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Jesper had a eureka moment in training: Had to apologise to employees

Jesper Køster, Bank Area Director at Spar Nord in Køge, experienced massive eureka moments and changed his management style in direct consequence of diversity management training. A mini-training programme attended by 20 managers in a partnership of the High Performance Institute, Finansforbundet and Spar Nord.

2. Apr 2024
6 min
English / Dansk

A young woman with a Kurdish background currently works as a student assistant in the Spar Nord branch in Køge. It might not have been so if Jesper Køster, manager of the branch, had not completed a programme in diversity management.

 “Previously, the management team and I would have done like we usually do and most likely wouldn’t have invited her for an interview. The CV had told us that she was still living at home with her parents and therefore probably was not independent enough.”

But the story did not end this way, because new insights about unconscious bias and the value of greater diversity led the management to offer her the job:

 “And she has turned out to be the best student assistant we've ever had. It would have been a missed opportunity if I hadn’t consciously decided to do something different than what I usually do. I’ve come to see diversity as a strength, and I recognise the potential of our differences.”

He has learned that the life, experiences and history of every single employee contribute something to the community – and diversity and value creation grow when we add other than the usual elements.

Top inspiring

The student assistant and other examples are proof of the changes that have occurred after the mini-training programme that Jesper Køster and 20 co-managers completed in October.
“This is most definitely the two most inspiring days I've had in more than twenty years.”

The programme was a pilot project created in a partnership between the High Performance Institute, Finansforbundet and Spar Nord. It is currently being considered whether to roll it out as a management training programme in the entire organisation.

Jesper Køster is done considering; he is already well underway – he immediately began implementing changes in the branch in Køge.

(Artiklen fortsætter efter boksen)
After the programme, Jesper Køster immediately set out to change his way of management.

An apology

“I first went back to apologise to my employees. I had to because I realised that I had demanded that they meet certain customer groups in a certain way. Demands that I realise today were completely unsuccessful and wrong.”

The first thing he realised is that diversity management is completely different from what he associated it with.

“I expected it to be mostly about women and leadership. But very quickly into the programme, it dawned on me that I hadn't understood a thing about diversity management. I’ll describe it as a monumental eureka moment.”

None other than Messi

His second eureka moment came with teacher Loveleen Brenna whom he came to learn was a pioneer in this particular field of management in Norway. She passed on knowledge in the most convincing way, he says.

“As attendants, we knew immediately that she was a superstar in her field. It's like turning up for football practice, thinking that a coach from the neighbouring club is coming to coach us, but then it turns out that they’ve flown in Messi. Loveleen’s way of explaining and emphasising matters is incredibly inspiring. It was an honour and a huge gift to be taught by her.”

Loveleen Brenna showed the managers from Spar Nord that they were actually not very open-minded.

“Good grief, I have failed to take note of all the layers to be seen in relation to each individual, each customer. Right there, I realised that I'm the kind of person who just lays out a bias and goes on autopilot with firm beliefs. I make a living by getting new customers, and yet I’ve ignored the opportunities in diversity – for example, a customer could perhaps lead you to other customers,” Jesper Køster notes.

“We’re an ultra-conservative industry, and we need to start looking at the business in a new way.” Jesper Køster, Bank Area Director at Spar Nord, Køge.
- Jesper Køster, Bank Area Director at Spar Nord, Køge.

Make them go away

He came to realise that he had made mistakes in his leadership role and the approach he had told his employees to take when meeting people who come physically to the bank.

“The customers who drop in at the bank with no prior appointment are truly the ones who need our help: immigrants, the homeless and the elderly who are excluded from our digital community. In this case, my approach, and probably that of most other banks, would be to do as little as possible for them so they won't consume our time – and instead spend the time on customers we earn money from.”

This is where the previously mentioned apology comes in, because Jesper Køster realised that his attitude was both “arrogant and completely wrong”.  He therefore apologised to his employees and instead asked them to help the customers genuinely and thoroughly, so that they are not left confused and frustrated.

“The employees were utterly thrilled by this message. They chose this field of work to help people. Some of them said that they had already helped customers in this manner while my back was turned...”

Energy for new perspectives

Jesper Køster explains that the diversity training programme has given him energy to look at many things from entirely new perspectives.

“A silly thing is our opening hours. Before I attended the programme, the bank opened at 10am, whether or not someone had come to work earlier. It’s a joke that it hasn’t changed in the last 50 years. So, now we open the doors when the first two employees have come in. It's not that a lot of customers drop in, but customers are less likely to be met with locked doors.”

Ingrained habits are not easily changed, he admits:

“Oh dear, bankers in need of changing habits; it's not that simple. We’ve started a long process that also means we’ll be scrapping extended hours on Thursdays. We will start by giving everyone a chance to think about when they’d like to work, and once we’re set, we will inform our customers. This will create a dynamic and more flexible environment.”

It pays off

Another thing made Jesper Køster pay careful attention during the diversity training programme: It was made clear to the participants that they should only work with it if it made sense from a business perspective.

Jesper Køster is known for being very business-minded at Spar Nord, so it spoke directly to him – and he became thoroughly convinced, indeed:

“I no longer doubt that it makes sense from a business perspective. We’re an ultra-conservative industry, and we need to start looking at the business in a new way, for example by recruiting people so that all bankers don’t look the same and don’t have equally pale skin, not looking particularly creative to the outside. We have stood more still than the community around us. It's time to do something about it.”

Diversity management partnership

The diversity management programme was uniquely developed in a partnership between Finansforbundet, Spar Nord and the High Performance Institute – which is in contact with Seema, the Norwegian organisation behind the programme.

The pilot programme was a two-day appetiser for the actual training programme, which consists of four blocks, each lasting two days.

The programme is the first of its kind to certify leaders and prepare them to act, lead and work with a focus on diversity. 

If you would like to know more about Seema, the diversity management programme or partnerships and the two-day pilot programme that managers from Spar Nord completed, please write to Samuel Funk-Hansen, Partnership Manager, at

Mangfoldighedsledelse - High Performance Institute (in danish)

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