19 Apr 2017 - 11:26 CET

Satish Bapat profiled in Dutch financial newspaper, FD

Recently, CEO of NN Investment Partners, Satish Bapat, was profiled in a leading Dutch financial newspaper, FD. Please read the English translation below.

Between Japanese Zen and Dutch liquorice

Satish Bapat (50) is the new CEO of NN Investment Partners and oversees €195bln assets under management.

Frits Conijn, FD Amsterdam

Buildings were shaking to their foundations. In the shops, products were tumbling from the shelves. The Japanese province Kumamoto was hit by a massive earthquake in April 2016. Satish Bapat, then CEO of NN Life in Tokyo, did not hesitate. Together with some of his colleagues, he jumped in a plane to the stricken region where they went to work filling sandbags.

Ten days ago, Bapat began work as CEO of NN Investment Partners (NN IP) in The Hague where he oversees about €195 billion in assets managed for institutional and private investors. Now that parent company NN Group is taking over Delta Lloyd, the 50-year-old Bapat, a naturalised Dutch citizen who was born in India, will also lead the integration of the asset management branches.

Who is Satish Bapat?

‘When he lived in Tokyo he was like one of the Japanese,’ says Yasuhisa Miwa of NN Life from the Japanese capital. In his spare time Bapat would sometimes walk the path that samurai warriors used for their journey from Kyoto to Tokyo, climb Mount Fuji or walk on Mount Koyasan, where he watched the sun come up from a Zen Buddhist temple.

‘In Japan, I was introduced to Zen,’ says Bapat. ‘Each encounter is unique and requires optimal concentration. Listening well is a necessity and requires the use of the ears, the heart and the brain.’ With that in mind, Bapat delves to the core of any information received and tries to transcribe it to one sheet of paper with three action points. He also asks this efficiency of his employees.

Bapat was born in 1966 in the Indian metropolis of Bombay. His father was a chemical engineer who worked at Shell’s Pernis facility in the Netherlands at the time, and whenever he visited his wife and three children in India, he always brought Dutch liquorice.

After studying in Bombay, Satish Bapat moved to the US where he studied financial economics and business in Philadelphia. In 1995, he went to work for the American branch of Deloitte & Touche. There, Ahold was one of his customers and he was involved in acquisitions and IPOs. In 1998, Bapat and his wife moved to The Netherlands, where he worked for Deloitte & Touche.

Seven years later, Bapat became a controller at TNT. In 2006 he started to work as asset manager at ABN Amro. He went on to work for Robeco and the Dutch branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland.

In a recent column published on the website of investor forum Bull Up, Bapat is described as “thoughtful and well-structured”. A former colleague said he looks closely at the costs and benefits, but is also open to opportunities, according to the website ‘He has an optimistic slant’, says Anne Wilschut, former executive secretary at NN Investment Partners and currently managing director of pension unit NN PPI. Wilschut has known Bapat since 2010 and says he speaks Dutch but retains his Indian accent.

In 2012, Bapat was appointed CEO of the Asian activities of NN Investment Partners, then known as ING Investment Management. Together with his wife and daughter, he lived in Hong Kong for a year. His work there included the sale of all the company’s business units, a consequence of the support received by then-parent company ING in 2008 and 2009 from the Dutch government.

‘It was not an easy task’, says Wilschut. The transactions required extensive dealings with banks, lawyers and advisors, as well as managing the uncertainty of employees. During this difficult phase, his daughter’s drawings hung in his office and offered him support. During that time, Bapat regularly visited The Netherlands to update headquarters on the latest developments. Before traveling back to Japan, he would buy stroopwafels and Dutch liquorice. Bapat may be a citizen of the world, but he has a soft spot for The Netherlands.