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Bank advisor in uncharted territory

Dennis Kristjansen started out as a bank advisor, but now leads a large team of IT and business developers at Danske Bank. “It was truly uncharted territory for me,” he says.

Uncharted territory: After twenty years working in Danske Bank’s branch network, 38-year-old Dennis Kristjansen was encouraged to take a completely new direction: What about applying for the job of Tribe Lead?

Tribe Lead means heading up one of the Bank’s development departments, also known as tribes. This is where business and IT people work closely together to develop new products and digital solutions for customers. For Danske Bank, this was a new way of working, so the job function was also completely new – Dennis felt he could not say no.

“This is something you do with a degree of reverence. It was truly uncharted territory for me! After all, I have no training in project management or IT,” he says.

Becoming Tribe Lead meant transitioning from being a manager of bank advisors to leading an international, cross-functional team of 160 staff comprising, for example, IT and business experts with job titles like IT architects, UX designers, front-end developers, cloud developers, business analysts and product owners.   

Customer insight
Dennis’ tribe, ‘Everyday Banking Individuals’, is responsible for developing digital solutions that make everyday finances easier for customers.

“More specifically, we develop payment cards, basic functions for our mobile bank app, accounts, payments, new and cool mobile bank solutions and so on.”
Despite feeling he was in uncharted territory, Dennis had one enormous advantage in his new job: he knows our customers.

“I have learned from my years in the branch network that our customers do not need more complexity.  Even though everything related to the bank is complicated – legislation, finances – customers want simplicity! Moreover, we should not only be cool and rational – we also have to appeal to our customers’ emotions, as they need to feel that we are human too,” he says.

Openness required
“Leading a tribe requires an awareness of the differences we all bring to the table, as there is much greater cultural, geographic and professional diversity among those who work in the tribe than there is in a branch.

“This places serious demands on our self-awareness and openness – at all levels. Being able to come together as a team and focus on the problems we want to help the customer solve is what it’s all about,” says Dennis.

A tribe, such as the one Dennis leads, has a mandate to make its own decisions.

“Having decision-making powers brings with it a need for courage – but I always feel I am standing on the shoulders of giants. The level of competence displayed by the members of my tribe keeps me humble!” says Dennis.

What I enjoy most about my job

“What I enjoy most about my job is probably the diversity. The work our tribe does touches on almost every aspect of the Bank – and we are a big tribe of very different colleagues. Diversity is important for me. We can be so much better and have much more fun when we are a highly diverse team in terms of gender, age, educational background, nationality…” he says.

“We have to reach a large and broad audience, so we need to include all views, including offbeat views, when carrying out our development work. We need to be different!” he says.

Everything can be done via Teams, but… 
Due to COVID-19, Dennis has not yet met his international team – who are spread across India, Lithuania, Copenhagen, Århus and Norway – face-to-face. Everything has been done from his home in Slagelse.

“Being able to have a water fight with my kids when they come home at 4 o’clock is great – and what we have achieved in the tribe by virtual means is fantastic. Everything can be done via Teams! Nevertheless, I also look forward to being able to travel and talk to my colleagues in person again!” he says. However, that does not mean Dennis is planning on becoming a commuter and working from the office five days a week. Danske Bank’s new, flexible, working life policy opens the door to a simpler workday:

“I will probably work from home two or three days a week. After all, the colleagues I work with are in different locations around the world, so this really makes sense for me, both workwise and from a personal point of view,” he says.

Who’s who, Dennis Kristjansen 

Danske Bank:  
Leader of Everyday Banking Individuals Tribe
D&I council member at Danske Bank
Various management positions in the branch network between 2008 and 2020
Started as a bank trainee in 2001

Currently enrolled in the Personal Leadership Development Programme at Harvard University.
Diploma (HD) in business administration (organisation and management)
Financial economist
Bank trainee

Outside the Bank
Lives in Slagelse with his wife and two children.  
Practices martial arts when he has the time.
Abstract painter who has exhibited in the USA and Italy:
“Right now, I am drawing more dinosaurs than painting actual pictures. I prioritise family time, as we are only worth something if we are whole people,” says Dennis.

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