The departing boss of Norway’s oil fund on building an asset manager
THERE IS A point in a conversation with Yngve Slyngstad when he invokes Bjorn Borg, the Nordic tennis star of the 1970s. The Borg approach—make sure you don’t lose; above all, be solid—is one Mr Slyngstad has instilled in Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), the organisation he has run since 2008 from within Norway’s central bank. Its target, to beat a benchmark by 0.25 percentage points a year, is modest. But meeting it has led to immodest wealth.
Mr Slyngstad is to step down later this year when Nicolai Tangen, a London-based hedge-fund manager, takes his place in Oslo. The departing boss resigned in October, 50 years to the day after Norway first struck oil. The same day Norway’s oil fund passed Nkr10trn ($900bn) in value. It is the world’s largest single owner of equities. On average it owns 1.5% of every listed firm globally.
This seemed improbable when Mr Slyngstad joined in 1998. The price of oil was falling towards $10 a barrel. The idea of an oil-reserve fund seemed risible. Yet Mr Slyngstad left a well-paid job in the private sector. What attracted him was autonomy. He and his senior colleagues used it to build a fund manager based on sound principles. Discipline, solidity, minimising errors—these Borg-like tenets are difficult to follow when managing a portfolio. But they are key to investing success....