Familie Van Vliet (Adessium) doorbreekt filantropische muur van zwijgen

27 december 2017, 07:00
Familie Van Vliet (Adessium) doorbreekt filantropische muur van zwijgen
Familie Van Vliet (Adessium) doorbreekt filantropische muur van zwijgen
Het gelukte Alliance Magazine om als eerste publicatie de stilte rond een van Nederlands grootste en invloedrijkste vermogensfondsen te doorbreken. De Adessium Foundation, het filantropische fonds van de familie van Vliet dat een abonnement heeft op een hoge notering in de jaarlijkse DDB100-ranglijst, keert jaarlijks zo’n €18 miljoen euro uit aan programma’s die onder andere de democratie in samenlevingen moet versterken. Oprichter Gerard van Vliet sprak, samen met zijn zoon Rogier en directeur Rogier van der Weerd, uitgebreid met Alliance-hoofdredacteur Charles Keidan. De familie wilde graag in stilte werken, maar realiseert zich dat met de groei van het fonds en de projecten volstrekte anonimiteit geen reële optie is.

Voor het originele interview: klik hier.
Vragen in vet: Charles Keidan
GvV: Gerard van Vliet
RvV: Rogier van Vliet
RvdW: Rogier van der Weerd

 
I understand your business success was in asset management but what was the business?
GvV: My background started in cash commodity trading, in the grain and oil seeds sector. In 1987 I initiated a Commodity Trading Advisor company (CTA) which developed into quite a successful business. In 2002 we sold this company.
And that was the basis for the foundation?
GvV: When we decided as a family to sell, we realized that we would have a lot of extra money to manage and why would we want to do that when we already had more than enough? So it was a philosophical decision, and we thought ‘why don’t we use it – not for ourselves but to try to convert it into something positive for the community and the world in which we live?’.
RvV: It was your idea, it was your very strong belief at the time that it would be good to make sure that the money is being used for common good and basically we all agreed as a family that it was a great idea.
GvV: What we didn’t realize was how daring a decision it was, because actually, though you have a general idea, you start from scratch and you start without focus.
What was that general idea?
GvV: In the early stages, our ideas diverged. Rogier instinctively went for protecting nature. I am interested in that, too, but I also had an inclination towards social issues. I thought: we are living here in Holland, let’s look around the corner at what we can do here as well. So in the end, we became involved in a combination of social and environmental issues, working towards a ‘balanced society’.
Did running a very successful business together influence your thinking about how your philanthropic work would develop
RvV: ‘Keep your options open’ is a typical trader way of thinking and that’s what we did in the early stages while we were trying to figure out what the foundation was going to become.
It was difficult and good at the same time.
You need a focus to give you direction, but on the other hand keeping our options open gave us the tools to look outside the box and try to understand what the landscape looks like.
There are similarities between asset management and philanthropy.
It’s the fact that it’s an asset allocation business, an allocation of money, whether it’s asset managers or whether its beneficiaries.
In both cases it’s about spreading risks, but also doing due diligence on your partner, and making sure you understand their business and their identity. I made use of that experience in the asset management industry in building the foundation from scratch.
GvV: Rogier once said: ‘To give away money, costs money’. If you want to do it seriously, you have to do due diligence. You need to understand the substance behind well-intended initiatives and good stories.
Many foundations bear the name of the family who have created them. But your foundation has a Latin origin – Adessium – to bring into being. How did that choice of name occur?
GvV: Especially in the first few years, we wanted to stay anonymous so it didn’t make sense to put our name on the foundation. One of our colleagues came up with the name. It is a conjugation of the Latin words ad-esse which means to give, to participate, and to help, so it felt like a good starting point.
So the name embodied something about how the foundation was going to be?
GvV: Yes, I think so.
Why did you want to remain anonymous and why has that changed?
RvV: It was never our intention or wish to be in the public eye; we wanted the cause and work we enabled to be at the forefront. However, as we developed the foundation and started funding bigger projects that were becoming very visible, like the ECSP (Erasmus Centre for Strategic Philanthropy), we found that being anonymous was not really possible.
GvV: Once you put information in the public domain you cannot undo it, so we have to be careful. We’ve had regular requests for interviews and we’ve always said no up to now. One of the reasons why the foundation is not named after our family is that apart from the important considerations Rogier mentions, our ego does not need it.
You’d rather focus on the work that your grantees can achieve?
GvV: Exactly. It’s important that we have the conviction that we are doing the right thing in a professional way. We do it with a specific focus and for specific objectives. But at the same time, I don’t think there’s anything wrong in people giving their own name to a foundation.
RvV: Especially if you have a public profile, it makes sense. We didn’t have a public profile and we didn’t want one, although maybe we are creating one through the years because of what Adessium has achieved.
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