Thinks uncertain markets are good news for Norway

The oil fund has never lost as much money in six months as it did at the start of 2022. But that is not why Tangen lies awake at night.

It is often said that people who are afraid to invest their money put it in the mattress. The head of Norway’s money bin has actually calculated how big a mattress he would need to accommodate all the money he manages through the Oil Fund – more on that a little later.

First, we’ll let Tangen explain to you why he doesn’t put the money in the mattress – but, on the contrary, believes that we Norwegians will serve on the stock market turmoil the world is experiencing right now.

DEDICATED: Nicolai Tangen prefers to work all the time, then take a few years off. Photo: Tom Rune Orset / TV 2

We meet the man who manages a couple of million for each and every one of us almost to the day two years after he started his job as head of the Oil Fund. He seems confident, calm and has a way of speaking that makes people listen. He believes that the stock market turmoil we are seeing now is only positive for the country’s money bin.

– Now I have a bit of a split personality. On the one hand, I hope that the fund will go up, on the other hand, it is a bit nice that it goes down, so that we can put the money in at a better level, explains the oil fund manager.

Luxury situation

Because while other funds are happy to sell when the arrows point down to secure themselves, it is quite the opposite for the Oljefondet, which these days gets plenty of fresh capital replenished due to oil and gas prices.

– Right now the situation is a bit special, because we get so much money into the fund because of the high energy prices. This means that it is actually somewhat positive that the stock market goes down, because then we can buy things a little cheaper, Tangen points out.

JUBILANT: TV 2's Sturla Dyregrov met Tangen for a longer chat when he had spent two years as head of the Oil Fund.  Photo: Isac Skjevik Kvello / TV 2

JUBILANT: TV 2’s Sturla Dyregrov met Tangen for a longer chat when he had spent two years as head of the Oil Fund. Photo: Isac Skjevik Kvello / TV 2

How to best manage money in such troubled times is something Tangen spends a lot of time on. So much so that there is actually no time for anything else.

– I spend my whole day at the Oil Fund. It’s the only thing I think about and the only thing I do. I will do that until my last day, emphasizes the 56-year-old.

A lot of people talk about work/life balance, and I’ve never really understood that. I think the job is incredibly fun. I want to spend as much time as possible on it

Nicolai Tangen

Record red 2022

Although he loves to work, the 56-year-old admits that the first two years did not turn out quite as he had imagined.

– It has been two strange years, really. In the first year, the stock market did well, and the fund made a lot of money. This year it has been more messy, reflects Tangen.

“Rufsete” is perhaps a bit of a mild word. In the first half of 2022, NOK 1,680 billion disappeared from the fund. Put another way: Each individual Norwegian lost NOK 311,000.

With a long career as an investor, Tangen has learned that it is normal to lose money. In his job as oil fund manager, he has to be humble, simply because you make mistakes so often. But record losses aren’t what keep him up at night.

– I lie awake because I think about how we can develop the organization further, not because we might lose money in the short picture, says Tangen.

It is a way of thinking that he also talks to many of his employees about.

– You get used to losing money now and then, and it shouldn’t ruin your life.

Although the Oil Fund has never had a similar loss before, Tangen believes that it could easily have been much worse. Last year, several steps were taken to reduce the risk in the Oil Fund. It pays off now.

– This year we have approximately 150 billion less in losses than the market has had, i.e. what we measure ourselves against. It was because of things we screwed up last year.

Tangen would rather think that the Oil Fund’s 500 employees have earned 150 billion in the first half of the year than that they have lost 1,680 billion. And there will be a fairly decent profit per employee, even if Tangen is not the type to rest on his laurels.

When you are a fund manager, you must never be satisfied. You must always be depressed that you are not making more money. There I am, I’m never satisfied.

Nicolai Tangen

Tangen: – It is positive that the stock markets are going down

Mattress bigger than Everest

Back to the hypothetical calculation. Together with some colleagues, Tangen recently asked himself the question:

If you take out all the money in the Oil Fund in thousands to put it in the mattress in the bedroom, how big does the mattress have to be?

– We started with a normal mattress of 90×200 centimetres. It must be quite high. It must actually be 10,400 meters high. It’s higher than Mount Everest, says Tangen with a smile.

GIGANTIC: - It's a bit like the princess on the pea, says Tangen about the hypothetical mattress.  Photo: TV 2

GIGANTIC: – It’s a bit like the princess on the pea, says Tangen about the hypothetical mattress. Photo: TV 2

The calculation is hardly a particularly practical way of illustrating the enormous sums the oil fund manager is responsible for managing. Looking at concrete values, Tangen can show, among other things, that the fund owns 9,000 companies. In fact, the Norwegian state owns an average of 1.5 percent of all listed companies worldwide.

In addition, the fund has a lot of government bonds, and the Oil Fund also owns almost 1,000 properties. Tangen seems particularly pleased with that.

We own 25 percent of Regent Street. And there is more we can buy.

Nicolai Tangen
FILE - People cross the Regent Street shopping district with Union flags hanging over it to mark the upcoming Platinum Jubilee of the 70 year reign of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, in London, Wednesday, May 18, 2022. Britain's economy showed unexpectedly strong growth in May , with an expansion of 0.5% in domestic product, reported The Office for National Statistics.  The Confederation of British Industries cautioned that the figures can be volatile, with May data skewed by an extra public holiday marking Queen Elizabeth II's 70 years on the throne.  (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File) Photo: Matt Dunham

And perhaps it is precisely these values ‚Äč‚Äčthat illustrate in an understandable way how unimaginably large the Oil Fund actually is.

– When I walk down Regent Street and see the fantastic properties, I think it’s absolutely unbelievable that a small country with five million people owns 25 percent of Regent Street. It is the finest street in London. Then I will be a little proud on behalf of Norway, says Tangen as a proud smile pushes forward.

Like a Ferrari

It is precisely on behalf of Norway that Tangen thinks about the Oil Fund 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Despite the huge media uproar that ensued when he was hired in 2020, he wouldn’t have done anything differently.

– I have no regrets, emphasizes Tangen.

PRESS: Nicolai Tangen was exposed to a fierce media attack when he took office in 2020. Photo: Rune Blekken / TV 2

PRESS: Nicolai Tangen was exposed to a fierce media attack when he took office in 2020. Photo: Rune Blekken / TV 2

He refers to a conversation with the chairman of Ferrari, whom he recently interviewed on behalf of The Oil Fund’s own podcast.

– I asked him if Ferrari is really a car, Tangen begins, before imitating the answer he received from Benedetto Vigna in his best Italian accent:

– “But Nicolai, Ferrari is not a car, it is a dream. When you work for Ferrari, you work for Italy”. And the Oil Fund is another such dream. When you work for the Oil Fund, you work for Norway and that is absolutely fantastic. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, concludes Tangen.

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