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Forbes – Energy Trading’s First Female CEO Insists On Business As Usual

Written by Rebecca Ponton

In late April, Denmark, one of the first countries in Europe to shut down due to the spread of COVID-19, gradually began reopening its economy and society. Twenty-five percent of Danske Commodities’ employees were back in the office after working from home since March 12th. Another 25 percent will be allowed back on May 18th under strict guidelines.

“From Day 1, I insisted on business as usual,” says CEO Helle Østergaard Kristiansen of working from home. It was a rather unceremonious and unsentimental way of observing the one-year anniversary of her appointment as the first female CEO in energy trading, but these are unique times. Calling the digital capabilities at DC (as the company is known) “our special superpower,” Kristiansen says employees were working from home within two days.

“We quickly established trading desks in the homes of our traders to ensure the safety of our people while doing our part to keep the energy supply balanced and stable.”

To monitor the level of activity, which actually increased, she asked for data on how many trades were done each day. “I didn’t want to accept that we couldn’t do tomorrow what we did yesterday.”

Kristiansen, who says she takes her job very seriously – “but not myself because then you become too constrained in life” – knows about achieving results. Hired in 2010, she drew on her banking background to start the company’s risk and compliance department and later its treasury department. Within four years, she had become DC’s chief financial officer, and in 2018 founder and then-CEO Henrik Lind asked her to handle the sale of the company.

“I had never sold a company before!” she says laughing. After 12 months of constant travel, investor presentations, and due diligence, the company was sold to Equinor for $400 million euros. While Lind, whom she considers a mentor, had confidence that she ultimately would be successful, Kristiansen says, “Starting as employee #35 and taking a rather small company to one of the biggest players in energy trading in Europe, and now Australia, and also entering the U.S., I’ve also done a lot of things in developing myself. I took an executive management program with INSEAD and joined a couple professional boards, especially in IT, to bring some knowledge into DC.”