Birgitte Bryne, Chief Operating Officer at Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), thinks that in order to make real strides on diversity in the asset management industry, firms need to do a better job promoting the positive impact it has on the world. “Finance really is an exciting industry. We get to help change the world and can make a huge impact on things like sustainability,” Bryne says. “I think that is an appealing message to women.”
Bryne joined NBIM in 2015 as the Global Head of Investment Administration and was appointed to the leader group as Chief Operating Officer in October 2020. In her role, she’s responsible for a global team that looks after operations for the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, which owns almost 1.5% of all shares in the world’s listed companies. Unlike most of the industry, NBIM has reduced its reliance on outsourcing and brought its front-office processes and technology infrastructure back in-house. This has completely changed the nature of her team over the past 5 years. “We went from overseeing vendors to becoming the experts ourselves,” Bryne explains. This shift has not been without its challenges and Brigitte is quick to stress the importance of having the right team in place. “It is important to look for the right talent and hire people who are better than you,” Bryne says. “They will help the organization excel and also help you in your own development.”
Before joining NBIM, Bryne had a successful career in investment banking, which included roles as Chief Financial Officer at Nordea Bank Norge ASA and Chief of Staff and COO for Equities at SEB Enskilda Securities ASA. Bryne attributes her success to her willingness to take risks. Early in her career, the local CEO created a Chief of Staff role that Bryne was interested in but was apprehensive to apply for. She wasn’t sure she was qualified but after much debate, Brigitte decided to go to his office and express her interest in the role. “I was scared to death and can still remember walking those stairs to his office,” Birgitte recalls. “How should a 28 year-old, junior employee approach one of the senior leaders of the firm?” As a result of the meeting, she was invited to present her vision to the leadership team. To her surprise, she got the role and spent the next 17 years at the company in various management positions.
Bryne often tells this story when coaching trainees at NBIM to stress the importance of taking risks. “Try to do one little thing every week that really scares you,” she advises. “If you do this, you’ll find that you’ll push the limit over and over and the things that scared you in the past won’t really scare you anymore.”