Balder Vestad

MSc Political Economy of Late Development, 2011
Relationship Manager, DNB ASA

After finishing my degree at LSE in 2011, I went on to work as a trainee for the Norwegian embassy in Hanoi, Vietnam. Whilst there I applied for the corporate trainee programme in DNB (a Norwegian financial institution), and got one of 6 places in the programme. Between February and September that year I worked as a journalist for a Norwegian newspaper I had worked with previously. I then started the trainee programme and spent the next 2 years working in 5 different positions within the bank/financial institution, including political affairs, credit analysis and product development within the wealth management division. About 6 months before the programme ended, I applied for a position as relationship manager for the company’s biggest organisation and foundation customers. I was lucky enough to get that job even as I still had about 6 months left to complete my trainee programme. I have now been in my new job for 7 weeks. 

I have to admit I wasn’t sure of what I wanted to do when I graduated, but I guess I thought it would be something where I could mix my background in and interest for economics and development. But when I got the opportunity to work in that specific programme in DNB I decided to do that, as it was a very well-renowned programme (in Norway). It was broad, so I didn’t close too many career paths, and I was intrigued to explore and develop my business skills in addition to any economics skills I had accrued at that point.

I’m responsible for a small portfolio of some of the bank’s biggest clients that fall within the organisation and foundation category – clients such as the Red Cross, NATO & the World Health Organisation. I’m their main contact point, but I have a team of specialists who support me on specific solutions within such as pensions, cash management, investment banking etc.

In my job it’s important to be able to multi-task, to be at once professional and friendly towards the customers, to know a little bit about a lot of what the bank is doing, to keep up-to-date on the clients’ projects and financial state, and to help them with their banking needs.

I wanted a job that could combine my experience within business, and to some degree economics, with my interest for civil society and the development sector. I also realised I wanted and needed a job with a lot of responsibility and some pressure, as I tend to do well when these factors are present (and tend to get demotivated if there is more of a slow pace and a lot of repetitive routine tasks).

My advice from my career so far would be: If you don’t know what you would like to do, go for a broad position that gives you complementary skills to those you already have. Don’t be afraid to apply for positions you might think you won’t get (especially in sectors that are a bit different from what you studied) – you never know what they’re looking for, and LSE has a very strong name. Generally, don’t worry too much about finding the dream job:  you learn a lot about what type of employee you are and what you like and don’t like by actually working, not necessarily by studying or reading about stuff online.

An interest in economics, politics and development made me choose my LSE programme. LSE’s reputation as a great school with good teachers and motivated and smart students was attractive, and the location didn’t hurt. A lot of employers seem to be impressed when they see that you have a master’s degree from LSE. Also the discipline you have/get from doing such a degree in 12 months. Perhaps the network might come in handy later.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at LSE – the school, the teachers, the city, my fellow students helped make the year a great experience! I learned a lot that I have benefitted from since.

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Balder Vestad