as just a Latin language school. It later branched out to teach law, medicine, vetinary science, social sciences and much more. Today, UU is recognized as one of the best universities in the country; it got 68th place in the Times Higher Education ratings this year and was only superseded by TU Delft (51). Utrecht Polytechnic also has a proud name. It offers hundreds of study options to about 35,000 students. In 1997 Utrecht was the first city in The Netherlands to get a University College. De UCU, an initiative of the university, focuses on international students. Nearly 40 percent of its 700 students are from abroad. TiasNimbas has a similar overseas orientation. It offers various forms of management and economics training with an international perspective.

ECONOMIC CENTRE Because of the continuous flow of students to the city, the population is expanding rapidly. It’s expected that, in 13 years, Utrecht will increase its population by about a third and reach 400,000. And despite the high educational level of the population, the city has high unemployment, above the average for the country as a whole. By contrast, though, the financial services sector is on the up and up. Rabobank, which has become the biggest bank in The Netherlands since the state took over ABN Amro and ING was reorganized, is a major contributor to this trend. From its recently opened new headquarters, erected next to two of the bank’s other buildings, Rabo runs about 1,000 branches handling nearly seven and a half million customers mainly in The Netherlands. A tenth of these are business clients, many of them small and medium sized businesses. SNS Reaal is also headquartered in Utrecht, and also focuses on small and mid-sized businesses. Despite a balance of 128 billion, SNS hasn’t fared well during the crisis. Since it got noted on the stock exchange, its shares lost nearly 90% of their value. INTERNATIONAL CENTRE By investing in the medical and creative sectors, Utrecht’s municipal authorities hope to give the city a new boost. They are also subsidizing numerous software companies and innovative IT enterprises in the old centre of the city, many set up by foreigners. It’s not a coincidence that Utrecht set up an expat desk in June. An initiative of various international companies, service providers and the city council, it offers support in bureaucratic processes. ‘But it is also meant to put Utrecht on the international map,’ says the council’s chair, Bart Meijl. ‘Current expats have to be ambassadors to attract more newcomers to the city,’ adds secretary Michiel Groenland.

LEARN ABOUT OTHER BUSINESS CENTERS IN THE NETHERLANDS AT www.theinternationalcorrespondent.com/localbusiness


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INTRODUCING

SYBRAND VAN HAERSMA BUMA

A NEW FACE FOR AN OLD PARTY It’s up to Sybrand van Haersma Buma to raise the Christian Democrat Party (CDA) from the nearly-dead. Two years ago, the party held 42 of the 150 seats in Parliament: today it’s lucky when it gets 17 in the polls. Buma was elected CDA leader on 18 May. Can he perform a miracle by Election Day, September 12? Beaten. Two years ago, former CDA Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende walked away from politics after leading five consecutive governments in this country. The centre-oriented CDA, with its appeals for family values and decorum, had managed to hold on to power into the 21st century, even though populist politics had flared up in the form of Pim Fortuyn. But by 2010 its support had halved. The party won only 21 seats in that June’s elections. Now the question is: is the CDA’s decline a historical necessity given the secular norms of today, or can the party be revived by a new leader? Born in 1980 as a fusion of the largest confessional groups in parliament (CHU, ARP and KVP), this party ruled The Netherlands under Premier Ruud Lubbers for the decade that followed. It introduced major economic changes before losing power for eight years. Then, in 2002, it stormed back centre-stage under Balkenende, reforming the labor market and government budgets, and leading the country through the short-lived crisis caused by the popping of the internet bubble. A NEW FACE But uneasiness is brewing. With every election the party loses more seats. The Christian faith has lost its hold on the population, so the CDA has to depend on representing social ideals held by voters. But which social ideals? Different parts of the party espouse different views. Protestant supporters are traditionally left-oriented, while the Catholics, who mainly hail from Limburg and Brabant, are more right-wing. In 2010, the whole thing boiled over. After five terms of having the protestant Balkanende as leader of the party, the Catholics just walked away en masse. They showed up in the ranks of the VVD and, in large numbers, amongst the supporters of the popular Limburg politician Geert Wilders.

Photography: Novum/ Dirk Hol

OLD/NEW Van Haersma Buma is new as leader, but he’s experienced in politics. He’s been an MP since 2002, focusing on justice issues, public order and security. He negotiated with rebellious MPs in 2010 when the party entered into the controversial coalition with the PVV, and represented the party at weeks of budget discussions in March this year. He is well-versed in the financial issues of the moment. And he’s not alone. He’s chosen his former opponent in the leadership battle, Mona Keizer, as deputy leader. Keizer, a young mother of four, brings a breath of fresh air to the party. With years of experience in local politics, she takes a down-to-earth approach that appeals to the media. And there are at least 10 other new faces in the CDA’s line-up. A NEW IDENTITY Whether Van Haersma Buma and his team are able to get the party to adopt new ideas is the question. In June, he presented the CDA’s election programme. And, despite wanting to please everyone, he had to disappoint the majority of voters. The programme calls for a flat taxation policy – a measure aimed at attracting right-wing businessmen. Simultaneously, Buma declares himself an opponent of bankers’ bonuses, and calls for a banking oath to which financial sector employees can be held accountable in times of crisis. He caters to the left-wing with his efforts to get employers to pay six months of unemployment benefit when they fire workers. But he says development aid– traditionally a sacred cow of CDA members- can do with major budget cuts. What remains in the programme is the moral flavor his predecessor thought up to cater to CDA tastes. The government must clamp down on hooliganism on the streets, says Van Haersma Buma.


Column The Big Issue the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 23

Photography: Correspondent Media Photo

WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM SOUTH KOREA’S APPROACH TO MANAGING A FINANCIAL CRISIS By Sanjay Sharma

South Korea, known as the Miracle of the Han River, is an outstanding success story of geopolitical competence, human resource management and unmatched economic growth. Within just one generation, this agrarian economy of $68 per capita GDP has reinvented itself as an OECD powerhouse, providing hard lessons for countries struggling to overcome the current European financial crisis. Together with Taiwan, South Korea is one of only two economies in the world that have maintained a constant growth rate of over 5 percent for no less than five decades. What is remarkable about the South Korean case is that the country has no resources except for its manpower.

SO WHAT IS IT THAT MAKES THIS COUNTRY THRIVE EVEN DURING TIMES OF CRISIS? Goal-orientation and willingness to sacrifice oneself for the common good. South Korea can be characterized as a highly determined and dedicated society, in which citizens believe in higher aims for society as a whole and actively support collective efforts to achieve these goals. Having faced Japanese occupation, the Cold War, the inter-Korean war and being in the middle of the rivalry between super-powers Russia, the US and Japan, this goal- orientation has helped South Korea to succeed in making the best of any given situation, no matter how harsh the conditions. Hard-work. Beyond the debate of productivity, South Koreans are known for working the longest hours in the world. Instead of focusing on their personal goals, most South Koreans are driven by the collective gains within the organizations of which they are part. This also tells a lot about South Koreans’ loyalty towards their organizations. Importance given to education. This is a very important social characteristic of Asian societies in general and South Korea in particular. In the hierarchical and homogeneous society that South Korea is, knowledge-seeking is the only way up; and Koreans are totally committed to it. Of late, in the global education context, we can find Koreans among the top performers in the best institutions around the world. Quality consciousness. The South Korean growth story is known for its

import-substitution and export orientation. The need to compete on the global market required its products to be of a high quality and standard. Global integration. In today’s world, where economies have a proclivity to be protectionist, South Korea is integrating more and more with global activities. This has a direct linkage with South Korea’s quest to conquer foreign markets. World-class firms and brands. In the early phase of industrialization, Korean products were perceived to be of inferior quality, but soon South Korean firms entered into highend technology-intensive sectors. Today, the likes of Samsung, LG and Hyundai have become household names in both mature as well as emerging markets. HOW SOUTH KOREA REBOUNDED FROM THE 1997 ASIAN CRISIS During any crisis, the biggest issues are two-fold: first to come to terms with the new reality, and second to appreciate the urgency of the need for reforms. These two are essential, if not sufficient, conditions to make things happen. The Asian crisis came as a shock but the Koreans did not waste time in taking the action that was required, even if it was painful. Their experience of shared suffering in the given geopolitical conditions fostered a strong sense of solidarity, which was key in overcoming the 1997 Asian financial crisis. It has provided the Koreans with a strong belief that they can achieve anything if they bond together. For example, during an iconic gold-

selling campaign, people sold even their wedding rings in order to earn hard currency needed to repay the IMF loan. In another instance, when the Korean currency got weaker, Koreans sold dollars to help stabilize the Korean Won, even though they could have bought foreign currency instead for their personal gain. LEARNING POINTS FOR STRUGGLING EUROPEAN ECONOMIES As the situation stands, Greece and other struggling European economies will need to accept the reality on the ground and swallow some bitter pills if they want to overcome the current European financial crisis. They will have to prepare a new agenda for nation building, and quickly, since the current (lack of) action does not seem to lead anywhere. European leaders will need to find the courage to convince their constituencies of the need for unpopular but much- needed tough measures, and European workers will need to be more flexible and face the reality that they need to compete with workers who are better educated and skilled but prepared to work for lower salaries. With high unemployment rates in both Spain and Greece, these countries will need to (re)train their workforce to make their skills market-relevant. To provide their people with sufficient opportunities on the labour market, they may need to shift back the so-called 3D jobs, i.e. dirty, difficult and dangerous. The example of South Korea shows that it can be done, but only if each and everyone shares the sense of urgency and is prepared to share the burden.

DR. SANJAY SHARMA Sanjay Sharma is former director of Maastricht University India Institute and professor of international relations and Korean affairs, is a strategy advisor on global business and economy. sanjay.sharma@correspondentmedia.nl READ MORE COLUMNS AT www.theinternationalcorrespondent.com/columns


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26 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT


the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 27

Q&A “WE ARE FAR LESS ENTERPRISING THAN WE ONCE WERE” HOLLAND FINANCIAL CENTRE DIRECTOR SJOERD VAN KEULEN By Floris Müller Photography: Pascal Bier

After relinquishing his post at the top of the banking and insurance firm, SNS Reaal, Sjoerd van Keulen was offered the chairmanship of the Holland Financial Centre, a public private partnership aiming to strengthen the financial sector in the Netherlands. This turned out to be no sinecure. In the past few years, Van Keulen has had his work cut out for him getting banks, insurance firms, pension funds and politicians to take the same approach to solving the current economic problems. And he doesn’t pull his punches. The politicians in The Hague are too hesitant in their plans for economic and financial reform the financial sector, he says; their election programmes lack new and innovative ideas. And bankers should just quit thinking only of themselves.


Q&A 28 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT

WHAT DID YOU HOPE TO ACHIEVE WITH THE HOLLAND FINANCIAL CENTRE? The Holland Financial Centre is a unique platform in which not only the private financial sector is involved, but also the public sector. The board comprises of representatives, banks, insurance companies, legal firms, tax specialists, asset managers, institutional investors and the stock market. But there are also representatives of the Amsterdam city council, the ministry of finance and the Dutch Central Bank. One of the original ideas was to attract large financial institutions to The Netherlands, but the general goal is to develop the financial sector further. To achieve that, it’s good to get all the major players together round the table. Currently HFC is supporting the financial sector by focusing on so called“ pre-competitive projects” in areas such as securitisation and sustainability. For instance we have a project on how to finance the transformation towards a greener economy. IN WHAT FIELDS CAN THE DUTCH FINANCIAL SECTOR SHINE? First of all, in the area of management of pensions. Others are financial logistics (payment systems) and trade and commodity finance. Moreover, the Holland Financial Centre is working with partners to develop sustainable financial services. That’s needed. At the moment, particularly in comparison with our neighbors, we can do more and better in the field of sustainable industry. And we are jointly working on changes in the area of laws, taxes and regulation. AT THE LAUNCH OF THE HOLLAND FINANCIAL CENTRE IN 2007 YOUR PREDECESSOR SAID THE NETHERLANDS COULD BECOME THE SECOND FINANCIAL CENTRE OF EUROPE... Our original strategic priorities are still valid, but in the short term we are focusing on realistic objectives, that is strengthening the financial sector by initiating these so called pre-competitive projects. WHAT IS THE GENERAL IDEA? The recovery of a healthy sustainable financial sector after the crisis. That is the task of the banks and insurers, but also of the politicians in The Hague. At the same time, I recognize that a healthy future for us depends on what happens in Brussels. ARE YOU CONFIDENT THAT THE EUROPEAN LEADERS WILL FIND A SOLUTION TO THE EURO CRISIS? Dutch financial institutions have billions in investment in unstable countries like Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece. And Dutch companies are highly dependent on exports to those countries as well. If Brussels doesn’t manage to keep the member states together and stabilize the union, national economies like ours could experience serious damage.

UP TO NOW EUROPEAN LEADERS HAVEN’T SUCCEEDED IN FINDING A LONG-TERM SOLUTION. A solution requires total effort on the part of all involved. In the area of finance. And politics. Till now, European solidarity has remained very limited. That’s a painful realization. BUT A BANKING UNION HAS BEEN LAUNCHED. The chair of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, wants to organize banking supervision according to a pan-European banking system, where the building blocks of the banking union is composed of European supervision, the European guarantee system, and it can rescue banks with the European Stability Mechanism. Even where it doesn’t appear necessary, a banking union will provide stability and clarity. WILL THIS ESTABLISH A BASIS FOR MORE POLITICAL CO-OPERATION WITHIN THE UNION? Yes. We can’t avoid that in Europe. Angela Merkel said it in June. Premier Mark Rutte did as well. I think the political union could arise sooner than we might think. ISN’T IT HAPPENING A BIT LATE? In Brussels we’re still assuming there can be economic gain without taking political responsibility. The crisis has made it painfully clear that you can’t have a monetary union without political co-operation as well. The question is whether the political administration will be temporary, a sort of crisis-management measure, or whether it will be a permanent political union. A POLITICAL UNION WOULDN’T BE TO THE TASTE OF MANY DUTCH PEOPLE. I agree. Many people are eurosceptic. But Europe offers the only way out of this crisis. It’s a strange situation, and a great challenge for politicians to explain this to voters. THE SOCIALIST PARTY (SP) SAYS IN ITS ELECTION MANIFESTO THAT WE DON’T REALLY HAVE TO ABIDE BY THE BUDGETARY RULES LAID DOWN BY EUROPE. THE POPULIST POLITICIAN, GEERT WILDERS, SAYS THE NETHERLANDS SHOULD EVEN GET OUT OF THE MONETARY UNION AND ABANDON EUROPE ENTIRELY. Most of it is election talk. Personally I don’t believe in a future without Europe. Or that we can divert from rules set down in Brussels. Experience shows that this kind of tough talk melts down after the elections have taken place. The Netherlands is governed by coalitions. To work together, parties will have to abandon these kinds of hard and fast positions. OTHER PARTIES TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE ANTI-EUROPEAN SENTIMENT THAT HOVERS OVER THE NETHERLANDS. True. If SP or PVV sweep the polls, strategic reforms and budget cuts will be slowed. And the

reorganization of the government’s finances will be delayed. That’s not good for this country. ARE OTHER PARTIES AWARE OF THE NEED FOR REFORM? Most of the election programmes lack a longer term vision. The plans that most parties are presenting are very short-term in their orientation. That’s regrettable: the crisis offers the opportunity to launch fundamental changes. Something has to be done about the pensions and pensionable age. The cost of health-care is exploding. And the housing market is under pressure. Although it’s clear that policy must change in all these areas, politicians are postponing taking action until now sofar. Probably they are hoping for economic recovery before broaching those issues. WHAT ABOUT DEALING WITH THE BANKING SECTOR IN THE NETHERLANDS? IT’S NOT JUST UP TO EUROPE TO MAKE THE BANKS HEALTHY AGAIN. A lot is being done to reform the financial industry. But I think we are not on the right track yet. People are trying to reduce all the risks in the banking world basically to zero. We need to find a new balance between growth and control. That is risk management instead of risk avoidance. This policy will hamper growth and innovation in the business world. We may expect a major contraction in the economy. WHY ARE THE POLITICIANS SO AFRAID OF RISKS IN BANKING SECTOR? Because our relatively large financial sector was hit extra hard during the crisis. We were and partly still are terrified. This may never happen again. We’re afraid to lose what we have. We still are one of the wealthiest, egalitarian nations of the world. Premier Balkenende said it at the beginning of the crisis. He called for a return to the old ‘VOC’ mentality. But I see little of that around. Not by the banks, not by the companies, not by consumers. We are far less enterprising than we once were. CAN THE DUTCH BANKERS NOT DO SOMETHING ABOUT THAT? The public and private sector need to work together about these matters. There is consensus that things have to change. Quite a number of them, as you know, have been implemented already e.g. new capitalization, solvency, and liquidity rules. WHY AREN’T THE BANKERS NOT INVOLVED IN THE CHANGES? In The Netherlands we have been looking for someone to blame for the crisis. Many politicians believe bankers and others in the financial sector are plain guilty. And so, they should be punished. With this attitude, we’re remaining behind. We have to start talking about a new future. In other financial centers, they’ve gone past the initial


the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 29

“ A lot is being done to reform the financial industry. But I think we are not on the right track yet. People are trying to reduce all the risks in the banking world basically to zero.� - Sjoerd van Keulen


Q&A 30 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT

emotions and are concentrating on the recovery of the sector. A healthy financial sector, one that has learned his lessons, accepting that it is now time for controlled growth and a modest attitude is of vital importance for economic growth and social stability. Hopefully one day it will regain respect from society. Those judgments about bankers come out in demands for curtailing bonuses. The SP proposes establishing a maximum level for bankers’ remuneration. If you curb bonuses, you deal with individual bankers, but the system doesn’t change. The bonus culture here is nowhere near as developed as in the US and England. Million-dollar bonuses are common there. This was never the case in the Netherlands. We never had a bank here that played in the league of the leading investment banks. ARE THE DUTCH SO NEGATIVE ABOUT THE FINANCIAL SECTOR? Very critical and not without reason, but also much is written in The Netherlands that simply isn’t true. We are driving ourselves crazy with all these reports in the press. SOME PARTIES HAVE THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A BANKING TAX IN THEIR ELECTIONS PROGRAMME. DO YOU THINK IT’S A GOOD IDEA? No. Absolutely not. The idea of such a tax is that bankers should pay a share for the crisis, which many think they have created. However, if you tax the banks more, they can lend less. And that lending capacity for the Dutch economy is already shrinking because of all the deleveraging taking place. That could lead to restriction in growth for businesses and fewer possibilities for citizens. DOES THE NETHERLANDS HAVE SOMETHING TO OFFER INVESTORS? Certainly. Firstly, we offer security in terms of our legal system and our governance rules. We

have created a very open and dependable market. In growing economies like China and India things are less certain. Moreover, we have attractive fiscal policies, there is a well educated workforce, our geographical location with our main ports are very important, as well as our logistic and ict capabilities. THAT MAKES THE COUNTRY ATTRACTIVE TO INVESTORS? We have a particularly creative and high tech oriented country. Despite limited budgets for innovation, you see a lot of new initiatives popping up here. YOU ARE ALSO CHAIR OF THE TOPTEAM HEADQUARTERS OF THE DUTCH GOVERNMENT, WHICH AIMS TO LURE COMPANIES TO THIS COUNTRY. Yes, and that goes well with my work for the Holland Financial Centre. The Netherlands has formed a number of interesting clusters. For instance the city of Wageningen and its surroundings is completely oriented towards agri-food; Eindhoven is the centre for high tech and life sciences. And Amsterdam, with its logistic, financial, creative and service sectors, remains interesting for foreign companies, nowadays especially for those from the Asian region and South America. IT’S OFTEN SAID THAT MOST OF THE COMPANIES ARE ESTABLISHED HERE ONLY AS POST-BOX FIRMS, TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE TAX-BENEFITS WE OFFER. That’s not true. Most of the companies that put down roots in The Netherlands build up a real business. Foreign companies are very important as trading partners for –in particular- small and medium-sized firms. And these new enterprises offer a fertile ground for training and growth of skilled Dutch employees.

