A Banking Dynasty into the 21st Century: Jacob Wallenberg

The Wallenberg name is synonymous with Swedish banking and industry, but Jacob Wallenberg’s own watchword is development. As chairman of Investor AB, the largest holding company of Scandinavia with long-term stakes in blue-chip companies such as Ericsson, AstraZeneca, ABB, Electrolux, Scania, Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB), Atlas Copco, and Saab, Wallenberg continuously looks for dynamic change. The company’s success is based on two basic principles: long-term and engaged ownership. The Investor ownership portfolio is composed of both listed and unlisted companies that are actively managed by Investor through its board representatives.

Wallenberg came to Wharton as an undergraduate after serving as an officer in the Swedish Navy and as an intern at Morgan Stanley. He left five years later with both bachelor and MBA degrees and continued what he calls his “American experience” by working at JP Morgan on Wall Street for two years. He then moved to London to work at the merchant bank Hambros, then eastward again, working in Asia for SEB before returning home to Sweden.

Investor was spun off more than 90 years ago from SEB, the Swedish bank set up in the mid-19th century by Wallenberg’s great-great grandfather, and many of its long-term holdings date to the 1920s and 1930s. Investor has always been at the forefront of innovation, citing its ability to change as one of the hallmarks of its long-term success. For example Investor participated in the creation of OM, the Swedish option exchange in the 1980s. It established EQT, its private equity arm in 1994 in the very early days of private equity. In the late 1990s Investor, in a joint venture with Hutchinson Wampoa, created the telecom company 3, one of the largest single telecom investments in the Nordic area.

In addition to significant holdings in Swedish blue chips, Investor’s more recent actions include increasing its investments in unlisted companies, with the goal of having 25 percent of Investor’s total assets in unlisted companies within three to five years.

Wallenberg, a member of Wharton’s Executive Board for Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, told the Financial Times in early 2007, “It is not a matter of taking on more risk, but of taking advantage of a widening universe of opportunities.”

Wharton Magazine - Background

Type to Search

See all results