Interview Jevon Ong – Investment Office trainee at NN Group

Reading time: 9 minutes

Have you always wanted to know what it’s like to work at a financial service company? We spoke to a number of entry-level professionals and trainees in the finance & banking industry. In this series of interviews, you will find out what it’s like to work at NN Group, Van Lanschot Kempen, De Volksbank and PGGM.

Our second interviewee, Jevon Ong, currently works as an Investment Office trainee at NN Group. Keep reading to learn about Jevon’s experience as a trainee, his insights on working at NN Group and his tips for those aspiring to pursue a traineeship in finance.

What is your full name and what is your position at NN Group?

My name is Jevon Ong, and I’m a trainee at the NN Group Investment Office (Public Markets). I’ve been in this role since September 2022.

What did you do before starting at NN Group?

For my Bachelor’s, I studied Business Administration at KU Leuven, Belgium. Since leaving high school and through my bachelor’s studies, I have regularly gained experience by doing internships each summer. These internships are in the area of corporate finance, treasury and asset valuation, and were instrumental in my understanding of the corporate world.

Upon my graduation, the COVID-19 pandemic started and I decided to take a gap year and worked for a year in the treasury department of a French listed firm, in Brussels, Belgium. There, I was exposed to internal financing (in-house bank for the group) and net working capital management. Consequently, the learning experiences from my internship motivated me to start my master’s in Financial Economics – at Erasmus University Rotterdam – before commencing my traineeship at NN Group last year.

Apart from the internship experiences, I also had two working student jobs back in Singapore. I worked as student brand manager for Red Bull and as a student sales associate at New Balance. These experiences were eye-opening into the more qualitative side of my financial studies.

How are you experiencing your role as Investment Office trainee so far?

I am in my first rotation with the Public Markets team of the Investment Office. The pace of my work has been nothing short of exhilarating! Being closer to the capital markets has always been my goal since I was young, and having your work activities in parallel with the markets has been thrilling for me. In my opinion, my activities that I do are more intense and faster, in comparison to other NN colleagues, but this also means that I get to learn much more and have a steeper learning curve for my own personal and professional growth. And all of this in a shorter period of time.

My colleagues are international and come from a wide variety of disciplines. They each bring their own uniquely individual insights on the table. As such, every team member, myself included, is able to be exposed early on to different perspectives and ways of doing things.

In my team, we conduct manager selection, monitoring and evaluation of our portfolio managers and of our asset managers. This means that we, as asset owners, provide the investment mandate to our portfolio manager, and they invest on our behalf. At each regular interval, we monitor and evaluate the portfolio and the team according to: People, (investment) Philosophy, (investment) Process, Performances and Planet. On the latter, environmental and social impact has been (and always has been) a growing importance for NN and the wider corporate community. I conduct such day-to-day activities with the public markets team, and separately take on individual projects, such as helping our Responsible Investment team with their Green, Social, Sustainable bond guidelines.

The core hours of the investment office are from 9am to 5pm. Before I start my work day, like most of my colleagues, we would already be active from 8-9am to update ourselves with what went on in the market, macroeconomic environment, and other administrative duties, such as information pertaining to any developments for our portfolio. From 9am to 5pm – our core working hours – we typically engage in investment activities similar to other investment offices of asset owners. Activities include, but are not limited to, strategic asset allocation (SAA), investment planning, portfolio management, among others.

Towards the end of our work day, we update ourselves on what went on in the (European markets) and any other events that will happen in the coming days, in anticipation of the effects it can have on NN Group and the portfolio.

What is your experience in working for NN Group and what stands out to you?

Individuality matters. NN’s motto is “You Matter”. What matters to us, matters to them. Right from the get-go at NN, I clearly felt this motto being enacted—as opposed to being espoused—by my colleagues. It’s less about how a team can benefit from the knowledge and experiences you bring, but more about you as an unique individual. Who are you? What motivates you?

Together with my colleagues, I have been—cliché as it might sound—on a journey of self-discovery into what my strengths and weaknesses are that I was not aware of. And in doing so, I realised the rationale behind the emphasis of NN’s motto and its values—Care, Clear, and Commit. When I (like any other colleague) get my building blocks right, as a young graduate, I have a solid foundation to mature as a professional for my career.

As a financial group, working at NN has proven to be unique from what would be a typical financial corporate life. Corporate citizenship is key and not short-sighted profitability. My own take on the culture of NN has so far been about openness. Openness with your mind on not just DE&I, but also openness to ideas and change that may at times seem far-fetched to you. Openness with your heart is one that I noticed too, being kind and collegial goes both ways and that is the culture I notice across the board at NN Group.

What had you wanted to know before you started working in your role as trainee?

I am an avid runner, so I will use a running analogy. Embarking on a traineeship is not to be seen as embarking on a job, it’s a fundamental part of your career. Your career is like running a marathon, not a sprint, and the traineeship is about discovering which shoes fit best.

A traineeship allows you to grow and develop not just professionally, but personally as well. Throughout the traineeship, you are sent on a learning and development program with one of the top organisations that specialises in nurturing high performers into future leaders of the firm. During this program, you discover a lot about yourself. What makes you tick? How do you manage yourself, apart from managing others? What productivity tools are out there for you to use, when do you need to use them? I learnt that this is just like “finding the right size for your shoe” before a marathon.

The traineeship also exposes you to three different rotations across the group. It’s like a “T” shape, where you could gain exposure on the breath of the company, such as in a group support function like the Investment Office where I am. Or, you can also go deep dive, into the depth of one of NN’s business units, locally or even abroad!

These rotations are instrumental in helping you discover what you truly enjoy and would like as a career. In addition, your traineeship program learnings, such as mentorship or the professional courses, help enable you to put them into practice. The rotations are like “choosing what kind of running soles you are more comfortable with”.

At the end of your traineeship, you are able to select “the one shoe that is unique to you” and you start your marathon career as a young graduate.

Can’t wait to get started as an Investment Office trainee or do you want to stay up-to-date about other job openings at NN Group? Connect with NN Group on via this link.