Why should we know Sjoerd van Keulen Having studied politics, Van Keulen rose to influence in the banking sector. He worked for years at the asset-management firm MeesPierson (now ABN Amro) and as a member of the board of management of the now defunct Fortis bank. In 2002 he became CEO of SNS Reaal, a major insurance firm in Utrecht. He got a great deal of credit for bringing the company to the stock market and was named CEO of the year in 2007. But as the crisis unfolded, SNS shares plummeted and the bank was forced to apply for a government bailout. Since 2009, Van Keulen has been chair of the Holland Financial Centre, responsible for getting new élan for the Dutch financial sector and attracting foreign banks and insurance firms. Van Keulen’s office, at the top of one of the towers of the Zuidas, overlooks all the large financial institutions of The Netherlands.


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the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 33

Politics

Politics

DUTCH POLITICS FOR DUMMIES By Floris Müller

Ten years ago Dutch politics was known for being boring. ‘The Netherlands is governed on the basis of compromises,’ wrote the New York Times in 2000. ‘The main participants in Dutch politics are grey civil servants who cycle to work every day with their lunch box in a basket on their handlebars.’ How things have changed! Today, Dutch politics is a roller-coaster ride with populists –left and right-wing- occupying the carriages.

Photography: Novum/ Bart Maat


Politics 34 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT

‘The Netherlands will become ungovernable in September,’ crowed the Belgian newspaper De Morgen this summer. ‘With nearly 7 parties vying for power, there won’t be a clear winner. They are so far apart in perspectives that forming a government will be very difficult.’ Last year, the Dutch had sniggered as Belgium took 500 days to form a government. Popular newcomers blocked co-operation and established parties refused to talk to their opponents. Having no representatives, the Belgians lost a position at the negotiating table in Europe. Politicians couldn’t prevent a series of international companies closing their Belgian branches. The Netherlands is now likely to fall into the same position. POLDER MODEL For years, three large middle-of-the-road parties ran things in this country. At elections, the CDA (Christian Democrats), PvdA (Social Democrats) and VVD (Liberals) got 120 of the 150 seats in Parliament. Enough to keep things ticking over nicely, with continuity dominating policy. Such political incest had its advantages. Compromises with the trade unions and employers made it possible to make long-term plans for reforming business and the development of the labor market. It facilitated a stable development of trade and international relations, particularly in relation to Brussels. This consensus politics was dubbed the polder model. The coalition was called ‘purple’. But this was the quiet before the storm. In the middle of the nineties, The Netherlands shed its traditional political divisions along religious and class lines and its habitual attachment to established political programmes. Personal preferences and dissatisfaction with specific policy came to determine voting behavior. The dapper Rotterdam politician, Pim Fortuyn, was the first to scent the change on the wind. In 2002, he campaigned under the slogan ‘a stop to mass immigration’. The masses loved both the man and his clear one-issue platform. Within a few months he looked like an election winner. Flamboyant and decadent, he was eye candy for the media. He attacked established political figures, who first ignored him and then tried to sideline him as an extremist and xenophobe. That was a mistake. Fortuyn was murdered and his party got a million votes in the elections that took place a week later, sweeping the floor with

his former opponents. ‘We can’t ignore the sentiment that has bubbled up in the society,’ noted Ad Melkert, the departing leader of the social democrats. HERITAGE Fortuyn’s ebullient ascent has become the training material for newcomers in politics. And there’s no shortage of newcomers nowadays. To start with: Geert Wilders. In 2004 this VVD-dissident set up his anti-Islam party, PVV. A past master of the tweet and the sound-bite, Wilders took over Fortuyn’s script and soon acquired martyrstatus as well: death threats have caused him to live under constant surveillance. Futile efforts were made to shut him up with a lawsuit accusing him of sowing hate. They only confirmed his claim to be the champion of free speech. Then there was Rita Verdonk, who contested Mark Rutte for the leadership of the VVD party and later set up her own in 2007. It was called Trots op Nederland (Proud of The Netherlands). Verdonk scored with her one-liners and her gogetter attitude. She was flavor-of-the-day among disgruntled voters, but only for a short while. The ultra-left Socialist Party (SP) can also be viewed as an heir to Fortuyn’s kingdom. Set up in the 1970s, it only got seats in parliament since 1992. But ‘new politics’ has given it a new élan recently. Broad (Maoist) programmes have been swapped for popular positions: social provisions, minimum wage and raising taxes for the rich. Strong leadership also links it with the Fortuyn model. Party leader Jan Marijnissen was the face of the SP for years, appealing to a large section of the electorate with his eloquent explanations of political issues. In 2010, he had to step down for health reasons and he handed over the reins to Anges Kant. She proved to be a dud and soon made way for the charismatic Emile Roemer. POLLS Today, single-issue parties are more popular than ever. Despite a lot of internal upheaval, the PVV has a stable 20 seats in the polls. SP is steaming ahead with 28 to 32 seats. The socialists may even end up as the front-runners in September. The old centre parties are languishing behind. The CDA, whose support halved in the 2010 elections to less than 20, is threatening to lose a further 10 seats in September. The social democrats of the PvdA

aren’t doing a hell of a lot better. Once they pocketed an easy 40 seats in elections. Today, they’re struggling to hold on to 18. Mark Rutte’s VVD is the only one of the old established parties that continues to attract support. It was just barely the largest in the last elections, but it is currently looking at winning 25 to 30 seats. The success of the newcomers is largely due to the economic crisis. The single-issue parties can blithely adopt aggressive and not-alwaysrealistic positions on issues, condemning budget cuts and damning the EU. The centre parties, on the other hand, have to labor to explain the value of healthy state budgeting and a strong economic union. ‘We don’t have to pay the price for the badly performing European partners,’ said Wilders when he lit the fuse under the ruling government in May. ‘We can manage without Europe and the euro.’ The Dutch seems to be falling for that sort of politics. ‘This 3% budget norm set by Brussels is a goal, not a measure,’ adds Socialist Party leader Roemer. As it looks now, there won’t be a clear winner in September’s elections. All the major parties will get between 15 and 30 seats. A government will have to be put together with three or four parties. Ignoring the single-issue parties as coalition members will be impossible. Forming a government will be a hell of a task. First, these one-issue parties won’t be prepared to give up their one issue. Climbing down from their criticism of budget cuts will be impossible for the PVV and SP. And the established parties have little taste for ruling together with either of these. Wilders’ subversion of the recent government is fresh in everybody’s memory. NEW HOPE Does it mean The Netherlands will be ungovernable from the end of 2012? Probably not. If the centre parties get together and can manage their political differences, a coalition of the political establishment is possible. What is called a ‘purple-plus’ combination. They managed something like this when they made the Spring Accord this summer to pass legislation on economic reform. It took them only 48 hours. They could demonstrate the same determination to avert a political crisis in September. And the old politics will triumph over the new parties.


the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 35

Politician Emile Roemer and in the foreground his political opponent Geert Wilders

Photography: Novum/ Dirk Hol


Politics 36 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT

WHAT & WHO TO CHOOSE?

Photography: Novum/ Dirk Hol

SOCIALIST PARTY (SP) Political flavor: Extreme Left Political Leader: Emile Roemer The SP is against deep budget cuts to conform to European budget rules. The party proposes an extension of social benefits, active stimulation of the economy, and extra taxes on high incomes and companies. Roemer is a rising star in politics. He’s regarded as amiable though he’s criticized for his inadequate economic knowledge. Political rivals are the PvdA and the PVV. PARTIJ VAN DE ARBEID -LABOR PARTY (PVDA) Political flavor: Social Democrat Political Leader: Diederik Samsom Is critical of budget cuts but recognizes European budget agreements. Wants to tax high incomes and make adjustments to the scheme of mortgage relief so as to generate extra state funds. The PvdA lost a lot of support in recent years because of weak leadership. At the start of 2012, Diederik Samsom was elected to give the party new élan. That hasn’t really paid off. The party is against the budget cuts in the so-called Spring Accords. Main rival for voter support: SP. GROEN LINKS –GREEN LEFT (GL) Political Flavor: Green Political Leader: Jolanda Sap Green Left is floundering. It was spawned by three progressive left-wing parties (including the former Nieuwe Communistische Partij Nederland) but has been shifting in recent years to something more like a conservative liberal party. It first cooperated with VVD and CDA (together with D66) to bring into being a military mission in Kunduz, Afghanistan, and later on the packet of economic measures called the Spring Accords. DEMOCRATEN’66 (D66) Political Flavor: Social-liberal Political Leader: Alexander Pechtold D66 has got popular for its criticism of Wilders’ extreme positions. Its leader, Alexander Pechtold, is in favor of investment in education and innovation, in combination with budget cuts. D66 is very Europhile. This can create problems for the party in the elections. D66 was one of the initiators of the Spring Accords, the agreement on budget cuts with VVD, CDA and Green Left. Rival: VVD. CHRISTEN DEMOCRATISCH APPÈL (CDA) Political flavor: Christian Democrat Political Leader: Sybrand van Haersma Buma Centre party, nearly halved since 2000. In search of a new programme and leadership. Lost a part of their Catholic support in Brabant to Geert Wilders’ PVV. In May, Sybrand van Haersma Buma became leader. He is in favor of major changes, such as a flat taxation policy. He is also into a return to norms and values and a moralizing role for the government. Participant in the Spring Accords. Rivals: all centre parties. VOLKSPARTIJ VOOR VRIJHEID EN DEMOCRATIE (VVD) Political Flavor: Liberal Political Leader: Mark Rutte Is having trouble maintaining its lead in the polls. In favor of deep budget cuts. On top of existing cuts, wants to slice a further 25 billion from government budgets in the coming years. Critical of Europe but in favor of adhering to European budget rules. An initiator of the Spring Accords. Mark Rutte is one of the most popular political leaders and is praised for his economic insight. Rival on the right flank: PVV. Rivals on the left flank: D66 and CDA.

PARTIJ VOOR DE VRIJHEID

PARTIJ VOOR DE VRIJHEID -FREEDOM PARTY (PVV) Political Flavor: Extreme Right Political Leader: Geert Wilders Exploded the former governing coalition of VVD and CDA by withdrawing from talks on budget cuts. Party leader Geert Wilders is the enfant terrible of Dutch politics. Can’t count on getting coalition partners in other parties since it blew up the last coalition. Apart from its criticism of Islam, the PVV is mainly focused against the euro, the EU and European budget rules. The party remains stable in the polls. Rivals: VVD and SP.


Column Politics the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 37

CONSENSUS POLITICS

By Floris Müller

Elections are open in The Netherlands, but the ‘formation’ of a new government afterwards has always taken place behind closed doors. Till this year. In 2012, a new cabinet will be put together in the parliamentary chamber, in the full glare of the public view. This is not going to be easy... ‘Your plans are anti-social; they’ll divide this country!’ shrieks a leftwing politician on a radio programme. His conservative opponent retaliates in kind. ‘You are unrealistic: your economic programme will create enormous damage!’ It’s the usual circus in pre-elections The Netherlands. Evening after evening, television entertainment is composed of contestants vying for our approval. This game show keeps all the branches of the media in business, from print to radio to twitter. It’s no different from elections in the US, of course, except for one thing. Once elections have been held in The Netherlands, a cease-

Photography: www.hetkoninklijkhuis.nl

fire descends. It’s eerie. The parties that have been heaping abuse on one another suddenly discover polite behaviour again. That’s because no one party wins the election here. After the votes have been counted, they have to cobble together a coalition that will govern the country for the next four years (or rather, till the coalition falls apart, which is what has been happening in recent decades). So,once the polls have been closed, everyone starts trying to win friends and influence people. This process, which we call ‘forming’ a government (or ‘the formatie’), usually takes place behind closed doors. In contrast to the media circus that dominates life before the elections, the period of actually designing a programme for ruling the country is carried on in the most hush-hush way possible. ‘FORMATIONS’ Cabinet formations are led by Queen Beatrix. The head of state appoints so-called ‘informers’ and ‘formers’ who investigate the possiblities for constructing various versions of a cabinet. Parliament has 150 seats. The party that wins the most votes and can lay claim to the most seats in parliament can usually take the initiative, together with the Queen, to create a govern-

ment. The only provision is that the coalition of parties that forms this government must have a majority of seats in parliament. The ‘formatie’ is carried out behind closed doors for a practical reason, says one liberal MP. ‘Parties don’t have to show their cards to everyone. That works well in the end. The process of forming a government is aided by the quiet of the back-rooms. A brooding hen mustn’t be disturbed.’ In recent years, this process has become more complicated. In the past, three parties -the Christian Democrats (CDA), the social democrats (PvdA) and the liberals (VVD) could count on getting a total of 100 seats in the Second Chamber of government. But today there are nearly 10 parties in the chamber, seven of which have over 15 seats. The political landscape is fragmented and the contradictions large. With lengthy formation processes and an increase in the number of advisers the queen consults, the murkiness of the process and Her Majesty’s role have been brought into question. After the 2010 elections the issue exploded. LUBBERS The queen appointed ex-premier Ruud Lubbers as negotiator. Lubbers had made critical statements in the media about Geert Wilders’

PVV party, which enjoyed huge gains in the elections. Lubbers had said co-operation with this antiIslam party was undesirable. The Queen’s choice of Lubbers was a political act, Wilders concluded. And therefore improper. Wilders raised questions and early this year a meeting was convened to discuss the role of the queen in formations. The PVV got support from a lot of parties and managed to get the procedure changed so that parliament, and not the queen, determines the process to be followed. The PVV’s coalition partners, CDA and VVD, were opposed to the change. So this September a new cabinet will be formed in the full glare of daylight. We’ll all know what demands the various parties put forward and where they are prepared to compromise. That won’t only create transparancy; it’ll probably make the process more difficult. Hence a new cabinet will probably take some time to put together. In 1971, it had been decided that Parliament would lead the process of forming a cabinet, but it wasn’t able to come to agreement, and the matter had to be thrown back into the lap of the queen. For security, those who set up the new formation arrangements have made a proviso: ‘The new openness is a goal, not an obligation.’

FLORIS MÜLLER Floris Müller studied law, American history and jewish history at Leiden University. He has worked as producer for RTL News US correspondent Max Westerman in New York and as senior editor for Dutch broadcasting company NOS, ANP press agency and business magazine Quote. floris.muller@correspondentmedia.nl


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the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 39

Business

IN THE NETHERLANDS WE TRUST By Martin van Geest

Are you familiar with Citco, TMF and Intertrust? Chances are you’ve never heard of these companies before, even though these three firms count over half of the world’s hundred largest multinationals among their customers. They get surprisingly little coverage in the media, but that’s the way they like it. So what are Citco, TMF and Intertrust? They are ‘trust firms’ and part of a flourishing Dutch industry. Their main raison d’être is providing services to multinationals that want to benefit from Holland’s favorable tax climate. To be clear: these trust firms have virtually nothing to do with the trust that you might know from the United States or the United Kingdom. Americans usually think of a trust as some sort of fund that is used by wealthy individuals as part of their estate planning; the inheritance isn’t bequeathed to the heirs, but is held by a trustee for the benefit of the heirs. We all know the Paris Hilton-like trust-fund babes who live solely off the trust fund established by their parents. However, this type of trust is not recognized by Dutch law.

