In focusStrategic edge

There has been an increase in demand for strategic advice among Mannheimer Swartling's clients. The recruitment of economist Klas Eklund is one step towards cementing the firm's position as a long-term strategic adviser.

Legislative work is time-consuming, and the law is traditionally regarded as a conservative profession. Yet society and the business sector are changing more rapidly than ever. This means that the demands on Mannheimer Swartlings work change as well. Clients continue to require legal assistance, but they increasingly also seek advice on overall business strategy, macro trends and sustainability.

"Nowadays a greater proportion of our advice is strategic. Increasingly, we offer our clients business intelligence," says Helena Sjöholm, Head of Marketing, Communications and Business Development.

Rapid societal changes in the form of globalisation, digitisation and geopolitical realignments have generated more demand for a pro-active approach by business advisers. Jan Dernestam, Managing Partner, can see this clearly when he meets business representatives and industry colleagues in Sweden and abroad. When an editorial in Dagens Industri, a  business newspaper, urged all large Swedish companies to employ their own chief economist, Jan Dernestam began to ponder the idea. He decided that Mannheimer Swartling should strengthen its expertise in macroeconomic and geopolitical business intelligence as soon as possible, to be able to support its clients' in strategic decision making.

Uncertainty – the main trend

A number of megatrends are changing the world, in micro and in macro terms. The changing balance of power between East and West, the automation of skilled work and reappraisal of fossil fuels are some examples. But perhaps the greatest trend of all is uncertainty. Mannheimer Swartling must guide its clients through this uncertainty and help them make the right decisions.

By recruiting one of Sweden's most renowned economists, former Chief Economist at the Scandinavian bank SEB, Klas Eklund, Mannheimer Swartling has now further enhanced its offering. The firm's broader perspective now includes macro-analysis and political business intelligence.

"If there's a single characteristic feature of the times we live in, it's uncertainty."

"I have always had a positive view of Mannheimer Swartling. Big, reputable and resourceful. I'm going to enjoy getting to know the firm from the inside and meeting its clients," Klas Eklund says.

Klas Eklund has a PhD from Stockholm School of Economics and has had a long career as an economic and political adviser and expert to the Government, the Bank of Sweden and the European Commission. In 1994 he was appointed Chief Economist at SEB and during 2016–2017 his role was Sustainability Economist at the same bank. He is also a frequent lecturer, debater and author. Klas Eklund joins Mannheimer Swartling as Senior Economist in January 2018.

"I will continue doing what I have been doing up to now, writing analyses centred on economics, politics, sustainability and geopolitics. But I will also be advising Mannheimer Swartling's clients," Klas Eklund explains.

For a law firm, it might seem a little audacious and even odd to add a senior economics expert to its line-up of qualified business lawyers. But Jan Dernestam and Helena Sjöholm see it is a natural and exciting step in the firm's development.

"Klas Eklund adds to our strategic know-how and therefore our ability to support our clients even more effectively in a fast-changing world," Helena Sjöholm says.

Managing crises

It is not the first time Mannheimer Swartling has recruited specialist expertise beyond the confines of business law. In 2014 Emma Ihre joined the firm as Head of Sustainability. The initial idea was that she would lead Mannheimer Swartling's internal sustainability initiatives, but it soon became clear that clients were seeking out her expertise to such a degree that her main role at the firm is now to advise clients. The sustainability dimension is now fully integrated in Mannheimer Swartling's business law advisory services.

The firm regularly assists in crisis management. Companies, authorities and organisations hiring Mannheimer Swartling need help to manage an existing crisis and prevent a future one. As Jan Dernestam explains, the firm's lawyers are experts in identifying, evaluating and managing risks. And here there is another natural link to Klas Eklund's area of expertise. As an economist, he has studied economic and political risks. As a political analyst, he has helped to prevent and manage crises.

"If there is a single characteristic feature of the times we live in, it is uncertainty – geopolitical uncertainty, as well as uncertainty over economic policy. It is not at all certain where the current low interest rate policy is leading us, for example" Klas Eklund says.

Like most of Mannheimer Swartling's clients, Klas Eklund's perspective is global. He has written books and scientific articles on China's growth, the future of the euro, climate change and globalisation. These are major issues that pose great challenges, but also offer new business opportunities.

"We are now leading an expansion of the legal profession, in which our offering is being broadened even further. The response from our clients has been fantastic. They are really looking forward to benefiting from Klas Eklund's expertise," says Jan Dernestam.