Former student

Leadership is about understanding people

After he completed his masters at BI, it did not take long for Arbab Dar to start climbing the career ladder and showing eminent leadership skills.

Arbab Dar

Position: CFO Employer: Nordea Bank

My parents came to Norway as labour immigrants in the 1970s. There were six of us who lived in a small three-room apartment at Grünerløkka. Learning the value of hard work at an early age has been a great strength for me.

Arbab landed his first part-time job when he was 12 years old at a bookstore where his father worked as an accountant. And when the time came to choose his education, Arbab chose to follow his father’s footsteps. He had a general interest in numbers, and thought that auditing – the combination of finances, laws and regulations – was very interesting.

– There are many myths about auditors. They aren’t necessarily described as the coolest people. But auditors are everything but boring. Auditing is so much more than just checking numbers. It is about meeting people and understanding what motivates them. Because, when you review the numbers of a company, you review something someone has created – a place where people create something of value.
The leader

After a few hectic years in the well-recognized, international company EY, Arbab was employed as a controller in Nordea. But only nine months later, at the age of 33, the young auditor was appointed the Norwegian Group’s new CFO, and E24 named him one of the most talented young leaders in Norway

– The recognition absolutely had an influence, and has opened a few doors. But most important of all was the acknowledgement and confirmation of all the hard work. It also raised expectations about my choices.


According to Arbab, a good leader should understand what motivates the individual employee. The goal is to encourage individuals to perform at their best.
– People are different, and ought to be treated accordingly. It is important to create a healthy performance culture.
The CFO believes leaders themselves choose how they will fill the role. Do you want to be someone who points and commands or do you take part in sharing the load? Arbab believes that a leader should never forget that they are a part of the team. When things are going well, it is the team that needs to be rewarded.
– But if something goes wrong, it is extremely important that I as the leader assume the necessary responsibility and ensure that the team learns and grows from it. Generally, it is very ineffective to look for a scapegoat.
Arbab believes the leader’s role is important, also outside the office. Waiting at home is his 1 ½-year-old daughter and the decision to take paternity leave was an important part of his leadership responsibility.
– I have reflected on the debate about parental leave being a career stopper. I believe it is important to take responsibility, and show that it is possible to take parental leave. A leader ought to be a good role model, and I wouldn’t suggest anything else.


In only a few years, Arbab has achieved more in his career than most do during their lifetime. He now wishes to use his position to make an impact on the structure of managerial groups and board rooms, to create greater diversity among Norwegian leaders.
According to Arbab, companies have better conditions to succeed if they are representative of the society they operate in.
– I saw an interview with the Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau where he was asked about the diversity of his staff. Trudeau just answered “this is Canada”. I am so inspired by that. Because, I believe that is how you succeed. Diversity is extremely important.

Arbab Dar hold a MSc in Professional Accontancy from 2010.

This article was first published in 2018.


Arbab Dar