Photography: Correspondent Media Photo


Business 40 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT

DUTCH TAX TREATIES To explain what Dutch trust offices do, we’ll take a short dive into history. Around the turn of the 20th century, several Dutch businesses started to expand abroad; the foundations of multinationals such as Unilever and Shell were laid in this era. The Dutch government noticed that business was rapidly internationalizing and decided to lend some fiscal support. It introduced ‘participation exemption’, so that a company wouldn’t have to pay taxes on profits generated by subsidiaries in another country. The government reasoned that those foreign profits had already been taxed locally. Participation exemption is still in full force. Later on, the Dutch authorities also established tax treaties with as many countries as possible to eliminate the risk of double taxation for businesses that operated in several countries. The first double taxation treaty Holland entered into was a treaty with Belgium in 1933. Soon Sweden, the UK and Hungary followed and the list has expanded ever since. As of July 1st 2012, The Netherlands has ratified close to a hundred tax treaties, more than any other nation. Participation exemption and the huge network of tax treaties aren’t just beneficial for Dutch companies. Over the years, multinational corporations from around the globe have discovered that by establishing an entity in Holland and funneling income streams – dividends, interest, royalties – through the Dutch entity, they can save on taxes. Most people have heard of businesses using tax structures like the ‘Dutch sandwich’ or the ‘Double Irish’. The technical details of these tax-saving constructions are a little too complex to get into here, but one aspect is crucial: this is not illegal tax evasion. These structures are legal – cfo’s and tax advisers prefer to speak of fiscal optimization. ENTER THE TRUST FIRMS There’s one slight problem though: establishing and maintaining a presence in The Netherlands involves a lot of work and can be quite costly. Renting an office, hiring staff, managing the money flows, handling administrative duties, legal obligations, it all adds up. In addition, to qualify for the benefits of the Dutch tax regime, companies need to have ‘substance’ in The Netherlands. Fifty years ago, one could get away with just having a

mailbox and a small brass nameplate somewhere on Herengracht, but the rules have become much stricter. For example, the law now prescribes that the Dutch entity has a minimum number of officers living in The Netherlands and a minimum amount of risk- bearing capital. To avoid all the hassle, many companies prefer to outsource the whole caboodle. Enter the trust firms. Dutch trust firms generally offer three basic services to their clients. First, domiciliation, meaning they provide an address and legal presence in the Netherlands. Second, management services, involving the management of Dutch entities on behalf of their clients. Third, administrative services such as bookkeeping and accounting. Most often, one or more employees of the trust firm becomes statutory director of the Dutch entity, meaning they have a say in company policy and the authority to make substantial decisions. It follows that the trust firm gets insight into confidential information, including all sorts of financial details, so the most important aspect of the relationship between the multinational and the trust firm is trust; hence the name. TRANSPARENCY AND CORPORATE GOVERNANCE ISSUES Most trust firms started as a division of a bank, law firm or accountancy firm. For example, the Dutch bank Pierson, Heldring & Pierson set up a separate trust division in 1952 to provide trust services to companies that wanted to take advantage of the favorable tax climate in the Netherlands and the Dutch Caribbean. In the eighties and nineties, several lawyers started their own independent trust firms, some of which grew to become quite large and successful. In the noughties, many banks spun off their trust business into separate companies. One reason was the growing importance of transparency and corporate governance. In the old days, no one saw a problem in a bank financing and managing a company. Nowadays, such conflicts of interest are no longer accepted. Rabobank sold its trust activities in 2002; ABN Amro and SNS Reaal followed suit in 2004 and ING in 2007. Fortis was the last major bank to get rid of its in-house trust firm Intertrust. Allegedly when the bank collapsed in 2008 and had to be saved by the Dutch government and subsequently merged with ABN Amro, CEO Gerrit Zalm

Photography: Correspondent Media Photo


the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 41

CLIENTS OF DUTCH TRUST OFFICES BY REGION TURNOVER

EU Europe non-EU USA/Canada Asia/Ociania The Netherlands Latin America Caribbean Africa

(€ MLN) 139 74 55 44 28 17 2 2

TOTAL

364

(%) 38% 20% 15% 12% 8% 5% 1% 1%

(figures for 2009, source: SEO)

Photography: Donald van Opzeeland


Business 42 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT

wanted to get rid of Intertrust as soon as possible – a government-owned bank facilitating tax avoidance would pose a reputation risk. In 2009 Intertrust was sold to private equity firm Waterland for a reported € 250 million – a bargain, according to many. Trust firms generally refrain from giving legal or fiscal advice; that’s the job of accountants and tax lawyers. Only when the whole legal framework and financial structure is decided upon are the trust officers summoned. Some would say all they have to do is sign on the dotted line. That’s one of the reasons why trust firms rank low in the pecking order of the financial world. However, in terms of turnover and employment, the trust sector is nothing to be looked down upon. Dutch economic institute SEO published a research report on the industry in 2011, Trust matters, that contains some telling figures. In 2011, some 176 trust firms serviced approximately 16,400 international clients, who together held more than 20,000 legal entities in The Netherlands. Together, the trust firms employ some 2,200 professionals and clerical staff. Total estimated turnover for the trust firms in 2009 was € 364 million. The largest revenue generator was administrative services, which accounts for 35 percent of total revenue (€ 128 million). Management services account for another 27 percent (€ 99 million) and legal services for 16 percent (€ 60 million). The industry appears to be crisis proof; the number of clients and entities has not fallen since 2006 and turnover actually rose by almost 50 percent. BAD REPUTATION Still, the trust industry suffers from a negative reputation. One reason is that it’s not unthinkable for criminals to launder money through Dutch entities with the (unintentional) help of trust firms. FATF, the international organization that fights money laundering and terrorism financing, estimates that every year € 18.5 billion of ‘hot money’ is laundered in the Netherlands. It points out that over the last five years, all trust firms combined have reported just 24 ‘unusual transactions’ to Dutch financial authorities, even though the entities they manage handle thousands of billions of euros. The results of these transaction reports have not been made public, so we don’t know if trust firms are – knowingly or

unknowingly – complicit in money laundering, and if so, to what extent. However, we do know that several highprofile clients of Dutch trust offices have become entangled in financial scandals. Take Parmalat for instance. In the five years up to 2004, the Italian dairy giant used a Dutch subsidiary, Parmalat Finance B.V., to borrow over € 6 billion. In December 2003, Parmalat unexpectedly couldn’t repay a € 150 million loan; up until then, management always painted rosy pictures of the company’s financial state. In the end Parmalat collapsed with a € 14 billion hole in its accounts – the largest European bankruptcy in history. Parmalat Finance was partially managed by Forum Administrations, the trust arm of Nauta Dutilh, one of Holland’s premier law firms. Nauta Dutilh sold its trust activities a few months after the scandal. The Enron case is another example of a huge fraud that involved Dutch entities managed by trust firms. More recently, trust firm Citco turned out to act as manager of Fairfield Sentry, one of the largest ‘feeder funds’ to Bernard Madoff. Oilinvest, Libya’s state investment fund and Muammar al-Qadafi’s unofficial piggy bank, also used Dutch trust offices to structure its worldwide money flows. In all these cases, the trust firms have not been convicted for their role, but their reputation is tarnished nonetheless. The only way for the Dutch trust industry to improve its bad rep is by becoming more open and showing the public what actually happens in those office blocks on Amsterdam’s Zuidas. But the clients would overwhelmingly oppose more transparency. They prefer to optimize their taxes without much public scrutiny; since the financial crisis broke out, tax-saving schemes by companies such as Apple, Google and Facebook have caused public outcry. So it’s a Catch-22 situation for the trust offices. And ironically, while the industry boasts ‘trust’ as its greatest asset, it isn’t equivocally trusted by everyone.

Photography: Correspondent Media Photo


the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 43

Photography: Correspondent Media Photo


44 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT

THE AMSTERDAM STOCK EXCHANGE is considered the oldest in the world. It was established in 1602 by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) for dealings in its printed stocks and bonds. It was subsequently renamed the Amsterdam Bourse and was the first to formally begin trading in securities. The European Option Exchange (EOE) was founded in 1978 in Amsterdam as a futures and options exchange. In 1983 it started a stock market index, called the EOE index, consisting of the 25 largest companies that trade on the stock exchange. In 1997 the Amsterdam Stock Exchange and the EOE merged, and its blue chip index was renamed AEX, for “Amsterdam EXchange�. It is now managed by Euronext Amsterdam. Photography: Correspondent Media Photo


the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 45

Feature REVOLUTION IN INVESTING ‘INVESTING HAS CHANGED DRAMATICALLY IN THE LAST FIVE YEARS’ By Niala Maharaj

The economic crisis has launched a shakedown in the investment world. Together with the maturing of internet technology, the volatility of the economy is causing a re-think of how things are done, what is to be done, and who does it. Banks have lost their authority, some say, and the action is now in DIY (do it yourself) investing. Information access is key and the buzzwords are transparency, democracy, proletarianization and, believe it or not, revolution…. Welcome to what some are calling ‘the age of forex’.


Feature 46 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT

‘Consider the heart attack that strikes in the middle of the night,’ suggest Ronald Heifetz, Alexander Grashow and Marty Linsky as they write about the economic crisis in this summer’s Harvard Business Review. ‘Emergency medical teams rush the victim to the hospital where expert trauma and surgical teams stabilize the patient and then provide new vessels for the heart. The emergency has passed, but a high-stakes, if somewhat less urgent, set of challenges remains. Having recovered from the surgery, how does the patient prevent another attack? Having survived, how does he adapt to the uncertainties of a new reality in order to thrive?’ The current crisis is a wake-up call, according to these and other luminaries. We’ve doled out cash injections to the banking sector and Club Med economies, but the patient is not out of danger. Lifestyle changes have to be made. Diet and exercise regimes are necessary. We have to cut out the economic junk-food and get in condition. Dutch investors are doing just that, according to reports. They’ve abandoned junk-food en masse, particularly investment funds offered by the banks, says the Financieele Dagblad newspaper. Not just because of the uncertain economic times, the newspaper pointed out in June. ‘Reports about hidden costs attached to these investment funds have made them less popular,’ FD noted. According to Peter van der Slikke’s new book, Unmasked, all the major banks in Holland are selling investment products that are overpriced and underachieving. This has contributed to a major fall in market investment, according to ING Bank’s figures. In 2007, some 11% of Dutch citizens played the markets, but only 4% do so today. In recent weeks, even China’s sovereign wealth fund has scaled back its holdings of European stocks and bonds. But where do you put your money, if you’re an investor? If you’re Dutch, you have a lot of money to invest - this population has 315 billion euros currently salted away in savings accountsand the local economy offers few investment prospects. According to the OECD’s bi-annual report, the Dutch economy needs re-tuning before it can generate returns. It isn’t going to climb out of its hole any time soon, say Central Bank forecasts. It will shrink by 0.6% in 2012, and grow just 0.6% and 1.2% in 2013 and 2014. UNCERTAINTY IS THE NEW CERTAINTY One solution is to do nothing. Park your money in low-yielding bonds in blue-chip countries -even at negative rates of interest. We’ve all read about investors paying Germany for the privilege of lending the country money ‘Right now, I think investing is about capital preservation,’ notes PJ Datema, CEO of Saxo Bank in Amsterdam. ‘The euro crisis is a long-run problem, so long-term in-

vestors are choosing to just sit tight and wait things out. There’s been less activity in the first quarter of this year. People are getting tired of the whippiness of the market.’ But this catatonic strategy assumes that current conditions are temporary. For many analysts, that’s a mistake. ‘It would be profoundly reassuring to view the current economic crisis as simply another rough spell that we need to get through,’ Heifetz, Grashow and Linsky say in Harvard Business Review. ‘Unfortunately, though, today’s mix of urgency, high stakes and uncertainty will continue as the norm even after the recession ends. Economies cannot erect a firewall against intensifying global competition, energy constraints, climate change and political instability. The immediate crisis –which we will get through, with the help of policy makers’ expert technical adjustments- merely sets the stage for a sustained or even permanent crisis of serious and unfamiliar challenges.’ According to these writers, we are now in an ‘adaptive phase, when you tackle the underlying causes of the crisis and build the capacity to thrive in a new reality...seize the opportunity of moments like the current one to hit the reset button, use the turbulence of the present to build on and bring closure to the past, change key rules of the game...’ This is what some investors are doing, says Datema. They’re hitting the reset button and changing key rules of the game. BIG COMPANIES ARE SAFE INVESTMENTS ‘This is a banking crisis, but the euro is getting punished,’ Datema observes. ‘The banks are rebuilding themselves over the backs of the common man. But people are now walking away from the banks.’ European bank shares are now worth less than a tenth of what they were worth in 2007. Moody’s has recently downgraded five Dutch banks and a host of others on this continent. ‘There’s no reason to have a bank stock because you don’t know what the bank has on its books,’ says Datema. ‘But although people are no longer buying bank stocks, that doesn’t mean they are not investing. Eighty percent of investors will always buy. Active retail investors are always looking for opportunities. But in the last four to five years, investing has changed dramatically. People are moving out of banking shares into shares in big companies like General Electric, Wal-Mart and Microsoft. Companies like Apple or Google have so much cash, they are safe investments.’ The corporate bond market has been showing significant strength in recent months, agrees World Finance magazine. Since European banks have to hoard cash to fulfill new reser-

ve requirements, the magazine notes, lending has tightened, forcing companies to seek other forms of financing. This offers opportunities for investors. Additionally, the banks have to release assets that may be of interest to investors. ‘As the euro zone debt crisis has unfolded,’ states World Finance, ‘US and other investors have been looking to snap up assets owned by European banks forced to raise additional capital and shrink their balance sheets. And with Europe’s banks forecast to unload between $2.5 trillion and $3 trillion worth of assets over the next 18 months, this trend is expected to continue.’ But the real action in the investment scene is in foreign exchange trading. The turmoil in the euro zone, along with technological developments, has swung investors’ attention increasingly to global forex markets. Average daily turnover hit $4 trillion last year, according to a survey by the Bank for International Settlements. The bulk of the trade is driven by banks of all kinds, including central banks, governments, institutional investors, hedge funds, high-frequency traders and other financial institutions, corporate treasurers and a new fast-growing wave of retain online investors. THE AGE OF FOREX This amounts to a fiscal revolution, says World Finance. ‘One of the time-honored axioms of forex markets is that they thrive on volatility,’ the magazine notes, ‘and, as the euro zone reveals on an hourly basis, there’s certainly a lot of volatility around.’ Forex’ growth seems unstoppable, say analysts. According to a research paper released by the Bank of England, the forex ocean will double in size over the next three decades, to over $8 trillion. Its lure is the fact that it is completely decentralized. It boils away 24 hours a day, except on weekends, right across the world. There are no central exchanges as in equities and commodities markets. It’s distinguished by much lower margins and much higher leverage than other markets. And transaction costs are very low. ‘We’re the cheapest in the market,’ boasts PJ Datema of Saxo Bank. Saxo is one of the new breed of financial institutions set up to facilitate investing in the digital age. Through its platforms, clients can trade over 20,000 financial instruments, including forex, stocks, options, currencies, commodities, CFDs, futures and other derivatives around the globe. It provides research for active traders, and has won international awards for its leadership role in some sectors. ‘Some people say we’re an IT company with a banking license,’ Datema laughs. ‘While traditional banks are shrinking, we are growing.’ Despite its origins in the staid Danish banking system, in the past years Saxo has expanded to cover the world’s major financial centers


the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 47

Photography: Correspondent Media Photo

NEW OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE AMSTERDAM STOCK EXCHANGE The crisis has made investment in shares less popular. Many investors have had to swallow losses in recent years. Yet he CEO of the Amsterdam exchange of NYSE Euronext , Cees Vermaas,underlines the important role of an exchange also in times of a crisis, as it offers companies a way to finance their growth and investors a regulated, secure market place. He points to its international network, security and transparency, as well as the wide range of products it deals in. In particular, Vermaas sees an important role for his institution in the financing of the SME-market, the engine of the Dutch economy. Together with other parties in the financial sector, he is working on initiatives to find new ways of accessing the capital market for SME companies. One initiative is to make it possible to extend loans to small and mid-sized businesses via the stock exchange. Despite falling prices, the Amsterdam exchange has experienced relatively little disturbance as a result of the crisis. ‘Just for a part the exchange is dependent on transactions for its income,’ says its CEO Cees Vermaas. In the last decade, trading volume has grown significantly, though trading sizes have nearly halved. ‘Another big part of our earning model consist of information technology related services like infrastructure sharing and market data services. Moreover, we are building a profitable clearing business in Europe.’ The expansion in trade is largely due to internationalisation. The borders of Amsterdam’s centuries-old exchange, located close to Dam Square, are no longer the borders of the Dutch state. ‘Since 2000 our platforms have been integrated with the stock-markets of Belgium, France, Portugal and also with the derivatives market of London (Liffe),’ says Vermaas. ‘In 2007 we launched a transatlantic co-operation with the New York Stock Exchange.’ The catalyst for this internationalisation was the unification of the European market, the introduction of the euro and the establishment of the European central bank. NYSE Euronext CEO Cees Vermaas

including London, Dubai, Singapore, Milan, Brussels, Paris, Madrid, Sydney, Hong Kong and Zurich. The Bank is present in 21 countries. With a client base spanning 180 countries, Saxo Bank continues to open new offices. LEVELING THE PLAYING FIELD Growth is with us, not with the old banks,’ says Datema, who sits in Amsterdam’s World Trade Centre in a checkered shirt and jeans. An aggressive Saxo advertising campaign on Dutch television underlines the difference in culture. The main image in this ad is a Fidel Castro-lookalike-actor, who whips up a crowd with rhetoric about ‘proletarianizing’ investment opportunities via the internet and making ‘everybody rich’. We are about leveling the playing field for investors,’ says Datema. As a pioneer of online and mobile trading, Saxo is devoted to creating increased transparency, so that retail investors have as much information as possible and are able to make their own decisions. That helps break the stranglehold of bankers and moderates the bonus culture. ‘I believe in the bonus culture,’ says Datema, ‘but within reason. The Dutch government, which lent the banks money during this crisis, should now force them to help people who need a mortgage. I think banking should go back to its origins. ’

INTERNATIONALISATION These are logical developments, says Vermaas. ‘Nearly 95% of the AEX stocks is foreign owned. Half of that is American.’ Consolidation of exchanges offers investors in the AEX better access and therefore more trading possibilities. ‘With our international coverage, investors get access to other market-places and more products.’ Amsterdam has retained an important position within the NYSE Euronext group, he points out. ‘We have one of the most diversified markets in the world,’ he says. ‘We have a strong cash market combined with a strong derivatives market. We have a relatively large number of large caps like Royal Dutch Shell, Unilever, ING and Aegon. Recently we’ve welcomed four new great companies on our market, including Ziggo and D.E MASTER BLENDERS 1753. The turn-over on the cash market is nearly 1.5 billion euros per day. On the derivatives market 330,000 contracts are traded on a daily basis’. CRISIS Vermaas finds himself compelled to promote continued investment via his organisation. Firstly, it’s important that entrepreneurs continue to see the stock exchange as a good possibility for achieving their long-term financial goals. And Vermaas believes the transparency and security of the exchange deserves attention. ‘In recent years, we’ve seen banks trading shares out of the exchange, directly between their clients. It might sound efficient, but it’s not at all so. These so called ‘crossing networks’, trading on alternative platforms, is increasingly taking place at foreign investment banks, brings a lot of risk with it: if the bank gets into trouble, you, as investor, have little protection.’ With the crisis, Vermaas has observed a growth in criticism of investment by politicians. ‘A lot of people are targeting the options market with a financial transactions tax,’ he says, warning that restrictions on trading by the politicians will lead to losses in the sector and, consequently, large-scale losses in employment FINANCING SME MARKET Moreover the crisis offers possibilities for developing new markets, particularly in the realm of loans. ‘We can help growing companies in the small and mid-sized category to access capital,’ he says. ‘As a result of the crisis, you see that banks have less capacity to extend credit to growing companies. That’s serious. Economic growth is stunted as a result.’ Vermaas is holding talks with various market participants and politicians about setting up a new infrastructure for financing SME companies. ‘‘We are looking at new ways of offering SME companies access to the capital market,’ he notes. ‘We are currently studying the attainability of such an initiative. The exchange would offer the infrastructure for such a market and the banks can provide services. The potential looks promising.’ In Vermaas’ view, with the development of such a fund the banks can add more to the credit offerings for smaller businesses. ‘That role suits the banks at this moment,’ he observes. And if he succeeds at setting up this credit market at the Amsterdam exchange, it can function as an example for other exchanges. ‘The Netherlands has always been a pioneer and will remain innovative, his initiative is another example,’ he says.


