Risk Talk with Douwe. Are You the Next Chairman?

In March 2021, the current Risk board will be relieved of command and the next board will be installed. Even though that is 4 months away, Risk is already looking around for successors! In this article, the current chairman will answer some questions you might ask yourself when you consider doing a board year at Risk. Specifically, these questions are answered from the position of chairman. Let’s get started!

Article about the positions of Secretary and Treasurer: Johan & Noor
Article about the positions of Vice-Chairman, External Relations & Internal Relations: Gijs, Sebastiaan and Sarah

Hi! For those who don’t know you, could you briefly introduce yourself?

Of course! My name is Douwe Schat, I’m 22 years old. Currently studying EBE and I’m the Chairman of the Risk Board. Among other things, I enjoy sailing and skiing. The latter being one of the highlights of every year for me. Unfortunately, this year a (Risk) skiing trip may not be possible but that makes the next trip I can go on even more fun.

Before your board year, did you already partake in a committee within Risk?

Yes! Actually, I already had my first encounter with Risk before I started studying in Groningen. It was at one of the RUG open days. I joined one of the informal activities put forward by the RUG and already at that time I was interested in investing. At the open day, I talked to a student about my interest in investment and he advised me to take a look at the investment team at Risk! Afterward I found out what this committee really is about. And that the team invests in a shared portfolio with 24 other students. It sounded very appealing! However, when I started my studies here in Groningen, I totally forgot about all of it. But, at the end of my first year, I suddenly thought of Risk and the investment team again. So, I send an email to an acquaintance who was part of the investment team, and I got invited. I still partake in the investment team right now but currently more on the background as a supervisor. I actually considered the other committees at Risk as well. But at the time I was saturated with investing and my desire to learn more about it. If I had the time, I would’ve definitely tried to partake in another committee though.

What eventually made you decide to apply for a board year? And did you specifically apply for the position of chairman?

The most important aspect for me why I applied for a board year at Risk, is the perfect combination between professionality and fun. And I did indeed specifically apply for the chairman position. What attracted me mainly was the fast-moving role you have as a chair. Moreover, I chose this role partly because of the recommendation of a friend of mine. He also did a board year, but at another association so I contacted him and asked what drove him to take a full-time board year. I got great insights from him. Moreover, I called some previous board members of previous years and eventually I got very excited because it seemed like a lot of fun.

This year is challenging for everyone, what challenges did you specifically encounter as a consequence of the COVID-19 Pandemic? 

Well... where do I start?! Our board year actually started on the first day of the lockdown, which was, you guessed it, not ideal. Normally, a new board has the opportunity to talk to previous boards who have experience on all issues we might encounter. But, of course, in the pandemic there was no policy written for what would be the best next step. One of the problems for instance, was how would we support the communication between committee members. We ended up providing a completely new digital infrastructure for all of the active members. Moreover, one of the challenges that arose is how we were going to meet with the board. Because everyone knows that online meetings are not as efficient as physical meetings. And with the Interim shut down, we were all stuck at home. After 3 months, we had the possibility to rent an external location where we could meet up with each other. This made our communication way more efficient. Even though this made discussions easier, literally every event we organized thus far has been different compared to previous years.

And do you believe that you, together with the board, managed to successfully address those challenges? Could you give one main example you’re proud of?

What I am specifically proud of was organizing the formal activities when the pandemic started. We were installed on the day of the lockdown, but we did not let this influence our policy. We put our heads together and decided on how to organize all the formal events. We were very determined, whatever it took! Eventually this succeeded and every formal event was able to take place. For instance, a little while ago we had an online accountancy tour where participating students would normally go to the Randstad and would physically meet up with participating companies. So, a huge challenge was how to organize this event in such a way that it is as interesting online and holds people’s attention via webcam and a microphone. As it turned out, we were one of the few associations in Groningen who managed to successfully plan and execute every event we set out to have. Even though it is a bit trial and error, it’s awesome that we managed to pull this off.

Do you think that the inability to meet up in the beginning of the instalment made it hard to get acquainted with the rest of the board?

