Sustainable business operations
We see corporate social responsibility as much more than simply complying with minimum laws and regulations. Responsible business practices play a role in every choice we make. By definition, this does of course create dilemmas, as we have to make decisions in that area of conflict between financial profit and social returns. The challenge for us is to act according to the principle of corporate social responsibility in a way that is appropriate for Bouwinvest, that responds to the expectations of our stakeholders and creates added social value. Our strategy is focused on reducing the environmental impact of the management organisation, increasing employee satisfaction and engagement and community engagement in a broader sense.
Environmental impact management organisation
The management organisation is also working on reducing its environmental impact. Last year, we took measures to make our head office more sustainable and modernised the climate control system. Following the completion of the renovation works, we expect the building to be awarded a BREEAM-NL-In-Use VERY GOOD rating. Thanks to the addition of energy-efficient technical installations, new climate ceiling systems, LED lighting and solar panels, the building’s energy label improved to A from C. Our goal is to reduce the energy consumption of our head office, in cooperation with the owner, to the Paris-proof norm of 50 kWh/m2 in the years ahead.
In connection with the renovation and refurbishment of the head office, we do not have any complete and representative data on energy use or for the total environmental impact of the management organisation in 2019. We have therefore decided to not report on energy use and our CO2 footprint in 2019. In 2020, we will once again have representative data on our environmental impact, which we expect to show the effects of the measures we took last year.
Wherever possible, we target the reduction of our CO2 footprint. One negative effect of our international growth is the increase in CO2 emissions due to business flights. We try to prevent or reduce CO2 emissions as much as possible through the use of digital communications or alternative forms of transport. In addition, we have decided that from 2020 onwards, we will offset all our business flights. We will offset any emissions we caused last year retroactively.
Growing management organisation
In a fiercely competitive environment, we are steadily increasing our focus on providing our clients with good and effective services. Not only have we adjusted and improved our process and working methods; changing circumstances also require that our employees ‘Move up to the Next Level’. The changes the organisation is undergoing can be seen, for one, in the growth of the number of employees. In 2019, we added 20 FTEs to take our total workforce to 185 FTEs. More specifically, we added even more expertise in the fields of innovation, sustainability and corporate social responsibility, data analysis and IT. Due to the ongoing internationalisation of our business activities, this included hires for our offices in Australia and North America. Despite the tight labour market, Bouwinvest has little problem recruiting new talent, due in part to Bouwinvest’s solid track record as a good employer. And last year, Bouwinvest was once again awarded the three-star ‘Best Employer’ title by Effectory.
Our HR policy involves more than just the successful recruitment and effective onboarding of our new employees; we also devote a great deal of attention to fostering a positive working climate. We have drastically refurbished and improved our Amsterdam head office, including the addition of a flexible, welcoming and healthier working environment. As part of this, we have also made the food and drinks on offer in our company restaurant more varied and healthier.
Increasing employee satisfaction and engagement
Bouwinvest attaches a great deal of importance to being a good employer. Last year, we devoted a great deal of attention to the social connection between our employees, pleasant working conditions, good employment terms and conditions and appropriate remuneration. To promote the flexibility and career progression of our employees, as part of our new job classification system, we created groups of positions with comparable responsibilities.
In the biennial employee satisfaction survey we conducted in 2019, Bouwinvest was given a score of 7.8, well above average when compared with the benchmark score of 7.3 for the financial sector. One of the most important findings in this survey was that employees gave their own engagement a score of 8.1, compared with an average of 7.4 in the financial sector. We also scored well on motivation. Bouwinvest employees gave themselves a score of 7.9, compared with the benchmark score of 7.3.
In 2019, absenteeism was below the average in the Dutch financial sector. To help us quickly integrate new employees, we have developed a buddy system. This helps in the onboarding process and boosts and accelerates engagement with the Bouwinvest organisation. For the fourth year in a row, a group of colleagues completed a personal leadership training course and last year we launched a Colleague Coaching programme. In addition, due to the rising retirement age, we devoted extra attention to the development of older employees.
