Challenging my prejudices and making a difference

01-09-2023 08:59

Meet Ole Heinrichs, a 27-year-old Business Analyst in Personal Banking located in Stockholm. Ole started as a graduate after finishing his MSc in Accounting and Finance from Lund University in summer 2022. He was motivated to join Nordea out of curiosity for the corporate banking world. Learn more about Ole's experience as a graduate in Nordea and why Nordea's graduate programme might be the right fit for you, too.

by Ole Heinrichs

Why did you apply to the Nordea graduate programme?

I applied to Nordea's graduate programme primarily in the hopes of benefitting from the pool of knowledge held by senior experts in a large organisation with roughly 30,000 employees. I started as a graduate in the Personal Banking capability area for Products and Development, which focuses on digital development of retail banking products. Having freshly graduated from Lund University and until then only worked in dynamic tech start-ups, I was sceptical of how I could make a difference in a large, seemingly slow-moving bank – especially as someone who values purpose over prestige. However, my first rotation as a business analyst taught me that developing seamless digital customer journeys and products for personal banking customers really can make a difference.

What do you like most about the programme?

My experience in the bank has showed me how important it is to have a seamless bridge between business and technology, since both sides often speak different languages. As someone with a background in business rather than technology, I had and still have a lot to learn in my role. However, through my work, I gained extensive knowledge of software development in a SAFe agile environment. I discovered the importance of effective communication between business and technology teams and how developing new customer journeys and products for personal customers can have a significant impact on daily banking. It was inspiring to see product developments in action when visiting branch offices in Uppsala and Stockholm. Seeing how new technology is being integrated into the daily work life of advisors and customers was an eye-opener for me. It made me realise how much fun it is to challenge old habits, bring innovative technology to the banking industry and integrate sustainability to the core of every customer journey.

The graduate programme is structured around rotations, so could you tell us more about your journey so far?

My second rotation in Sustainability was something I was specifically interested in after working with products close to the customers. I wanted to find out what the buzzword ‘sustainability’ really means in a banking environment. What I found was that my colleagues have a deep passion for sustainability that surprised and inspired me. It is like working in a start-up within a corporate environment. I can really feel that everyone in the organisation is curious about the topic, but not everyone grasps what it’s all about in a practical way.

Within the rotation, I got the opportunity to chair the Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financials (PCAF) working group for real estate. This is a group of the biggest Nordic banks aligning on one methodology for the accounting of financed emissions for residential and commercial real estate. The work this group does is crucial for making reported financed emissions comparable across the industry. Here, I learned how to facilitate a working group of senior experts, both internal and external, and how to have fruitful discussions as well as sign off on agreements.

"In today's world, there are many prejudices surrounding the banking industry, especially in my generation. We often perceive banks as being all about making money without contributing to society. However, my experience as a graduate at Nordea has taught me that this is far from the truth. In fact, working within a bank can make a positive difference in many ways."

How is the working environment, the culture and the people?

Aside from the daily work tasks, I have really come to appreciate the Nordic work culture, which is based on trust, equality, diversity and servant leadership. This culture has been visible throughout my time at Nordea in the interactions I’ve had with my colleagues, and it’s made my experience even more enjoyable.

Could you share some positive surprises and valuable challenges you have had since you started?

Looking back on my first year at Nordea, I can say with confidence that working within a bank can make a difference, not just for customers but also for colleagues and the environment. Banks are system relevant, and it is our duty to ensure that they stay relevant in a positive and sustainable way. Thanks to all the support I am getting from my colleagues, my Nordic network within the bank is growing strong, and I feel motivated and obliged to make a difference in my future career. Yes, it is challenging to navigate within the corporate environment, progress can seem slow and there is still a lot to do, especially on the sustainability agenda. But if you keep an open mind and keep up good stakeholder relationships and open communication, a lot is possible. My prejudices were indeed wrong, and I can proudly say that working at a bank is something that I enjoy and look forward to continuing.

What is your best advice for others that want to join the graduate programme and Nordea?

If you are reading this and want to become a future graduate in Nordea, I have one tip for you: understand what makes you motivated to get up in the morning and find an area in the bank where you can insert that motivation and drive. For me that is sustainability, which I now can combine with my daily product management work. Nordea truly is a place that offers many opportunities if you just look and ask for them.

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