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Evalinde Eelens, 31
Senior Investment Strategist & Social Responsible Investing, A&O Services
There are few women in institutional investment, fewer still who have not taken the usual banking/investment consultant route, and yet fewer who can call leading figures in the national financial hierarchy "friends."
Eelens can claim membership to this very exclusive club, having started out as a reporter at Bloomberg covering the domestic stock market in the Netherlands.
"I never planned to be a journalist for the rest of my life. It was a great learning curve to find out how financial markets work and meet influential people," the 31- year-old says. She has maintained these contacts and sees some of the most important characters in Dutch finance on a monthly basis. Straight after Bloomberg, she spent three years at a private wealth manager, but moved to pension fund investment, "because it is more rewarding," she says. "I now have a broad spectrum of responsibilities and can keep an eye open for opportunities."
Eelens, a Belgian national, oversees strategic and tactical asset allocation and is jointly responsible with the CIO of A&O services for the risk management of the industry-wide pension fund BPF Painters. She also oversees the fund's Environmental, Social, and Governance. She says: "The financial world as we know it is changing, so you need to be flexible to change along with it. To adequately adapt to this you need to be knowledgeable and experienced in more than one area." Not only has Eelens been studying financial risk management and behavioral finance, she is a dab hand at plastering and restoring old houses. How's that for diversification?
The Transplants: They didn't start in this industry, but here's hoping that they stay. While some pension and endowment investors began as fresh-faced college graduates, others took alternative routes—be they via philosophy degrees, hedge funds, or even (gasp!) journalism. There's an argument to be made, of course, that a richness of experience helps one see more holistically. In today's increasingly complex investment landscape, this rings true—and these five represent the outcome of this argument.