The global investment management industry faces increasing competition and greater complexity. In the recurrent CXO Corner relay column, we ask top executives to point the way ahead, sharing their views and best practices for meeting the challenges. This time, we interview Lars Eigen Møller, Executive Vice President, Deputy Head of Investments & Solutions, Danske Bank Asset Management.
Journal: A long career in the financial services industry took you to Danske Bank in 1990 after one year with HandelsBanken. Can you tell us about this journey?
Lars Eigen Møller: When I graduated as an economist, I did not see it coming that I would end up spending more than 30 years with Danske Bank. Joining the financial sector - or the public sector for that matter - was simply not on my radar at that time. However, despite all my intentions, I was persuaded to start as a fixed income portfolio manager at Handelsbanken and I have never looked back since I embarked on that career path.
Over the years, I have had the pleasure of working with highly competent and ambitious colleagues at Danske Bank, many of whom have also had an amazing career. And as I have taken on more and more responsibility, setting the direction for and being part of a high-performing team has been extremely inspiring and is probably also one of the main reasons why I have stayed here so long.
After taking on new roles on a regular basis over the last four years, I’m now back in a more familiar position as Deputy Head in Investments & Solutions in Danske Bank Wealth Management, focusing on the execution of our overall strategy and a range of strategic projects. In this job, I’m able to leverage my long experience with the company in several ways. While I know every detail of the organization, our platform, and our products, I can also step back and look at things in a helicopter perspective. This is what it takes to think strategically and at the same time know what is feasible.
Journal: What is your key motivational driver?
Lars Eigen Møller: My main driver is creating results in cooperation with others. It gives me great satisfaction to experience that together we can make a difference. Over time, I have realized that this can happen in many different situations. What matters is working together with dedicated and enthusiastic people who share a common goal or vision.
I have always seen it as a privilege and source of motivation to engage in business development projects that involve a large group of people with complimentary skills. Innovating a new product takes a wide variety of competences, ranging from portfolio management to risk management, user experience and administrative setup, just to mention some.
For example, we have implemented many changes in Danske Bank’s Wealth Management division, involving several highly skilled colleagues. Each of them has constituted an important part in our transition towards delivering a better client experience and new products that are customized to meet specific client demands. Driving all these changes successfully requires a deep knowledge of the organization’s engine room and the history around our products and solutions. Personally, I think my long history in the company enables me to provide a high value-add in this transition and ensure a smooth transformation process.
Overall, I think people in leading roles need to be able to add value in multiple areas at the same time. For myself, I see it as a key priority to contribute to the development and implementation of innovative solutions for our clients based on my experience in the industry, with our clients and around our products. At the same time, it’s important to me to help reduce complexity in our operational setup and hereby enable more robust and cost-efficient processes and workflows.
Journal: What is your vision in your current position?
Lars Eigen Møller: We have a very exciting vision for our Wealth Management and Asset Management setups, respectively. Basically, we want to be known as the leading provider of financial advisory both in terms of our clients’ overall financial situation and the specific products that fit their individual needs. Recently, we have launched our Global Portfolio solutions, which have been developed in close a cooperation between our operational platform provider and system experts from many parts of the Danske Bank organization. We would not have been able to succeed in innovating these solutions without a strong cross-collaboration.
For global asset managers to succeed in a complex and highly competitive environment, it is important to have the right profiles on the team, the right platform and a close relationship with a vendor you can trust. You need to have a partnership with your vendor which enables you to develop solutions together that can realize your vision.
Journal: How do you see the relationship between people and systems in a large IT-based organization like Danske Asset Management?
Lars Eigen Møller: Our organization comprises individuals who have a deeply specialized knowledge of and experience with every corner of our operating platform. At the same time, this modular platform has been upgraded, added to and changed several times over the years. Seeing that we were becoming more and more dependent on people with a specialized know-how tied to this platform and its many customized modules, we decided to turn to our vendor to look for more standardized solutions within this platform. The aim was to make our operating model better aligned with our best-practice setup and to turn our specialized system experts into more broadly oriented profiles.
The preference for standardized solutions is also closely linked to the overall market development with decreasing margins and a trend towards low-cost solutions. After decades with generous margins, the asset management industry is increasingly facing the same constant margin pressure as many other industries and hence also looking to implement many of the same solutions.
Again, this transformational process has been planned and executed in close collaboration with our vendor in order to align on people and technical requirements and expectations. This collaboration has enabled both parties to prioritize our resources and efforts more wisely. The new standardized and simplified setup will be our baseline going forward and fit well with ambition to take a more agile approach to the development of new products and services.
Journal: What organizational and IT challenges and opportunities does the future hold for asset managers and how should they prepare to succeed?
Lars Eigen Møller: Like other financial institutions, we are still very dependent on our ability to attract and retain the right skills and talents and then guide them to develop products and solutions that add value for our customers. It is also important that we can accommodate the demand for a high degree of autonomy when it comes to investments, but at the same time we must ensure a strong compliance environment. Furthermore, we need to develop our IT solutions to support the ever-changing needs of our production and distribution, while at the same time being able to standardize our platforms and operational processes to remain cost efficient. But if we can strike the balance between these efforts, we can truly make a difference for our customers and offer a great place to work.