Community engagement & sponsoring
In 2018, Bouwinvest launched the Promotion of Community Service scheme for our employees. Each employee is now allowed to devote one working day per year to a good cause via the DeedMob platform. Last year, 108 employees made use of this scheme, clocking up around 864 hours in voluntary work, way above the expected minimum of 500 hours. Most activities were carried out by teams of people. They organised meals for homeless people and helped a group of elderly people suffering from dementia with their daily activities. Finally, we sponsor various social initiatives, such as Homeplan and Museum Het Schip in Amsterdam.
Net profit came in at € 4.3 million in 2019 (2018: € 3.2 million). The operating result of € 4.1 million recorded in 2019 was € 1.8 million higher than in 2018. This rise was due to an increase in the management fee and a lower increase in operating expenses.
Compared with 2018, the management fee increased by € 7.7 million to € 46.1 million in 2019 (2018: € 38.5 million). The increase in the management fee was driven by the 15% rise in invested capital compared with 2018. Both the international mandates and the Dutch funds saw an increase in their invested capital.
Operating costs increased by € 5.9 million (16.3%) to € 42.0 million in 2019, compared with € 36.1 million in 2018. This rise was the result of € 3.0 million higher personnel costs, € 0.4 million higher amortisation costs and higher operating costs of € 2.5 million.
The rise in personnel costs was due to the increase in the number of employees to 185 FTEs (2018: 170 FTEs), and the extra hiring of personnel. This increase in staff numbers will enable Bouwinvest to increase its managed capital in a controlled manner and to remain state-of-the-art as an organisation. The extra hires were largely deployed to fill open vacancies and for the execution of current projects.
Depreciation costs increased by € 0.4 million as a result of the completion of the renovation of the Bouwinvest head office and a number of major IT projects, including a SAP upgrade.
Other operating costs increased by € 2.5 million in 2019 compared with 2018. Automation costs came in € 1.3 million higher, due to increased IT support and the execution of major projects. Consultancy costs came in € 0.4 million higher as a result of the optimisation of the risk management systems and the opening of offices outside the Netherlands. In general, rising costs and heavy investments resulted in a € 0.4 million higher costs for non-deductible VAT. The opening of Bouwinvest’s first foreign office in Sydney, Australia, had a negative impact of € 0.2 million on the result.
At year-end 2019, Bouwinvest recognised a deferred tax liability of € 1.2 million for the difference between the fiscal and commercial valuation of its investments.
Bouwinvest’s shareholders’ equity increased by € 1.3 million to € 34.4 million in 2019, due to the addition of the net profit for 2019 (€ 4.3 million) and the payment of dividends over 2018 (€ 3 million). The solvency ratio increased by 2% to 72% in 2019 (2018: 70%) on the back of the increase in shareholders’ equity and a decline of € 0.9 million in short-term borrowings.
At year-end 2019, Bouwinvest had € 26 million available in its current account with house banker ABN AMRO. This was more than sufficient to meet all of its outstanding obligations and to meet the formal requirements of the Alternative Investment Fund Manager Directive (AIFMD).
Profit distribution and dividend policy
In line with the capital policy, the Executive Board of Directors proposes to strengthen Bouwinvest’s shareholders equity by adding the result of € 4,264,000 for 2019 to the retained earnings.
Bouwinvest is in talks with the Dutch tax authorities regarding the taxable fiscal result of Bouwinvest Office Development B.V. on the development of the Move and The Garage buildings. Bouwinvest has explained how it calculated this result and which factors contributed to the increase in the market value of both objects during the development. Based on a decision of the Ministry of Finance in the autumn of 2019, the tax authorities will take the standpoint that the result on the redevelopment will have to be determined in a different manner than that agreed between Office Development B.V. and the Office Fund N.V. In 2020, we will continue the talks with the tax authorities with the aim of reaching agreement with said tax authorities.