‘There will be shocks’: Yngve Slyngstad, Norway’s $1tn man

Financial Times

Yngve Slyngstad is the CEO of Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM) which is the part of the Norwegian Central Bank that is responsible for managing The Government Pension Fund — Global. Notably, Slyngstad was listed in fifth place on aiCIO’s 2012 list of the 100 most influential institutional investors in the world. Additionally, in July 2013 it was ranked third on the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute’s 100 Public Investor List. Likewise, in 2013 and 2014, Slyngstad was on the Forbes list of the most powerful people in the world at # 70 and # 72, respectively.

Without a doubt, the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund is considered a fairy tale of global finance. In less than 25 years investing the energy riches of the North Sea, it has become a giant of 1.2 trillion dollars and also owns 1.5 percent of the world’s publicly traded companies.

It is certainly not obvious how a young Heidegger reader hermit ended up running one of the world’s largest investment funds.

Slyngstad’s point of view

Notably, Slyngstad credits his interest in finance with how it is “where everything comes together. . . like a gravitational field”, and how financial markets are “by definition forward-looking”. He adds that “the last generation working in finance has had a privileged role and a central role in society’s development”.

No one was more privileged than him. It has followed the meteoric trajectory of the oil fund almost from the beginning. His tenure as CEO is backed by the global financial crisis and pandemic.

However, before closing the bargains in the crisis, the fund’s market value fell by about a quarter. That was “a huge strain on the system”, says Slyngstad, because no one knew if politicians could live with such huge nominal losses.

It is appropriate to mention a relevant fact and that is that Slyngstad admits that it was a difficult decision, but says: “As long as you’re pretty sure you have done the right thing, it’s not so difficult to be in a crisis”. It turns out that the democratic process can be an advantage in difficult times if it makes the risks understood and accepted among the population.

It can also help anchor the fund’s approach to responsible investing, although Slyngstad says this has yet to be “proven” by any serious political fallout. Almost from the beginning, an external ethics council has excluded companies that are found to be violating basic ethical principles. The fund has also been a pioneer in taking environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations when thinking about financial returns.

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Source: Martin Sandbu | Financial Times

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