Meet Alexandra Stråberg
What’s going up? What’s going down? What are the trends in the global economy and Why? Alexandra Stråberg, Head of Research and Analysis within Skanska Financial Services, has most of the answers.
Skanska Financial Services focuses on the economic and financial development of Skanska’s markets as well as global trends. The unit’s quarterly reports can be found at One Skanska and their findings are used to guide the Skanska Senior Executive Team as well as Business Units.
Facts and figures seem to be everyday fare for you. How come?
I’ve always been good at numbers, statistics and math. But my interest in economics actually comes from my interest in people. To me, economics is very close to psychology. I see people behind all the numbers. Individual choices, actions and behavior amount to large movements in the macro economy. The interesting thing is understanding why people act the way they do and to figure out how that changes under different circumstances.
You graduated with a Master of Economics from Stockholm University in 2000. What else is on your resume?
My background is in economic analysis and forecasting, pedagogics, lecturing and communication. And I have worked in these areas at Stockholm University, as an Economist at the Forecasting Unit for The Swedish National Financial Management Authority and at the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise as Head of a department called ‘Ekonomifakta’ (Economic facts and figures).My focus and interest have always been on explaining fairly complicated facts and figures, and how they are connected, in an easier and more accessible way.
No earlier experience from our industry?
Well, I am not an engineer and this is my first time working for a construction company. I only joined Skanska headquarters in Stockholm two years ago, so I am one of the rookies.
What is your job at Skanska about?
Our business is very much affected by the large economic and development movements in the world. My four colleagues and I examine these factors and analyze as well as forecast them, with the aim of giving Skanska SET and the BUs optimal and relevant information for their decision making.
So, where is the world going?
Today’s news is filled with IS, Ebola and struggling economies in several countries. So, it seems like the world is really going through a tough time. That is all true right now. But if we look at the bigger movements from a longer perspective, I would like to point our three strong trends: Urbanization - people are moving into the cities in big numbers. The ageing population - with economic development comes longer lives. This can be a challenge, but overall it is a triumph. The decrease in extreme poverty - it has been halved in the past 25 years. That’s a giant step for mankind. These three movements are having a major impact on the development of the world.
And what impact does this have on Skanska?
Firstly, more opportunities. People will need homes, workplaces, services and infrastructure. Secondly, there will be higher demands on us to help create sustainable societies. When people’s basic needs are satisfied, they will ask for better overall life conditions.
And what can Skanska do?
We have an important role in developing and building our societies and if we know where the wind is blowing we can act on that and be better prepared to meet the new and emerging needs. Hopefully, the work my colleagues and I are doing will assist our market makers in looking into future, to be proactive and not reactive.
What are the main threats to a positive global development, do you think?
Before the financial crisis, globalization opened up the world. The freedom factor was growing. Since then we have seen the return of boundaries and borders. Boundaries – focusing on differences that come from nationalistic populist movements and the increase of a dangerous “them and us” attitude. Borders between countries are being closed by those forces who don’t see the great opportunities that come from trading and countries benefitting from each other. Tough economic conditions seem to spur these kinds of tendencies.
How do you find the work atmosphere at Skanska?
I find it friendly and inquisitive, loyal, challenging and ambitious. I also find it very entrepreneurial, people want to do things better and more efficiently, seeking new ways, and there is openness to good ideas. I really appreciate that the atmosphere is open and international.
Among those you admire are the Danish writer and adventurer Karen Blixen, author of Out of Africa, and the Swedish 19th century minister of Finance Johan Gripenstedt, who introduced many liberal economic reforms, obligatory schooling, reinforced women’s rights and liberalized Swedish trade. Why?
I do admire people who are somewhat adventurous and work and fight for what they believe in, even though people around them tell them that they are wrong. These two were ahead of their time and had dreams and visions they followed. I like that entrepreneurial spirit and people who are not scared of failing and are brave enough to try.