We have to take gender out of the equation

We have taken a trip down memory lane with our Nordic Head of Customer Care & Retail Support, Klaus Lehmann Kappelgård, about how selling fish as a young man was a pivotal exercise for him to achieve his dream job today. Along with an encouragement to take gender out of the equation.

Only six of 57 Danish banks have a female CEO, and one of them is ours. How do you feel that having a female CEO contributes to BNP Paribas Personal Finance?

Diversity and equal opportunities are very important topics to me. From the perspective of a manager, a man, a husband and a father.

We must break down barriers related to gender, and our CEO, Annika Olsson, acts as a role model by showing that you can become whatever you want, regardless of gender.

We must support all the young people who enter the labour market these years and talk about gender and different perceptions of genders. When they screen the job market today, they will notice female CEOs. One is ours, maybe they will be the next.

However, it is not only the responsibility of companies, the financial sector and the society to break down barriers. It is the responsibility of all of us. It is about how we raise our children. I have two daughters and a son. We raise them to believe they are equal, and in this context it is important to recognise that boys also play an important role in this mission.


A 2020 survey in the financial sector shows that women at all organisation levels – from managers to new employees – express higher management ambitions than men. What do you think about that?

I am not surprised at all. That is what I experience in my everyday life. In our company there are no barriers related to gender or other aspects of being a human being.

Historically, I realise that men have been part of the problem, but it is so far from how I perceive myself. I cheer for everyone. I have five team managers who report to me. Four are women. It is not a conscious choice – I recruit and promote people based on their skills and experience, not gender.

We simply have to stop talking about gendered jobs, gendered job functions and gendered sectors. We have to take gender out of the equation.

Furthermore, we must remember that diversity is much more than gender, and one aspect is educational background.


Speaking of educational background, what was your path into the financial industry?

My career started with fish. For six years, I worked in a shop where I sold fish, and although it may seem quite distant from the financial sector, it was a very educational and useful experience.

One of the most important lessons was how to take advantage of different communication strategies targeting different customer segments. The shop hosted a very diverse audience, from the local common people to the Japanese tourist with a craving for smoked crab. To be successful you had to approach these customers very differently – a relevant lesson when working in Customer Service.

I also learned about basic work ethics: The value of hard work, how it affects my colleagues if I do not show up, and how to create a good work environment. When you thrive at work, have fun, work together towards common goals, the tasks become less demanding. Even smelly fish in the morning can become secondary.

I eventually fell in love, moved to Zealand and started working in telecommunications. Later I joined the insurance industry and three years ago, I started at BNP Paribas Personal Finance.

Based on my own story, I have two key messages. First: If you are ambitious and willing to work hard, the sky is the limit, regardless of your educational background. Second: Companies have an important responsibility in building organisations that reflect the society in which they operate.

My dream job has always been to be responsible for a Nordic Customer Service department. An objective I achieved in 2021. It has taken me 20 years, and maybe I could have achieved it faster with a master’s degree. On the other hand, you cannot train for my life experience, and I think that companies must make room for colleagues both with and without a formal education background. Our employees must reflect the society.  That way our customers can see themselves in us, which provides a strong basis for dialogue and excellent customer service.