From intern to co-head of Debt Capital Markets

An interview with Fredrik Gyrulf, about his journey from intern to Co-head of Debt Capital Markets at Nordea

During my first week at Leveraged Finance, I was very curious as to why there was always a little queue of people next to my desk. Until I realised that this was the gifted curse of sitting next to the Managing Director, Fredrik Gyrulf. Fredrik always has twenty things going at the same time, in fact, once he spoke on the phone, answered an e-mail, and asked me a question at the same time. A few weeks ago, Fredrik became the new co-head of Nordea DCM (Debt Capital Markets), and it made me realise that it was only ten years ago that he too was an intern. So, following from my previous interview with an analyst, this time I wanted to write about the journey from intern to co-head of DCM.

As always, tell me a bit about yourself!

I recently became co-head of Nordea DCM, I am 37 years old and from Norrtälje, some 70 kilometres north-east of Stockholm. Between a full time job and family life there’s not that much time that I can call my own but when I do, I try to work out. I signed up for the marathon this spring but with a new job I may need to take a rain-check. Nowadays we’re also busy with trying to buy a house, something that takes both time and energy.

Back in 2004, what was it like being an intern?

Actually, it was very unlike today’s situation that you are in. Back in 2004, DCM operated as 8-12 local boxes, split by both product and country which made it hard to extract synergies from our superior reach across the Nordic region. At the time, I was the only intern in the Swedish loan unit which allowed for a steep learning curve as I was thrown into all kinds of different transactions and cases.

What made you decide that you wanted to continue your career at Nordea, and why DCM?

Several things, but first and foremost the ever-changing environment. When I joined, Nordea was newly formed and DCM operated in a very different manner. Since then, and in line with the rest of the bank, Nordea DCM has climbed to claim #1 positions in important markets and in particular, grown in size. Today we are operating as one unit divided according to our customers’ needs; this allows us to be both relevant and intense in all our customer segments. As we have grown, we have been forced to think through how we do things in order to get the most out of our setup. In particular and as of late, we have focused a lot on making sure that we have the right team in place and thus we have been very active in bringing juniors on-board. The latter not only an investment in today’s setup and team but also an investment that will benefit us in the years to come. Lastly, the financial crisis has been an important driver for me. The impact of the crisis had a massive impact on our industry and being in a position where I could follow the downturn live, and also see how it transformed, and is transforming, the banking industry, is really interesting.

What has it been like managing a pan-Nordic Leveraged Finance team?

Being a part of a collected team is demanding, but being part of a pan-Nordic team is very demanding – of course also very rewarding as I have the fortune to work with driven, talented and creative professionals all over the Nordic region who really want to win the next deal. In order to keep the team cohesive, we have regular conference calls to update each other about what is happening in our countries and I do travel a lot to ensure that I meet all my team members regularly. I truly appreciate how differences between individuals with different backgrounds can be turned into our #1 asset when working together.

Which are your main challenges in your new task as co-head of DCM?

My new assignment differs greatly from my previous one. Firstly, my background is within leveraged finance so in a way I have been operating within my comfort zone. In my new role, I oversee a broader platform which I am not equally familiar with, and clearly I am excited about familiarising myself with products I haven’t previously worked with. Secondly, and consequently to overseeing a broader platform, the stakeholder landscape has become more complex. Finally, the role is different from my previous roles as I am now co-heading DCM with Sofie Wacha, and working closely with the management team instead of directly with the individuals in the team.

What kind of qualities are you looking for in interns/analysts?

I’m meeting with a lot of skilled young people in various situations and I think the distinguishing factor is often how keen a person is to join and how interested they are in what we do and the industry as such. I’m a firm believer that as long as a person is genuinely interested in an area that person can master it if he or she gets the right support and challenges.

Any wise words to those seeking to advance within Nordea and IB?

I think the coming 5 to ten years will transform banking as we know it. All the regulatory changes and disruptive technologies will change the foundation of our business; banking is therefore a great place to be at for those who want to witness the transformation of an industry on site. I also believe that Nordea is the right place given our very strong market position.

Further, I think Nordea IB in particular has a lot to give. As a fairly new organisation, IB is still a toddler as an integrated unit with only a few years on its neck. Consequently, we still have a lot of processes and ways of working together to improve. We expect all professionals to contribute to this process and really strive to improve our offering; providing all professionals with an ability to influence what we do and how we do it. We provide young and talented employees with an opportunity to work off a very wide platform and develop within both Advisory and DCM services. Lastly, and equally important, it is always a huge benefit to work for the market leader. At Nordea, you get the opportunity to develop an extensive network across the region, both among other financial institutions and with our customers.

And you get the chance to multitask every now and then…

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