"I feel that being a portfolio manager is a lifestyle"

Fund managers need to constantly be on their guard and commit to lifelong learning, according to Anette Hjertø who became head of absolute return at DNB AM in the fall. She tells AMWatch her story and about how she uses her experience and interest in politics in her current role.
Besides her position as head of absolute return investments at DNB Asset Management, Anette Hjertø head a committee aiming to bring more women into a career in finance. | Photo: PR / DNB AM
Besides her position as head of absolute return investments at DNB Asset Management, Anette Hjertø head a committee aiming to bring more women into a career in finance. | Photo: PR / DNB AM

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

"I always thought I would work with international politics, which have been of great interest to me since I was a teenager. I was politically active during my high school years and actually started studying comparative politics at university. But after a while I realized that even though I found political science fascinating, I felt the need to study something more tangible.

That is when I moved over to the Norwegian School of Economics where I completed a business degree. Today, I feel that I have the perfect combination of both worlds; trying to adapt our portfolios both to the technical ways of the market and at the same time keeping a close eye on geopolitics, a factor that has become a very important driver for the market return, along with monetary and fiscal policy, of course."

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

"I would have liked to say that it was my half year studying philosophy, but it was without a doubt my MBA in finance that gave me the most. I did the MBA after I had been working for a few years and finished it in 2017 while working full-time.

I had a much better foundation for understanding all the academic knowledge that I was presented with. I was a bit surprised about how much of a difference it made to study something that you could use in your everyday work.

My study group with people from other parts of the finance industry actually still get together years after we finished our degrees, and we still discuss both financial theory and practical implementation. Working in this industry you really commit to lifelong learning, which is one of the things I like about working with portfolio management; there is always more to learn!"

Which part of your resumé represents the biggest change in your career?

"The biggest change must have been in 2007 when I went from a position as a mid-office analyst to working in the fixed income team in the Norwegian pension fund KLP.

When you work in mid-office, you have a pretty good understanding of the market and all of the technicalities. But going into portfolio management, you have to learn how to take risks and you have to live with the risks you take.

Since then, I have worked as a portfolio manager on various mandates. To me, the change from managing bonds to managing balanced funds to my current role managing absolute return mandates is much of the same.

I feel that being a portfolio manager is a lifestyle; you will always have your positions and your responsibility to your clients with you."

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

"I have been lucky to work with extremely skilled and talented coworkers in all the positions I have had, so it is impossible for me to point to one in particular as an inspiration for the career choices I have made.

They have all contributed in various ways. But I do have to mention that there are two leaders that have inspired me to work for more diversity in our industry, and they are Olaug Svarva, Chair of the Board at DNB, and Alexandra Morris, Investment Director at Skagen Funds.

Morris is one of the founders of the ‘Females in Front-end of Finance’ committee which I am currently leading. We are working to get more females in the front-end roles of the finance industry. In Norway, less than 10 percent of these positions are occupied by women.

Olaug Svarva was the highest-ranking woman in the finance industry in Norway. She was the Head of Folketrygdfondet (the government pension fund) until 2018 and I have met her a few times. I especially remember a very inspiring speech she gave about women in the finance industry in Norway."

What occupies you the most right now?

"Right now, my main focus is building a team, and with that team, launching two new funds for our clients; one multi strategy fund of DNB-managed strategies and one fund of funds with both DNB funds and selected funds managed by external managers."

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