05.07.2022 | Why working with Axpo means that the floor is yours
Carl Kevin Brunaes, Head Mid Office & Risk Management at Axpo Nordic, mainly grew up in Singapore and Australia, studied in the United States and Norway, and joined Axpo Nordic six years ago. He has since climbed the career ladder step by step and today leads a team of 3 people. In this interview, he talks about how growing and taking on more responsibility is supported by Axpo, why the company is still kind of a hidden gem in Oslo, and to what extent the importance of risk management has even increased in these challenging days.
When did you start working in the energy sector - and how did you join Axpo?
Actually, it was a bit by chance. In 2016, I was just about to complete my Master’s degree in Bergen, and saw an online job ad published by Axpo Nordic – a company which was not known to me at that time. At first sight, however, I thought it looked very interesting.
What was the main reason for that?
I was attracted by both the energy industry as a whole and the international aspect of Axpo in particular. Energy is very exciting, meaningful and challenging, as an industry it offers a good mix of classic as well as next-generation challenges. With my finance background, the energy trading area is particularly interesting. On top of that, technology plays a key role here, and it’s a very international industry without real geographic borders.
Why did you feel Axpo could be the right place to start your career?
I felt from the very start with the first interviews that Axpo Nordic is a company that really promotes its employees and supports them on their personal journey to grow. Something that I think Axpo is very good at is allowing its employees to take on new challenges. Also, one can say that “the floor is yours” in terms of presenting new ideas and pitching them to the management. If there is something you want to try, usually there is flexibility to allow for that. And employees are encouraged to further develop their technical skills and knowledge all the time. That’s why I dare to say Axpo Nordic as an employer is kind of a hidden gem here in Oslo overall.
What does the culture of Axpo Nordic look like?
The company was founded in 2003, but has retained a lot of its start-up vibes with a very flat hierarchy. It’s a very innovative environment, everyone can make an impact on the overall success of the company by bringing in and implementing own ideas. We are actually even encouraged to do so, and this is one of the reasons that I’m super happy here.
How have you and your role at Axpo Nordic developed since you started in 2016?
I have been lucky enough to try many things. Axpo Nordic’s employees are able to transition across different teams, which is a fantastic possibility especially when you are young. My first role after my studies was a job as a Junior Accountant. After one year, I got more responsibility and was promoted to the role of a Controller. Later on, I joined the risk management team as a Risk Analyst, and today I’m heading the Mid-Office and Risk Management function. It’s been a great journey so far and I look forward to what will come next.
Do you have a specific goal for your professional career?
I come from a basketball and team sports background, where the focus is very much on the team. In this sense, being able to contribute to team wins has always been my number one goal – this transitions well to my professional ambitions, which is to help the team achieve its goals in whichever capacity required. Sometimes that means putting in a lot of hours, sometimes it means learning a new skill, sometimes it means getting someone else to take over for my short-comings.
What is the main role of the risk team in the Nordics?
There are many aspects to our role: First of all, we have a lot of different touch points with the management, the front-office and the back-office which makes it very interesting for all of us. Our main task is to monitor Axpo Nordic’s portfolio, we need to ensure that we stay within the limits and are able to provide stakeholders with an accurate view of the risks in the portfolio. In a more general way, we especially support our business operations with valuation and risk metrics, implementation of new products, and analysis of how new cases fit into the portfolio.
What is the most challenging aspect in your role?
Definitely prioritization. We have many exciting projects and avenues to explore, but time is always a limiting factor. It’s about deciding quickly where to first spend time and resources on as the situation is always pretty dynamic.
Sounds like a lot of work, but also a lot of responsibility.
Yes, absolutely. Risk management is key for the company and our business as a whole. It’s important to stress that basically the understanding for risk management flows through the entire organization. Everyone in Axpo Nordic is somehow involved in risk management, everyone in a way is a risk manager. Everyday. No matter in which team or location they are based.
How important is cross-border cooperation with other risk management professionals within Axpo Group?
Cross-border cooperation is vital on the organizational level because we need to have the full picture, also beyond the Nordic energy markets. It’s about skills and knowledge transfer, specialization and economies of scale, and helps us keep us lean. And at the end of the day, such an international set-up brings a lot of enjoyment for everyone involved. This is a very important aspect of diversity which is a huge advantage for the company because there can be many different views on a specific topic.
In the current context with very high and volatile prices in the energy markets, risk management has become even more important. What’s your view on that?
Yes, the situation is much more complex than before if you look for instance at portfolio management, the impact of newly proposed deals, and business cases. Implementing and maintaining models used to calculate risk metrics are key in this context as the high prices and volatility means that there is more risk, and thus more downside. At the end of the day, it can be more expensive to make mistakes now. Also, positions on the exchange require more capital, so just participating in the market has become more expensive. That’s why one needs to have a good risk management on all fronts. So while it has always been important, it has perhaps never been more important than today.
What exactly does this mean for your daily job?
While the general framework remains, we need to do more analysis on several fronts, think outside the ‘regular’ box and continue to learn. That’s basically the most important take-away: It has been and still is a learning experience for most of us. But we have great systems in place and everyone has taken on more responsibility, that’s why the team is still able to cope with the added pressure.
How do you relax from your challenging work?
I have a few passions outside of the office, and for me it’s important to find the time for sports and music, in addition to meeting friends in my free time. The entrepreneurial spirit of the company means it’s quite hard work in the office, so it’s good for everyone to have a healthy personal environment to recharge their batteries besides the daily business.
About Carl Kevin Brunaes:
Carl Kevin Brunaes (32) was born and grew up in Norway. He moved to Singapore with his parents when he was 8 years old, went to high school there as well as in Australia, and afterwards completed his Bachelor’s degree in Finance at the Elon University in North Carolina, USA. Later on, he did a Master’s degree at the Norwegian School of Economics in Bergen, and was hired by Axpo Nordic right after that. Meanwhile, he heads a team of 3 risk management experts and works closely together with colleagues in various European countries and the United States.
About Axpo Nordic:
Axpo Nordic is part of the Axpo Group, the largest energy company in Switzerland. The wholly owned subsidiary was founded in 2003 for the markets in Northern Europe and the Baltic region. The focus of its business activities in the Nordics is on long-term power supply and purchase agreements. In addition to its PPA business, Axpo Nordic develops bespoke products and associated services for its customers, such as retailers, industry, and producers. The business activities in the Nordics are part of Axpo’s strategy to grow its international presence and business specialising in tailor-made energy solutions.