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Inspiring exchange of experiences at the Nordic Family Office Summit

Harald Mix and Daniel Sachs together with moderator Stina Norrhede

How do you keep ownership together across generational boundaries, how do you organise governance and involve the next generation? These were some of the questions discussed at SEB's Nordic Family Office Summit.

This was the second year that SEB invited representatives of Family Offices to discuss specific issues related to the ownership and governance of family businesses.

“We do it because our customers appreciate it. They have a genuine interest in getting to know each other and we at SEB are in a unique position to facilitate that”, says Peter Lauridsen, deputy head of the Private Wealth Management & Family Office division at SEB.

The conference, which was held at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm, brought together nearly 200 guests from the Nordic countries, Germany, Austria, and Luxembourg. About half were representatives of family owners and the other half people employed at Family Offices.

Governance of family ownership

The meeting began with a panel discussion on governance and succession issues in family-owned companies. Both Peter Wallenberg jr, who represents the fifth generation of the Wallenberg family, and Johannes Baillou, who represents the eleventh generation of owners in the global pharmaceutical, life science and electronics company Merck, were present. The panel also included Gun Nilsson, with a long background as employed CEO in the family company Melker Schörling and with a series of board assignments in, among others, Hexagon, Bonnier Group, Einar Mattsson and Konecranes.

They provided insights into how these families have organised governance, generational shifts, and rules for how and when members can step out of their ownership. All three emphasiesd the importance of agreeing on a common view of what the family stands for and what it wants to achieve in the long term. They also talked about how they are working to involve the next generation in this task. This is in stark contrast to how previous family patriarchs have controlled generational shifts by "pointing with the whole hand".

Positive impact

Another theme that was discussed was how owners, can create positive impact. Anna Herlin, who belongs to the fifth generation of owners of Kone, talked about how their Family Office is committed to preventing the planetary boundaries from being exceeded. Among other things, she took the help of Professor Johan Rockström, who in a filmed feature especially for the conference warned that humanity has already exceeded six of the planet's nine borders.

Harald Mix, founding partner of Altor and Vargas Holdings, talked about how Vargas, through its investments in Northvolt and H2 Green Steel, among others, wants to be a catalyst in climate change. Daniel Sachs, who founded the Daniel Sachs Foundation, talked about the work to protect democracy, among other things, by educating young politicians.

Other speakers during the day were Øyvind Schage Førde, chairman of the board and CEO of the Norwegian investment company Aars, Christian Cederholm, head of Patricia Industries, and Mattias Nordqvist, professor of entrepreneurship and family business at the Stockholm School of Economics. They discussed decision-making for cross-divisional value creation. The last speaker was SEB's CEO Johan Torgeby, who reflected on the state of the world economy.

Here are voices from some of the participants:

“A very inspiring meeting. As the owner of a family business, it is always valuable to hear other owners tell us how they tackle the same type of issues that we have, says Staffan Salén, representative of the third generation of the Salén family and CEO of the family group Salénia.

“One thing I really like about this meeting is that it's not about selling products. It's just about people and ideas, says Christian Schaub, CEO of the family-owned company Hardtberg Grundstücksges.

Peter Lauridsen from SEB was satisfied with the day.

“All family office customers are unique, but they also have certain similarities. They think truly long-term, and they can strike a balance between heart and brain in their investment strategies that is quite different from institutional investors. This is what we have tried to distill at today's event, he says.