"I have learned that great leaders are defined by their followers"

Career Path: Søren Kjær has built businesses and constructed teams throughout his career. He has always focused on hiring the right people, and he proudly mentions several great hires he has made in his career. When he entered the world of wealth management, he was further strengthened in this belief.

Søren Kjær | Photo: PR/KBL

Which career path did you imagine for yourself when you were younger? 

"When I was younger, I wanted to become a medical doctor: I liked the idea of a job where you could make a difference and help other people. I think it is a job with a lot of occupational satisfaction and daily challenges. In the end I think I have always been more commercial in nature so instead, I decided to go to law school, and I got accepted straight after high school.

However, my interest in financial markets got a hold of me during the mid-80s and I chose to move from my hometown Silkeborg to Copenhagen to go to business school and never started Law School. I wanted to get closer to the financial markets, but I also wanted to be closer to an international market, and the first step was the capital."

Which parts of your education have you used the most in your career? 

"The most important thing to me is that there has been a lot of on-the-job training and management courses, which was provided by some excellent employers, leaders and role models. Nevertheless, I had the chance to take an EDP course at Wharton in 1998, transition to General Management, which proved extremely valuable for me in terms of usability later.

The contents of the course exactly matched the career challenges I was experiencing at the time with a strong focus on psychological skills, managing talent and change. Back then, I was moving from a specialized strategy role to one in general management. The course gave me a great deal of management tools which I have used throughout my career, and which I still use today."

Which parts of your CV represent the biggest changes to your career?

"I had the chance to work for Novo A/S as a Partner in Novo Ventures for three years. It was a huge change to go from banking to life science, but it was also a major change to return back to banking. It was a great challenge to work at Novo A/S and I met many interesting and bright people and travelled a lot in the US & Canada, but I also realized that my place was in banking. After three years, when I got offered a job at Credit Suisse in London and it felt like coming home.

On a more personal level, I left a secure job in 2007 to travel around the world with my family for six months. We travelled in Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Polynesia and in the US. It was a major change and risk, but it was a fantastic experience, and it gave me a perspective and a cultural understanding that I have found highly valuable and helpful ever since."

What's the most important skill or experience that you gained from your former jobs that is applicable to your next staff role?

"During my career, I have hired many people with various skills, and I have found out that hiring great people makes all the difference.

I find it very challenging to find the right person to the right set up. It’s not just about finding the right person for the right job, but also about the right combination of professional and personal skills in a team. In the last ten years, which I have spent in private banking, it has become even more important to hire the right people. Private banking is definitely a people business."

Which leader in the business has inspired your career the most?

"Three leaders have been inspirational as well as directly motivational for me and inspired my career. The first one was Annika Falkengren (the former CEO at SEB, who is now managing partner at Lombard Odier Group).

She gave me my first major break, a real challenge, and extended major trust in me, initially by sending me to Asia and later when we built SEB in Denmark from scratch. Another inspiration has been Jakob Stott, who is my current CEO, but also a colleague I knew from my time at UBS, and even from J.P. Morgan in London. I consider him to be a great leader, energetic and visionary.

Finally, Michael Pram Rasmussen has had a great impact on my career in the last 10 years. We met as neighbours and soon became good friends. I find his advice, thoughts, pleasant nature and determination in business to be a source of inspiration.

I have learned that great leaders are defined by their followers, and I subscribe to that notion."

What occupies you the most right now?

"As we recently opened our Copenhagen office of Quintet Private Bank, and taking over the role for CEO as Quintet Luxembourg as well, the task of continuously building the bank fills my calendar as does navigating a growth agenda in uncertain Covid times.

I think I have become a financial entrepreneur consumed with growing financial services companies (like I did at SEB and UBS and am currently doing at Quintet). It looks easier on a slide deck than executing it is in real life, and it’s all about the right people. I enjoy growing businesses, bringing change and inducing energy into organisations and seeing how teams excel and transformation takes place. That ties in nicely with my early aspirations."

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