Business Maverick

Business Maverick

World’s Biggest Wealth Fund Draws No Women in Search for New CEO

Pictures from downtown Oslo, Norway. A man walks by the central bank of Norway, home to the The Government Pension Fund of Norway, a stabilization fund that may be the world's largest sovereign wealth fund. (Photo: Bloomberg / Kyrre Lien)

In one of the world’s most gender-equal societies, a $1.1 trillion sovereign wealth fund failed to attract a single woman to apply for its top job.

The fund’s deputy chief executive, 49-year-old Trond Grande, appears to be the clear front-runner to head the world’s biggest investor of its kind, after the deadline for applications expired. Grande was among eight men eager to replace Yngve Slyngstad after the outgoing CEO oversaw an historic expansion of the fund over more than a decade.

Norges Bank Investment Management, the central bank unit that runs the fund, has in the past drawn criticism for its failure to promote more women to leading roles. Of the 12 people in its leadership group, only three are women. It’s a far cry from the female domination that characterizes Norwegian politics, where the prime minister, foreign minister and president of the Parliament are all women.

“We note that there were only applications from male candidates for this position, but would stress that our recruitment company has completed a broad search with emphasis on finding female candidates, in line with the wishes of the executive board,” Jane Aamodt Haugland, head of the Norwegian central bank’s administration, said in an email.

The applicants include the fund’s former head of fixed income, Olav Bo, according to a list published on Tuesday. A successor to Slyngstad is expected to be named during the first half of the year, the central bank has said.

Read: CEO of World’s Biggest Sovereign Wealth Fund Is Resigning

The new CEO will take over a fund that recently achieved a record valuation, but is now navigating markets hit by the growing fallout of the coronavirus. That’s adding to the existing strains on returns caused by trade disputes and fragile economic growth. The next CEO will also face a debate in Norway over the future of the fund, after a wave of changes over the past year including a partial exit from oil stocks.

It’s highly unlikely that the next CEO will come from outside the Nordic region. The person who succeeds Slyngstad will need to have a deep understanding of Norwegian society and speak at least one Scandinavian language, Norges Bank Governor Oystein Olsen has said.

Grande has been deputy CEO since 2011 and has been mentioned by Norwegian media as one of the most likely people to get the job. A former chief risk officer, Grande has also overseen the fund’s real-estate portfolio. Before joining Norges Bank Investment Management in 2007 — just before Slyngstad took over as CEO — Grande spent 11 years at Storebrand Asset Management, where Slyngstad also once worked.

After a transition period, Slyngstad is set to move to London to handle the wealth fund’s first investments in renewable energy infrastructure. He announced his decision to step down as CEO last year, after the fund reached a milestone valuation of 10 trillion Norwegian kroner. The 57-year-old, who holds masters degrees in law, economics, business management and political science and is known for his deep interest in German philosophy, will be a tough act to follow.

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