Next50 Non-executive Directors 2022: These are the Upcoming Supervisors
50 non-executive directors are waiting in the wings, poised to become the Netherlands’ top non-executive directors in the years to come. While they do not qualify for inclusion in Management Scope’s Non-Executive Directors Top 100 quite yet, they have or are working on an impressive of supervisory track record. This puts them in the lead when it comes to assuming central positions of power within the Dutch business world. Who are these men and women who together, occupy 90 or so supervisory positions at Dutch public companies?
With a new number 1, even a brand new top 10, this year’s list reconfirms Next50’s usefulness as an indicator of non-executive directors on their way up. Those who make the list tend to move on in short order. Onward and upward to the next level, namely Management Scope’s Non-Executive Directors Top 100, a list of the Netherlands’ hundred most influential Supervisory Board members. Almost all of last year’s top 10 have currently advanced to the Big List (‘Who have advanced to the Non-Executive Directors Top 100?’). So, plenty of room for new up-and-coming top non-executive directors. For example, heading 2022’s Next50 is Roderick Munsters (see also: Roderick Munsters: From Investing Superpower to Professional Non-Executive Director). Robeco’s former boss has an impressive supervisory track record, both in the Netherlands and abroad, with asset management as a recurrent theme. As stock markets boomed in the past year, so did Munsters’s performance as a non-executive director. Previously an investing superpower, he may develop supervisory superpowers as well if he proves willing to look beyond the financial sector and diversify his “basket”. After all, public companies are just as likely to benefit from a non-executive director who is familiar with the ins and outs of domestic and international capital markets.
> Not seen the full list yet? View the Next50 Non-Executive Directors here.
The list’s runner-up, Johan van Hall, also comes from the world of finance, but with an emphasis on traditional banking in his case. He has worked at ABN AMRO for 35 years and was their COO and Deputy Chair until his departure in 2018. Van Hall has experienced it all; the financial crisis, nationalization and unbundling, which he led. He has now traded the green and yellow shield for Rabobank’s blue and orange manikin. As a non-executive, not an executive director this time around. Van Hall also chairs the Supervisory Board at Ordina, an IT company. He succeeds his former ABN AMRO colleague Caroline Princen, who left to become CEO of the Nuts Groep energy company. In third place we find Gert-Jan van den Akker. He, too, accepted a supervisory role at Rabobank last year. Van den Akker’s roots are in agriculture. A one-company man, he spent his entire career working for Cargill, an American corporation, all over the world. His final role there was as the company’s CRO. No wonder he ended up on Rabobank’s risk committee, among other duties. In addition, Van den Akker’s food & agriculture experience and network make him a fine strategic sparring partner for the executive board. Incidentally, Rabobank CEO Wiebe Draijer has now announced his own departure. Perhaps he will feature on next year’s Next50?
As we said, Next50’s entire top 10 has been refreshed. Unilever is clearly a preferred supplier, with two people landing supervisory positions at top Dutch companies after time at this “school of marketing”. Last year, Unilever veteran Jan Zijderveld, number 4, joined Supervisory Boards at both supermarket chain Ahold Delhaize and Pandora, a Danish jewelry chain. Zijderveld spent the three years prior immersed in crisis management as CEO of American cosmetics concern Avon and non-executive director of Hema, which was in dire straits due to debt and the effects of the pandemic. In the end, this deeply Dutch chain of department stores was acquired by investment firm Parcom and the Van Eerd family, owners of the Jumbo supermarket chain, a close competitor to Ahold subsidiary Albert Heijn. The Van Eerds even poached Hema’s new CEO Saskia Egas Reparaz from Ahold, who appointed Zijderveld non-executive director in their turn.
Will The Pipeline for Supervisory Talent Dry Up?
The other Unilever veteran in the top 10 can be found at number 5; Nitin Paranjpe (see also: Nitin Paranjpe: Highest-Ranking Foreign Non-Executive in Next50 2022). Originally from India, he is this purveyor of food and care products’ COO and as of last year, holds a supervisory position at Heineken as well. That makes him the highest ranked of the four foreign non-executive directors on the list. These are difficult times for Unilever, with pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline rejecting their offer for GSK’s consumer goods unit and activist shareholders pressuring them to split off their food arm. The company now intends to simplify its corporate structure and will be getting rid of 1,500 managers. Who knows, if those all have supervisory ambitions, Unilever might even become Next50’s exclusive supplier next year. It is worth noting that we may find the supervisory talent pipeline drying up, now that Unilever has moved to the United Kingdom and gone fully British. Oil and gas company Shell has followed a similar path. How much longer will these two mega corporations continue to supply non-executive directors to other Dutch companies? And conversely, will there be any Dutch members left on their own Supervisory Boards to qualify for the Non-Executive Directors Top 100 in the future?
