"It's a no-brainer to be interested in mental wellbeing"
In this personal interview, we get to know Lars-Christian Brask, a member of our board of directors. Lars-Christian tells us where he comes from and what he hopes to achieve with Millennial Mental Wellbeing.
Born in Sweden in 1963, Lars-Christian is the oldest of three brothers a son of a business owner and an executive assistant. The family lived in Sweden for five years after Lars-Christian’s birth before moving to Denmark.
“I would say that I got a solid family upbringing. Not necessarily born with a golden spoon in my mouth but my family was healthy and loving,” Lars-Christian explains and adds: “My parents made sure my brothers and I got a good education and taught us to earn and respect our own money.”
"As a kid, I wanted to become a professional football player or a dentist - but I became neither!"
Despite his childhood career dreams not coming true, Lars-Christian’s path has sure been diverse and successful. “I actually started my career as a manager for rock bands, organizing tours, managing record deals, and so on. But then I became a trainee in a bank,” says Lars-Christian who started working for Jyske Bank back in 1982. His career as a banker was off to a good start and before long, Lars-Christian had been promoted to the role of an investment manager from where he was then transferred to Jyske Bank’s headquarters to become an advisor for professional equity investors.
“From there I was headhunted to a stockbroker firm in Copenhagen,” explains Lars-Christian who before the age of 25 had become Head of Equities. “In 1990, a big client of mine headhunted me to London where I had a career in finance. First at Merrill Lynch, then Bank of America, and finally UBS.” But between his jobs at Bank of America and UBS, Lars-Christian was a CEO of his own boutique investment bank, Brask & Company, which in 2003 was sold to Kaupthing Bank.
During his career, Lars-Christian has also attended various management and executive programs in universities such as Copenhagen Business School and Columbia Business School.
After 15 years abroad, primarily in London but also in New York and San Francisco, Lars-Christian returned to Denmark where he has lived and worked since 2005. Since then, he has served as a board member and chairman of multiple boards in Denmark.
"My business today is that I’m a member of fourteen boards, and the chairman of nine of those, primarily boards of family-owned and owner-managed companies. But first and foremost, I see myself as a leader. I lead people and teams to results and to achieve what we agree are the right goals for each organization."
The banker becomes a politician
But not only does he serve on 14 boards at the moment, for the past years Lars-Christian has also been active in local politics in the Roskilde municipality, where he lives with his wife and two children.
“Yes, today I’m also a politician. I’m a vice mayor of Roskilde, member of the city council, and vice-chairman of Roskilde’s city planning and technical committee.”
But why does an experienced banker and businessman decide to join local politics?
“I was too nosy and too active in telling the politicians how to do things!” Lars-Christian answers with a laugh. According to Lars-Christian, this interference led a political leader in Roskilde to ask: “If you’re so clever, why don’t you run yourself?” - which Lars-Christian did with good results in the 2013 municipal elections, surpassing not only his political allies but also leaders of other parties in numbers of personal votes.
When asked about his experience of politics so far, Lars-Christian answers: “It’s been interesting and different. I’ve been in the opposition the whole time and as such there are relatively limited results you can show. You may be able to drag policies and the development of society in a certain direction, but in the end, those in power get the credit for the outcome. So, it’s certainly been interesting to experience those different ways of making decisions and achieving results, but I’ve also learned a lot.”
Lars-Christian also tells me that he believes the political environment is too homogenous and some fundamental pieces are missing for it to represent society, as it should in order to generate better results.
“Politics are full of guys with long, finished and unfinished, studies. You can hardly find anyone in politics who has significant experience in private business. Still, it’s the businesses who pay people their salaries, from which the government then collects taxes for all its social systems,” he explains and adds: “So, people with experience in the business field have to be involved to make sure that frameworks, rules, and regulations don’t hamper the operations that will eventually pay society’s debts, for example after the current corona crisis.”
"Not to mention that we haven’t even reached an equal balance when it comes to genders. Moving forward, just like businesspeople have to be involved, young people have to as well."
“Nobody benefits from a lack of mental wellbeing”
Talking about young people, it’s time to ask why Lars-Christian is so interested in the mental wellbeing of millennials that he chose to join our board of directors.
“I think it’s sort of a no-brainer to be interested in the topic of mental wellbeing. Not only for millennials but for us all. It is a very important thing to be aware of. But when it comes to millennials, just think about how big part of our population they are,” he explains and adds after a quick pause: “If we aren’t interested in the wellbeing of those who will take over from us, something will go wrong – that’s for sure.”
“But the matter of mental wellbeing also hits me close to home. My daughter has schizophrenia, a very challenging mental illness but I’ve seen with my own eyes that with the right treatment, medicine and attitude, you can go a long way.”
When asked if millennials are dealing with different challenges than the generations before, Lars-Christian explains his belief that in the end, we’re all dealing with similar things.
“You know what, we’ve all had the same issues - just slightly different. Millennials may experience different pressure and may be dealing with extra exposure because of social media, but it’s just a different form of challenge. We can try to compare and compete in different ways, but the fundamental issues are the same and the bottom line is that our environment has to be right.”
But how can we create the right environment?
“First of all, we have to be aware of it. We need millennials to be open about their mental wellbeing and to talk about it. Then we need good leaders who listen to their employees,” Lars-Christian says and explains how it’s a matter of communications and of workplaces acknowledging different people and their diverse needs.
“In the end, it all boils down to leadership and respect for others. Most leaders do want their employees and teams to perform well. Nobody benefits from a lack of mental wellbeing.”
Asked if he could summarize his experience in the field into one piece of advice for workplaces and their leaders, Lars-Christian answers quickly: “Listen to your employees and try to understand them. It’s all about being a leader; to understand and lead individuals.”
"I think Millennial Mental Wellbeing will shine a light on important issues that need to be taken care of. I hope the organization will be able to represent millennials and be a good and strong lobby organization. A united voice. For that to happen we need to be regarded as professional and relevant, and I’m proud to be trusted to assist on that journey."
Interview by: Gunnlaugur Bragi Björnsson