A different angle 48 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT

INVESTING OPPORTUNITIES By Jeroen Jansen/ Floris Müller/ Niala Maharaj/ Paul Rodenburg

LOOK LEFT AND RIGHT AND DON’T BELIEVE IN LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT! When, as children, we learn to cross the street, we are told the importance of looking left, right and left again before crossing. If you cross the street blindfolded wearing earplugs, and there’s dense traffic, there is a good chance you will get run over. Investing without in-depth knowledge is basically the same. Ask anyone who invested in Madoff, Galleon or any other fraudulent investment opportunity and they will be able to tell you exactly where to look when investing. This does not mean that to explain your kids how to cross the street you have to be familiar with the feeling of cracking a windshield…. It is learned behavior and viewed as common sense. Unfortunately, the same common sense is not always used when people start investing. This is often more like the Romeo and Juliet love story -including the poor outcome. The Irish say that “love is blind to blemishes and fault”. I would reckon that greed is blind to blemishes and fault. One would think that when a person has made enough money to make a substantial investment, they are smart enough to see the risks. Nothing could be further from the truth. For instance, in the Madoff case, some of the “sharpest tools in the shed” including our own Royal Dutch Family were blinded by greed and got run over by old Bernie…. As Comte De Bussy-Rabutain once said “love comes from blindness, friendship from knowledge.” We should treat investments like friendships, think them over wisely. A true friend is a blessing and is rare to find so this sounds a lot like a good investment to me. Before you call

someone a true friend you have studied his or her behavior and flaws, you even make a subconscious risk calculation. One could even say the “track record” is of great importance. When you have “been around” together you know who is there for you in good and bad times. So when looking at investment opportunities don’t believe in love at first sight but try to look for a new best friend.

SOME BASICS TO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT BEFORE INVESTING • Investment Focus (do you understand it and can you relate to it) • Investment Strategy • Investment Team • Track Record • Legal Structure (on or off shore) • Liquidity • Fee Structure • References • Risks (Geographical/Concentration/Correlation)

PAUL RODENBURG This series of articles is prepared under the direction of Paul Rodenburg. Since 2009, Paul has been working for Darion Capital Management in Amsterdam. Before this he learnt what it was to be an expat by working in The Middle East and London. As an independent financial specialist he gives The International Correspondent and insider’s view on today’s markets. paul.rodenburg@correspondentmedia.nl


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SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE INVESTING The economic crisis has imposed new conditions on investing, says Carlos Smit. ‘Investing has to be tangible,’ he says, ‘and returns guaranteed.’ He also believes high entry thresholds for investing are a thing of the past. ‘Investing has to be low-entry at this point.’ With NLSV Beheer, Smit invests in housing for starters, students and seniors. Not only does the investor benefit, but so does society at large. The investment world –including the Dutch part- has been severely damaged by the crisis, says Smit. ‘Banks and share prices aren’t doing well. Even big funds can’t always offer the returns on investment that were promised.’ In recent years a lot of private investors entered the field without knowledge and experience, he notes. ‘The market has changed and a lot of investors have suddenly lost a lot of money.’ Smit has been investing in different projects for decades. ‘I’ve invested in raw materials, currency and overseas real-estate projects,’ he says. Most recently, he has oriented NLSV Beheer to the development of housing for students, starters and seniors. ‘This market is a very strong one, if you compare it with our earlier investments. Despite fluctuations in property prices the revenues are stable through ongoing rental income.’ ‘With this project we want to zero in on the new market created before the crisis. We provide an answer to the growing need that investors have for investments that generate secure returns. But I also focus on social goals: filling all these vacant buildings that are standing around, and fulfilling the need for housing.’ STUDIOS According to Smit, the rental market offers good possibilities although the real-estate sector is in the dumps. ‘Many starters and students have difficulties getting financing to buy a house. Precisely at this moment, during the crisis. Banks provide almost no mortgages anymore; many young people rely on renting property. At the same time, there’s very little being built. That creates a lot of stress on the rental market. Under these conditions, an investor in this market can get good returns.’ Thus NLSV is busy developing 18 apartment buildings for students in Leiden. ‘There is great housing shortage among graduates and students in this popular university town. We develop valuable studios for

long-term residence,’ says Smit. And temporary accommodation is also in strong demand, he notes. So he’s also involved in developing 135 temporary student flats in the Schelde district of Vlissingen. Smit is asked to do so by the University of Applied Sciences of Zeeland and the Municipality Vlissingen. ‘At the moment, it’s becoming increasingly important for investors that they can identify with the projects they invest in,’ he says. ‘Many of our investors have children who are studying or they have themselves been students. Some have parents who live in senior accommodation or want such accommodation.’ It must also be easy to calculate returns on the investment. ‘We provide returns based on the rental income generated.’ He emphasizes that NLSV is not focused on exploiting tenants. ‘We are serving a social goal,’ he says. ‘Of course we want to earn money for our investors. But not at the expense of tenants. We rent at market prices.’ LOW THRESHOLD Smit aims to keep his investments low-threshold ones. ‘During this crisis I’ve learned that you mustn’t create a barrier by setting a threshold for investors. With us, you can invest from 10,000 euros. Many investors increase their participation after their first successful encounter. Our company is regarded as a good form of investment. And that is quite rare nowadays.’ His aim is to develop long-term relationships with his clients. And he is also prepared to ignore standard investment terms of 3, 5, or 7 years. ‘And of course we make tailor made investment plans on request.’ These relatively low thresholds also offer investors the chance to put money into so-called transformation-projects. ‘The re-development of unused real-estate,’ says Smits. ‘Mainly office buildings. Real-estate owners are searching for solutions to the high vacancy rates. Remodeling into student- or senior- flats can be a good alternative to demolition.’


A different angle 50 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT Photography: Correspondent Media Photo

GERMAN RENTALS OFFER SECURITY FOR INVESTORS

Photography: Correspondent Media Photo

Investors are choosing security above high returns, say the investment managers of the Weststaete fund. And security is currently found particularly in real-estate. German real estate. Weststaete buys completely rented buildings and pays out a part of the rent as returns to investors. Participants in the fund get special software with which they can monitor their investment portfolio 24 hours a day. Investment firm Weststaete is not very positive about the stock market. Returns are anything but secure. ‘During the crisis and the recent European problem, the markets have turned out to be very sensitive. Shares plummet due to economic anxiety.’ Their analysts say the flighty markets mirror attitudes of potential investors. ‘Our account managers are in daily contact with asset managers and investment bodies who complain bitterly about losses on their stocks.’ The fund managers conclude that current investors are mainly in search of security. Risks are being shunned. ‘The moment the average investor hears talk of 12% return, alarm bells go off.’

Weststaete only buys completely occupied apartments, which guarantee a constant income stream. ‘Before we buy, we investigate the condition of the property, the tenants and their payment behavior, tenancy rates in the past, employment in the neighborhood and social provisions.’ From the rental income, Weststaete pays dividends on investment. Security is also the reason why Weststaete hasn’t entered the office rental market. ‘Once it gets vacant, it’s vacant for the longer term. That has a direct influence on returns.’Participants in the real estate fund enjoy a so-called first mortgage security. If the property has to be sold, shareholders are the first to get their money back.

SECURITY This investment company in Baarn, Weststaete, is mainly oriented towards real estate. German real estate. ‘The prices are at a historic low,’ say managers. ‘And prices are rising at good locations. Starter homes, in particular, are doing well on the rental market. That offers opportunities for investors.’ German is a real rental market, says Weststaete. That makes it a stable investment. ‘Nearly 60% of Germans live in rental accommodation,’ the fund managers say. ‘That’s a bit higher than in The Netherlands.’

FLEXIBILITY Investors also want more transparency and information. To fulfill this need, Weststaete has developed software with which investors can check on the occupancy rate of the property each day, and look at mortgage issues and news items related to the fund. To cater for the need for flexibility, the fund has introduced a bond-platform with which lock-up risk is reduced and the tradability of the bond is increased. ‘Investors can offer their bonds to other investors who are doing business with Weststaete,’ say the fund managers.


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KNOWLEDGE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER

Photography: Correspondent Media Photo

Rene Verwey supports expats in the field of financial planning with his company Kensington Consulting. Even this period of crisis offers opportunities to invest, he says. But knowledge of the different products and investments is more important than ever. This niche-player examines the investments offered by the various banks and asset managers very critically. That’s what distinguishes his team from the others on the market – service and personal contact. ‘For a long time investing was interesting to everybody,’ argues Rene Verwey of the financial advice bureau, Kensington Consulting. ‘In the 90s and early noughties, the sky was the limit. You rarely made losses. Now, with the crisis, investors have discovered that their balance can go into the red as well.’ This is why knowledge is more important than ever. ‘If you yourself don’t have this knowledge, it makes sense to let experts manage your portfolio.’ Despite the losses on the stock markets, insecurities on the bond markets and problems with real-estate, Verwey believes in investment for long-term gain. While in many markets shares haven’t been moving in recent years, there are still possibilities for growth. Particularly upcoming Asian countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, and soon Kazakstan and Burma, are poised to become new growth points now China and India are weakening a bit. Growth figures in these countries will look much better than those of Europe and the US, and if the economy picks up, demand for raw materials will create income for these countries. In existing western economies, we really have to look at new technology for creating a greener environment –such as alternative energy and recycling- to find interesting possibilities, says the head of Kensington Consulting. CRITICAL Verwey worked for ten years as an independent financial adviser in Ireland after receiving his training in financial planning in Bristol. He focused on internationals more and more. ‘Expats need long-term guidance. When they move, their investments have to be maintained. And fiscal benefits as well.’ In 2000 he returned to The Netherlands to serve the international community here. His office, Kensington Consulting, advises in the areas of international pensions, investments and

insurance. ‘We choose the most suitable companies that can support our clients. We don’t maintain fixed contracts; we look anew with our individual clients to see where their assets would be best held.’ Why can’t internationals manage their assets themselves? ‘We are independent and can support our clients by posing critical questions during discussions with financial managers. That’s particularly useful regarding funds set up by the banks themselves. Capital that is attracted to these is partly used by the banks to make profit for themselves. The banks’ interests differ from those of our clients.’ It’s also important to look at the entire international situation of the client, since this can influence the choice of investment product. SERVICE Verwey sees a clear shift in the support of their expats by large companies. ‘In the nineties, a lot of financial matters were organized by the multinationals. Now, the company’s influence is restricted to offering pension arrangements, and when these are local and not internationally transferrable, they are often unattractive to the international employee, particularly if he/she might be moving to another country in a couple of years. For freelance employees, there’s often no pension arrangement at all.’ With five employees, Kensington Consulting is one of the smaller bureaus on the market. ‘We deliberately choose to be a niche-player,’ says Verwey. ‘The more you grow as a financial adviser, the bigger the distance from the client. We try to maintain personal contact. Service and support is more important today than ever.’ Which is why they have no strict income thresholds for new clients. ‘We try to grow together with the client and remain life-time advisors.’


A different angle 52 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT

Photography: Correspondent Media Photo

CONTROLLING RISK VIA SPREADING Despite the crisis, investing remains popular particularly with internationals, say Rutger Vos and Martijn van Veelen of ABN Amro bank. To deal with risk, the bankers are aiming at wider spread in their investment portfolios. Investors need more communication about their holdings, they notice. ‘Because of our tailored services and international approach, many expats keep us as their investment managers after they leave The Netherlands.’ ‘Clients have become more risk aware,’ says Rutger Vos, investment manager at ABN Amro. ‘The crisis has made it clear that loss isn’t an abstract concept. You can really lose when you invest.’ Yet the number of investors using his bank’s services has hardly declined in the last years. ‘With the low interest rates on savings accounts, investing remains an attractive way to reach financial goals such as paying off your mortgage or building up a pension. Of paying for a big purchase in the future.’ Vos’ response to the crisis is to create more spread in his investment portfolios. ‘We aim at a strong mix of investments in shares, bonds and real estate.’ And he also pays attention to geographic spread. ‘Upcoming markets have become very interesting. ABN Amro has nearly three times as much in those markets as five years ago. ‘And the focus of the investments in those markets is also shifting. ‘In the past, we were interested in developing markets, companies that had just begun and would grow quickly. Now, we often choose to invest in established industries.’ INVESTMENT HUB With more awareness of the risks that go with investment, Vos sees an increased need for communication about investment portfolios. ‘We offer three sorts of investments. One in which the investor himself administers his portfolio, and in which the bank maintains intensive contact about the investments. And one in which ABN Amro administers the investments

totally, and can respond to risks and opportunities in the market. In recent years, the last form has grown in popularity. ‘International investors have the need to administer their portfolio themselves,’ says Martijn van Veelen, director of preferred banking international clients at ABN Amro in The Hague. ‘Generally, internationals are younger than Dutch investors. They want to take up opportunities in the market themselves. They also take more risks.’ They thus need good communications about their investments. ‘Good support doesn’t only imply knowledge of finance and investment, but also of culture. Clients from Asia are usually more reticent in discussions. A Frenchman is much blunter.’ Because of their international approach, and the fact that their advisors are reachable 24 hours per day, many international clients remain with ABN Amro after they leave The Netherlands, says van Veelen. CRISIS Few clients have left ABN Amro during the crisis despite the knocks the bank’s image has taken because of the increased provisos that have been set on financials. ‘As asset managers, you have to fulfill very strict demands. That requires investment in analysts and knowledge. Small financials have difficulty covering those increased costs. Those larger overheads often translate into adjusted returns and increased risk on investments by small asset managers,’ say Vos and van Veelen.


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“FALLEN ANGELS WILL BOUNCE BACK” He predicted the stock market crash and banking collapse before many others did. And by doing so, he could anticipate the fluctuations ahead. Cees Smit from Today’s Group made some serious returns when other investors saw their profits fade away. His advice? Be proactive, be stubborn and embrace the fallen angels. Today’s Group was founded in 2003 by Cees Smit. After making an analysis of the market, he concluded that investors were not capable of responding to declining or severely fluctuating stock markets. “What they could do was make profits only in rising markets. And for that, they estimated high costs. Furthermore, by then investors were anything but transparent about their products.” Smit decided to build his own investment trust: Today’s Group. “Our first priority was to be as transparent as possible. That means that our clients have access to the results of our funds at any time. We also make our costs clear. Our second goal was to make more money by short investing. Already in 2001 I foresaw an end to the ever rising stock markets. We were heading for a Japanese scenario, with fierce fluctuations. In such a scenario you have to anticipate by playing ‘short’, buy some when the stocks are low and sell when they have risen. Investors had to be much more proactive, like we did when we started nine years ago.” RIGHT STRATEGY Smit turned out to be right. As in 2007, when he predicted the fall of some major banks. By then only few people calculated the same. Right now, it seems hard to make serious money for investors, but Smit disagrees. “It is not harder than before. In 2008, the first year of the crisis, we made a huge profit. Last year, our annual return was +1 percent, where the AEX-index declined with 12 percent. With the right strategy one can make money in every market, rising, declining or flat. One of the problems right now is the way countries and politicians respond to the

crisis. With our current politically driven global stock markets it is less easy to predict future movements. In the past, stock markets used to respond more to economic figures and trends, but now they also respond to something Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, or the FED says. Or to the results of the Greek elections. Who would ever have thought that Greece could influence our stock markets? But today, it is reality.” PROFITING In these times, people tend to invest less money than before the crisis. Funds that used to be safe investments are now far from solid. But according to Smit, even these funds can be profitable. “Again, you have to anticipate. Be proactive. Maybe stubborn as well. When nobody wants Facebook then buy them. When Apple is hot, don’t go with the flow. Some funds are valued too low. Especially in the IT market, companies who have lost the confidence of the investor are still doing well. Some of them invest a lot in new technologies. Or their management knows how to adapt to the new situation. They might have taken some blows, but they are far from K.O. Like TomTom, who profits a lot by working together with Apple.” Smit’s advice would be to invest in funds that are valued too low, less than 5 to 10 euros per share. “I’m talking TomTom, BAM, Aegon, ING and Delta Lloyd here. These funds are what we call the “fallen angels”, but they still make profits. And in the end, they are capable of bouncing back to prices of 20 to 30 euros per share. Today’s Group selected a dozen of these funds in our so-called “Crisis Portfolio”, which already made a small profit. I am pretty sure these stocks will do much better in the near future.” READ MORE ABOUT INVESTING IN THE NETHERLANDS AT www.theinternationalcorrespondent.com/investing


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the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 55

Working

Politics

SOFTWARE, HARD MARKET By Phillip Q. Gangan

The Netherlands takes pride in being the “Digital Gateway to Europe”. Over the last decade, the Dutch have invested heavily in digital infrastructure, which largely benefits the ICT and software industries. As the rest of the economy treads water in uncertainty, Dutch software is proving to be quite a resilient market. Photography: Guerrilla


Working 56 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT

The ICT Office estimates that the Dutch software industry alone has a turnover of € 25 billion, accounting for 2.8% of GNP. While the bulk of traditional software producers concentrate on business applications (ERP and CRM systems), the Dutch have fervently carved out a niche in the creative software industry, particularly in the development of apps and games. Open-mindedness and out-of-the-box thinking is responsible, says Pim Bouman, Chairman of the Dutch Games Association. The country’s international orientation, combined with its strategic investments in ICT infrastructure and education has accelerated both technology adoption and application. As a result, The Netherlands currently ranks among the top five nations in the world where apps are created and games quickly following suit. Although the core business of market leaders like Spil Games and Guerrilla lies in entertainment, a number of Dutch companies are developing programs for use primarily as training tools in such sectors as aerospace, surgery and health and safety. “We’re just starting to see the potential of games as a medium,” says Bouman, adding that sectoral growth has always outperformed the forecasts. In contrast to traditional software, multinationals are not the major players in this creative industry. Rather, it is the small and medium enterprises (SMEs). CREATIVE ENTREPRENEURS “Small is good,” declares Henk van Heerde, innovation activist for Syntens Innovatiecentrum. Van Heerde insists that Dutch creative industries are breeding grounds for innovation and therefore perfect for start-ups. Compared to larger businesses, creative entrepreneurs possess the speed and flexibility to bring their products to market both in a short period of time and with little investment. This is especially the case with regard to gaming. According to a recent study by Deloitte, there are roughly 160 Dutch companies active in the games industry. Many of these focus on game development and are composed of fewer than 5 employees. Nevertheless, it is estimated that these firms generate between € 125–€ 150 million in revenues and still have the potential to capitalize on economies of scale.

