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Leadership is getting the best out of people

Robert Celsing, new Head of Group Human Resources at SEB. Hear his first thoughts when he got the opportunity to take on the new job, his view of SEB as an employer and the importance of a strong culture and inclusive leadership.

You have a long background in the business side of SEB. What enticed you to accept the role as Head of HR?

“When I was first asked if I was interested in taking on this opportunity, I remember thinking ‘Oh, it’s time to put your seatbelt on!’. But I have always had a genuine interest in people, and this is something I'm passionate about – developing teams and getting them to move toward a shared goal. Moreover, I recognize the enormous competence and drive among our employees at the bank. Putting that power to use, developing it and getting the best out of our people – it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. To be sure, it’s one of the most fun jobs I can think of. I am both proud and humble ahead of leading this exciting area.”

What are your view of HR activities and their relation to the business?

“HR is part of the business since our people are the true core of what we do. As a bank, we lend out, borrow it, and move money in various ways. In all these elements a risk assessment is made. It is therefore our know-how, our customers’ trust in us and the long-term relationships we build that enable us to do the type of business we do and that has made SEB the bank it is today. Of course, we have technology as an important tool, but it is our employees who through responsible advice make this machinery work and contribute to long-term value creation.

“Having said that, HR should serve not only as a support function but as a partner. We need to be out in the organisation and be present and active in various management teams to understand the employees’ needs and strategically be able to target our efforts.

In this short time into your new role, what are your thoughts going forward about SEB as an employer?

“Going forward I believe our most important task is to ensure that SEB is regarded as being the most attractive employer in the business. Even though we face tough competition, we want the top talents in the market to be knocking on our door. At the same time, we must work hard to give our employees the best conditions to develop so that they will stay with us. We have a long and rich heritage, a strong brand, and a long-term ambition. Feeling that you are contributing to a greater purpose and can make a positive difference for society – I think that is important both for today’s, and tomorrow’s employees.

“But the absolute most important elements in my view are our culture and our leadership. You cannot change culture overnight, but it is the small things in our behaviour and how we deal with those around us that make a difference. Here our managers play a key role. For me, leadership entails developing upon the best qualities of people with different perspectives and strengthening the group as a whole. I have always been a strong believer in the value of a diversified workforce. It allows you to quickly identify various signals and trends in the market and minimize risks.

What’s on your agenda in the immediate future?

“Since HR is a new area for me, I will be spending a lot of my time listening and taking in new insights to gain an understanding of what I need to focus on going forward. I view my background from the business side as a strength, but I have quite a bit to learn. In conjunction with the bank’s updated purpose, the new strategy and business plan, there are many exciting projects to immerse me in, which I am eagerly looking forward to – such as the joint work on updating the bank’s current values.”