Kristin Holth is focused on the big picture. The Head of DNB’s Ocean Industries division believes long-term value, for the bank and its customers, can be unlocked by viewing the ocean as a single arena, rather than standalone segments. Here she explains why DNB has dived into a new way of working.
When Kristin Holth talks, industry listens.
Consistently ranked as one of the most powerful figures in the ship financing sector, Holth has more than thirty years of experience at DNB, with high profile tenures in London, New York and her hometown of Oslo. Until September 2017 she was Global Head of Shipping, Offshore and Logistics at the financial institution, still one of the world’s top five maritime lenders, and has now spent the last 18 months developing a proposition she believes reflects the changing horizons of a broad global customer base.
“We’ve gone beyond capturing segments,” she says, flashing a determined smile. “Now we want to capture the ocean.”
On 1 September 2017 DNB changed. For the first time the Oslo-headquartered bank – Norway’s leading consumer and investment institution, and largest asset management company – grouped all its ‘sea’ related business into a single Ocean Industries division.
This meant combining segments that account for 70% of all Norwegian exports (and annual value creation approaching NOK 700 billion) under one roof. Suddenly teams working with maritime customers were direct colleagues with those offering expertise in seafood, energy, offshore activity and logistics. It was, and is, Holth’s job to steer that transition and help turn potential benefits into tangible gains.
“From a personal perspective, it’s been an extremely exciting journey so far,” she comments. “Learning about how these segments do, and can, interact and where the crossover potential can deliver most value. These industries are key to the success of Norway, and the ocean is obviously crucial to the future prosperity and health of the world, so it’s an absolute privilege to be given this responsibility.”
Added value chain
Holth is quick to stress that this new ‘joined up’ approach doesn’t mean sacrificing individual segment expertise, but rather leveraging it in new ways to enable industry convergence as a cornerstone for future success.
“We have the benefit of having a very strong foothold in each of these capital intensive, export focused business areas,” she notes.
“So, now we have aligned them into a single unit, with a single management team, we can share knowledge, discuss how we manage and evolve portfolios, and look for opportunities where one area can feed into another. It’s about understanding the whole value chain, through a holistic approach, and thus being able to deliver added value to customers and stakeholders. There aren’t many other financial institutions that could make a success of this concept because they do not have our strength across the board.”
As an example of how this works in practice, Holth highlights tanker ships. She notes that if the institution supporting the shipowner also supports the drilling company, the offshore service providers, and has an intimate understanding of developments within the wider energy markets, then decisions can be made with a level of insight far beyond a ‘conventional’ more segmented approach. This also means that more relevant metrics can be identified and used to measure progress in a tangible way.
“Suddenly the factors driving developments become more visible,” she explains, “and that allows for better analysis, decision making, and ultimately, return on investment. Everybody benefits from that.”
DNB’s move is, to an extent, indicative of a new approach to the ocean space also shown by Nor-Shipping’s 2019 repositioning as Your Arena for Ocean Solutions. Both organisations (and DNB is a headline sponsor of Nor-Shipping, taking place in Oslo and Lillestrøm, Norway, from 04 to 07 June) are seeking to help customers take advantage of the vast commercial potential that has prompted OECD to forecast a doubling of ocean-based value creation by 2030. Together they see possibilities for greater overlap and collaboration between segments, with established expertise the key to accessing new opportunity.
“I think what Nor-Shipping is doing is absolutely the right thing for the future of their industry and the ocean economy,” Holth states. “We see that our customers are starting to work more closely together and that ideas, technology and skills can be shared across segments.
“Look at the difficult times the offshore industry has experienced over the past years for example. That was challenging, but it also provided opportunity for crossover, with entrepreneurial players transferring competency and technology into the seafood segment, which is growing fast, particularly here in Norway.
“So, it pays to have a broader perspective,” she stresses. “By embracing segments beyond its traditional maritime core Nor-Shipping is serving its audience by helping them position for the future.
“That’s ultimately what we’re doing too – investing in this new division so that customers gain competitive advantage and achieve long-term success. We want to be the advisor and financial partner that helps our customers to drive the agenda and become future winners.”
Strength in numbers
Long-term is a phrase Holth is keen to end on.
She says DNB is ‘here to stay’, working alongside customers in trusted, reliable relationships, rather than simply as a provider of finance.
“The potential within the ocean is huge,” she says, “but so is the need for capital to build the infrastructure and develop the technology and expertise to realize that.” On this note she mentions that the required investment in the fish-farming sector in Norway alone over the next few years is expected to top NOK 50 billion.
“Activity is growing, and it needs to to rise to the global challenges of providing enough food, energy and minerals for the future of global society. It is our task to be here to channel finance in the most effective manner to support that drive. We will do that by working more closely – sharing insights, relevant expertise and ideas across the ocean space to unlock value.”
With a last smile Holth notes this approach will benefit everyone looking to achieve long-term success: “Those that stand in isolation get left behind,” she says. “The way forward is together.”
Advice that, coming from Holth, it pays to listen to.