Contrary to the custom in countries like the US, Van Heerde thinks, Dutch SMEs are founded with the intention of running a proper business, as opposed to selling out. “Entrepreneurs want to keep their own ideas, not sell [them],” he says. All the while, rapid developments in technology and the accessibility of open-source platforms have allowed these SMEs to establish thriving businesses. CO-OPERATION AND COLLABORATION Not surprising, the success of the creative software industry relies heavily on the Dutch “polder model” of co-operation and collaboration. “Especially in this industry, it’s impossible to develop a game [on] your own, by one person, so you always need to collaborate. It’s the same with an app,” explains Michael Shulmeister, Project Manager for the Amsterdam Innovation Motor (AIM). Consequently, this co-operation leads to increasing spillover effects in various sectors such as financial services, public services and even the medical field. “[This industry] can help other sectors, the traditional sectors, to innovate,” he claims and it is precisely the role of organizations like Syntens and AIM to facilitate these crossovers. That being said, it is not only the broader sectors that benefit, but large businesses as well. “What you see now,” says Shulmeister, “is that big companies understand that the SMEs are the innovative people and are going to be more the tech heroes.” While the majority of apps are created for the consumer market, he is convinced that future industry growth lies in businessto-business applications, with creative entrepreneurs leading the way. One such platform that fosters collaboration on a global scale is Appsterdam. Founded in 2011 by American software engineer Mike Lee, Appsterdam is a thriving international community of app makers whose sole aim is co-operation, not competition. The social platform serves as a meeting space for workshops and lectures, gathering a myriad of developers from across the globe to share their experiences and talk shop. At the same time, it is a community built on friendship and trust. “We need each other. We learn about each

other’s cultures… about each other’s markets. We share skills with each other,” says Lee, citing the benefits of belonging to a like-minded community. “I say, we can build something here that makes it not just a good thing for the Dutch, but makes it a world destination.” FUTURE GROWTH Despite the positive outlook, the creative software industry is not without its challenges, the most evident of which is the lack of local investment. The same can be said for interest and venture capital from abroad. In addition, “There are too many barriers to attract talent to this region,” complains AIM’s Shulmeister, referring to the gauntlet of permits and procedures necessary to employ highly skilled internationals. In fact, there is a general consensus that the Dutch software industry is vastly introverted, with only 7.7% of total revenues coming from foreign markets. “Dutch game developers need to work on improving their business models and increase their level of collaboration to create scale advantages,” recommends Deloitte – sound advice for software developers aiming to launch their products globally. Be that as it may, the ICT Office estimates that industry spending will grow by 1.4% this year, amounting to over € 8 billion. Compared to other sectors in ICT, the Dutch software industry as a whole is the absolute leader in expenditure growth. At the same time, Deloitte expects the Dutch games market to reach € 805 million in consumer expenditure by 2013. The availability of social, mobile and portal distribution platforms and the increasing penetration of smartphones and tablets are considered to be the main drivers of growth. Indeed, the significance of the Dutch software industry goes beyond the utility of its products and applications. In spite of the ongoing recession, the industry itself makes a considerable contribution to the overall economy in terms of revenue, employment and innovation. That its full potential has yet to be realized makes this industry a force to be reckoned with.


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GUERRILLA

SERVICE2MEDIA

SPIL GAMES

Since its establishment in 2000, Guerrilla is among the most pioneering game developers in Europe. Located in the heart of Amsterdam, the company currently employs more than 160 game developers from 25 countries. Focusing more on traditional gaming platforms, Guerrilla is widely known for its successful Killzone franchise, the latest of which was designed for the Sony Play Station 3 and was released in February last year.

Service2Media is one of the leading platform and service providers in the world, developing app solutions for smartphones and tablets. Established in Enschede in 2005 with ofďŹ ces in 6 different countries, its list of clients includes CNN, Aljazeera, Rabobank International and Reed Elsevier. The company received $10 million (US) in funding from Prime Investment last year to expand its highly innovative app development platform.

With more than 170 million visitors to its websites each month, Spil Games is revolutionizing the way people are gaming by providing free, instant-play online games to target audiences. Primarily a games publisher, the company incorporates online advertising with selected game platforms tailor-made for girls, teens and families. Alongside their social gaming websites, Spil Games develops online content that is accessible to mobile devices.

Picture: Pascal Bier


Column Working 58 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT

TAKE CONTROL

By Christiaan van der Sluijs

The Dutch railway system was once perceived by many internationals as one of the world’s best, because trains ran on time. The recent train accident in Amsterdam was in the news worldwide. The image of the Dutch railway system has taken a huge blow. Since 2002, a dramatic increase in accidents resulted in an increase of the probability of a train accident by a stunning 430%*. What happened? A lack of control.

Photography: City of Utrecht Press Dept.

Taking control includes many things and is a function that must not to be underestimated. Why do taxpayers in Greece have been getting away with avoiding to pay taxes? Why is food poisoning in China such a big issue? Or, in The Netherlands again: why has the largest social housing entity (Vestia) been facing bankruptcy? The answer to these questions is a lack of effective control. HOW DOES CONTROL WORK IN OUR ORGANISATIONS? For the purpose of this column, a brief summary of control mechanisms is sufficient: Being in control starts with setting clear objectives. It includes having a system in place and involves measuring delivery against objectives. Being in Control includes having a transparent governance in place with roles and responsibilities and escalations paths. It includes having controlling bodies in place, with an equal (or close to equal) information position to what has to be controlled. Being in Control includes taking measures when things do not go as planned, or when ( a series of) unplanned events call for a policy change. Being in Control includes having the actual power to take measures. And last but not least, there should be a direct line between interest and control: the entity who feels the pain should perform the controls, or at a minimum, directly oversee the controlling body. Most of us will recognise

these generic measures. CONTROL IN THE TECHNOLOGY DRIVEN ORGANISATIONS The first 10 years in my career I was working in what was then called the High Tech sector. At the time expensive “market changing” Technology projects were critical for the success. The stakes in terms of money involvement and company success were high. Senior company officials, including board members were actively supporting these projects. Similar to what Apple & Steve Jobs did with the Ipad more recently. Starting a project well is extremely important. Project outcomes directly impact company success. A mistaken project leads to expensive unwanted and unprofitable results. Not surprisingly, the start of the project was extremely well controlled. And project progress was well monitored. Some projects, however well initiated, got less important or even useless over time. Reasons for this include competitors being faster to the market, as well as disappointing technological outcomes. These projects had to be stopped. Here comes the interesting part: they could not be stopped! There was no measure in place to automatically lists projects ‘for continuation decision’. The senior officials sponsoring these projects were so high in the organisation that no one dared to come forward and to try stopping such a project. Hence in the High

Tech organisations, introducing measures to stop projects was the real challenge. PROJECT CONTROL IN THE FINANCIAL SECTOR In the second half of my career I worked in the Financial sector. At some point I was asked to review the entire project portfolio of a global Bank. This led to a review of the project governance as well. As in many Financial Institutions, relationship and authority (including seniority and knowledge) were key drivers for doing Business. Money a critical driver for control. The execution of projects involved (as anywhere) next to financial spend the actual project delivery against project objectives. The organisation seemed to have everything under control. When it came to managing projects a large variety of measures were taken. Multiple layers of controlling bodies were installed. Budgets and project decisions were managed at various levels. Global projects crossing many BU’s were started with Managing Board approval. Stopping a project, even well after initiation was not an issue. For changing markets, regulatory changes , or simply cost control programmes were key drivers to put projects up for review. When assessing the projects, it became clear that virtually all projects were subject to excellent Financial control. When control over project delivery

CHRISTIAAN VAN DER SLUIJS After 10 years of international management and strategy consulting in the high-tech sector, Christiaan van der Sluijs joined ABN AMRO where he performed various roles in product management, IT, Operations and large programmes for 8 years. At present, he is the CEO of HAWK Investment Cycle Solutions, a company focused on delivering recruiting, consulting and bespoke business solutions. christiaan.vandersluijs@correspondentmedia.nl


the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 59

was concerned, there were two types of projects: 1. projects that were clearly defined and 2. projects that were lacking detail. The vast majority of this last category was lacking detail when it came to project initiation. They would lack detail in project objectives, project mitigation processes (e.g. for managing project risk), or project sponsorship. The result of the assessment was clear: In fact only when absolutely necessary project execution was extremely well defined (e.g. under pressure of losing an operating license in a particular country) the organisation was able to define projects well, but that capability was not fully utilised. Hence in the Financial sector, control over the project execution and project initiation in particular was the real challenge. A solution to this problem is the separation between Financial control (budgets and spend) and Project Execution control (project initiation and project progress). WHO PAYS CONTROLS Back to the Dutch railway system. Back in 2002, the Dutch railways were split into an Infrastructure company (Prorail) and an operating company (NS). The government, although financing the whole lot, was “put on a distance”. The Dutch railway companies NS and Prorail are almost monopolists in their market segments. The lack of any real market pressures allows inefficiencies to

*

stay. Another challenge is indirect control. The ultimate financer of the companies (the Dutch State) that feels the pain in case of not performing is put “on a distance”: This is a breach to the rule ‘who pays controls’. What happened to social housing organisation Vestia? How can a company investing in stone, having sufficient rental income, suddenly be close to facing bankruptcy? Reason for this is an uncontrolled trading of swaps and other financial derivatives. Swaps have originated in the market for two major reasons: 1. To lower the costs of lending and 2. To hedge risk from interest rate movements. To simplify Vestia’s market position: In case of a rising interest rate, Vestia would benefit, in case of lower interest rates, Vestia was to pay. However, rather than mitigating risk, the amount of swaps traded by Vestia led to a speculative position. The interest went down significantly leading to a margin call by the bank well over 1 billion EUR (to be provided by Vestia in cash). The interest had gone so low that Vestia could no longer afford these margin calls. The loss of liquidity led them to face bankruptcy. Vestia is not the only social housing institution trading swaps and other derivatives. Recent research has shown that over 96% of social housing organisations in NL have traded swaps and related derivatives. And the problem is not

The figure is accounted by Simon Portegies Zwart, Professor of Computational Astrophysics at the University of Leiden, and published in leading Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad, 15 May 2012

new: in the late nineties of the last century, another social housing organisation had suffered from the exact same problem: a speculative exposure to swaps and other derivatives. SYSTEMS What happened? Within Vestia governance issues were reported. These issues have to be addressed. However a particular issue was a lack of sufficient systems. This absence led to a lack of oversight within Vestia and a lack of transparency towards the governance bodies. In this case an important key to exercise control is the acquisition of specialised systems: 1. On the level of individual social housing institution a system needs to be implemented that registers the swaps and other derivatives traded; that calculates the day-today value by derivative and across all derivatives; that simulates sensitivities to interest rate movements and other important market events; that delivers sufficient reporting; and has proper connectivity capabilities to other systems within the social housing organisation and towards governing bodies 2. On the level of governing bodies across all social housing institutions a well designed datawarehouse to be implemented that is capable of taking in relevant data (with sufficient detail!) regarding swaps and other derivatives traded; that delivers market event driven sensitivity analyses on the

level of the individual institution and across all institutions; and provides reporting both on the level of the individual institution as well as across all institutions Next to this, knowledgeable staff to operate these systems, both from a technical perspective and, perhaps even more important, from a business perspective (instruments, trading, risk, etc). These systems are provided by highly specialised providers in the market. If need be on an outsourced basis. These systems deliver clear and transparent reports. They provide critical tools to exercise sufficient control. And yes, these systems are expensive, but far cheaper than the result of a 1 billion EUR margin call.


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the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 61

Advice ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT...

CREDIT MANAGEMENT (Advertorial) By Rob Broere

‘ IN THE NORTH WE ARE MORE BUSINESSLIKE’

Photography: VCMB

According to the Association of Credit Management Companies – in Dutch: Verbond van Credit Management Bedrijven (VCMB) – the Dutch economy has underestimated the importance of credit management in the past decades. Westhuis explains why it is so important. “Solid credit management has a positive effect on liquidity. Especially in economically harsh times when financial risks are high and banks are reticent with loans.” Having learned from mistakes in the past, more and more entrepreneurs do see the benefits of credit management. Not only do they see the pressure on their liquidity grow due to longer terms of payment. They also realize that the financial world is professionalizing quickly. “If you don’t do credit checks on a regular basis, you’re seen as less professional and you become an outcast in the market.” The VCMB has 36 members, covering almost 75 percent of the Dutch credit management market. With the help of its members, the association does a lot of mission work in the business field. It also works closely with universities, providing credit management business cases

for students. And Westhuis and his board members regularly consult with the Dutch government about the impact of legislation. In the United States, credit management has been an issue for 115 years. In the Netherlands, the sector of industry is relatively young. But compared to other European countries, we do quite well, Westhuis states. He sees a big difference between the north and the south. “Dutch companies doing business in southern European countries are confronted with much longer terms of payment, which can be a drawback. The other way round, southern European companies must get used to our strictness.” It is a matter of culture, he continues. “In the south, credit management is based on personal relationships. In the north, we are more businesslike.” The tendency of big Dutch companies to stretch out the terms of payment they agreed with their suppliers concerns him. “It improves their liquidity, while small and medium-sized companies get into trouble.” Westhuis therefore welcomes the European directive for terms of payment that will be implemented in March 2013. FIND OUT MORE AT www.vmcb.nl AND READ OUR DOSISER AT

www.theinternationalcorrespondent.com/cm

PHOTOGRAPHY WFA/MICHAEL JACOBS

In the past year, 170 foreign companies settled in the Netherlands. The country went from 8 to 5 in the European ranking of countries with a favourable business climate. What should new settlers know about credit management in the Netherlands? The International Correspondent spoke with Mannes Westhuis, chairman of the Association of Credit Management Companies.


Personal Advice Finance 62 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT Photography: IFN Finance

‘ A SALE IS NOT ACCOMPLISHED BEFORE THE PAYMENT IS MADE’ Photography: IFN Finance

Asset Based Finance has the future with respect to the financing of working capital. A company’s key to success lies in the managing of working capital, stocks and debtors in a strict manner. After all, the value of these assets changes from day to day. Bob Huuskes and Enrico Bravenboer of IFN Finance explain. IFN Finance, member of Deutsche Bank Group, is specialized in the financing of working capital, especially in asset based finance. Their motto is ‘A sale is not accomplished before the payment is made’. The Dutch company provides working capital financing based on securities such as debtors, presold orders and stock. IFN closely follows the fluctuations in the value of the collateral and adapts its finance percentage from day to day. IFN Finance is also a business partner with regard to debt management. Since the crisis hit the financial world in 2008, the value of dollars, euros, oil and real estate is constantly changing. Companies that phone their debtors twice a month and send them payment reminders off and on will face difficulties. Bob Huuskes (Vice President Small Medium Enterprises): “Thorough credit management is essential to the success of a company. We are on the eve of a new era in banking. Basel III, the third global regulatory standard, obliges banks and financing companies to pay much closer attention to underlying securities and determine their values more quickly than ever. And that is why asset

based finance has the future. It enables us to follow the whole process, from purchase via stock to debtor, and create a self liquidating cycle. We finance the purchase value of goods. The purchases become stock, stock transfers to debtors and as soon as the debtor has paid, the cycle has led to liquidity.”* His colleague, international manager Enrico Bravenboer, puts things in a global perspective. “Within Europe, the payment terms differ from country to country. A verbal promise from a southern company to pay tomorrow will not suffice for a Dutch entrepreneur. And the differences in business culture are even bigger when you go to Asia. IFN is specialized in close monitoring of these items and is able to facilitate doing business in a way that is beneficial to all parties.” Even today, an important part of payment traffic runs through cheques and exchange rates. That slows down the payment tremendously. “Given these facts,” he concludes, “one realises that there is still a lot of work to be done.” * Trade cycle and Asset based finance of IFN Finance

FIND OUT MORE AT www.ifnfinance.nl AND READ OUR DOSISER AT

www.theinternationalcorrespondent.com/cm


Personal Advice Finance the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 63 Photography: Alektum Incasso

‘ YOU NEED TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR CUSTOMERS’ Swedish family business Alektum Incasso set foot on the European mainland in 2006. Today, the company covers 15 European countries. What sets Alektum apart from the bigger players in the debt collecting part of the credit management field, is its flexibility and ability to quickly grow into new markets. All markets are served with the same debt collecting system and supported with the Swedish mentality of down to earth collections. Alektum’s corporate philosophy is ‘the client gets his money first’. It is also important to them, says director for the Netherlands and Italy, Fred Louwerens, that their clients’ customer relations are not damaged. “Usually, a debt collector cashes the cost of the process first, before handing over money to his principal. Because we work the other way round and don’t believe in power play, we are not aggressive in our approach to debtors. Our communication techniques and negotiation skills are more customer-friendly. We like to think that a customer will come back if he is treated well.” The company mostly works for mail order and credit card companies and operates on a no cure no pay basis. This means Alektum doesn’t make any money if a claim has not been paid after 180 days and the portfolio is returned to the principal. “But unlike most debt collecting companies, we do not want to sit on it for three more years, only raising the cost.” Organisations that do not want to run the whole billing, reminding and collection cycle can outsource this or sell their claims to Alektum.

Working in 15 European countries and collecting debts across borders, Alektum knows its way around differences in corporate culture, regulations and legislation. The main difference Louwerens sees concerns the availability of information. “Privacy is well protected in most countries, which can make it difficult to collect the outstanding. The more we go south, the more difficult it becomes.” The economic crisis brought Alektum more clients. On the other hand, the company has to work harder to collect money. But what worries Louwerens more is the growth of debt sanitation. “More and more consumers apply for sanitation services. It holds a big risk for suppliers in the consumer market.” This trend calls for even more decent and clever credit management, he concludes. “You need to take care of your customers. Co-operation advice on debt portfolios and new strategies will only make sure you stay in business. Good customer care and approach to debtors will keep the customer alive and allows him to becoming a returning customer to our clients.”