Actually, in that aspect we were kind of lucky! Because our orientation period was before the lockdown, during that time we were still able to meet up and get to know each other well. Moreover, with Victor and the rest of the previous board still around we could easily discuss the ins and outs of the entire association. So, luckily in the first six weeks we saw each other a lot. And in this period, I felt like I got to know the other board members well enough to have efficient communication offline as well as online.

Could you run us through the selection process and how that was for you? Starting with what the application process looked like and ending with the official instalment of the entire board.

When I was in Asia, I got in contact with Victor, the previous chairman of Risk. Victor advised me to talk to some other board members, so that’s what I did. These calls made me really enthusiastic about this opportunity and I decided to go for it and apply for the position of chairman. For the application, I made a one-pager with a motivation letter and my resume, which I send to the internal relations back then. The interview was online which, in hindsight, makes me think I was destined to be the chairman in the pandemic ;). After this interview, it took about one week for the current board, together with the advisory organ of Risk to decide that they liked me as the new chairman the following year! When I got that news, I was still in Asia and immediately started contacting fellow students of whom I either knew or thought they might be interested in partaking in this full-time board year. In the beginning of January, I came back to Holland and Victor showed me around the interim where I quickly got to know all of the other associations who are situated there as well. Then, in the beginning of February, we had the announcement of the entire board. This was followed by six weeks of getting to know each other. Within these six weeks, the most intense days were during the policy weekend. An awesome time where we set out our goals for the coming year.

Could you name some of the responsibilities you have as a chairman?

Sure! First things first, I am responsible for the coordination and well-being of the board, checking in on everyone and being there for whoever needs me. Additionally, I am responsible for the strategy of Risk. Moreover, I am responsible for the policy we set out in the beginning. Here we worked out a plan and created a vision about what we want to achieve. However, we wrote this policy without taking COVID-19 into account because it was not an issue back then. So, we had to look at our policy from a completely different angle, but fortunately we did manage to stick with what we set out to do. Furthermore, I am responsible for external contacts. Not specifically the companies, but all of the stakeholder of Risk, among others; the University, other associations and the Financial Association of the Netherlands.

What would a typical day look like as a chairman of Risk? 

Every day is different; I also really like that about the chairman position. One day could sort of look like this: I will cycle to the university an arrive at the interim at 10 o’clock, I grab a drink and will check my calendar. then I’ll have a committee meeting where I would discuss the progress of an event. After that I will work on policy points with another board member. Then we will have lunch at the interim and in the afternoon, I will have a meeting with a professor from the Master Finance to discuss what Risk can do for this degree. For instance, organizing a thesis and internship event. Afterwards, I’ll check my email again and address the ones who have priority first and perhaps I’ll make a couple of calls. Later, we might get together with the board and have dinner with potentially some beers on the side. This could be one of my days, however, it can also be completely different where you quickly have to react to certain problems that arise during the day or week.  I would describe my days to be really dynamic!

Could you give us some examples of what moments you appreciated most of your board year? The moments you’ll cherish when looking back? 

Every Monday is a fun evening because this is our board evening. We would meet up online due to the corona measures or physically and enjoy each other’s company. One specific night I won’t forget was the recent online pub quiz we organized; we had a lot of fun meeting all other active members of Risk in an informal manner. Moreover, what directly comes to mind is the board weekend where we went to my parent’s place and had a lot of fun in the summer with golfing, barbecue and a lot of laughs.

Thank you for having me Douwe! Do you have any last takeaways for our readers?  

You’re welcome! One thing I’d like to mention is that I did not expect to gain the large number of nice friendships I created with the other associations at the interim. I personally believe that the interim might be the most fun place in Groningen to be right now! In all honesty, in the very beginning of COVID-19, I was a little skeptical if we would still be able to have the awesome time, we set out to have. But when I look back at it now, I would definitely apply again. Despite the difficult situation we all are in right now, it has been an amazing time thus far. Lastly, what I would advise someone who is interested in doing a board year? Schedule a call or a Corona-proof-get-together with anyone from the board! You can get in touch with me via chairman@Riskgroningen.nl. We can always have a chat and I’m happy to answer all questions you might have.