Chief strategist: Nordea lifts up talented youth

The career path: Bjarne Breinholt Thomsen, chief strategist at Nordea in Denmark. What has been the biggest shift in his career, who is his greatest source of inspiration, and does he think that Nordea is particularly skilled at molding new chief strategists? Read the answers here.

Nordea's big Danish department for asset management, which has endured many nicknames over the years, has acted hatching station for several of the chief strategists who today seek to paint a comprehensive picture in the media of the global securities markets. In fact, several of them are former close colleagues who are now scattered to the four winds across Denmark. Bjarne Breinholt Thomsen has taken over the part of chief strategist after Frank Hvid, who is now head of Strategy & Portfolio Management in Carnegie. His former colleague in the same team, Henrik Drusebjerg, is chief strategist in Carnegie, and another player from the Nordea team at the time, Tine Choi, is chief strategist in Danske Capital. FW Asset Management caught Bjarne Thomsen by email:

What career path did you see yourself on when you were younger?

That depends a lot on how far back you go. I was born and raised at a farm, and far into my teenage years I thought I would follow in my father’s footsteps and become a farmer.

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

When I finished primary and lower secondary school, I went on to Danish upper secondary so I wouldn’t have too limited options later in life. During my time in upper secondary, I realized I wanted a career in the financial sector. Math has always been my favourite subject, and in upper secondary I developed a big interest in investment. The combination of those two things made it clear which way to go. At the time I saw myself as a share analyst, which I think many do at that age because it’s easier to approach than a position as, for example, strategist.

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

My MA in political science is without question the part of my education that I use most often in my function as chief strategist. Not alone is the economic and theoretical background that you get at university the foundation of all decisions that are made during the process of designing investment strategy, but also the fact that university trains you to use a critical, analytical approach to data and information is a great advantage in my position.

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

It’s tempting to mention the shift from the Integration Ministry to Nordea. But I’d say my shift from senior strategist to chief strategist is the biggest shift. As early as back when I came to the ministry in my student days, I knew that the financial sector was my destination, which is why I don’t regard it as the biggest shift in my career.

Going from senior strategist to chief strategist means that the final responsibility rests on my shoulders, and that’s why it was a bigger shift. When I was a senior strategist, somebody else shouldered that responsibility. 

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

Frank Hvid Petersen was my superior for almost 8 years, and throughout that time he has been a very direct inspiration to me.

The chief strategists in C Worldwide and Danske Capital are your former colleagues from Nordea; is Nordea just particularly good at hatching strategists?

That’s a good question. I don’t think Nordea is unique like that, but Nordea has intensified focus on Asset Allocation, and subsequently employs more strategists. At the same time Nordea is probably the North European bank with most competences combined across fields, which lifts talented young people forward faster.

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