FIND OUT MORE AT www.alektum.com AND READ OUR DOSISER AT

www.theinternationalcorrespondent.com/cm


Personal Advice Finance 64 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT

POSTNL USES DATA IN A SMART WAY Photography: PostNL

The Dutch postal market is divided among a handful of participants. While the others mainly focus on extending their market volume, PostNL defends its share but also tries to lengthen its product chain by finding alternative business models. Two years ago, the company started a credit management department. PostNL works with the bigger retailers in the business-to-consumer segment. Organizations that mail at least 50,000 bills a year. The company also has financial service providers amongst its clients and has developed a customer acceptance product for web stores. Credit manager Yorick Letterie: “We cover the whole route, from order and bill to reminder and debt collection. If necessary, we do customer acceptance first. Online sellers do not know if their customers really are who they say they are, let alone if they will pay. We check their reliability by connecting the web store to our database and give a score from 1 to 10, within a second.” Purchase conditions control is another interesting PostNL credit management product. Many companies do not have their purchase conditions in order, Letterie knows. “In many cases, the terms are not phrased well enough. This holds the risk that not all costs can be charged when it comes down to a legal claim.” His department checks and optimizes its client’s general conditions, to increase the collectability of claims. Backed by the Debit Entry Law that took effect in the

Netherlands on July 1, that pushes companies in the same direction. In case of non-payment, which does not occur often in the Netherlands, PostNL monitors the debt. The file goes on hold and is activated again as soon as new information about the debtor’s address or financial situation is collected. As with all PostNL credit management products, their debt monitoring makes use of the latest techniques in obtaining, processing and streamlining data. Letterie: “We use data in a smart way.” Only in action since 2010 and wanting to conquer the Dutch market first, PostNL’s credit management department does not have foreign clients yet. In the future it will, Letterie expects, so connections with internationally operating partners are being made. He has some tips for foreign companies intending to settle in the Netherlands. “It is important that your payment conditions are waterproof and that you stick to them firmly. Your bills must be clear and unambiguous. And try to hand over the process to Dutch speaking specialists as soon as possible.”

FIND OUT MORE AT www.postnl.nl/zakelijk AND READ OUR DOSISER AT

www.theinternationalcorrespondent.com/cm


WELCOME TO THE NETHERLANDS ABN AMRO: Expert in financial services for expats ABN AMRO is literally and figuratively the bank for international customers. ABN AMRO is the financial specialist for expatriates residing in the Netherlands. And just like our expat customers, we aim to offer pioneering services complete with tailor-made products and skilled consultants who speak their language. You have a busy job, so we would like to make banking in the Netherlands as easy as possible. We will gladly assist you with your financial needs, not just after you arrive, but from the moment you know you are coming to the Netherlands. ABN AMRO is a trusted partner for expats, diplomats, civil servants and international organisations. For more information, please visit www.abnamro.nl/expats Contact Amsterdam: 020 - 34 34 002 The Hague: 070 - 37 52 050 Rotterdam: 010 - 40 25 888

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GOLDEN SPEAKERS By Jeroen Jansen 1. MARC LAMMERS Few ex-coaches are as successful at converting medals into cash as this former head coach of the Dutch women’s national field hockey team. Lammers experienced his moment of glory in 2008, after seeing his team beat host country China in the finals. He is well-known for his innovations and modern coaching style. Lammers made the hockey world familiar with video glasses, analysis software, new sticks and earphones. Guess what his message is now? He teaches his audience to “stay ahead of the competition by means of technologies and studies”. Team building, co-operating and communication are his other pet topics. He also wrote two books: Coachen doe je samen (‘Coaching is something you do together’) and Yes! Een crisis (‘Yes! A crisis’). 2. MARC CORNELISSEN Probably the least expected sportsman on this list. But his story is exceptional. After Cornelissen completed his studies at the Technical University in Delft, he decided to trade his promising career as an architect for that of a professional adventurer and organizer of expeditions. In 1997, after a 70-day trek on foot across the pack ice of the Arctic ocean, Cornelissen reached the northern-most point of the earth. He was the first Dutchman to do so. In later years, he also reached the South Pole and completed an 800 kilometer walk in the Australian Gibson Desert. Cornelissen is still exploring, but alternates his often surrealistic travels

with less risky trips to board and meeting rooms. There he talks about leadership, climate change, motivation and adventures.

DSB Bank. Gerbrands, who has also been a skating team director, is praised for his versatility, passion and crisis management.

3. TOM VAN ‘T HEK Former field hockey international, coach, doctor, radio host and younger brother of well-known comedian Youp van ‘t Hek. As a player, Van ‘t Hek won the World Cup and twice the European Championship, but never excelled at the Olympics due to the 1980 Moscow Olympics boycott. His Olympic record is therefore much better as coach of the women’s national team; he won the bronze medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and silver four years later in Sydney. As a professional speaker, Van ‘t Hek is specialized in such topics as communication, reaching goals, coping with setbacks, teambuilding and endurance, which is pretty much the usual stuff.

5. RENÉ VAN DER GIJP Like Hans van Breukelen, René van der Gijp is an exception to the rule that says football players are lousy communicators. In recent years, he has been a charismatic member of the award winning football talk show Voetbal International. “Gijp” is known for his blunt opinions and hilarious, sometimes sexually tinted, comments. He rarely attracts a female audience, probably to his own annoyance. Van der Gijp played 15 caps for “Oranje”, in which he scored two goals. As one of the funniest motivators around, he has already animated the likes of Heineken, Mars, Hewlett Packard and Cap Gemini.

4. TOON GERBRANDS Gerbrands is yet another head coach who performs well in the business speaker industry. The Dutch just love their coaches. This one also wrote a book with the rather catchy title ‘The Art of Coaching’. It was under Gerbrand’s leadership that, for the first time in history, a Dutch Men’s National Volleyball Team won the European Championship. He later became a successful corporate manager and interim manager. As general manager of football club AZ, Gerbrands did well to lead it through the crisis that followed the bankruptcy of its main sponsor

6. MAARTEN VAN DER WEIJDEN Remember the guy who beat cancer and then won the Olympics? No, not Lance Armstrong, you dummy. He “just” won the Tour de France, about seven times or so. It is Dutchman Maarten van der Weijden who won the Olympics. He did it in 2008, after swimming 10 kilometers in open water. That was seven years after doctors told him he had leukemia. But Van der Weijden survived and trained hard to hasten his recovery. As a result, he became world champion in 2007 and won the Olympics in Beijing. The marathon swimmer was chosen Dutch Sports Personality of the Year in 2008. After that, he retired so he could write his biography and earn loads of money


the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 69

Top10

Ranking the Dutch

as a professional speaker, specialized in persistence and overcoming misery. 7. JOOP ALBERDA In 1999, the dying seconds of the 1996 Olympic men’s volleyball final was chosen “Sports Moment of the Century” in the Netherlands. Even now one can hardly forget the ecstatic expression on the face of the Dutch coach, Joop Alberda. Following that success, Alberda accepted the call of the Dutch national Olympic Committee and worked as technical director for the organization until 2004. Under his leadership, the Netherlands won a record 25 medals at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. He later became general manager of the Russian national football team and is currently one of the most desired speakers around, specialized in teambuilding, strategy and leadership. 8. ROBIN VAN GALEN Before 2008, few Dutch people were delighted by the prospect of a stirring water polo match. This sport was simply on the same level as fast walking: not interesting at all. But then came the Olympic women’s final of 2008 and for at least one fortnight young boys and girls were dreaming of a water polo career. Thanks to Robin van Galen, head coach of the Dutch Olympic team. For two years he trained with his women in complete isolation, with a fanaticism that was rarely seen even in the countries of the former Eastern bloc. And it paid off. Inevitably, Van Galen wrote a

book about his success. Currently he talks a lot about persistence, motivation and team building. As for water polo, since our women failed to qualify for the London Olympics, nobody could care less.

TOP-5 INTERNATIONAL SPEAKERS WITH A SPORTING BACKGROUND

9. ERICA TERPSTRA The only woman on this list won two medals during the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. After her successful swimming career, Mrs. Terpstra became involved in politics. She even made it to Secretary of State for Health, Welfare and Sport. In 2003 she was appointed chairwoman of the Dutch Olympic Committee. Terpstra is known for her charismatic appearances and exuberantly enthusiastic support during major sporting events in which Dutch athletes participate. She also presents a travel program on television and wrote a book about losing 40 kilos in six months. Terpstra’s topics are sports, public health and society questions.

1. MILES HILTON-BARBER British adventurer who, despite being blind, undertakes a variety of expeditions all around the world. 2. GARY KASPAROV Russian chess grandmaster and political activist. 3. JOHN AMATT Canadian expedition leader who explored the Arctic on six occasions, making many first ascents of previously unclimbed peaks. 4. ALAIN ROBERT French rock and urban climber who is famous for scaling skyscrapers. Also known as the “French Spider-Man”. 5. MARC SLUSZNY Belgian adventurer and former world record holder bungee jumping from a hot air balloon (6,720 m).

10. HANS VAN BREUKELEN As a member of the Dutch national football team that won the European Championship in 1988, Mr. van Breukelen has every right to speech. The former goalkeeper also won the Champions League with his club, PSV Eindhoven. After his sporting career, Van Breukelen distinguished himself as a management consultant, one-day chairman, inspirator and coach. He also gives workshops about leadership and change, using sport as a metaphor for business strategies and challenges.

PHOTOGRAPHY WFA/MICHAEL JACOBS

Picture: Pascal Bier


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the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 77

Culture & Cuisine

What What Where Where When

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What Where When 78 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT

BATHING IN ART “ I THINK WE’LL EVEN OUTDO THE TATE IN LONDON” By Jeroen Jansen

Finally, after eight years of stalling and building, the renewed Stedelijk Museum will open its doors in September. A futuristic extension turns the once dull Museum Square into something like the Centre Pompidou. The new “Stedelijk” cost 127 million euros to build, 20 million more than originally estimated. The hefty price tag buys Amsterdam a lavish new space filled to the brim with modern and contemporary art situated next its former home, which was built in 1895. The International Correspondent spoke with the museum’s business director Patrick van Mil and Mels Crouwel, the architect responsible for the new building and its nickname. THE MUSEUM WAS SCHEDULED TO RE-OPEN IN 2008, FOUR YEARS AFTER IT CLOSED ITS DOORS. WHY THE FOUR-YEAR DELAY? Van Mil: “That was partly due to budgetary reasons. We had a budget, but not all the money was gathered from the get-go. There were also instances of bad planning on behalf of the building management and some late changes to structural details to boot. And in 2010, the contractor went bankrupt due to the crisis. Quite a challenged path, but it pays off – we are getting great response to the building, also internationally.”

rope: not only with a remarkable collection, but also an accommodation of great significance that would be vital to Amsterdam’s image. So not just a simple extension, but an overwhelming building right in the heart of the city, with great charisma—almost like an art piece itself.”

WHAT WAS THE REASON FOR BUILDING A NEW MUSEUM IN THE FIRST PLACE? Van Mil: “The old building was badly in need of renovation anyway to conform with fire safety regulations and internal climate control issues that were detrimental to the preservation of our collection. The temperature and humidity were not suitable. For that reason it would have become pretty much impossible to get any art on loan in the future. Besides, the museum was too small for our collection. We had much more art than we could show to the public. We just needed more space.”

THE MUSEUM IS ACCESSED THROUGH MUSEUM SQUARE. THAT WAS REALLY YOUR VISION. DIDN’T THE BOARD WANT THE ENTRANCE TO BE AT VAN BAERLE STREET? Crouwel: “Yes. But we were stubborn. We believed that an entrance at the square would be much better. That way we created a unity between square and museum, with a path leading not only to the entrance of the ‘Stedelijk’, but also to the Concertgebouw, Van Gogh Museum and the future entrance of the Rijksmuseum. In the old situation there was a distinct separation between the back of the museum and the square. Now the back is the front, with a transparent hall overlooking the square, plus a shop and restaurant with terrace which are also open after the museum opening hours. In this new situation, Museum Square is much more vibrant than before and is bound to attract a lot of people—a bit like Centre Pompidou in Paris.”

MR. CROUWEL, WHAT INSTRUCTIONS DID YOU GET BEFOREHAND? Crouwel: “The most important thing was that the new building had to match the ambition of becoming one of the leading museums in Eu-

IS THAT ALSO WHY A PART OF THE MODERN EXTENSION IS UNDERGROUND? Because right now the entrance and hall are very much like an extension of the square as well, with open views and no place for art.

Van Mil: “Exactly. If the exhibition room had been on the same level as the square, it would have been very much like the old building setup with an obvious distinction between square and museum. Instead we chose to place the exhibition rooms underground and on the first floor, in a remarkable part of the building known as the bathtub. Under the bathtub you will find the entrance hall, shop and restaurant, all overlooking the square. With stairs going up and a moving staircase going down, looking very futuristic.” THE ORIGINAL BUILDING IS FROM 1895. HOW CAN YOU UNITE THIS WITH A VERY MODERN LOOKING EXTENSION, WITHOUT CONTRADICTING THE CLASSICAL ARCHITECTURE? Crouwel: “First of all, by renovating the old building and bringing back some of its original details. And by unifying all the walls and floors, so that from the inside it is almost impossible to say whether you are in the old or new building. From the outside there is a huge contrast between old and new, intentionally. But in measurements both buildings are quite similar. There is a lot of harmony.” SOME PEOPLE DISAGREE AND WILL SAY THAT THIS FUTURISTIC BATHTUB VIOLATES THE CLASSICAL BUILDING. Crouwel: “Of course there will always be people who disagree with the concept. That’s fine with me. Some people would argue that a classical extension, pretty much in the same way as the


the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 79

Photography: Het Stedelijk Museum

Photography: Eye International

original building, would have been better. But this is the 21st century and I think you have to keep up with the times. New cars don’t look the same as 50 years ago, so why should buildings? Besides, this is a museum of modern and contemporary art and design. So a modern extension makes a lot of sense.” HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THIS NICKNAME, THE “BATHTUB”? Crouwel: “Well, we made it up ourselves, because it was pretty obvious that the people of Amsterdam would think of a nickname anyhow. This way we could be ahead of them. Of course, we discussed it with the museum first. In the beginning, the board was a bit skeptical, in view of possible leakages. But in the end, they were convinced. And to be honest, with these steeplysloping sides, it looks like a giant bathtub after all.” WITH A BIGGER MUSEUM, YOU MIGHT ATTRACT MUCH MORE PEOPLE THAN IN THE PAST. Van Mil: “That is one of our ambitions. Before 2004, 300, 000 to 400, 000 people visited the Stedelijk each year. We are aiming for at least 500, 000 per year now. That is a lot of people for a museum of modern and contemporary art in the Netherlands, but I am sure this museum will attract a lot of foreigners as well. Furthermore, although we have been present at other locations, this museum has been closed for eight

years. In these years, a whole new generation of art lovers has grown up - kids and young adults who have never visited the Stedelijk. And let’s not forget that there is much more [art] to see now than in the past. Finally, we are able to exhibit a much bigger part of our collection on a permanent basis, including the pieces we gathered in the past years.” SO WHAT NEW ART CAN WE EXPECT? Van Mil: “Oh, there is so much. From the work of Rineke Dijkstra to that of Marlene Dumas and Martin Kippenberger. Two years ago, we bought an amazing photograph by Andreas Gursky, showing the airport of Frankfurt. And we purchased a sculpture by Dan Flavin, his ode to Piet Mondriaan. Flavin had already made this in 1987 for the Stedelijk, but we were only recently able to buy it. Since 1950 the Stedelijk has bought very much avant la letter, also due to the good contacts with artists. As a consequence, our collection is considered one of the best modern and contemporary art collections in the world. Personally, I think it even outdoes the Tate Modern.” WITH A BIGGER MUSEUM, YOU MIGHT ATTRACT MUCH MORE PEOPLE THAN IN THE PAST. Van Mil: “That is one of our ambitions. Before 2004, 300, 000 to 400, 000 people visited the Stedelijk each year. We are aiming for at least 500, 000 per year now. That is a lot of people for a museum of modern and contemporary art in the Netherlands, but I am sure this museum will

attract a lot of foreigners as well. Furthermore, although we have been present at other locations, this museum has been closed for eight years. In these years, a whole new generation of art lovers has grown up - kids and young adults who have never visited the Stedelijk. And let’s not forget that there is much more [art] to see now than in the past. Finally, we are able to exhibit a much bigger part of our collection on a permanent basis, including the pieces we gathered in the past years.” SO WHAT NEW ART CAN WE EXPECT? Van Mil: “Oh, there is so much. From the work of Rineke Dijkstra to that of Marlene Dumas and Martin Kippenberger. Two years ago, we bought an amazing photograph by Andreas Gursky, showing the airport of Frankfurt. And we purchased a sculpture by Dan Flavin, his ode to Piet Mondriaan. Flavin had already made this in 1987 for the Stedelijk, but we were only recently able to buy it. Since 1950 the Stedelijk has bought very much avant la letter, also due to the good contacts with artists. As a consequence, our collection is considered one of the best modern and contemporary art collections in the world. Personally, I think it even outdoes the Tate Modern.”


