Karin Isaksson. Photo: Marjo Koivumäki

Karin Isaksson. Photo: Marjo Koivumäki

30 Aug 2019

NDF’s new Managing Director brings in 30 years of experience in development finance

Since 15 August 2019, Ms Karin Isaksson has been working as the new Managing Director of the Nordic Development Fund (NDF). The NIB Newsletter spoke with Ms Isaksson while she was preparing for her new venture.

The conversation took place during Ms Isaksson’s break from window painting at her summer house in the Stockholm archipelago, where she was enjoying her vacation after finishing her previous job as executive director at the African Development Bank (AfDB) in June. As much as she finds chores at the cottage relaxing, part of Ms Isaksson’s thoughts were already on her new role.

“I’m looking forward to my move to Helsinki very much. When I was working at the AfDB, I had good reviews of NDF, both personally and professionally. It has a competent team and can be very instrumental; they are flexible and move quickly with every transaction,” said NDF’s new managing director.

Building on previous experience in the field

Ms Isaksson served as executive director at AfDB between 2016 and 2019. Prior to that, she was the Vice President of Government Assignment Trade and Invest at Business Sweden and had overall responsibility for government-funded operations delivered by the organisation. Earlier in her career, Ms Isaksson also held director-level positions at Swedfund, where she focused on areas such as investment operations, strategy, partnership development and new products.

Overall, Ms Isaksson has been working in the development finance field for around 30 years, and she says that the move to NDF was the next logical step: “It was a configuration of my career life cycle. Having seen all of these different perspectives, I felt that it would be a good time to be back in operations again, building on the experience that I have gained from different positions”.

“For the last three years I have been in close dialogue with the shareholders in the AfDB to develop what they want from a multilateral financial institution. I thought that coming back to operations, which is where

I have been most of my career, would wrap up what I have done, seen and experienced in this role. After all, NDF is in a very interesting position now as we are in close dialogue with the shareholders, the member states,” Ms Isaksson adds.

Determining the role of the institution

Lars Roth, Chairman of the Board of Directors at NDF, welcomed the organization’s new manager, saying: “Ms Isaksson’s appointment comes at a crucial time with the overall performance of the NDF currently being independently evaluated. There are ongoing discussions at the NDF Board on the future role and value added of NDF as a joint Nordic financing organization within the broader international climate financing architecture.”

While Ms Isaksson admits it takes time to get to know the institution fully, she is ready to take part in these discussions.

“First of all, I know that NDF as an institution has been well run for years and I trust the team and the way they have been operating. I have my ears open, as you need to listen to and work with the team to understand the focus of the institution,” says Ms Isaksson.

“Having said that, focus is one of the things that we need to determine together – with the team and the owners. We have to discuss whether it should be somewhat narrower than it has been in the past, and in that sense crystalize what is the competitive edge of an institution such as NDF. Being a small player, you cannot be all over the place, so you have to determine what will be your niche in this area of development finance.”

“My mandate right now is to secure long-term support from the shareholders for the institution,” concludes NDF’s new managing director.

About NDF

The Nordic Development Fund (NDF) is the joint development finance institution of the five Nordic countries. The objective of NDF's operations is to facilitate climate change investments primarily in low-income countries. NDF finances projects usually in cooperation with bilateral, multilateral and other development institutions. The operations mirror the Nordic countries’ priorities in the areas of climate change and development. NDF’s capital is provided from the development cooperation budgets of the five Nordic countries.