The Right Man For The Job

At the 36th floor of the Singapore Land Tower the Head of SEB Private Banking in Asia, Mr. Ole Hamre, is sitting in the big conference room. Already in a comfortable leather chair he puts his one leg up and slowly slides back in his seat.
Observing Ole Hamre and hearing about his life, one instantly get the feeling that the tall Norwegian has found the perfect balance between being a successful businessman and a laid back family father. And how does he do it? It is all about the commitment.

Asian focus
Ole Hamre returning to Singapore is part of a bigger plan to put SEB into a new Asian era and the 41-year-old Scandinavian is just the man to do it.

“I was asked if I would take on this challenge making the private banking operation evolve into the next level. Of course it’s a big compliment being brought back like that,” he says. And the General Manager is not only proud to be back in Singapore, he is also very happy. Both professionally and personally.

“We are so privileged being able to experience the Asian culture and way of life. Singapore is a great place for both business and pleasure. It’s so structured and streamlined and the country is almost run company-like. I tend to call it Disneyland with death penalty. But it’s a possitive place full of opportunities,” says Ole Hamre.

The job description is basically the same this time around, but the SEB team is different from when Ole Hamre left two and a half years ago. The boss has great confidence in the new constellation, though.

“I really believe in the guys here and the Bank’s regional potential. And at the same time we receive full support from the top management making everybody willing to go that extra mile,” says Ole Hamre with an almost eager voice.
As more and more Scandinavian businesses and private investors has put an increasing focus on the fast-growing Asian market, SEB has done the same.

“Our Nordic home market clients have become increasingly international in mindset and behaviour. Therefore we need to adapt our offering, competence and approach on the global and domestic arena,” says Oslo-born Ole Hamre.

Singapore Agreement
After eight years in Singapore, Ole Hamre was in 2008 made head of SEB in Switzerland. Thus the family pulled up their Singapore stakes and moved to the European birthplace of international private banking, Geneva. A change in location that suited everybody. Ole’s wife, Severine, is French so once again Switzerland did what it does best and served as neutral grounds, this time giving easy access to the family’s two home countries.

“It was a welcomed chance to return to Europe, and had I not accepted back then, there would have been big protests at home,” Ole Hamre laughs out.

And he does not make a secret of his surprise when he only two years later was contacted by SEB senior management proposing him to return to the small Asian city state.

“At first we were relatively happy about the new Singapore offer, let’s put it that way,” he says with a smile. Ole Hamre and his family were really thriving in Switzerland and that very concern was the biggest of issues.

“You see a lot of “corporate gypsies” following their company around staying a few years here and a few years there. They never have a real chance to settle and that’s very tough on the families,” he states.

But as an eventual return to Singapore was considered, it became clear that the opportunity was to great not to be accepted, besides their regional network was still strong making the second transition more smooth.

“Having an integrated family is paramount and I’m blessed with a wife that has a fantastic ability to quickly adapt. As for my two six-year-old twins, they just embraced the opportunity to swim all year round,” says Ole Hamre emphasizing that going back to Singapore was a completely joint decision.

The commitment
Through a tight collaboration with their branches back in the Nordic home market as well as various new initiatives, setting up asset management operations being one, SEB in Singapore is right now working extremely hard to obviate the increasing client demand for Asian competences and investments.

“The key to our business will always be our origin. So only when working closely together with our colleagues in Scandinavia can we truly match our different concepts to the different client profiles,” says Ole Hamre.

“We are not the biggest in the class but we are big enough as an organization to offer a global platform of competencies and investment opportunities, yet we are small enough to be really close our costumers, which is one of our biggest strengths,” he adds.

Right now the duration of Ole Hamre’s contract in Singapore is five years, after which the plan is to return to Switzerland. But nothing is certain in the world of banking as the intentional two-year stay in Singapore some ten years ago became eight instead.

“There are no guarantees in life, what you make of it is up to you. The most important thing is to always feel and stay committed. And that’s exactly what I do both personally and professionally,” Ole Hamre says in a tone of voice that leaves no doubt.

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