What Where When 80 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT

CULTURAL SEASON OPENS THE LEGENDARY UITMARKT The Amsterdam Uitmarkt, the official opening of the cultural season, is known as the largest cultural festival in The Netherlands. This year the Uitmarkt takes place from 24 to 26 August. A total of 2,000 performances will be held at numerous venues, concentrating at Museumplein, Leidseplein and Vondelpark. And it’s all free! The International Service Point is located on Museumplein, near the Van Gogh museum. Here you will find everything you’ll need to know about the festival. Ask for the English-language guide to the Uitmarkt. At the International Service Point you will also find all the information about the cultural events on offer throughout the season. Over the years, the Uitmarkt has evolved into a festival attracting more than 500,000 visitors and offering a diversity of venues: from music and dance performances to theatre, exhibitions, book markets, literary events and cabaret. Amsterdam is not the only city in the Netherlands to present a foretaste of the new cultural season. Utrecht has its “Uitfeest” and The Hague its “Uit Festival” (both on 2 September), while Rotterdam’s “24 Uur Cultuur” takes place on 15 and 16 September.

www.uitmarkt.nl / www.uitfeest.nl / www.haagsuitfestival.nl / www.24uurcultuurrotterdam.nl

CELEBRATING PEACE Three centuries ago, the city of Utrecht was the center of the world. For 18 months, Utrecht hosted an international peace conference, a sort of global summit before the term even existed. It all ended with the Treaty of Utrecht, signed on 11 April 1713. With this piece of paper, two centuries of religious conflict and bloody war came to an end. In fact the Treaty of Utrecht was the first global political agreement, bringing several European states, including Spain, Great Britain, France, Portugal, Savoy and the Dutch Republic, to an understanding. For the next few months, Utrecht will commemorate this significant event with pomp and ceremony, theatre, dance and opera, visual art and VJ’s, debate and literature. Events will take place in the city and in the countryside, on the streets, in museums, forts and estates. The “Treaty of Utrecht” programme will link art and culture with current social issues and is a stepping stone for Utrecht’s ambition to be European Capital of Culture in 2018. In the next few weeks, several events will kick off: from “100% Buitendag” on the Zonheuvel estate in Doorn (26 August, with classical music, slow food, plastic arts and theatre in a natural environment) to “FOTODOK” (3 traveling photo documentaries) and “VJ op de Dom”, a visually spectacular dance event at Domplein (next to the Dom tower) on 21 September.

www.vredevanutrecht2013.nl

FUTURE CITIES “Making City” is the central theme of the 5th International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR), which runs until 12 August. This edition all comes down to the question: “How do we make city?” The world is urbanizing at a rapid pace. By 2050 more than seven of the nine billion people on earth will live in cities. The major socio-economic and ecological issues of this century are therefore urban problems. The 5th IABR is exploring ways for “making city” that will last for a long time. Dozens of projects from over 25 cities in the world are presented in Rotterdam: from New York to Paris, São Paulo, Delhi and Almere. These city projects show that standard solutions are no longer sufficient. IABR features several exhibitions at different venues, a conference, debates and lectures (including a main exhibition and one about “Smart Cities” at the Netherlands Architecture Institute), while inspiring bike tours through the city of Rotterdam show how policy makers, architects and the people of Rotterdam are changing the city.

www.iabr.nl


Chef ’s table the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 81

Photography: Niven

VEGETABLES WITH A STORY

Photography: Niven

By Linda Lodding

Niven Kunz is the first to admit he’s not a nice guy when he’s in his kitchen. Fortunately, Michelin stars are not awarded for niceness. And Niven has the distinction of being the youngest Dutch chef to have been “starred”. As the Head Chef and owner of the restaurant that bears his name, Niven has broken out of the Michelin star mould of serious cuisine for serious diners, and instead offers his guests good food, a “gezellig” atmosphere and, hopefully, a good time. “There are no white tablecloths here,” he says. Rather he likens his restaurant to a bistro-cum-pub – where diners can enjoy a relaxed ambiance and really good food. And the star ingredient on Niven’s menu? Vegetables. “Vegetables are the new meat,” he proclaims. Locally and organically grown, they make up about 80% of the menu, he says. “But these are vegetables with a story,” he adds. True. These aren’t your regular Albert Heijn carrots, tomatoes and broccoli. No, Niven’s vegetables are more akin to endangered species and are worthy of being the main attraction. Longforgotten parsnips, beet varieties and artichokes become star-worthy and take center stage. But he’s quick to add that he’s not a vegetarian; nor is “Niven” a vegetarian restaurant. In fact if his restaurant were to have a motto, it might be: you don’t have to be a vegetarian to love vegetables. “There are still places where a dish without fish

or meat is considered to be unimaginative,” Niven writes in his vegetable cookbook, Niven Basics. “But that can’t be avoided -- nor can jokes about vegetarians in woolen socks and sandals.” But things are certainly changing. Gone are the days where vegetables were only considered a garnish on a plate of meat, he explains. Even in the US, where steak and bacon were once considered staples, meatless Mondays are gaining popularity and progressive chefs are embracing meatless menus and experimenting with vegetables. Niven points to Jonnie Boer who published a vegetarian cookbook in 2003 that was revolutionary in Holland. Two years before, French chef Alain Passard, owner of the three star Parisian restaurant L’Arpège, removed all his signature dishes containing red meat and opted for a cuisine based on vegetables. He kept his three Michelin stars. “Right now Head Chefs are considering vegetables to be fun and tasty,” says Niven. “It isn’t more complicated than that.” “I want my guests to smile when they see and eat my food,” he says. He achieves this by paying attention not only to the way the ingredients are prepared, but also to the way they look on the plate. He offers up surprising combinations, such as young blue mackerel filet with oysters or cannelloni with green cabbage, pears and Epoisse. He also likes using unexpected grains as a support for his dishes – quinoa, bulgur and pearl barley, for example. But, for Niven, it’s not only about offering up a plate of healthy, tasty and aesthetically pleasing dishes. It’s also about supporting local farmers. Niven “thinks green” - all the way from the pro-

duce to plate. Everything has to be as environmentally friendly as possible and he shuns waste on the farm and in the kitchen. (For example, he reacts strongly against what he considers to be idiotic practices in the food industry, such as transporting Dutch pigs to Italy to become ham when it would be better to make Dutch ham, or farmers being required to completely destroy their crops even if only a portion of the crop is found to be diseased.) Despite his reputation of being “a young chef”, Niven has some serious cooking behind him. After studying gastronomy in The Hague he sweettalked his way into Jonnie Boer’s kitchen – “De Librije” in Zwolle -- where he started as an apprentice. Niven then did a tour of a few other Dutch locales before cooking in his father’s restaurant, ‘t Raethuys, in Wateringen and earning his first Michelin star. But the drive to be a restaurant owner was strong and, in 2009, the 28 year-old chef opened his own restaurant in Rijswijk - not far from the Westland where he grew up – in a charming locale surrounded by gently rolling golfing greens. In November of that same year, he earned a Michelin star for his new eatery. This former barn now houses a modern, stylish interior which combines rustic elements with urban chic – not too dissimilar from the surprising pairings of some of Niven’s dishes. It seats up to 45 guests and an adjacent wine room can host up to 15. A terrace overlooking the golf course extends the dining experience. Two hotel rooms are also available, should you wish to make “Niven” an all-night affair.


Chef ’s table 82 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT

Photography: Niven

But it’s clear that among many of Niven’s accomplishments, what he is also proud of is his membership in “Alliance Gastronomique” – a 45 year-old Dutch organization that celebrates and recognizes gastronomic excellence and works to elevate the appreciation of Dutch cuisine. A plaque by the restaurant’s front door proclaims the restaurant to be one of a handful of Dutch establishments to have accomplished this distinction. To achieve membership in the Alliance, the restaurant must be scouted, meet various requirements -such as creative work with fresh products-, exhibit culinary knowledge and expertise, and offer stellar hospitality. Most members are either in possession of a Michelin star or are Michelin star candidates. And Niven is proud that his restaurant is helping to put The Netherlands on the culinary map. Asked whether he finds his Rijswijk location, sandwiched between The Hague and Delft, advantageous or disadvantageous, Niven reflects before answering “both”. His picturesque, rural

idyll (yet only a stone’s throw away from the A4 artery that connects Amsterdam with its southern neighbors) certainly adds to the dining experience. But he freely admits that he can’t take advantage of the foot traffic of a restaurant in a trendy urban district. “Our guests come here as a dining destination,” he says, “not spontaneously.” And that, of course, is cause for concern in these economically challenging times. Fine dining can be pricey (his 10-course menu costs around 50 euros) and luring customers back is an ever-present challenge. Niven keeps his restaurant buzzing with various initiatives such as “Dining with the Stars” (which includes reduced-price menus at Michelin-starred restaurants) and “Groupon”, which offers heavily discounted dining experiences. But these initiatives “eat” away at his margins, something that a chef who also is an owner finds worrying. Changes to the menu –offering less expensive cuts of beef, or more commonly available fish– allow Niven to work his culinary magic but be

wary of the end price as well. Next up for the chef is exploring home-grown herbs and edible flowers and incorporating more of these ingredients into his cuisine. And, of course, guests can look forward to the up-coming installments of his cookbook series Niven Basics which demystifies the cooking process. Focus here is on simplicity a la Jamie Oliver. Listening to Niven wax lyrical about vegetables is enough to turn any meat-eater into a card-carrying member of the herbivore fan club. In fact, if anyone can make woolen socks and sandals trendy, I’m sure Niven can.

Restaurant Niven Delftweg 58a, Rijswijk T: 070 307 79 70 www.restaurantniven.nl


What Where When the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 83

PLACES TO GO, THINGS TO DO

French restaurant Le Gone, The Hague

Hotel Seven One Seven, Amsterdam

Amsterdam Bar Week, September 17 - 21

When the French recommend a French restaurant it’s best to heed their advice. And so it was that I reserved a table at “Le Gone”, a bistro/deli on Noordeinde, a stone’s throw from the Queen’s Palace in The Hague. This is no Maxim, but rather the kind of establishment you’d find on a quaint village road outside Lyon; a place to sip wine, tear at a chunk of artisanal bread and savor the “Plat du Jour” – all the while lamenting the poor showing of Olympique Lyonnais. Chef Rodolphe Zerdoun hails from Lyon, moved to The Hague and brought with him the typical flavors and dishes of his home region, an area rich in gastronomy. He opened Le Gone (a local term for a boy from Lyon) fifteen years ago and has been offering up hearty French fare ever since. With dishes such as smoked duck breast salad and seafood quenelles on the menu, the restaurant’s eight tables are full nearly every lunchtime. And when he’s not taking lunch orders, Zerdoun is behind the glass deli case, selling creamy pâté, rounds of French cheese, pork nose salad, baguettes, pastel-colored macaroons and his own salad dressings. Main dishes are also available for take-away and catering. But do stay for lunch, because this was simply one of the best meals I’ve had in The Hague.

With its meticulously restored 17th century façade overlooking the Prinsengracht canal, Seven One Seven is the kind of quintessential Dutch property that travelers imagine staying in and locals imagine living in. What one guest called “Holland heaven” is a charming boutique hotel that also boasts impeccable service. Today the hotel houses nine unique suites that take the names of artistic eminences – Shakespeare, Dickens, Picasso, Liszt. But the real masterpiece is the building itself – marble floors give way to a steep oak staircase (up which staff willingly lug your suitcases), linen drapes frame canal views, fresh flowers are artfully arranged as if waiting to be painted by Vermeer. And when a day of business or museum-hopping is over, guests can retreat under the maple tree for a cup of tea or something stronger. But a “home away from home” like this doesn’t come cheap. Look for double rooms starting at around 400 euros a night (it’s worth checking the website for special discounted rates). Thankfully Seven One Seven does have an “all in” formula so room rates also include breakfast and afternoon drinks. And with the house once the opulent home of a prosperous sugar merchant, guests can expect to have sweet dreams too.

“When nightlife becomes lifestyle” is the tagline for what’s sure to be another successful bar week in Amsterdam, September 17-21. Many European cities host Restaurant Weeks where dining venues offer sumptuous meals at reduced prices for one week . But in September Amsterdam takes this formula into thirty of the best bars and nightclubs, which will open their doors with discounted prices, exclusive events and freebies. The idea, says organizers, is to lure patrons out of their usual watering holes into the “hidden gems” of the city’s bar scene. So be prepared for Amsterdam’s cozy corners to start rocking and rollicking as a number of venues host their own parties and special nights. Major names such as MOMO, Nevy, Bo Cinq, Bridges Bar, Vesper, Little Buddha, Okura’s 23rd Bar and Door 74 are part of the line-up, with some spots offering full-course dinners at palatable rates as well. Membership cards for the Amsterdam Bar Week, while not obligatory, can be purchased from the main website for € 25, which entitles holders to a 20% discount on drinks at all the participating venues and VIP entry to ticketed events with limited availability. Cardholders also get a goodie bag worth € 85.

Le Gone Noordeinde 200C, The Hague

Seven One Seven Prinsengracht 717, Amsterdam www.717hotel.nl

www.barweek.nl


Pakkend Amsterdam Roelof Hartstraat 5 020 - 470 11 29

Pakkend Den Haag Frederikstraat 58A 070 - 363 72 36

Pakkend Zakelijk zakelijk@pakkend.nl 0800 - PAKKEND

Tailor made suits


Auto the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 85

SWEET SPOT HOLLAND

Photography: Carsten Cramer

MASERATI GRANCABRIO

ITALIAN SUMMER CHIC By Carsten Carmer

Throughout its long and glorious existence, Maserati has always been synonymous with power, passion, sophistication and refinement. Ever since the development of their first automobile, the mission has always been to deliver an unique experience to the world’s most discerning drivers. International Correspondent reporter Carsten Cramer went to Munsterhuis Sportscars in Hengelo to experience this fine piece of Italian craftsmanship.

Driving down to Hengelo, I think of Maserati’s rich history. Fresh in mind are the stunning Biturbo’s that dominated the autostrada and the curvy roads of the Alpes in the 1980s, the elegant 3200 Coupe and the ‘Italian Uberklasse Limousine’ the Quattroporte. Different types of cars, all inspiring a passion for driving. These cars are a feast for the senses. Their looks are simply stunning, their engine sounds are unforgettable. Their road holding is excellent and their interiors are finished with the finest leather and wood. The 2012 GranCabrio is an aggressive but elegant looking sports-car designed by Pininfarina. Short overhangs, a long bonnet and beautiful designed 20 inch alloys. With the top up, the GranCabrio is elegant and muscular, but on summer days like these, the roof disappears with a touch of a button and the car is transformed to one of the best looking convertibles on today’s market. Step inside and you will be welcomed by comfortable leather sports seats and a beautifully designed and well equipped dashboard. All features are here, a full screen satellite navigation system, a Bose® sound system, chrome trim, exotic woods and a multifunctional steering wheel.

At the heart of the GranCabrio lies a breathtaking 4.7 litre V8 engine delivering 440 HP at 7000 RPM and a maximum torque of 490 NM at 4750 RPM. 82% of the total torque is available from as low as 2,500 RPM which makes Maserati’s first four seater convertible a pleasant driving machine at low speeds. The 6 speed automatic gearbox changes gears in a very smooth and fluid way, treating the driver and passengers to a very comfortable ride. Especially in today’s rush hour traffic it ensures a relaxing ride. However, switching to Sport mode, gear changes occur at much higher speeds allowing the engine to roar at high revs. Driver and passengers can now enjoy the magnificent exhaust sound even more. The most demanding driver may wish to select gears manually via the paddles behind the steering wheel or the gearshift lever. Press down the accelerator pedal and the Maserati reaches 100 km/h in just over 5 seconds. A powerful braking system ensures a safe stopping distance at all speeds. Unlike some of its competitors, the GranCabrio is an all round automobile. Whether you use it to commute or on the weekends on more demanding roads, it assures its driver and passengers the pleasure of a comfortable saloon as well as the performance of an aggressive open sports car.

CARSTEN CRAMER, investment manager and entrepeneur, has a passion for exclusive and classic automobiles. He holds a European racing licence and has restored and now enjoys several classic cars including a Triumph TR 250 and an Austin Healey 3000. Carsten’s daily drive is a Lotus Elise. carsten.cramer@correspondentmedia.nl


Tiller Galerie

George Heidweiller - Peter Donkersloot Herman Brood - Fabrice

1e Jacob van Campenstraat 1 1072BB Amsterdam The Netherlands Tel. +31(0)20-6622725 www.tillergalerie.com

Opening hours Thursday 1:00 - 7:00 P.M Friday 1:00 - 7:00 P.M Saturday 1:00 - 5:00 P.M Sunday 1:00 - 5:00 P.M And by appointment


the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 87

Fashion, Art & Design

Dutch Style

“ OUR PURCHASING POWER HAS MELTED AWAY OVER THE YEARS. AND THERE IS A MAJOR SHIFT IN THE MARKET. CLASSICAL AND ANTIQUE ART, WHICH THE NETHERLANDS IS STRONG IN, IS NOW DIFFICULT TO SELL.” Gallery owner David Smith Photography: Gallery Leslie Smith


Dutch Style 88 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT

FASHION OLCAY GÜLSEN AN EMPIRE FROM SCRATCH By Karine Bloem

She now stands at the helm of a successful brand –SuperTrash- available in nearly 24 countries worldwide, extended with a magazine and a fragrance ‘Phenomenal’. And yet Olcay Gülsen has built her empire from scratch – just after finishing her studies. Her weapons? Good sense, a nose for marketing opportunities and -not the least- determination and drive: “Entrepreneurship is like professional sport.” Olcay’s parents are Kurdish/Armenian immigrants. Her childhood was a ‘bumpy road’. That molded her personality. She knew that to break out of the circle, she had to follow her dreams and become an entrepreneur. Which she did, guided by her instinct. “I always rely on my sixth sense,” she says, “especially when it comes to people. A proposal can look great on paper, but if it doesn’t feel right, I won’t go for it. My intuition has never failed me.” It certainly looks so. SuperTrash was first owned by a company in LA; Olcay was its Benelux agent. When she heard the brand was being dumped, she flew to the States and came back as its owner. Even though the name ‘Supertrash’ did not have the most attractive connotation, she never thought of changing it. “I was triggered by the name. It is outspoken, sets people to think, and surprises them.“

Photography: Karine Bloem

SuperTrash is on such a rise now that it led Olcay to launch another label, this time bearing her own name (and sold in the US only–TIC): “The demand came from the buyers, so we decided to develop a small, limited and more upscale line than ST, and name it Olcay Gülsen.” Managing HQ’s spread over Amsterdam, London and New York requires hard work and frequent flyer miles. Still, the SuperTrash main office and design department are in Amsterdam. “I have great respect for the Dutch work attitude and the hands-on approach. They have a typical saying which sums it up correctly: ‘Niet lullen maar poetsen’ (translation: ‘Instead of grumbling, work!’). Alongside hard work, confidence and devotion, we have attached an emotion to our brand. I believe that’s the most important aspect to make it ‘phenomenal’.”

