Interview with Manager Treasury & Control Conny Ng

With a real estate portfolio consisting of over 1,500 homes, spread across various cities in the Netherlands and Europe, it is important for real estate investor Van der Vorm Vastgoed to make clear choices in the field of finance. All the more reason to talk to Conny NG, Manager Treasury & Control, about her role and the approach of Van der Vorm Vastgoed Groep.

How long have you been employed by Van der Vorm Vastgoed Groep and in what position?
I joined Van der Vorm Vastgoed as Manager Treasury & Control in November 2018. Before that, I held various financial positions at ING Real Estate, later acquired by CBRE Global Investors, for 10 years.

What does a Manager Treasury & Control actually do?
Briefly, I am responsible for the cash flows and financing at Van der Vorm. Millions are handled in our organization with purchases, sales, costs and revenues. These flows of money must be well coordinated, so that we remain a healthy organization.

What is the best part of the position of Manager Treasury & Control for you?
The part I like most is keeping a good overview of our financial resources in order to grow in a natural and healthy way. It is a challenge to be well informed about all projects. That is why I have a lot of contact with different colleagues and why there are regular consultations.

What is one success from the past period that you, as Manager Treasury & Control, are glad to have been a part of?
When I came to Van der Vorm, this was a new position. Together with my colleagues, we were able to bring more structure to the Treasury organisation and, as a result, we are able to inform the management better so that they can make decisions based on the right information. In the past we reported historical data and now we look ahead. We are not quite there yet and there is still more to pick up within the department. Think, for example, of more digitalisation. I am also enormously proud that we have been able to board a new foreign financier for the French activities, with whom we have made agreements for the next ten years. We were also able to gain a nice advantage and, as a Finance department, we can also contribute to the company’s results.

Do you have any influence on which investments fit the strategy/portfolio objectives of Van der Vorm Vastgoed Groep?
I do not have direct influence on investments, but I do have indirect influence. From a financing and cash flow point of view, I can indicate the limits of the possibilities. By informing the management about the possibilities in the financing market for certain segment investments which are or are not attractive to financiers, I can also steer the policy if it is of decisive importance for the return to be achieved.

Within Van der Vorm Vastgoed Groep, together with the CFO, you are responsible for the daily cash management and inter-company financing and you take care of reports and forecasts. What influence has the past ‘Corona Year’ had on your work and the execution of your function within the Group?
Corona made it a bit of a switch because there was less physical contact with colleagues. Contact via MS Teams worked well, but the hallway conversations proved to be very valuable. Due to the necessary digital communication, we have discovered a new way of providing mutual information and I myself have become more visible as part of the whole.

How do you balance social and financial returns? What are the possible difficulties in finding the balance between both?
With social return, we look more at the product than the financing. Products with a social return are generally more interesting for banks to finance.

You work with several colleagues from different departments and across different countries. What issues are you facing at the moment?
At the moment, we are growing enormously in Poland – in 2016, VdV started with the Polish investments with a number of test flats. In the meantime, this has grown to more than 300 and, according to the planning, more than 200 flats will be added. We are working with various partners/managers there and want to centralise this more in order to achieve economies of scale. In addition, the professional investor market is new to the Polish financing market, so financing, for example, is still difficult.

Sustainability plays an increasingly important role in the (re)development of real estate. What effects does this have on well-considered budgeting?
Budgeting and the expected direct return make specific provision for this. Financiers are also making more demands on the sustainability of the property; for example, they will not finance office buildings with energy label C. Sustainable investments are more something for the long term and the belief in the increase in value or retention of the property in the long term.

What does a tenant of Van der Vorm Vastgoed Groep notice in their real estate experience based on the decisions that are made based on your financial reporting?
A difficult question, but a good one to ponder. I don’t think a tenant will notice anything directly based on my financial reporting, except maybe an occasional visit from an appraiser.

What trend(s) have you noticed that create and retain value for tenants and investors in the long term?
That we are investing more and more sustainably so that the end product can also contribute to the environment. In addition, we are also taking the wishes of our tenants much more into account in new developments. Take for example the Tiny Houses that we have built at our Harvest property in The Hague. A beautiful and sustainable product.

What insight have you gained in the past year, in the crisis period that we are now in?
That the team can also work well together from a distance and that we really do our best for Van der Vorm. Besides, it turned out that Van der Vorm has a stable portfolio and financiers still welcome us with open arms, even during and after Corona’s time.

What do you expect from the finance management of the future?
I expect our Finance team to digitise more and our reports to be compiled in a shorter period of time so that we can add more quality to the analysis in the time saved.

Do you have any additions or things you would like to see mentioned?
I am happy that I work at Van der Vorm Groep and that I can contribute to the further professionalisation of the organisation to create an even more beautiful organisation for the future.

What do you like about the organization?
It is a real family business, so most people are very involved and you have a good drive to go for it together. Because of the young people, there is also a good informal working atmosphere. Van der Vorm also tries to push your own boundaries in a healthy way by trying to bring out the best in you. For this, they offer courses and trainings, for instance. One example is that I like accounting very much and in the meantime, I have also become responsible for the financial part of the Polish investments.

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