In fact, both Unilever and Shell’s current boards are quite international in flavor already. Former DSM boss Feike Sijbesma is the only Dutch non-executive at Unilever, while Shell’s Supervisory Board features former Ahold Delhaize CEO Dick Boer, former Volkswagen director Bram Schot and former ABN AMRO CEO Gerrit Zalm. Their own CEO, Ben van Beurden, is also Dutch, but that will not last forever, of course. Alternatively, cutting Dutch family ties could help speed up the abolishment of the old boys & girls club.
Are CFO Non-Executive Directors No Longer a Thing?
The top 10 only features two non-executive directors who are active executives as well; the previously noted Paranjpe and Anja Mutsaers at no. 7. The highest-ranking woman on the list, Mutsaers combines an executive position at law firm De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek with a supervisory role at energy network operator Gasunie. This is less unexpected than it seems, as she originally began her career in energy, at ExxonMobil. The other eight non-executives in the top 10 are all professional Supervisory Board members. Aloys Kregting, at no. 10, stepped down from his role as AkzoNobel’s CIO earlier this year. He was already active as a non-executive director at Volksbank and Supervisory Board member at UMC Utrecht hospital. Plenty of room to expand! When we consider the Next50 in its entirety, proportions are more balanced. Exactly half the list consists of active non-executive directors; 25 altogether. There are twelve CEOs or “big bosses” and nine CXOs. It is noteworthy that there is only one CFO this year, unlike last year’s three. Does that indicate a broadening in how companies are managed, with more attention paid to non-financial aspects? Society’s increasing emphasis on digitization and social impact has also heightened the desirability of non-executive directors from different backgrounds, apparently. A CHRO, for instance. Gerard Penning, at number 11, spent half a century at Shell – yup, that same shell-strewn path again – before moving on to ABN AMRO and as of last year, accepting a non-executive position at energy distributor Alliander. Another example is Hilde Garssen, no. 30, Chief People Officer at telecommunications provider KPN and non-executive director at TBI Holdings, a construction company. Or alternatively, Chief Information Officer; Belgian Bjorn Van Reet, no. 40, is CIO of the Kinepolis cinema chain and non-executive director at Ordina, though this company is not exactly lacking in IT knowledge.
Lockdown on Non-Executive Directors Seems Over
With 36 new non-executive directors on the list, three quarters of the lineup has been updated, and almost half of these are active as executives as well. Last year’s list had 20 newcomers, of whom only six were actively working. Perhaps the first year of the pandemic led to a sort of lockdown on non-executive directors, where everyone “stayed home” to cope with the crisis and limited their supervisory activities at other companies? Followed by “easing up” once it became clear the crisis was going to take rather longer? For instance, Tanja Cuppen (no. 16), CRO at ABN AMRO, accepted a position as non-executive director at health insurer Menzis. Resi Becker (no. 21), energy company Essent’s CEO, also added a supervisory position at this health insurer, despite the need for everyone in her own industry to pull their weight right now due to rising gas prices.
Appetizer To Start, Then the Five-Course Meal
One spot higher, at no. 20, is Jacques van den Broek, Randstad’s departing CEO. While Covid has also affected the temp industry, Van den Broek still found time for supervisory duties at publicly traded technology company CM.com. Not so strange, really. If you know you are on the way out, as a successful executive, you start looking for a potential second career. Consider this position at CM.com an appetizer. It will be surprising if Van den Broek’s supervisory portfolio does not add up to a full five-course meal eventually, as he is clearly Top 100 material. His successor as Randstad’s big boss, Sander van ’t Noordende, actually had a good chance of making the Next50 as well. After spending three decades at consultancy firm Accenture without realizing his CEO dreams, he moved into several supervisory positions, including at Randstad. Half a year later, however, he was promoted to be their new boss. We consequently do not expect him to appear on the Next50 or Non-Executive Directors Top 100 anytime soon. Van ’t Noordende’s new position should help him move up the ranks of another top 100, though; the list of most influential LGBT+ executives worldwide, where he has featured before.
The newcomers on the Next50 have not hailed from a political backgrounds so far. Perhaps it is just too early, and it is only a matter of time before we start seeing former ministers and state secretaries testing the supervisory waters. One Next woman has already moved in the other direction, however. Micky Adriaansens (last year’s no. 32) laid down her duties as CEO at consultancy firm Twynstra Gudde, as non-executive director at pension provider PGGM and as member of the Dutch Senate to become Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy as part of Mark Rutte’s fourth administration. Marion Koopman (no. 23) lucked out with her appointment as health insurer VGZ’s new non-executive director. She gets to jump right into searching for a permanent successor to CEO Karien van Gennip, who is now Minister of Social Affairs and Employment. When you accept a position as non-executive director, you never know what will crop up. That certainly applies to Georgette Schlick (no. 42). First, as CEO of television production company Fremantle Netherlands, she had to cope with the fallout from the episode on Dutch YouTube channel BOOS about sexual harassment in the media industry. Then, as a brand new non-executive director at soccer club Ajax, she got to deal with Marc Overmars, the national champions’ current ex-Director of Football Affairs, and his dick pics. This is actually a topic of relevance to all Supervisory Boards. The government even appointed a special #MeToo Commissioner, Mariëtte Hamer, who resigned as chair of the Social and Economic Council of the Netherlands in favor of this role. When an issue receives this much attention from society, boardrooms cannot stay far behind.
