05.03.2021 | Axpo Nordic’s CFO explains why Axpo’s decentralised set-up is a clear statement for diversity

“Gaining international experience every day”

Iselin Solbakken has been working with Axpo Nordic for almost six years now. When joining the team in Oslo, she worked as a financial controller before being promoted to her current function as Chief Financial Officer (CFO) three years ago. Ever since, Iselin is one of the few women to be found holding a senior management position in the international energy industry. We asked her about her career path, her working and management style, what diversity means to her and how she balances work and family life.

You have been working with Axpo Nordic for a number of years now; how did you end up in the energy market?

Iselin Solbakken (laughing): It’s been a nice and unexpected coincidence, I would say. During my studies in Business and Economics at the Norwegian School of Management, I attended a course about energy economics and was quite fascinated about the energy system as a whole and its interconnections with politics and business. The energy industry itself is very interesting because it is key to today’s overall challenges when it comes to establishing a lower carbon economy on global scale. That’s why I started as a financial controller with an energy company here in Oslo after finishing my studies.

Iselin Solbakken, CFO Axpo Nordic
You were hired by Axpo Nordic some years later; was that a coincidence too?

The company I was working for was relocating abroad, but I decided I wanted to stay in Norway. The job offered at Axpo Nordic sounded exciting –, that’s why I applied for it and, finally, joined the company.

“Axpo is truly international – and a Norwegian company in Norway, a Swedish company in Sweden and a Finnish company in Finland”
What did you like best about Axpo?

It’s a truly international company with Swiss roots, but it’s also a Norwegian company in Norway, a Swedish company in Sweden and a Finnish company in Finland and so on - that’s what made it all the more attractive to me. Working at Axpo gave me the possibility to connect with people across Europe without having to leave Oslo. I really can gain international experience at Axpo every day. On top of that, working with Axpo allowed me to make the next step in my career. I am grateful for the trust that was placed in me.

You were promoted to CFO of Axpo Nordic after a couple of years. Taking over this new role was certainly a challenge?

Indeed. When the former CFO retired in 2018, I took over his responsibilities. We always used to have a very flat structure and hierarchy at Axpo Nordic, however, and that’s a huge advantage for the employees overall. Of course, my new role was a challenge at the beginning, but I was familiar with the topics and the company, and therefore it was the perfect next step for me. Today, I’m heading a team of five financial professionals here in Oslo. In addition, there is a controller based in our office in Malmö.

“We need to stay curious and ahead of new requirements anytime"
How would you describe your working and management style and what is your aim as a manager?

My goal is to combine our joint know-how with our efforts as a team. We need to be consistent, reliable, and provide a high-quality service for our colleagues. To do so, it’s all about being ambitious and staying ahead of new requirements, be it on the business side or when it comes to regulatory changes. Challenges should be faced with an open mind. That’s why we need to stay curious at all times. I strive to set a good example for my team members in this regard.

What does diversity mean to you, and to what extent do you feel diversity is beneficial in your work?

If I look at Axpo’s international energy trading business and the decentralised set up, with all these experts in some 40 countries across Europe, the United States and Singapore, I think this is pretty unique and a clear statement about diversity. Having a lot of local market knowledge in all the subsidiaries and being able to work with so many colleagues with different nationalities is what really stands out. It’s cool to have these strong local hubs; that’s truly special at Axpo.

“It’s about combining both work and family life in an efficient way"
In the Nordics, work-life balance is different than in other European countries – how does that affect your daily work?

I think the typical Nordic system here with affordable childcare and equal opportunities regardless of the gender is very favourable; it’s about combining both work and family life in an efficient way. I think it’s important to have different modes that you can go in and out of, so you can remain focused on the task at hand, whether that is at work or at home.

How do you relax from your challenging work days; what do you do in your spare time?

(laughing) Well, I actually prefer recharging over relaxing. I spend most of my free time outdoors doing activities with the kids, family and friends. The different seasons in Norway give a good basis for different sports and activities. During the winter, cross-country skiing is of course a must. This is not a hobby, but a real lifestyle in our country.

About Iselin Solbakken:

Iselin Solbakken is 34 years old and has been working in the energy sector for 10 years. She has a Master of Science in Business and Economics from the Norwegian School of Management BI. Iselin has been with Axpo since 2015. She was initially a financial controller before being the CFO of Axpo Nordic. A mother of two children (7 and 3 years old) and would highly recommend the energy market as an exciting, challenging and evolving industry to work in.

About Axpo Nordic:

Axpo Nordic was founded in 2003. The subsidiary for Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Baltics, Iceland and Denmark is one of Axpo’s largest and most important international branches. At its headquarters in Oslo and further offices in Malmö and Helsinki, 41 employees specialise in trading and developing tailored products and services for retailers, energy-intensive industries and energy producers. The focus of the business activities is on long-term power supply and purchase agreements (PPAs) for renewable energies. The local business activities in the Nordics are part of Axpo’s strategy of constantly expanding its international presence and business specializing in tailor-made energy solutions.

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