Photography:©Olcay Gulsen

DUTCH STYLE ON THE STREETS SEEN WHERE? Cultural Area ‘Westergasterrein’, Amsterdam WHO? Niki Smit, writer of a book series for teenage girls and illustrator. WHAT DO YOU WEAR? Hat: La cerise sur le chapeau (Paris) Scarves: Rika and one from New York Cardigan: She Rebel Dress: See by Chloe Shoes: Dune Bag: Sonia Rykiel

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE DUTCH STYLE? Watching the quirkily dressed girls at the Noordermarkt on Monday morning makes me very happy. I like their nonchalant-chic look with a hint of Saint-Germain. I take my own fashion inspiration from Paris. The effortless class there is not to be compared with the horrific way some women carry their Chanel 2:55 in the PC Hoofdtstraat in Amsterdam. They have too much sunbed tanning and wear an overload of golden bling. That’s probably not how Coco Chanel imagined her iconic bag to be worn.


the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 89

FORMAL FOR LESS By Karine Bloem

Businessmen wear suits. Even when temperatures rise, they cannot exchange their work uniforms for shorts and T-shirts. Buying suits for each season can be expensive... unless you choose the affordable labels of our best Dutch suit makers. OGER-THE RED Oger THE RED stands for young, sexy and contemporary suits and jackets with eye-catching details in lining and finish. Quality, elegance and style are captured in a suit for just € 298. THE RED also provides an extended made-to-measure program with completely customized suits and a variety of choices in fabrics, lining, collar felts, stitching, buttons, pockets and silhouettes. THE RED basic suit starts at € 298, tailor-made suit starts at € 448, and tailor-made shirts from € 118 www.oger.nl

oger

SUITSUPPLY BLUE LINE For your seasonal suiting, the Suitsupply Blue line consists of classic suits confectioned in Italian Super 110 en Super 120 wool fabric as well as linen. Traditional craftsmanship and techniques are used to produce the suits without making concessions on great fit for ann affordable price. Suitsupply also offers a wide range of accessories to enhance your formal summer look with ties, belts, cufflinks, pocket squares, scarves, socks, shoes, and bags. Suits from € 259 www.suitsupply.com

PAKKEND The concept of Pakkend revolves around you being the composer of your own summer jacket. From the color and fabric of the lining to personal options for the finish, such as the type of pockets to the width of the lapels, flexibility is key for their services. Alongside the shops in Amsterdam and the Hague, Pakkend offers a ‘business service’ to give clients the possibility of having their suits measured at the office. Suits start at € 379. A single jacket € 259 www.pakkend.nl

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pakkend

SLFMD No two suits are alike at SLFMD –better known as ‘SELFMADE’. They prefer to work on appointment to help the clients create their own suit, jacket or shirt with their specific SLFMD customization program: ‘A suit should reflect one’s identity.’ Suits start at € 449, shirts at € 95 www.slfmd..nl

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Dutch Style 90 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT

ART

MOVING WITH THE TIMES By Floris MĂźller Photography: Gallery Leslie Smith

Change doesn’t scare David Smith. The gallery his father set up in The Netherlands became known for displaying classic and antique works from artists like B.C. Koekkoek and Mesdag. But the shifts in taste in the market in recent years have led Smith to put the emphasis mainly on impressionist, modern and contemporary art. The International Correspondent talked to him and to one of his most successful new artists, Zhuang Hong Yi.


the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 91

YOUR AMERICAN FATHER, LESLIE SMITH, BEGAN THE GALLERY. HOW DID HE END UP IN THE DUTCH ART WORLD? David Smith: Through my mother. He met her when she was working as an actress with the famous cabaret of Wim Kan. After a show, he asked her out, and they got married a year later, in 1966. After first moving to Germany, where my father lived and worked as a liquor importer for the US Armed Services, they moved back to Holland in 1968 and settled in The Hague. My father then fell in love with the Dutch 19th century art and in 1969 Leslie Smith Gallery was born. AND HOW DID YOU END UP IN ART? I took over the business in 1990 when my father was critically ill. I was studying architectural engineering at the Technical University in Delft at that time, but always had a great affinity with art. My father started taking me to auctions and shows from when I could walk. I felt it would be a great shame if my father’s work were to be abandoned. DID YOU GET TRAINING IN ART? I tried to follow a part-time degree in art history at Leiden University. But it wasn’t possible to combine it with running the gallery. Going to international art fairs prevented me from attending the necessary lectures. In the end, I learnt from working with art and artists. HAS THE DUTCH ART WORLD CHANGED SINCE YOU’VE GOT INVOLVED? Absolutely. Historically, The Netherlands played an important role in the development of art. But it’s no longer important as a market. The Tefaf, the big annual art fair in Maastricht, is the only time the international art trade is focused on The Netherlands.

HOW COME WE HAVE SUCH A LIMITED ROLE NOW? Our purchasing power has melted away over the years. And there is a major shift in the market. Classical and antique art, which The Netherlands is strong in, is now, in the current economic climate, more difficult to sell. The emphasis in today’s market is really on international modern and contemporary art. So-called blue chip art by renowned artists as Chagall, Monet, Picasso, as well as major International Contemporary Art are really heading the market. There is a definite shift in a large group of buyers who are more and more focusing in upcoming contemporary instead of classical art. HAS YOUR GALLERY KEPT PACE WITH THE CHANGING NEEDS OF THE INTERNATIONAL MARKET? My father concentrated mainly on works from the Dutch Romantic and Hague schools. So we still maintain a number of major pieces in our collection, such as a romantic townview by Cornelis Springer depicting Enkhuizen and a large beach scene by HW Mesdag, but over the last 10 years our collection has really expanded into impressionist and modern art. In the past five years or so, I’ve also added an additional focus on contemporary Aboriginal and Chinese art. THAT’S QUITE A SHIFT... I’ve invested in Aboriginal art because I see major developments there. By now, our gallery has the largest commercial collection in this field outside of Australia; it’s on par with works in the major museums of Australia. There, of course, also have been impressive developments over the last five to ten years in Chinese art and we have not stood still in this regard. Our top Chinese artist, Zhuang Hong Yi, was quite a success this year at Tefaf in Maastricht. He also had solo

exhibitions in past at the Groningen Museum in 1999 and 2001. WHAT IS RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS SUCCESS? Zhuang Hong Yi has a unique style and technique. You immediately recognize his work, wherever it is displayed in the world, because of its extreme colors, contrasts and three-dimensionality. There’s a very impressionistic feeling, but visually it’s extremely modern. I refer to Zhuang Hong Yi as a “Contemporary Impressionist” HOW DO YOU DEVELOP YOUR TECHNIQUE? Zhuang Hong Yi: My classical training in China and my contact with modern artists and designers in the west have shaped who I am. In the 1980s I studied at the Sichuan College of Fine Arts in China. But I completed my training at the Minerva Academy in Groningen. Initially, my work was darker, heavy and still. Now I try to be more dynamic and colorful. I don’t have a problem changing styles. I don’t place limits on what I do. YOUR WORK IS CLEARLY CHINESE IN ITS ORIGINS. Zhuang Hong Yi: I find it important to combine my eastern background with western influences. That’s why I have studios in Jing DeZhen and Beijing in China, as well as in Amsterdam. I live in The Hague. DID THE GROWING MARKET IN THE FAR EAST PLAY A ROLE IN YOUR CHOICE OF THIS ARTIST? David Smith: Our market is mainly Europe and America. But I observe the growing might of the Far East. So there’s a good chance that, in the coming years, you’ll find us in Hong Kong, Singapore or Shanghai.


Dutch Style 92 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT

DESIGNER

PIET HEIN EEK By Karine Bloem

Photography: Piet Hein Eek

Photography: Marcel Wanders

WHAT? Cabinet made of scrap wood WHO MADE IT? Piet Hein Eek WHY SHOULD WE KNOW HIM? With his graduation project in 1990 at the Design Academy in Eindhoven –a cabinet made of scrap wood- the use of simple materials (often waste material) merging handicraft with a skilled design process became Piet Hein Eek’s signature. It was a rather daring design in times of excess,but he prefers to stay away from conceptual designs and create timeless and quality products that age well. Nowadays Piet Hein Eek can call himself a designer, producer, distributor, retailer and entrepreneur in the hospitality business. He built his own ‘village’, which is more or less a piece of land of 10,000 square metres in Eindhoven, where he installed his atelier, showroom, shop and restaurant. He travels the world to present his work at trade shows, exhibitions and during Design Weeks, and develops accessible collections of furniture and accessories for Fair Trade Original and Wehkamp. nl (major mail order company). www.pietheineek.nl

Photography: Piet Hein Eek


Gadgets Toys for Boys & gizmos 94 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT

GIZMOS AND GADGETS By Jeroen Jansen

3D ON THE WALL Sharp’s new high definition 3D front projector XV-Z30000 brings home theater to another level. This impressive DLP projector supports 2D and 3D content, with a full 1080p image, a 50,000:1 contrast ratio and 1600 ANSI lumens of brightness. All you need for a gigantic screen on whatever surface you want, while guaranteeing superior brightness, astounding clarity and color accuracy. Oh, and it comes with two sets of 3D glasses as well.

Price: € 4,990

www.sharp.eu

DRIVE FIRST, WATCH LATER Garmin’s new nüvi 2585TV combines the best of two worlds: advanced navigation and on-screen entertainment. With this mutimedia sat nav no road trip will ever hold you from watching your favourite TV shows, films or sports events again. Just record them from TV, radio or a video-in source to a SD-card and play it back when you’ve reached your destination. Before that, it’s better to use it for navigation reasons only.

Price: € 299

www.garmin.com

LG STRIKES BACK LG is not the biggest player on the smartphone market, but maybe they can win a few places with their latest flagship Optimus 4x HD. This one sure looks promising. It’s LG’s first quad-core smartphone (NVIDIA Tegra 3), featuring a 4.7-inch IPS display, 16GB of storage, 1GB of RAM, memory card slot, an 8MP rear camera and Google’s Android 4.0 operating system. Quite similar to the Samsung Galaxy SII, but considerably faster and more powerful. And despite its ultra sleek body, the Optimus 4x packs an impressive 2150mAh battery.

Price: € 499

www.lg.com


Toys for Boys the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 95

TESTING, 1,2,3... SMART TVs By David Lemereis

More and more TV sets are labeled ‘smart’. But what makes them smart? Are they really as clever as they promise? Here are four smart television sets that will elevate your viewing experience to the next level. Smart, smarter, smartest... In a nutshell - a smart television has a wireless internet connection, news, weather, tv guides, Facebook and Twitter apps, streams movies wirelessly from your computer and smartphone, as well as USB harddisk recording and 3D. However, all these features make these televisions more complex to control. Manufacturers are searching for the holy grail of the modern remote control by offering tv remote smartphone apps and ‘experimental’ voice and gesture controls with varying success.But it’s early days; when shopping, don’t be intimidated by all these features. Take USB harddisk recording for example. Sounds brilliant but often your cable provider will encrypt the signal so you’re not able the record your favorite show. Why Tweet via a tv app when it is so much easier to use your smartphone or tablet? When you go shopping for a smart TV, let the design, ease of use and, of course, the image quality guide your buying decision.

LOEWE CONNECT ID If design is paramount and you just can’t seem to find the set that fits your style, then the Loewe Connect ID might be for you. You can choose out of 12 colours, a 32, 40 or 46 inch screen, and whether you want your tv to hang on the wall, on a floor or table/stand. You have a choice of 2160 variants to fit your style. The wide bezel on the bottom of the Loewe houses the sound system which beats the sound quality of most flatscreens by far. The Loewe image quality is also excellent. It offers active 3D, built in recording, wifi, the Loewe MediaPortal with apps, and it streams all your photos, videos and music. Loewe, however, doesn’t offer sound or gesture control. Instead, it’s iPad app shines as a remote control with a TV guide, a video library and an online portal.

Price: € 2,399 (46 inch)

www.loewe.tv

SAMSUNG ES8000 The Samsung offers all the desired features and more. However the voice and gesture control leave much to be desired. Though the tv recognizes your voice command, such as volume and channel up etc, the voice control bar at the bottom of the screen often pops up in the middle of watching a show. Even more irritating is the gesture control. It only works under ideal lighting conditions and that’s often not the case at home. Just stick to the traditional remote or smartphone app and you get a superb television with stunning image quality and active 3D. This razor thin 46 inch LCD screen with its ultra thin bezel makes this TV a joy to the eye. It’s also the first whose hardware can be updated as new features appear, hence future-proof.

Price € 2,199 (46 inch)

www.samsung.nl

LG LM860V The thin 47 inch LCD LG also offers all mentioned features but skips voice control. Instead you get a traditional remote, a smart phone app and the Magic Remote. The Magic Remote works sort of like a Nintendo Wii controller. You wave the Magic Remote and a cursor appears on the screen. Though it takes a bit of practice, with a few button clicks you effortlessly navigate the clean and easy-to-use interface of this tv. The LG also offers passive 3D which means there are no electronics in very cheap 3D glasses. The 3D viewing is also much less tiring than active 3D. Like the Samsung, the design is minimalistic and the image quality is brilliant. The LG is also whopping 550 euros cheaper than the others.

Price: € 1,649 (47 inch)

www.lg.com/nl


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Last words the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 97

WHAT TO READ

POLITICS AFTER PIM By Martin van Geest, Joost van Kleef

In September, the Dutch citizenry will be cycling en masse to the polling stations to elect a brand new government that is going to keep the country dry and safe. Well, maybe not quite en masse, as voting is not compulsory in the Netherlands, so turnout has been steadily declining over the last couple of decades. People are busy, people are lazy or people just don’t feel their vote makes a difference. In theory, the Dutch decide who’s going to set the rules once every four years, but lately, The Hague, seat of the Dutch government and parliament, has been quite turbulent. Since 2002, we’ve had five cabinets, none of which has succeeded in completing the full four-year term. The International Correspondent selected three books that help you understand the current capricious state of politics in the Netherlands. Governance and Politics of the Netherlands [Second Edition] Rudy B. Andeweg & Galen A. Irwin, Palgrave Macmillan, $ 45.00 The Dutch political landscape is not easy for foreigners to understand for foreigners. The main reason is the extraordinary number of political parties in Holland, a phenomenon that has only gained importance since the rise and deadly fall of the flamboyant taboo-breaking politician Pim Fortuyn. (More on him in the third book we recommend.) Political scientists Andeweg and Irwin

have written a bulky book on the modus operandi of Dutch politics. Their exposition is bone dry – hey, they’re scientists – but it’s the most thorough handbook on Dutch politics you can get. Pay attention: the first edition was published in 1998 and is hence severely dated. The latest updated edition came out in 2009.

The Dutch Political System in a Nutshell ProDemos, € 10.00 This booklet can be seen as a much slimmeddown version of Andeweg and Irwin’s treatise. The publisher was financed by the Dutch govern-

ment, so the information might be a little biased; that’s probably the reason why the name of the author is not disclosed.

Murder in Amsterdam: Liberal Europe, Islam, and the Limits of Tolerence Ian Buruma, Penguin Books, € 16.00 Around the turn of the century, the well-read social scientist, writer and politician Pim Fortuyn (1948-2002) dropped a political bomb in The Hague. As leader of his own right-wing party LPF, he justly criticized many prominent politicians for their failure to address certain problems in Dutch society. Fortuyn fulminated against the large number of Muslim immigrants who pooled their social security checks to build mosque after mosque next to our windmills, all facilitated by the Dutch government. Holland had slowly but

steadily become Little Morocco and Fortuyn did not like what he saw. Many compatriots agreed, so the LPF led the polls. Fortuyn was on his way to become the new prime minister of the Netherland until he was shot by an imbecile who didn’t agree with his ideas. Writer Ian Buruma clarifies how Fortuyn and his ideas became the leading force in The Hague and explains why his influence is still felt today, both in Dutch and European politics.

Marked for Death: Islam’s War Against the West and Me Geert Wilders, Blackstone, € 29.95 Headstrong parliamentarian Geert Wilders is seen by many, or at least by himself, as the ‘successor’ of Fortuyn. His intellect and the way he presents himself are a far cry from the front man of the LPF, but he is successful. His main point is – or actually, was – the islamization of Europe.

Nowadays, he profiles himself as the protector of John Doe and his wife, ‘Henk and Ingrid’, who are supposedly being suppressed by a small elite. You’re laughing now? We are too. In this book, Wilders reveals his ‘political ideas’. Whoohahaha!


Last Words Fenna Ferwerda 98 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT

Photography: Fenna Ferwerda

JUST PRETEND IT’S AUTUMN

Looking out of your windows these days must fill you with a slight sense of regret. Impressive white and grey clouds cover a sky that was supposed to be blue. Was coming here a mistake? I’ve lived here for nearly thirty years now (let’s not dwell on that fact too long). From personal experience, I can tell that summers in the Netherlands have never been spectacular in terms of good weather. Bad summer months - yes, we’ve had a few. But I presume that’s what you and your colleagues discuss every day at the coffee machine, so enough on that depressing topic. Because - pardon my French who gives a damn about the weather when you can entertain yourself all summer regardless of the endless rain pouring down? Amsterdam summertime is my favourite time of the year. The months of June, July and August are magic. In June, you can feel the air finally getting warmer. Women show off their spray-tanned legs, men drink beer on the canal-side terraces. The city is flooded with tourists on their red rented bikes, jamming traffic wherever they go. Ahhh - summer is almost here. June usually brings the best weather, coaxing us into believing that yes, summer in the Netherlands ain’t so bad after all. Then finally comes July and ruins it all. Rain is all we ever see. This continues well into August. Still, I think it’s the best time of the year. One little trick to help avoid the summer blues: just pretend it’s au-

tumn. That way, the weather never disappoints you. This might not work if you are a total sun-addict, but for me it works just fine. Dutch skin - I die without sunscreen. So while the climate completely suits my genetic disposition, the summer festival season completely suits my inner needs. Because, in the end, who needs sunshine when you can dance all day and all night to the best DJs in the world? Listen to the hit-du-jour bands and the big name evergreens? Watch theatre shows and drink loads of sangria? Check this year’s calendar and take your pick. There’s a festival for everyone. Small dance festivals on the outskirts of Holland’s bigger cities, great music festivals on the beaches, whether in Bloemendaal or on Vlieland, one of the small islands in the north of Holland, and some inspiring theatre festivals - Oerol, De Parade, Over het IJ, to name a few. The height of festival season is Lowlands festival, which takes place from 17 to 19 August. Here the world’s crème de la crème of the music scene comes together to perform for the crème de la crème of Dutch festivalgoers. Those with a ticket to Lowlands are the real festival die-hards. And then I don’t mean bearded men with Nirvana t-shirts, or wild-eyed women with dreadlocks and Dr. Martins, but The Netherlands’ finest. Handsome tall men with denim shirts and pastelcoloured chino’s, blonde-haired girls with vintage Levi’s shorts and Vans, they all watch the shows together, dance side by side until it’s morning, share their little joints and dance some more. Three days of great music, beautiful people and dancing until the stars fade out. You can’t even call it relaxing, because it actually is hard

work, drinking and dancing, and setting up that damned tent, a pole of which always seems to be missing or broken. But a rewarding job it is. My personal favourite, however, is De Parade, a small theatre festival that travels from Rotterdam to The Hague to Utrecht, to end the summer in Amsterdam. It features a variety of creative, experimental, witty shows, often mixing theatre, comedy and music. The terrain is a fantastic place in itself, with performers trying to tempt you to visit their shows, outdoor restaurants where you can have a perfect meal and a bar where they serve a dangerously good sangria gets me tipsy every time. But the best thing is the old-fashioned merry-goround - not suitable for children. Flying through the air, the rain pouring in your face, already a little drunk on love and sangria - nothing can beat that feeling. Not even a sunny day. So take a ride and pretend it’s autumn. You won’t regret it.

FENNA FERWERDA works as a corporate lawyer for an international firm at theZuidas, Amsterdam’s financial heart. Sometimes amused, sometimes bewildered, she observes the comings and goings in this square kilometre of Dutch high-rise. Fenna is not her real name. fenna.ferwerda@correspondentmedia.nl


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The International Correspondent #7