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Meet Helge Lund, BP's new chairman

Release date:
21 March 2019
Helge Lund has long felt an affinity with BP, even when he worked for a direct competitor. As the company’s new chairman, he’s now making the transition from family friend to figurehead. In his first interview with BP Magazine, he shares his vision for BP’s future and its ambitious role in the energy transition

You’ve spent most of your career in the energy business. What keeps you so passionate about it?

I really believe this industry has it all – it matters to society and we have a strong purpose. We manage complex operations, build big projects and what people don’t always appreciate is quite how advanced our technology is. We are always looking to innovate and improve. On top of all that, we have this deep interaction with local communities. It’s an exciting place to work.

What was your view of BP coming in as the new chairman?

I have always felt close to BP. Equinor [formerly Statoil] took its first international steps in alliance with BP and when we went into Russia, Bob [Dudley] was the first person I went to. I was impressed at the amount of time he gave me, even though I was a competitor. Then, of course, both companies experienced the devastating impact of the terrorist attack in Algeria in 2013. I think you get to know what people and companies stand for in times like that.

“I have known Helge for more than a decade and I am very much looking forward to working with him. With strategic vision and a modern, global perspective, he has a clear understanding of the challenges and the opportunities facing our industry. I am confident Helge, with the rest of the board, will provide the company with good governance and strategic guidance as we continue to grow and adapt through the energy transition.”


 Bob Dudley, group chief executive

What do you see as the role of a chairman?

It is to lead the board, set and manage its agendas, help in setting strategy, foster a culture of integrity, openness and inclusion, as well as making sure BP has the right organizational capabilities and that we follow through on our performance. It’s not my job to run the company, but it’s my job to help shape the atmosphere, so that our executive team and our people feel valued and able to come to the board to discuss all significant issues openly and even if difficult.


Together with my fellow directors, I must also ensure that we continue to have the right mix of capabilities, experience, skills and diversity on the board.

Bob Dudley and Helge Lund at a townhall in Houston, US


“It’s not my job to run the company, but it’s my job to help shape the atmosphere, so that our executive team and our people feel valued and able to come to the board to discuss all significant issues openly and even if difficult.”


Helge Lund, BP chairman


What are the board’s priorities?

Safety and security is really important, of course. Getting this right is the first priority and our best defence. It’s like a soccer team: you need the tightest defence in the league and then you can compete much harder.


Another priority is to keep developing BP as an open, forward-looking, modern business, one with the vision and skills to lead our industry. I also think it’s up to the board to keep values high on the agenda. Unless you have strong values, it’s hard to manoeuvre in today’s complex society and we’ve seen public trust in lots of big companies erode. 


A fourth area is digital transformation – we know that technology is changing the way we do things. I like BP’s approach – we’ve created a good platform, but I do think we need to move faster. It’s an area in which I think BP can lead the way.

Lund says he sees an opportunity for BP to lead the agenda in the industry

How important is it to have a good dialogue with shareholders?

I’d say it’s really important to have dialogue with society in general. In terms of shareholders, many of them have similar concerns to us, particularly around climate change.


That’s why we decided to support the Climate Action 100+ resolution. It will further demonstrate the action we’re already taking and will help our shareholders to understand why we believe our strategy is consistent with the Paris goals.


I see our investors as constructive and demanding friends – they understand our strategy and they like it, but they are pushing us to get the balance right in growing shareholder value while advancing the energy transition.


What is your view on the energy transition and BP’s role in it?

The transition will, and must, happen. The challenge for us is to be ambitious in our vision but pragmatic in the way we execute it, finding the right new business opportunities while developing and improving our core business. That’s what our shareholders are telling us they want from us.


And I think BP can play an important role. We have the talent, the financial capability, the relationships and we understand global energy markets and big projects. My mission is to help to keep us an attractive investment proposition through the energy transition, leaving no one outside of BP in any doubt that we are doing so in a way that is consistent with the Paris goals. We may have different views on how we get there, but we will play our part.

Five things about Helge:
  1. He is married with two grown-up children aged 24 and 26.
  2. He splits his time between Oslo and London.
  3. His interests include cross-country skiing and watching Premier League football.
  4. He has an MBA from INSEAD in France.
  5. Early in his career, he was involved in politics, serving as adviser to the former prime minister of Norway.

When not in London for BP, Lund heads home to Oslo in Norway

You work with several small start-up firms. What can BP learn from them?

Working with start-ups has given me a completely different perspective on technology and innovation. I think the traditional style of strategy and development was slower and driven by milestones. But there’s so much volatility now that you have to react more quickly to what’s in front of you. Start-ups are naturally that much more flexible and I think we can learn from that.


What’s one thing you think BP could do better?

I’d say we need to engage more broadly outside our industry. We, and the rest of the industry, have the tendency to talk to ourselves at big industry conferences and think that’s enough.


But we have a job to help people – particularly the younger generation – understand the role that big companies like ours have to play in society and how we contribute to the energy transition.

BP has just launched its first global advertising campaign in a decade. What are your first impressions? 

I like it. It’s ambitious, forward looking and dynamic. Everything I think we need to convey about our business right now.

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