Former oil fund boss comes home

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Knut Kjær, the founding and former chief executive of Norway’s mammoth oil fund, is moving home after living and working overseas since leaving Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM) in 2007. Now he’ll be chairman of a new asset management firm.

Knut Kjær, the man who guided the creation of Norway's huge sovereign wealth fund, is coming home after several years abroad. PHOTO: Norges Bank

Kjær sent out a clear signal that he wanted to come home to Norway when he surprised finance and political officials alike by applying for the post of central bank boss last year. He ran the oil fund through the central bank’s NBIM unit for 10 years and was viewed as highly qualified, but the job ended up going to the former head of state statistics bureau SSB, Øystein Olsen.

Now newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reports that Kjær has found another opportunity that will allow him to move from New York City back to Oslo. He’s setting up Trient Asset Management with fellow financiers Erik Syvertsen, Tore André Lysbo and Geir Stenseth from First Asset Management. The company aims to be among the leading consulting and financial firms in Norway with high international ambitions as well.

Kjær spent 10 years nurturing and managing the state’s oil fortune, building up Norway’s sovereign wealth fund that today ranks as the second-largest in the world. It made the modest and mild-mannered Kjær one of the most financially powerful men in the world and certainly in Norway, although he still mostly took the public tram to work and isn’t known for outwardly exuding the trappings of wealth himself.

After running the oil fund from 1998 until 2007, Kjær moved to New York to be president of Riskmetrics. The company was later sold and Kjær most recently has worked as an adviser for some of the largest asset funds around the world, and accepted invitations to speak at financial gatherings.

Asked why he wanted to swap Manhattan for Oslo, he told DN it was “a family decision.” He’s keen to maintain what he calls his “formidable network” and intends to continue to spend quite a lot of time in New York “and work with things there.”

He insists his new job is not merely a consolation prize after he failed to win the top spot at Norges Bank, and thinks the government made a good choice in installing Olsen. Now he says he’ll be “working chairman” at Trient Asset Management but won’t have responsibility for his own portfolio. Rather, he says, he wants to be involved with “strategic development, new concepts for consulting and contact with the most important customers.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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