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"SEBx – a start-up in a big company"

Martina Nordenson

At SEBx the aim is that employees should explore new things and even fail from time to time. Martina Nordenson is one of the founders of SEB’s own start-up. “New knowledge is built on exploring and testing,” she says.

As part of the team behind SEBx, SEB’s own start-up, Martina Nordenson is tasked with building and exploring new technology in the real world. Her working duties have varied widely during the SEBx journey. Some examples include Cloud-based development, procurements and market communication as well as data & analytics. 

“It is varied, stimulating and fun. Here I get to drive my own development,” she says. 

Via the trainee programme

Martina Nordenson joined SEB via the bank’s trainee programme just over five years ago. She has had several roles. For a while she worked as an agile change leader. After that she was made responsible for setting up the organisation for the bank’s Data Lake – management and centralisation of the bank’s existing data.

“After a few years I felt it was time to move on. I had so many ideas that I could not really run with where I was. So, I applied for – and got – a job at a little start-up in an entirely different sector.  

She went to her manager to hand in her notice, but he countered with an unexpected offer. Would she like to be one of the founders of SEB’s own start-up?

“I said yes at once. This way, I could get to try out my ideas while staying at a company that I really like.”. 

The bank’s start-up was given the name SEBx and the initial team consisted of seven people with different skills.

“At our first workshop we were asked, if we could ignore existing structures or technologies, how we would build a bank totally from scratch. This set the bar for our work. Here, all ideas and suggestions were welcome and worth testing.”  

Everyone must do a little of everything

Within SEBx everyone must be prepared to do a little of everything, manage procurements, test technologies or perform user surveys.  

“No one tells us what we should do. If I or someone else has an idea we want to try out, it’s just to go ahead. Of 100 ideas perhaps ten are pursued further – at best one of them makes it all the way.”  

In SEBx’s corporate culture there is strong passion and great creativity – and a well-founded belief in the product developed by the team. Being innovative is encouraged. It’s part of the assignment and it permeates the entire organisation. Being wrong sometimes is simply a natural part of the process.
“I would say that we must fail from time to time otherwise we have probably been a little over cautious and not gone far enough. We neither can nor know everything from the start. New knowledge is built on exploring and testing.”

Today SEBx has grown and consists of 60 employees from 15 countries. 30 per cent are women which is fairly unusual in the technology sector.

What’s the most important thing for ensuring that SEBx maintains creativity and drive as you grow? 

“That everyone has the best opportunities to perform at their best, professionally, but also privately. Last year, for example, everyone got to choose how they wanted to take out the year’s public holidays. With the mix of nationalities, we have here, it is not certain that everyone wants to celebrate Swedish traditional holidays. This was highly appreciated with 70 per cent electing to change a day.

“It’s also important that everyone, regardless of where they work in the organisation, feels a connection to the product, the customer and the aims of what we do.”