From Seattle to Oslo with Law

A trained lawyer from Seattle, based in Oslo with a Norwegian wife, 29 year old Kyle Ritter chose the Maritime Law programme to adapt to Norwegian employers. He is now working in NORDEA, financing ships. A perfect job when you love ships!

Kyle's current work in Nordea’s Shipping, Offshore and Oil Services syndication team looks quite complicated and he explains it this way:

-The simplest way to describe what we do in the syndication team is as follows: basically, when a customer—Seadrill, for instance—wants to finance a newbuild or acquisition, or refinance old debt, they will contact us and ask us for a $500 million loan. Because the shipping and offshore industries can be very volatile, Nordea generally does not want to expose ourselves to that much risk. So what we do is lend $150 million of that $500 million, and the other $350 million will be lent by a syndicate of 5 or 6 other banks that are chosen in consultation with the customer. This gives the customer access to a lot of funds, but keeps the risk lower for the various banks.

-I work in a transactional capacity for the syndication team. This means I am involved in negotiating and drafting the various contracts that govern the relationship between Nordea and the customer, as well as Nordea and the rest of the syndicate banks. This includes not only reviewing the loan agreement, but also the full suite of security documents, hedging arrangements, and conditions precedent, e.g. insurance documents, class certificates and various “know your customer” documents. I do this together with the rest of the syndication team, which includes economists and relationship managers, as well with the bank’s external legal counsel.

-Our team is also the “agency” function for our shipping and offshore clients, which means that when they need waivers to or want to amend any of the documents, or change the flag of one of the vessels, or sell part of the company, or really anything, we drive the process for the customer with the various banks. Since all the banks are part of the transaction, we need to get consent from the banks for these types of changes.

Well prepared with LLM in Maritime Law

This programme specifically was interesting to Kyle because it is a well-respected programme in the industry and affiliated with a globally regarded University (UiO). He was impressed with the pragmatism and industry focus of the programme.

-The marine insurance course was extremely valuable. The Nordic Plan is widely used amongst our customers, and there are relatively few ways to learn the ins and outs of it. The combination of its widespread use and limited access to education in it around the world makes it a valuable competence to have. Everything I learned in Professor Trine Lise Wilhelmsen’s marine insurance course has served me well in my career so far.

-I found that the tours and meetings with local professionals were particularly interesting, because in made what we were studying more real. We could see the industry in practice, and ask about the things that those working in the industry value. For instance our tour of Höegh LNG was really great. Camilla Nyhus-Møller gave us a fascinating presentation of their operations.

Kyle considers the most valuable part of the programme to his current job is the focus on teaching about the industry, rather than just the law that governs the industry:

- In this way the Falkanger/Bull/Brautaset textbook was very helpful, because it introduced a wide variety of topics. It would be very difficult to do the job I have now if I didn’t know about charter parties, for example. Even though we do not directly deal with charter parties, these contracts are integral for us, because they supply the cashflows to the companies we finance. If they have no charters or bad charters, it’s very difficult for companies to pay off their debts, so we review those as well. Of course, I am not an expert, but I knew enough to be familiar with the concepts involved, which I think was very important throughout the interview process.

Kyle concludes: - I use the knowledge and skills I learned at the Institute every day, reading legal documents, dealing with legal terms and industry concepts.

A different study environment

At the beginning he felt a bit lost, Kyle admits. But after a while he got used to the study environment and appreciated the close contact with professors and fellow students.

-The programme was much more self-directed and reading-oriented - as opposed to lecture oriented - than I was accustomed to. Courses are not taught every day. While they were useful to attend, they were not necessary. But the professors made themselves available for questions after classes and by e-mail.

-The other students were definitely a highlight of the program. We studied for the exams together and that was helpful. I think that among the 20 students there were 14 nationalities represented. I became acquainted and made friends with people from four different continents. 

Combined work and study

Kyle actually began looking for a job early in the course, hoping to find part-time work in the industry to supplement his studies.

-I looked on and various companies’ website listings. I also attended the various trainee presentations that the Institute informed us about, such as Gard.

- I focused particularly on trying to get a feel for the various companies and what they were looking for in order to target my application accordingly. Nordea’s Syndication team, for instance, runs a lean organization, meaning that everyone on the team I am a part of has to do a little of everything. For this reason, my focus was on stressing my flexibility and ability to learn new tasks quickly.

Kyle saw the listing on the Nordea website and applied. It was a quite extensive interview process, including three interviews in person and a psychological exam. He had no previous connection.

Kyle's advice for job hunting

-Don’t narrow your search too much. Often a way into the industry you want to be in is through a side door. Also, sometimes the best way to learn an industry is to work on the opposite side of it first. For instance, if you want to work for on a finance team, knowing the demands of shipping companies is extremely useful.

-Also, don’t be afraid to apply to jobs that you might not meet all the qualifications for perfectly. The worst that can happen is nothing. If nothing else it may be a good opportunity to practice interviewing.

-Know why you want to work for a specific organization. Companies involved in the maritime and offshore industry are not all the same. Learn as much as you can about the various companies you apply to so you know what they value. I think this is extremely important.

Dream job in dream city

Kyle does not think he could ask for a better place to learn the industry; he really feels like he is working alongside industry leaders.

-For now, I am very happy at Nordea. One benefit of the job is that I have direct access to people throughout the shipping industry. I have met with CEOs and CFOs of shipping companies often. Likewise I work directly with partners at many well-respected law firms in Oslo, London, New York, Athens, etc. every day. In this way, I think my network has grown quite quickly, particularly for someone who is not from Norway and had no previous experience or family within the industry.

-Oslo is also a very nice and comfortable city to live in. I know Norwegians think of it as crowded and big but coming from Seattle, I think it is quite pleasant.

By Kirsti Aarseth
Published Feb. 12, 2016 10:38 AM - Last modified Feb. 12, 2016 10:38 AM