Daniel’s team at the World Bank manages more than 100 billion dollars
Together with his colleagues at the World Bank Treasury, alumnus Daniel Öhrström manages more than USD 100 billion. This is a major responsibility, as every additional dollar of profit can make a big difference to people in developing countries. Find out how Daniel got where he is today, and what it’s like working as a portfolio manager.
Daniel started studying at the School of Business, Economics and Law with the aim of obtaining a master’s degree in business administration. Two years later, he had graduated in both business administration and economics, as well as having completed a highly instructive exchange semester in Australia. Today, he is based in Singapore where he works at the World Bank Treasury.
How would you describe the World Bank?
It’s a development bank that offers loans and expertise to low- and medium-income countries to improve people’s living standards. These loans are provided on preferential terms, and are used for healthcare, education and infrastructure. The aim is to combat poverty and to promote common welfare in the world. The World Bank is controlled by a total of 189 member countries, and Sweden is one of them.
The World Bank Treasury, where I work, is ‘the bank within the bank’. The Treasury is responsible for the bank’s balance sheet, which includes all borrowings. A strong balance sheet allows the bank to borrow money in the capital markets by issuing World Bank bonds. This in turn allows for extensive lending to development projects in low- and medium-income countries at preferential rates. The World Bank Treasury also manages the bank’s liquid assets, which is my main job.
What’s it like working as a portfolio manager at the World Bank Treasury?
A portfolio manager in the investment department is responsible for investing the bank’s liquid assets in high-quality interest-bearing assets in the money and bond markets. The main aims are to ensure sufficient liquidity at all times and to generate an acceptable return.
What does an average day involve?
I start by updating myself on what’s happened in the financial markets. I read through emails and reports, and I calculate roughly how much we need to invest during the day. The day then involves identifying suitable investments in different currencies based on our guidelines, in view of the risk profile and the returns. I also discuss overall strategy with my colleagues, and take part in internal and external meetings. I usually end the day by giving a market analysis and an update to my colleagues.
What was it like studying at the School? Did you gain any knowledge that you’ve been able to take with you into the workplace?
It was a fun and highly informative time. The School offered a wide range of courses, knowledgeable lecturers and excellent cooperation with the industry. By chance, I studied an interesting course in economics with a focus on development economics, without realising that I would eventually work in that very field. I attended guest lectures with local businesses and former students, which gave me an interesting perspective on the more theoretical studies and a connection to the professional life that awaited. I remember that I was ready to start working, despite never having had a full-time job. It was an uncertain but exciting time.
The most important things I learnt were about working methods, such as report-writing, presentation techniques and source criticism. Most problems in professional life can be addressed in a structured way using these tools. Theoretical knowledge within different subject areas provides a broad base, and the courses offer an insight into the subjects you’re interested in, although they’re not enough to become an expert. It’s important to keep on learning, even after your studies.
What did you find most interesting to study at the School?
Economics, particularly macroeconomics. Macroeconomics provides a good understanding of how the world works from an economic perspective. I mainly focus on the financial markets in my job now, but there’s a clear link to macroeconomics. I’m very pleased to have a job where I can apply my knowledge of financing and economics, and where I can keep learning more.
Your first role after graduating was in 2006 as an analyst at SAP in Prague. How did you get that job?
I was a member of an international student organisation (AIESEC), and SAP contacted them for help recruiting students from the School for their office in Prague. Through AIESEC I got in touch with SAP, and after an interview with them I got my first job there. It was equal parts luck and circumstance. However, in my experience luck and circumstance are decisive when it comes to the paths you take in working life, even many years later.
Did your studies at the School help you get the job?
Yes, a university education is often a minimum requirement. The School and its courses also have an excellent reputation among employers. In addition, I had studied some courses in IT and that may have been an advantage, as SAP is a market leader in business systems. In general, I think studying different subjects can be an advantage.
Almost immediately afterwards, you got a new job in London with Bank of America. Tell us more.
I liked SAP and the city of Prague very much, and I worked there for almost a year. I worked mainly in accounting, so when the opportunity arose to move to London and work in the financial sector, which is what I specialised in during my studies, it was an easy decision. I also had friends in London.
Then you went to the World Bank Treasury. You become a portfolio manager in 2017, and you now manage more than USD 100 billion. What does that involve?
I moved to the World Bank Treasury in Washington DC, where I first worked in the risk and analysis department. After a few years, I became a portfolio manager in the investment department. This involved working on the day-to-day management of the bank’s liquid assets. Two years ago, when the Treasury was expanding in Asia, I decided to move to Singapore to help open the office and manage the World Bank’s investments in the region. In the US, I was already working on investments in Asia. So it was exciting to be able to do that from Singapore, which is of course a major financial centre. I also enjoyed learning more about the local markets and cultures.
How does it feel being responsible for such huge sums of money, where decisions can really affect the world? It must be a big responsibility.
I’m not on my own – we work as a team. But I’m pleased and grateful that they have confidence in me and the work I do. It probably doesn’t matter very much how small or large the amounts you manage are, because you always do your best regardless. What really motivates me is that I have a job where every extra krona or dollar of return can make a big difference to people in the developing world. I also have the opportunity to work with colleagues from many different countries, which is great.
What tips do you have for anyone who is curious about working internationally in finance and investment, for example with a bank or the World Bank?
I think you should certainly take the opportunity if you’re interested, especially while you’re young. You can take it one step at a time, for example by completing part of your studies abroad. There are many different exchange programmes, and they provide valuable experience even if you eventually decide to work in Sweden. If you want to try working abroad, you can apply for internships as a student. International organisations like the World Bank offer internships, as do banks within the private sector. However, you should apply in plenty of time as the application periods often close well before the summer.