Speaking of women, the ratio of women to men on the Next50 is 26/24. That puts women only barely in the majority. Last year’s ratio was identical. Considering the recent gender quota obligation, we would actually have expected the number of women to increase. For new non-executive directors, women are even in the minority, with 16 women to 20 men. Furthermore, only three women made it to the Next’s top 10, and the highest-ranked only made it to seventh place. Perhaps having a quota in effect will make a difference. Look at ski slope operator SnowWorld, for example, who attempted to appoint two male non-executive directors despite the quota. Following a storm of criticism and a threat to declare the appointment void, leaving an “empty seat”, they eventually replaced one of these with finance expert Lian Doesburg. Improving gender equality could also help contribute to younger Supervisory Boards. The women on the Next50 are an average of five years younger than the men: 53.5 as opposed to 58.5 years old. There are nine women in their forties on the list, and only two men. The list’s youngest non-executive director is a man, though: FrieslandCampina non-executive director Nils den Besten (1982, no. 17).
Tech Women Prying Open Boardrooms
The tech women on the second half of the list are worth noting. Digital expertise is the new gateway to a supervisory position, it seems. We previously mentioned health insurer VGZ’s non-executive director Koopman, for example, who is responsible for digitization & transformation there. Koopman is currently COCO (Chief Operations & Commercial Officer) of The Student Hotel, after previous roles as Chief Growth Officer to media and advertising group GroupM EMEA and CEO of online marketing agency Greenhouse. Before that, she was a Division Head at KPN and Managing Director of internet provider XS4All. Apparently, a digital background is one way to break into the boardroom. This also applies to tech entrepreneur Joëlle Frijters, for example (no. 43, see Joëlle Frijters: The Digital Non-Executive Director). Or Maurine Alma (at no. 29, a bit higher up the list), who, after working at Google and online department store Wehkamp, is now CMO at publicly traded marketplace Just Eat Takeaway. Last year, she accepted a non-executive position at online store Coolblue, which was about to go public as well. Anything for a smile! Except the stock market went into a decline, so they never did. That must have frozen the smiles on Supervisory Board members’ faces, though it is still supposed to happen eventually. Hajir Hajji (no. 37), retailer Action’s CEO, also joined Coolblue’s Supervisory Board last year (see Hajir Hajji: Young, Multicultural and a Woman). Hajji’s Moroccan roots makes her the only one on the Next50 with a multicultural background, if we exclude foreign non-executive directors. 2020’s Next50 top spot was held by Laetitia Griffith, the first woman to gain this distinction, and the first woman of color, too. She has since moved on to the Top 100, where she can currently be found at number 34. Who knows, Hajji may follow her lead. Let us hope that their examples serve to inspire boardrooms to further diversity going forward.
Who Have Advanced to the Non-Executive Directors Top 100?
Last year, nearly everyone in the Next50’s top 10 managed to move on to the Non-Executive Directors Top 100. For instance, runner-up and former Heineken boss Jean-François van Boxmeer became a non-executive there after Dolf van den Brink took over as the brewery’s CEO. Van Boxmeer also succeeded former Philips boss Gerard Kleisterlee as chair of Vodafone Group. Gisella van Vollenhoven made the leap thanks to a supervisory position at insurer a.s.r., and Mariken Tannemaat due to one at ABN AMRO. Former Stork CEO Sjoerd Vollebregt re-entered the Non-Executive Directors Top 100 when he became geotechnical engineering company Fugro’s new Chair. Pension investor APG’s former boss Gerard van Olphen made it onto the list thanks to his appointment as Chair of Volksbank’s Supervisory Board.
Van Olphen holds the Non-Executive Directors Top 100’s 33rd spot, making him the highest-ranking former Nexter on the list. The others can be found down in the second half of the list. With a turnover of only 20 percent, making it to the top of the Top 100 is no mean feat. Generally speaking, any Nexters wanting to ascend to the heights of power must join at the end of the line.
Not all non-executive directors in the Next50’s top 10 make it onto the Top 100. Last year’s number 1, former consultancy and engineering firm Grontmij's CEO Michiel Jaski, only lasted a single term as non-executive director at AkzoNobel. He did become acting chair of Reesink’s Supervisory Board last year, though. Former State Secretary Nebahat Albayrak, last year’s no. 10, moved on from handling Corporate Affairs at Shell to join Finnish publicly traded energy company Fortum and also laid down her non-executive duties at Unilever Nederland.
This article was published in Management Scope 03 2022. For the applied method of making this list, see the Next50 Non-Executive Directors.