Thirty-five years ago when a young Nils Petter Dyvik – keen to travel the world – joined a Norwegian shipping company, little did he know how much the industry would change or where his journey would take him. Now, after several decades with Wilhelmsen, getting ready for his retirement in April, he looks back fondly on the good times and the milestones that made history.
Words: Alannah Eames Photos: Private / Forsvaret
“I was always fascinated by the sea and boats, having spent my childhood vacations on the Norwegian coast,” says Nils Petter Dyvik, group chief financial officer (GCFO), of Wilhelmsen.
After a short period working at a Norwegian shipping bank, he joined Norwegian America Line, a shipping company based on the Oslo Stock Exchange, which was already a partner of the Wilhelmsen group. In 1995, Wilhelmsen acquired all the shares in the company and Dyvik became deputy CEO of the newly merged Wilhelmsen Lines.
Back then, he had no doubt that joining a bigger company – and especially Wilhelmsen – was a step in the right direction.
“We had already worked with Wilhelmsen for several years so I knew they had a good culture and a lot of great people. They were regarded as a serious global company in the shipping world,” Dyvik says.
However, one small thing bugged him about becoming part of a larger company.
“When I worked for Norwegian America Line, I knew where everyone was and what they were doing. Then, at Wilhelmsen, I couldn’t keep track of most people. This was a bit frustrating in the beginning, but I got used to it.”
This was the start of a long career that he doesn’t regret a minute of. “I love being part of an industry that is international and fluctuates with the economy and political developments worldwide,” he explains.
“It never gets boring – every year is a different one with new challenges and opportunities. That’s why I stayed.”
Of course, the Wilhelmsen group was a different company back in the Nineties compared to today. But, as Dyvik says, some things haven’t changed at all.
“The company is a lot bigger today and is much more diversified. We have grown far beyond traditional ocean shipping into logistics and maritime products and services. To some extent, it is the same company that I joined many years ago. It’s still a family controlled company – Thomas is the fifth generation – and the combination of being owned by an honest and dedicated family, combined with being publicly listed, is a great combination, in my opinion.”
As the company has changed, so too has the shipping industry. After going through tough times in the Eighties and Nineties, many companies went bankrupt. The ones that survived, according to Dyvik, were the ones that specialized in niche segments and worked in a more integrated way with their customers.
Wilhelmsen, like others, has changed its operations and setup. In the Nineties, it replaced its container business with pure RoRo. The first Mark IV vessel was delivered in 2000, marking a huge shift in the company’s fleet. “This was a milestone for me back then as these vessels have been an important part of the development of sophisticated advanced vessels over the years,” he explains.
When asked what his favorite period was, Dyvik doesn’t hesitate: moving from sea operations into land-based activities a decade ago. This meant developing total integrated logistics solutions – and implementing new computer systems and software – so that Wilhelmsen could take care of customers’ cargo from the factory to the dealer.
«THE COMBINATION OF BEING OWNED BY AN HONEST AND DEDICATED FAMILY, COMBINED WITH BEING PUBLICLY LISTED, IS A GREAT COMBINATION, IN MY OPINION.»
“It was a huge struggle to convince the organization internally that this would work, but also to get our customers on board,” he recalls.
“All the investments we had to make in inland distribution and vehicle processing to offer customers a total solution were much more difficult than we initially thought. But it’s paying off now and WWL (Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics) contributes very well to our business.”
In 2007, Dyvik became CFO of Wilh. Wilhelmsen ASA, a chance to leverage on his previous experience in banking. Since then, the financial strategy has been to create a strong holding company – Wilh. Wilhelmsen Holding ASA – which is debt-free and owns the group’s different activities through separate entities so they can develop their business using their own resources and balance sheets.
“This structure is a strength and I think it will be even clearer and stronger in the future,” he says. In 2010, just after the peak of the financial crisis, WWASA was successfully listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange. In 2016, Treasure ASA will be demerged from WWASA and listed publicly. Dyvik looks fondly on this latest listing and hopes it will be an important milestone for the Wilhelmsen group.
Despite the political and economic turmoil of recent years, he believes that the group is stronger than ever.
“Thanks to our positive financial position we have huge opportunities ahead. This means we won’t be seen as a traditional shipping company, but a serious logistics player which will diversify even more in the future,” he comments. Dyvik believes the company is lucky to have great employees who will be an asset to develop new business and bring the company forward.
“We have such dedicated people who make it a fun place to work. And when you visit the different offices you can sense the pride employees have in working for Wilhelmsen.”
His advice for newcomers working their way up the corporate ladder?
“Hang in there. There are so many opportunities to work in different parts of the business, which you can grab. That’s why I stayed with the group – because there was always something I could learn and use to develop myself.”
So, what’s next for Dyvik when he retires in April? Will he sit still and enjoy his retirement or will he get itchy feet? He laughs and replies:
“I think I’ll still support the group with some activities and I will probably still be active in the shipping finance community in Oslo. But, let’s see how active I will be – I feel too young to spend all my time doing cross-country skiing and sailing!”
NILS PETTER DYVIK JOB:
Group chief financial officer (GCFO), Wilh. Wilhelmsen Holding ASA
CAREER AT WILHELMSEN: Joined Norwegian America Line in 1988 as CEO; became deputy CEO of Wilhelmsen Lines in 1996 and CEO of Wallenius Wilhelmsen from 2002 to 2007; CFO of Wilh. Wilhelmsen ASA from 2007 until 2010
HOBBIES: Sailing, cross-country skiing, traveling, culture and history “Unfortunately, the winter in Norway is too short for skiing and the summer is too short for sailing!”
FAMILY: Wife and three kids
MAJOR CAREER MILESTONES
1995 Wilhelmsen takes a major step into car carriers by acquiring Norwegian America Line; Nils Petter Dyvik joins Wilhelmsen after the acquisition as Wilhelmsen Lines’ new Deputy CEO.
1999 Wilhelmsen Lines merges with Wallenius Lines AB.
2000 The first Mark IV RoRo vessel enters its fleet, marking a new era for the shipping company.
2002 Dyvik becomes CEO of Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics (WWL).
2003 Wilhelmsen stops its container business, focusing instead only on cars and RoRo cargo.
2010 IPO of WWASA; it is listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange.
2011 Wilhelmsen ventures into logistics in the oil and gas industry through Norsea Group; this leads to further investments in wind and renewable energy.
2016 Wilhelmsen Treasure ASA is demerged from WWASA and listed publicly.