Aegon offers various development programs to help young, ambitious professionals identify and develop their potential. These training programs include on-the-job coaching, mentoring, networking with peers and interacting with senior management. Nidhi Patel (23) and Jelle Middendorp (31) each follow a development program and tell us about their experiences so far.
Jelle, you have been in the Financial Development Program (FDP) for a year now. How did you hear about the FDP?
Jelle: “I was actually introduced to, and asked to join the program while I had already been working at Aegon for about three years. At the time, the FDP was brand new. The Technical Development Program had already been in place for five years. Aegon wanted to create a financial program next to it, to attract more financial talent. Like I said, I was already working for Aegon in asset management, but I was really excited to take on this new challenge.
Nidhi, you just started the Technical Development Program (TDP). Were you asked to join as well?
Nidhi: “No, I actually found the program online. I was fresh out of university and had never worked for an insurance company before, but I was curious to know how this industry works, as I want to become an actuary in the future. With this program, I get to experience different units of the company, as the participants rotate every two years. New job, new people, new responsibilities. That really triggered me to join the TDP.”
And Jelle, what motivated you to participate?
Jelle: “It’s a great opportunity to get to know more people within the organization. Also, since I was already very familiar with the asset management business, this program allowed me to further explore the various financial departments within Aegon. The training sessions with the other members of the program are always fun, and we get to learn a lot from each other.”
How long is the program?
Nidhi: “The program starts as a 2 year program. After two years an evaluation takes place and you get the possibility to move on to the 4 year follow up to the TDP, based on the job rotations I just described.”
Jelle: “Yes, we still have a long time to go. Like Nidhi said, we rotate every 2 years. And it’s three rotations in total. I really like that. Every 2 years, it’s time to learn something new.”
Jelle: the purpose of the program is to learn more about yourself and make informed choices about your career.
So, you have to be flexible and open to new experiences to join this program?
Jelle: “Yes, but I think that is a good thing at the start of your career. To be able to see more than only one function, to learn and to gain valuable experience.”
Nidhi: “You definitely have to step out of your comfort zone. In 2 years, you are often settled into your function, you know the job, you know the team…”
Jelle: “…And then it’s time to start all over again, haha.”
Nidhi: “When you do the same kind of work for a long time, it starts to get boring. You end up working almost like a robot. But if you have the chance to keep switching it up, you keep your mind active. So I think it’s very positive.”
What has surprised you about the development programs at Aegon?
Jelle: “Before I was asked to join the program, I was already looking for a new challenge. But then I realized how many opportunities there were, right here at Aegon. Like this program!”
Nidhi: “The Lunch & Learn sessions were a nice surprise. Each session covers a different topic, so you always learn something new. The speakers are often colleagues from within Aegon and they talk to us about their career paths. How did they get to where they are now? What challenges did they have to overcome? During one such session, I got the chance to talk to the CEO and CFO of Aegon, and ask them questions. It was very inspiring.”
What happens when the development programs end?
Jelle: “Colleagues who have already finished one of the programs, are all working in senior professional or managerial roles at the different Aegon offices around the world. You can really discover where your talents lie: do you want to be a specialist in your field, or do you want to be a manager? That is the purpose of the program, to learn about yourself and make informed choices about your career.”
Nidhi: with this program, I get to experience different units of the company, as the participants rotate every two years.
Is self-development an essential part of the program?
Jelle: “Yes, absolutely. We have 3 to 4 training/coaching sessions per year, provided by an HR-firm. During these sessions we mainly work on our soft skills.”
Nidhi: “The coaching helps you discover what your strengths and weaknesses are. I just had an individual session yesterday, and it was very interesting. They teach you that your weaknesses are not always a bad thing, and that you can work on them and turn them into your biggest strengths. I’m really curious to find out what the next sessions will bring.”
Which parts of the program are you looking forward to the most?
Jelle: “Next month we have a 3-day course on analytics, tool sets and soft skills. This is a great opportunity to learn more about these topics, and to figure out how best to apply them in my work. I’m really looking forward to it, especially since analytics will become more and more important in the future.”
Nidhi: “I look forward to meeting the other TDP-group members. We just started the program, so we don’t really know each other yet. But we’ve already created a WhatsApp-group, and I’m sure we will plan something soon.”
What was your first impression of Aegon?
Jelle: “I felt really welcome. The people at Aegon are humble, but also very ambitious and always willing to develop themselves further. The atmosphere was a bit more relaxed than I had expected it to be. That’s a good thing, and that’s definitely the difference between Aegon and a lot of the other financial firms.”
Nidhi: “On my first day at work, I saw a picture of myself on the big screen in the lobby, to welcome me and the other new colleagues. A few weeks earlier they had asked me for my photo and I thought, maybe they will use it to introduce me to my team. But instead, they introduced me to everyone in the building! I was not expecting that, but I really appreciated the gesture. I also received a lovely bouquet of flowers at home when I joined Aegon. It was a very warm welcome.”