Martijn Rozemuller is Managing Director and Head of Europe at VanEck, where he is responsible for Sales, Marketing, Compliance, Legal, and Human Resources. Martijn recently sat down with Jobs in ETFs to discuss his introduction to ETFs, staying motivated at work, and distribution, distribution, distribution . . .  

Be prepared for distribution. You should give distribution really serious consideration and have a clear strategy. It is likely that it will be a number of years before you start to succeed, so if you’re thinking 3-5 years, then double it and if that’s OK for you, then go for it.”

Jobs in ETFs: Tell us a little about your education, whether it led you directly into your career or if there was a pivot into ETFs?

Martijn Rozemuller: I studied engineering and business administration but, during my first year at university, became a member of the investment society where we initially looked at individual stocks and options. 

I became intrigued by investing options and from this went on to work with a local options broker/arbitrage firm where I ultimately became a partner. We had floor trading as it is traditionally remembered – with tickets – and from this developed it into more sophisticated IT processes with on screen trading. 

During a sabbatical I took time to review my own portfolio and found that the managers running it had put some pretty expensive funds in there and so I reshuffled it and introduced ETFs which I had come across around that time. It also made me realise how very difficult it is to outperform the market so at this time I became more and more interested in ETFs.

Dutch investors can reclaim dividend tax, so I worked on finding a more efficient way to use ETFs and this is how Think ETFs came about. 

JiE: Are ETFs a passion, profession or both?

MR: Ultimately, it’s a job and I get paid for it, but I do love it and I’ve developed these ETFs because from an investor point of view I saw that the perfect product wasn’t available. Trying to solve potential problems is more like having a passion than a job. 

JiE: How hard is it for new entrants to break into the space and what does it take? 

MR: It will be about offering products that are new and bespoke to find any traction. We tried to find different types of exposure that were not being offered – to rethink exposure and how you play a certain type of market. It’s difficult to differentiate yourself if you do the same as your neighbour, so new competitors will need to bring something new to the table. 

JiE: Having experienced both the multinational corporation and entrepreneurial business, can you share some insights on how they differ and what it takes to succeed in two very different environments?

MR: The bigger you are the more procedures and compliance you will have in place. The key is to be able to stay nimble, with good procedures and compliance, while staying entrepreneurial. The combination of being a small business attached to a big one means we are able to do this. 

Jobs in ETFs: From a single-office Netherlands centric model at Think ETFs to a broader European remit at VanEck, what new challenges have you faced?

MR: We moved from 10 people in an open office to a multi-national company with three offices in three different countries so setting up the right communication channels was important. We have managed this quite well and I visit the international offices frequently. 

We also made changes in communications to external stakeholders. In this case it includes catering for our clients globally, having local language websites and a local office where possible with a native speaker to ensure we are able to get the message across Europe. 

Jobs in ETFs: Was there something cultural about VanEck that clicked with you and the team at Think ETFs?

MR: VanEck is a private company and still family owned. The current CEO is second generation and runs the business with a long-term strategy. We took the same approach at Think ETFs for the first ten years when we started so there was a very important match in that sense. 

JiE: What do you look for when you’re making a new hire? 

MR: Being in the financial industry for the right reasons is key. We want people who can make a difference and will share our mission of structuring products the best way possible. 

It helps if they are open-minded and willing to share their ideas. Communication is also key, if mistakes are made that’s OK, but we need to know quickly and then we can solve them. 

JiE: What core values have served you along the way, taking you to where you are today?

MR: The most valuable thing is perseverance. We started in 2008 when nothing was easy. We had a long-term plan and have stuck to the goals of this plan.

JiE: Staying happy and positive at work – any secrets you can share?

MR: I still go out and give presentations to clients. This really helps me stay current and visible and excited by what I do. I get a lot of great feedback and I try to be very interactive. Interaction with the end clients really make a difference. 

JiE: What has been the biggest challenge of your career?

MR: Distribution. When we listed our first product we believed (and still do) that they were the best but selling them was a different ball game because for retail investors it’s hard to understand every aspect of an ETF. 

JiE: What advice would you give to people starting out in the ETF industry today?

MR: Be prepared for distribution. You should give distribution really serious consideration and have a clear strategy. It is likely that it will be a number of years before you start to succeed, so if you’re thinking 3-5 years, then double it and if that’s OK for you, then go for it. 

JiE: What’s the greatest challenge on the horizon for ETFs?

MR: It still has to be distribution. However, the biggest opportunity is the Fintech solution across Europe. The combination of a really good Fintech solution that will reach end investors with a good product will be the key to growth and better distribution. 

The gap between distribution and product isn’t as big as it was a few years ago. 

The end product and client need to be considered together to find a solution and make money in the portfolio. As an industry we have to offer that whole solution to the end client. 

JiE: What are you most excited about for the ETF community?

MR: To me there is still a really big group of people excluded who are not investing at all and this mentality needs to change. 10-15 years ago it was hard to invest, but these days this is not the case. ETFs can offer a fool-proof way to invest with the right guidance. It’s exciting being able to enable investors though we still need to improve communication and education as an industry. 

Jobs in ETFs: What is work-life balance for you and how do you achieve it?

MR: I manage reasonably well I think. The office is a 15 minute bike ride from home and I’m able to drop my youngest daughter off at school 

I have seven children, (four girls and three boys) the oldest two are at university and my youngest is 9. I try to spend time with the family as much as I can, be at their sports activities, enjoy a movie together or eating out. If I need to work more, then I will do it in the evening when they sleep. 

I would say that I spend the least amount of time on myself although for the past couple of years I have incorporated exercise into my routine – running and/or going to the gym three times a week.