INSEAD Participant Interview

Supporting Career Transitions

Jeppe Okkels Birk

CFO of Danske Bank International

Jeppe Okkels Birk is CFO of Danske Bank International. A Danish national with experience of working in Africa, he is now based in Luxembourg.

He recently received the INSEAD Executive Certificate in Global Management for completing three programmes within two years: The Leadership TransitionRisk Management in Banking and Negotiation Dynamics.

When did you first embark on learning with INSEAD?

My first programme was The Leadership Transition in 2010. I’d been a manager for three or four years and done lots of basic internal management courses, but I knew I needed to gain more leadership skills.

Why did you choose INSEAD and this particular programme for your leadership education?

The programme particularly appealed, because it’s split into two modules. That means you can practise what you’ve learned and then reflect on it with high-level peers. Also, as well as having a great reputation, INSEAD’s Fontainebleau campus is very convenient if you live in Luxembourg!

What were the highlights?

Professor Ludo Van der Heyden’s sessions on fair process made a big impact on me. The fact that you don’t have to be democratic but you do have to get people on board is still something that I try to practise. And the group-coaching sessions where we received strong feedback from each other are also very clear memories.

How did your career – and your INSEAD experience – develop after that?

I took on responsibility for the bank’s risk management function. It’s a huge field that is constantly evolving. So it was a logical choice to return to INSEAD for the Risk Management in Banking programme. It was a totally different experience from the Leadership Transition: shorter, more intense and very action-packed. The participant group was very different too: all specialists from my own industry. But again, it was definitely worth it and it inspired me to return.

And your third INSEAD programme?

I chose Negotiation Dynamics, as I face negotiations on an ongoing basis, whether about salary increases with employees or prices with subcontractors. But the programme wasn’t necessarily what I expected, based on my experience. In fact, it was utterly fascinating and absolutely fantastic! There was just one professor, Horacio Falcao. But he had so much energy that he was able to keep on challenging us right through the three days. He really made us see that it’s possible for both parties to win in a negotiation. It isn’t difficult stuff, but it’s very powerful. There are maybe three, four, five points that I know I’m going to use all the time.

Will you come back to INSEAD?

Receiving the certificate was a bonus. I didn’t even know about it when I first signed up for INSEAD Executive Education. Even though I already have the qualification, my plan is to continue doing more programmes. In the meantime, I’m busy recommending the school.

And where will your career take you next?

Probably not back to Denmark any time soon. That’s the real value of INSEAD. It’s just interesting and inspiring to be part of a culturally diverse group. You’re educated not only by the professors but also by your fellow participants. And that means you’re learning all the time – even in the lunch break!

To find out how you can gain the INSEAD Executive Certificate in Global Management, click here.

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