AMWatch

"It’s not a career that should allow you to become vain"

Career Path: After stints at LD and Sampension before that, Lars Wallberg looks back on his career so far, and finds the huge changes in the Danish labour-market pensions system have given him a wealth of challenges.

Photo: PR-foto

What career path did you envision for yourself when you were younger?

"Well, I studied economics at the University of Copenhagen, but I didn’t imagine working in the financial sector until I wrote my thesis. It was on different pension models.

It actually turned out to be very interesting, and somewhat to my surprise, I really enjoyed writing it. Before that, even though I didn’t really have a plan, I suppose I had imagined working in the public sector. But after the thesis, it seemed natural to me to go into the financial sector. And I’ve never turned back or regretted it. Back then — 30 years ago — it was a particularly exciting time in pensions in Denmark, with labour-market coverage just beginning for the manual labour market. It’s the trajectory since then that has put Denmark where it is today."

When did you decide on the career path that you're on today?

"I've been so fortunate in the way things worked out, because my commitment to the career I chose has grown and grown. The jobs I’ve had and the way the industry has developed have given me a new challenge every year.

Of course, I have had different roles, starting as a financial analyst and then becoming a manager, and later moving to LD where I had broader responsibility, until finally since 2011 I had responsibility for both finance and investment. It has been financially rewarding, it’s true, but also intellectually, because there are so many things that happen to keep you sharp.

It’s not a career that should allow you to become vain, because you’re always aware it’s other peoples’ money you’re managing. And that’s important, because some of the things that go wrong in the financial sector happen when people forget that."

What part of your education has been most useful in your career?

"I didn't take much in the way of financial courses at university — finance is something I learned later on. But looking back, I think the fact I studied economics gave me an interest in society in a broader sense, and that’s something that I have been able to make a part of my job.

And it has been good for me to see it that way, making it more interesting for me personally, but also making me more productive. What I tend to see is more than just what’s on a spreadsheet."

What part of your CV represents the most drastic change in your career path?

"Drastic changes? That would be an exaggeration, but we did carry out a big change at LD when we went from internal investment management to outsourcing the management of all assets and scaling down the organisation itself.

As a manager, that is a radically different way of managing a business, though whether it makes it easier for you or not is an open question. As a result of that overhaul at LD, I ended up spending a lot of time identifying potential business partners and creating relationships with them and monitoring their results.

That’s a very different job; you have to empower your team members to reach out to people working outside your organisation to discuss matters that come up. Instead of having your staff rely on the management pyramid within their organisation, you have to enable them to have peer-to-peer discussions, because that’s the only way the communication structure is going to be flexible enough."

Which leader in the industry has been most inspiring to you career-wise?

"That’s a hard one. I have been lucky enough to work with many people who have been inspiring — both in management positions and among my peers. I can't single out one person. All I can say is that for me, it’s an industry with a lot of very inspiring people. That's something that has really kept me on this career path."

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