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New Chairman at the Confederation of Danish Industry: The engineer who builds relations

CEO Lars-Peter Søbye from COWI has been elected new Chairman of the Board at the Confederation of Danish Industry. The civil engineer brings with him 32 years of experience in a global company, a firm belief in the power of solidarity and great admiration for Formula 1 pit stops.
In the coming time, DI’s new chairman, CEO Lars-Peter Søbye from COWI, will examine the issues that are top of mind for DI’s members. Photo: Hans Søndergård

Publiceret: 15.11.2017
Af Karen Witt Olsen mail

“Have you ever seen how they work in the pit during Formula 1?”

Lars-Peter Søbye leans forwards, flings out his arms and sends his tie flapping as he asks the question.

“Less than 2.4 seconds is what it takes them to change four tyres. 2.4 seconds. That’s teamwork and execution at the highest level,” he says and leans back.

COWI’s CEO is also the new Chairman of the Board at the Confederation of Danish Industry. In his own words, he is “crazy about Formula 1 and very, very passionate about football”.

He admires the way in which a team of 20 people is able to execute a task such as changing four tyres to perfection and in record time. And that a football trainer can get 11 prima donnas to work together and deliver as a team on the field.

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The members’ man

DI Business met with Lars-Peter Søbye 14 days after his election as Chairman of the Board at the Confederation of Danish Industry, which took place at the constituent meeting of the Central Board following the general assembly on 26 September, 2017.

“The members’ top man,” he calls the position - which he is both humbled by and proud of being elected for.

And then he returns to the subject of cooperation.

“I have deep respect for the members of DI. They are hardcore experts in their respective fields. But with more than 10,000 of them in DI, there are many different company sizes and types of sectors, stakeholders and relations. It’s about coming together as a community. Here, I believe that I have something to offer,” he says.

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Building bridges

What Lars-Peter Søbye intends to do - and believes he is good at - is building bridges, building relations.

His history for doing so lies at COWI, where he has worked for 32 years and is now pouring coffee, offering chocolates and seeming utterly unfazed by the camera’s clicking away all around him.

It was at COWI that Lars-Peter Søbye first began his career as a newly graduated civil engineer in 1986. This is where he landed his first managerial position in 1993, and where he reached the very top as CEO in 2008.

In the same time period, COWI has grown from being a consulting engineering firm with 800 employees and a few assignments abroad to being a global group with nearly 7,000 employees and 13,000 projects in over 40 countries.

“I’ve held all senior positions at COWI. I have built relations with clients, employees and partners and built bridges between the public and private spheres as well as between Denmark and the rest of the world. I have a lot of insight into what it means to run a business on the international stage, and what’s going on out there - for example in relation to megatrends such as globalisation, urbanisation and digitalisation. This is knowledge I bring along into the big community that DI is,” he says.

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DI uses knowledge - not emotions

Lars-Peter Søbye is no stranger to the Confederation of Danish Industry. He served as chairman of DI Global Talent’s Advisory Board from 2015-2017 and has been member of DI’s Business Policy Committee since 2008.

“The Confederation of Danish Industry has an impressive history and is deeply anchored in Danish society. It is an organisation that is a strong representative for Danish companies - with much clout and opportunity to impact society’s course of development,” he says.

The new chairman is particularly impressed by the analyses and competences at DI’s home by Copenhagen’s City Hall Square, Industriens Hus.

“The analytical skill there is enormous. DI addresses societal issues based on real knowledge - not emotions or beliefs. That is politically and professionally sound. Furthermore, Industriens Hus is packed with expertise in relation to what members need - from employment rights to exports help to leadership development to political influence,” he says.

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Hopefully a good sounding board

The new chairman does not want to make assumptions about what DI’s members need.

Lars-Peter Søbye will spend the coming time examining what is top of mind for members through conversations with a number of DI’s company directors.

Suddenly the phone rings. It’s DI’s CEO Karsten Dybvad calling from Japan.

The two speak for a while.

“He’s the one who runs the business DI, and he’s good at that,” says Lars-Peter Søbye once the conversation is over.

“I hope to be a good sounding board, and that together, we can continue the work to create the best possible framework for companies, so they can attract qualified labour, create new jobs and help develop Denmark and the Danish welfare model,” he says. 

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Lars-Peter Søbye
Age 57
2017 –
Chairman of the Confederation of Danish Industry (DI)
2015 – 2017
Chairman, DI’s Advisory Board for DI Global Talent
2009 –
Vice Chairman of the Board at Mannaz A/S
Member of DI’s Business Policy Committee
2008 –
CEO, COWI Holding A/S
2005 – 2008
Regional Vice President of COWI Denmark
1993 –
Various senior positions at COWI, e.g. General Manager of COWI and partner LLC in Oman 1997 – 2000
Engineer at COWI
MSc, Civil engineering, Aalborg University
Married and father to two grown children

I hope to be a good sounding board.
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PUBLISHED: 11/15/2017 LAST MODIFIED: 11/15/2017