Get to know… Michiel Oortman Gerlings

Michiel en Suzanne met hond Stach

How old are you, where do you live and with whom?
I am 57 years old and have been married to Suzanne for 26 years; we have 3 studying children who are all members of the family fund by now. Suzanne and I live in Baarn with our dog, Stach. It is quite special to be two now that the children have left the house. But during the weekends, there is always at least one child at home to provide us with a bit of action.

Two of our children are doing internships abroad this academic year, which we follow from a distance. We have a family house in Zeeland. My brother lives there and we regularly go there on holiday. We then stay in the “gardener’s cottage”.

How long have you been a member of the family fund?
Since I was 21, thanks to my parents. They were both members and even met through the fund! They come from different stakes, but both had the right to vote. My uncle Jan Heyse was administrator for a long time and I slowly but surely got into it.

How long have you been active in the family fund, and in what positions?
In 2011/2012, I was asked to join the Asset Advisory Committee. At first I thought it was a mistake, because my brother with his “banking background” is more financially savvy. However, it turned out not to be a mistake and I accepted.

In 2017, I was asked to become an administrator. This came rather unexpectedly due to the resignation of Bernhard van Meeteren.

What motivates you to be active for the fund?
The fact that the fund exists at all should be cherished. None of the current family members has ever had to do anything for the property that is now managed by the Fund. It is just there.

As administrator, you try to assess each application as objectively as possible. You look at each application from all sides to make a fair decision within the rules and in the spirit of the fund. No two applications are alike and that makes applying the principle of equality a challenge!

What memorable moments stand out for you from your time with the family fund so far?
The last lustrum was an absolute highlight; 250 years is no mean feat… So many people together who are all related to each other. Very special.

The family meeting in January is an annual highlight, especially because of the ambiance afterwards. We will try to get together again “live” as soon as possible. Starting with the upcoming family day on 9 July 2022.

How do you see the future of the family fund?
If all goes well, the fund will still exist in 250 years. That is something that no bank can categorise. They have categories for up to a few decades in the future, but not for 250 years or even longer.

As administrators, we are temporarily managing something that has existed for a very long time and will continue to exist for a very long time. That is very special, where do you find that anymore?

What is your profession?
I have been a notary for 22 years and I still enjoy it. There is an increasing amount of administrative work involved. It’s part of the job, but these days you’re sometimes judged more on that than on the legal content. It’s all extra work that has little to do with the content of the profession.

What are your hobbies/interests?
I have been a navigator at classic rallies [= rallies with classic cars] for 15 years. I have an MG from 1976, but as a navigator you always get into other people’s cars. So sometimes I sit next to the driver in my own car, or in the driver’s car.

I also regularly navigate at international rallies. It may sound strange, but 10-12 hours in a car with the map on my lap clears my head.

[When I ask if the navigation is done by the dot-arrow-system (that’s the only thing I ever heard of) he tells me that there are about 80 map-reading systems, and that they all use them interchangeably. Pffft!]
The Tulip Rally is the oldest Dutch rally and is on the agenda again in May. It normally ends at Huis ter Duin in Noordwijk. Hopefully that will happen again this year…

In your opinion, what is your best quality, and what is your worst?
Well, what can I say to that…? I think my best quality is my sense of justice. If someone applies to the family fund, it is because of a reason; you have to expose yourself. As an administrator, I try to look at both sides as best I can, to represent both the applicant and the fund. Is this fair? Is it within the rules? You have to weigh up every application very carefully.

[Michiel calls in his wife Suzanne for his worst quality. He himself leaves so we can talk freely. Suzanne tells me the following:]
Michiel is very empathetic, he can empathise with others. He has integrity. Michiel is a very hard worker. The function of acting administrator is very intensive; it really is a second job.

As a quality trait I would say the fact that he cannot say no when people ask him for personal help, and then I mean in practical matters. [You could also consider that a good thing, but I think Suzanne means that it sometimes comes at the expense of himself and his family.]

What does your ultimate day of self-care look like?
I love being in our little house in Zeeland. That is the ultimate relaxation for me. Walcheren, cycling, tinkering around in the garden. Going for a walk on the beach or in the woods with the dog… wonderful!

Anything else you want to say?
I like the fact that things are now happening in the family fund. These interviews are a good initiative!

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