An exhilarating adventure

corporate

An exhilarating adventure

Annika Falkengren spent 30 years at Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB), and during her 12-year tenure as CEO successfully guided the Nordic banking group through the global financial crisis. So what prompted her to change jobs, change country and take on a huge new adventure, all in one fell swoop? In a word: “passion”.

“That was one of the striking things about coming here,” she said in an interview earlier this year. “When the partners spoke to me I could really feel their passion for this Group, and I found that I wanted to be a part of that experience.” “And you can feel it throughout the Group. The people who work here truly like and admire what Lombard Odier stands for.”

Ms Falkengren’s appointment was big news when it was announced in 2017. The Swedish executive’s arrival was described by the Financial Times as a valuable coup, but her rationale was a simple one. More than a decade at the helm of the far larger and publicly listed SEB meant that her role’s tasks and responsibilities had competed for attention with crucial direct contact with clients and staff. And that didn’t play to all of Falkengren’s strengths.

Our Group is organised as a partnership. Our partners are entrepreneurs. They own and manage the business as well as personally looking after some of the firm’s key client relationships.“I love to be able to follow an important matter to the end, to dig into the nitty gritty. At the same time I am very much a social animal and meeting customers and being directly in contact with colleagues at all levels is what makes my day.

“That gives me the energy to do the other parts of a senior job like this, which might be sitting alone in my office reading and digesting thousands of pages of reports. That is rewarding in another way, and can’t be avoided. But it is true that I am happiest out in the fields, helping with the hands-on digging, or at least in a role where there is a good balance between the two extremes.”


New home

Lombard Odier’s intense focus on client service will make sure she can quickly get her hands dirty, and put into practice the investment and business lessons she has acquired during a life at the heart of the banking sector. Falkengren is the Managing Partner allocated responsibility for the supervision of the Finance function at Group Lombard Odier, as well as a key role in developing our longer-term plans.

“This is a very different bank and a very different job. I am now part of a true partnership, which gathers different but complementary skills around the same table, and where everyone must agree before a decision is implemented. That is very rewarding, even quite exhilarating, but also very new to me. The partnership model also gives me a unique chance to work in a more entrepreneurial environment at this stage of my career.

“That was a huge temptation for me – quite daring given everything the change it represented -- and a genuine opportunity to ‘Rethink Everything’.”

She has gained some experience from big moves. Falkengren was born in Thailand, into a diplomatic family given to frequent uprooting. Even relatively stable years at boarding school in Sweden were punctuated by news that her parents would be moving to a new country.

Falkengren’s own family has now made a permanent move to an apartment in Geneva, and her daughter has started at a local school. It is clear that our new Managing Partner is relishing the views of Mont Blanc from her window as well as the chance to hike or ski in the mountains around the city.

There is one problem however: Freddie.

It turns out that Falkengren’s Spanish Water Dog Freddie has a thirst for vigorous exercise and is finding it tough to get used to the new arrangements.

“Freddie was probably the most surprised by this move, and not in a totally happy way. He really found it difficult in the beginning. For a start he was never used to walking on the leash and he misses his garden in Sweden!”

Looking ahead

Freddie helps to prove that there will always be unpredictable challenges to any plan, but Lombard Odier’s tradition of long-term, prudent thinking gives Falkengren huge optimism for the future.

“There are tactical, day-to-day things to do, but you need to know where you’re going -- for which clients, in which countries and with which products -- otherwise it’s difficult to explain and defend your strategy during difficult times.”

One lesson that Falkengren has taken from the most recent financial crisis is that prudence pays. SEB played a cautious hand before the crisis struck, a decision which affected its short-term profitability, but some of the peers, who did better in the bullish early 2000s, are no longer around. That experience means she truly appreciates why Lombard Odier’s reputation for solidity -- exemplified by its very strong Tier1 ratio -- is so appealing to clients.

“I think the solid tradition, coupled with the fantastic capital strength this Group has, are very important themes to communicate when you meet with clients. The most important thing for them is to know that this Group will be around for another 200 years.”

Surviving, and thriving, into the 23rd century is no small task to set for yourself. But it is one that will have a powerful foundation in our new headquarters at Bellevue. Part of the brief for the One Roof project has been to create a professional space where Lombard Odier’s Geneva-based staff can more easily interact and cooperate. It is an ethos that Falkengren enthusiastically promotes. “There is such genuine talent here, and a huge amount of experience and passion, and we should grasp any opportunity to work together, to share our skills and bring our combined strength and offering to our clients.

“We are in a wonderful position. We are strong and secure, but yet small enough to know our clients very well indeed. We have no need to reinvent the wheel, just make sure all the wheels keep rolling in the right direction -- and fast enough to not be overtaken by competitors.”

Much of our Group’s strength comes from a structure which allows private banking to operate alongside asset management, both units supported by cutting-edge technology. It offers diversity to the business, while demanding open collaboration. Falkengren’s childhood -- moving between cultures and seeing life from many sides -- gave her an outlook which emphasises the advantages of that approach.

“My upbringing helped me to understand how lucky I was to have been brought up where I was -- and what that gives you is an appreciation of the importance of mutual respect. Sometimes you are in the majority, sometimes in the minority. But listening with respect is always essential.”


Biography

Annika Falkengren joined the Lombard Odier Group on 1 August 2017 as Managing Partner and primarily manages the Group’s Finance Unit. She, along with Hubert Keller, Managing Partner, leads the activities of Lombard Odier Investment Managers for the Group.

She was formerly President and CEO of Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB), one of the major financial groups in Scandinavia, where she spent her career from 1987 to 2017.

She is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences and a member of the Foundation Board of the International Institute for Management Development (IMD).

She was named European Banker of the Year by the Group 20+1 for 2012. She was awarded the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce 2014 Lucia Trade Award for fostering free trade. In 2016, she was named in the top 10 of Fortune magazine’s list of the world’s most powerful international women.

Important information

This document is issued by Bank Lombard Odier & Co Ltd or an entity of the Group (hereinafter “Lombard Odier”). It is not intended for distribution, publication, or use in any jurisdiction where such distribution, publication, or use would be unlawful, nor is it aimed at any person or entity to whom it would be unlawful to address such a document. This document was not prepared by the Financial Research Department of Lombard Odier.

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