Hedge fund star managing US$1.3 trillion talks talent

FILE PHOTO: A general view of the Norwegian central bank, where Norway's sovereign wealth fund is situated, in Oslo, Norway,

OSLO: At the end of his working day, the chief executive of the world’s biggest wealth fund can often be found on his sofa, eating a pizza and responding to students on LinkedIn. They’re keen to pick his brain on all kinds of things, and he likes sharing his thoughts.

Nicolai Tangen, the 54-year-old hedge-fund star who now manages a US$1.3 trillion (RM5.35 trillion) portfolio for Norges Bank Investment Management, is trying to define what it takes to invest well today. Greed is out, diversity and climate goals are in. That means employers like Norway’s wealth fund need to cast a wider net when they search for talent.

“Diversity isn’t about politics, it’s about logic, ” Tangen said in an interview.

Since starting in September, Tangen has dazzled Norwegians with his unorthodox approach to running the oil-rich country’s giant piggy bank. Aside from posting videos of himself cooking and chatting with young people on LinkedIn, he’s reorganised the fund’s top ranks and exposed portfolio managers to some less conventional forms of training.

Shortly after taking over, Tangen reduced the size of the fund’s C-suite, and brought in more women to its previously male-dominated ranks. He also set a target that at least a third of all top jobs must be held by women, and is putting pressure on portfolio companies to pursue similar goals. Last year, 44% of new hires at the fund were women.

Tangen then turned to his portfolio managers. He brought in a sports psychologist who trains military pilots to coach managers at the fund and get them to feel more comfortable taking risks. He turned to forensic linguists to help the fund analyse corporate-speak on conference calls, so managers could catch nuances of inflection and word choices that might reveal something other asset managers overlooked.

He says the purpose of all of these changes is to make sure that he and his team make the right decisions in a world that’s growing increasingly volatile and unpredictable.

Though Tangen grew up in a small town on Norway’s southern coast, he was initially treated as a bit of an outsider when he returned to his country of birth. His time as a London-based hedge-fund boss known for his jet-set lifestyle left union bosses and a number of politicians uneasy. His contract as CEO had to be adjusted more than once to make sure the wealth fund wasn’t exposed to any conflicts of interest stemming from his past life. ─ Bloomberg

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