Oil Fund’s boss goes out on top

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UPDATED: After 12 years of guiding the stunning growth of Norway’s huge sovereign wealth fund, Yngve Slyngstad is leaving his post on a high note. He turned in his resignation last week, but will still work for the country’s so-called “Oil Fund” with responsibility for building up “unlisted renewable energy infrastructure” as a new investment area.

Yngve Slyngstad is stepping down as chief executive of Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), which is in charge of Norway’s huge Oil Fund. PHOTO: Norges Bank

Slyngstad’s own boss, Norges Bank Governor Øystein Olsen, was full of praise for Slyngstad at a press conference in Oslo on Wednesday, when the fund’s strong results for the third quarter were officially presented (external link to the oil fund’s own website). Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported how results through the third quarter have added another NOK 1,486 billion to the fund’s value so far this year, which is likely to rank as the best in the fund’s history.

Under Slyngstad’s leadership, the fund set up to save and invest Norway’s oil revenues for future generations has become one of the largest of its kind in the world and just passed a new market value milestone last week. Olsen stated that the executive board of Norway’s central bank was “very satisfied with the management of the fund under Yngve Slyngstad’s leadership.” Olsen added that Slyngstad’s “experience and insight” will help ensure that the establishment of a new investment area in renewables is carried out “in a good way.”

Working for ‘the nation’s best’
Slyngstad himself stated that he was proud of having been part of building up a leading international investment organization. “We have delivered good returns for the best of our nation,” he said in a prepared statement. He told reporters that he felt it has been a “privilege” to be the fund’s leader.

He was initially hired by the Oil Fund’s first boss, Knut Kjær, in 1997, just after the first large deposits of oil revenues had been made the year before. Slyngstad was in charge of building up the fund’s stock portfolio and he did such a good job that he ended up taking over for Kjær when Kjær resigned in 2008.

Slyngstad then won kudos for leading the Oil Fund through the finance crisis that broke out in the fall of that year. The fund’s assets and returns have steadily grown ever since in line with rising oil prices, international stock markets and falling interest rates. The Oil Fund invests primarily in companies located abroad, along with real estate in some of the world’s biggest cities like London, Paris and New York.

Not sad to step down
Last Friday the fund set another new record when its market value surpassed NOK 10,000 billion, roughly USD 1,000 billion. Slyngstad told reporters Wednesday that he had turned in his resignation the same day, after deciding it was time to pass on the job to someone else. He insisted he wasn’t sad to be stepping down and that he now looked forward to building up something new in his new job, which will be based in London.

Asked when he first considered resigning from his post that’s formally chief executive of Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), he responded that “the thought began to bud when I took over the job.” He’ll step down as soon as a new CEO is in place at NBIM.

The search for his replacement is already underway, with DN reporting that among the top candidates is Trond Grande, who’s been Slyngstad’s second-in-command. Central bank boss Olsen said that Slyngstad’s successor doesn’t necessarily have to be Norwegian, but that whoever takes on the job must be fluent in the language and have a knowledge of the Norwegian political system that surrounds the fund.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund