Hans Vander Plaats ’10
Portfolio specialist, Aligned Investors, Des Moines, Iowa
Hans Vander Plaats

A profitable investment

Hans grew up just 30 miles from Northwestern’s campus, and that—along with the college’s strong academic reputation and Christian emphasis—helped him decide to enroll. He was a member of the Red Raider basketball and golf teams and served as a business and writing tutor. His microeconomics class gave him a new lens to view the world and led him to choose majors in business administration/finance and economics. He spent a semester studying history at the University of Oxford in England and interned two summers at an insurance company in New York City.

What does your job involve?
Aligned Investors is an investment group within Principal Financial Group that manages U.S. equity investment strategies. As a portfolio specialist, I wear a few different hats. I communicate regularly with larger clients and prospective clients, explaining our investment approach and results. I write our investment commentary and “thought capital,” and I work with Principal’s marketing department to craft relevant content. The role enables me to be close to the investment process while also taking the lead on more creative projects, a balance I enjoy.

How well did Northwestern prepare you for your career?
Very well. I started my career at a firm in New York, and many peers in my hiring class were from well-known East Coast schools. Over my two years there I consistently felt I was better prepared than most of my peers. The finance, accounting and economics courses were also valuable in preparing me for the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exams, putting me in position to acquire a designation that is highly regarded in my industry.

What do you feel you gained the most from your NWC experience?
Curiosity and a desire to continue learning beyond formal education. Before Northwestern, school was always something to get through, but early in college I had a few courses I really enjoyed, along with a couple professors who went out of their way to give me confidence and push me toward more academic pursuits. I had somewhat of a lightbulb moment when I recognized that reading and learning could be about much more than getting a certain grade—that it could, in fact, be an enriching lifelong experience. Plus, I gained some awesome friends from my time in Colenbrander Hall!

What are Northwestern’s professors like?
Across the board they are smart and extremely well qualified. They want to have an impact on students’ lives, and they want to do that in an environment where they can share and deepen their faith. Northwestern is a wonderful place to do that.

How did your internship prepare you for your career?
It definitely helped smooth the transition to starting a career. Corporate life is a lot different than college. Having some experience before starting full time was a benefit. And they hired me right after graduation.

How has studying at a liberal arts college helped you?
For my career, critical thinking and the ability to learn quickly are more important than the depth of technical knowledge I have on any given subject. The liberal arts approach is beneficial in building those skills.