Therese Tegner is a lawyer with a degree from the University of Lund, and experience from a district court, law firms and the public development financier, Swedfund. In her ten years with Skanska, Therese has provided support in risk mitigation for several large and complex projectsneeded Skanska AB guarantee support. Now she has succeeded Magnus Paulson, who is working in SFS in New York.
A multi billion business
Therese and her 47 SFS colleagues have an annual turnover in the financial markets of SEK 450 billion, with approximately 10,000 transactions, including e.g. foreign exchange transactions, loans and deposits. SFS is also providing guarantees, insurances and financial advice to projects. She lives in Stockholm with her husband and three children.
Likewise, Mark Lemon has been with Skanska for ten years. He joined Skanska Infrastructure Development and initially worked with exploring new markets in Chile and Canada, then with the exit of a PPP project in Brazil. He subsequently led bids for several projects in the US, including the early stages of La Guardia Airport. In 2013, he joined SRT and is now taking over leadership following Christel Åkerman’s appointment to the Senior Executive Team. Each year, SRT evaluates risks and opportunities in about 500 potential major projects.
Mark and his wife live in Southsea, UK. He likes cooking and gardening and volunteers on the Board of the University of Portsmouth, chairing its Estates and IT Committee.
On roles and aspirations
Therese and Mark talk about their roles at Skanska, leadership and aspirations, and work-life balance.
How do you view your role at Skanska?
Therese: SFS is the internal bank, we secure the Group’s funding. We have cash pools to enable us to use the cash efficiently and we lend it on to the Project Development Business Units. You could say we move cash around and we are the oil in the moneymaking machinery. We also provide advice to projects on assessing financial risks such as eg counterparty risk (jv-partners, clients, subcontractors etc). These are generally very large and complex projects.
Mark: The Skanska Risk Management team has two roles: we analyze potential projects and present them to the SET Tender Board for approval or not. We dig into potential project bids to find the risks and opportunities the BUs themselves haven’t tracked. That’s the bolt-on reactive part. We also have a built-in part, acting to find similarities, share best practices, processes and expertise within the company to enhance the One Skanska approach. The financials are one risk and if SFS isn’t already involved, we ask for their advice.
Coordinating business and banks
Therese: Yes, and we have analysts that follow macro-economic trends in our markets, inflation and prices for certain resources, oil for example. Additionally, we coordinate Skanska units and the bank and insurance community so that we don’t put all our eggs in one basket and have similar approach and terms toward the finance industry around the whole group.
Mark: Yes and we in the SRT want to help Skanska learn from successes and failures.
What are the aspirations for your unit?
Mark: In the new Business Plan for Profit with Purpose, units will have to establish their own risk teams and project boards. When BUs have developed and proven their capability here, SRT could become more or less redundant and more likely handle 50 projects, not 500, every year.
Therese: I hope that people see and value our advice, ideally BUs and projects should come to us at an early stage. And we want to be even closer to the projects, understand their needs. For this purpose I have a constant dialogue with the BUs. But the most powerful way to achieve this is to increase mobility. If we for example place a colleague in Poland for three months, we will understand their business better. And then we can have a colleague from Poland come to us.
A problem solver
What is crucial for good leadership?
Therese: I used to be a problem solver, being in the middle of everything. It is a big difference being operational or in a management position like I am now. In my view, my primary task is to point out our strategic direction, set goals, create functional teams and an inspiring work climate and then to keep out and not get in the way.
Mark: I think I lead by asking questions. Am I helping the team? The BUs? Are we moving in the right direction? Does this create value? Is it right for Skanska, is it right for me?
Therese: Yes, there is always this inner dialogue.
Has the global economic turmoil affected your work?
Therese: The negative interest rate is a new situation. We have currently made sure that we are not charged for our bank deposits. The upside is that we can lend almost without cost.
Increased competition from China
Mark: The slowing Chinese economy will mean increased competition from Chinese companies that will export construction to our markets. We will also see more Chinese investments.
What will the new business plan 2020 Profit with Purpose mean for your unit?
Therese: First, I like to comment that the new business plan is really inspiring and the rearticulated values resonates well with me personally and the way we work in SFS. In all we do, we work together combining different competences to achieve the best result for Skanska. This we will continue doing and accelerate mobility even further. Growing the development business will mean that optimizing financial synergies will play an even more pronounced role in the future and here SFS is instrumental. We will continue focusing on cash efficiency to make sure a stable flow to finance investments and we will continue to focus on assessing financial risks in complex projects to help reduce the amount of loss makers. And any need for additional external funding will of course be done through SFS.
Mark: I agree, Therese, I love the clarity and simplicity of the new purpose and values. Looking at the Profit with Purpose business plan objectives, one thing that will clearly change is a shift in the balance of projects towards development, and we have been seeing this already. Our first priority will be to continue to provide independent scrutiny and recommendations. Next we must support the business units in setting up their risk teams and project boards in a way that really adds value. I also think that we will need to start asking questions like “what is the purpose of this project and does it support Skanska’s values?”
How do you achieve work-life balance?
Mark: I think Skanska has the right approach that allows you time for yourself. Working 24/7 is not healthy, not for you or for the company. I derive great pleasure from seeing my tomatoes grow in the garden. Home-grown is quite another thing!
Therese: I have three children and that keeps you from becoming a workaholic (I really like my job). So I generally enjoy a good work-life balance. I am very interested in history and I read a lot to my kids. And they are also true fans of Skanska.