Norway oil fund’s new chief overhauls management

Meghann Showers

Nicolai Tangen has put his stamp on the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, removing his predecessor from the top leadership group and placing an emphasis on technology and responsible ownership at Norway’s $1tn oil fund. In his first public steps since taking over as chief executive after a contentious hiring […]

Nicolai Tangen has put his stamp on the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, removing his predecessor from the top leadership group and placing an emphasis on technology and responsible ownership at Norway’s $1tn oil fund.

In his first public steps since taking over as chief executive after a contentious hiring process, Mr Tangen found no place in his smaller leadership team for his predecessor Yngve Slyngstad.

Mr Tangen told the Financial Times in his first interview as chief executive that the shake-up was “the perfect trade-off between continuity and some refreshment”.

The former hedge fund manager has set up three new jobs: a chief operating officer, chief technology officer and a chief real assets officer in charge of the fund’s investments in both property and infrastructure.

“This is already a very strong organisation and a great fund. There’s no kind of need for a full-scale change,” Mr Tangen said.

But he added that he wanted more emphasis on technology — including its use in the investment process — as the fund processed more transactions, 30m, in a year than Oslo’s stock exchange. He also wanted to put “more weight” behind its environmental, social and governance work where it will hire new staff members.

Mr Tangen’s arrival at the fund was shrouded in controversy after Norway’s politicians forced him to divest his entire stake in AKO Capital, a London-based hedge fund he set up in 2005, as well as his other investments amid questions about potential conflicts of interest and his holdings in tax havens.

Mr Tangen’s leadership team will consist of nine people, down from 12 under Mr Slyngstad. Trond Grande, who applied for the chief executive role, will continue as deputy chief while Carine Smith Ihenacho, who has led the fund’s corporate governance work, will also take over responsibility for compliance and control. Three of the nine are women.

Mr Slyngstad is not part of the new team and it is not yet decided whether he will take up the role of head of renewable infrastructure as previously announced. “His final title is still to be decided,” said Mr Tangen, who added it was a “privilege to utilise” his predecessor’s experience as a special adviser.

Mr Tangen said it was difficult for him to talk about his own reputation following the difficult recruitment process but that he believed the “trust we have with the stakeholders is good”.

He also stressed that he wanted more female leaders and said the fund would restart its trainee programme to help improve its diversity. Women make up just one in five employees of Norges Bank Investment Management, the oil fund’s manager.

“This is not good enough. One of my primary priorities is to promote diversity,” said Mr Tangen. “A good organisation needs employees with different perspectives.”

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