We’ve all read the stories: the success of Novo Nordisk’s diabetes-turned-weight-loss drugs driving a 53 percent share increase over 2023; how the 100-year-old pharmaceutical company grew to be bigger than its next 10 domestic peers; Novo Nordisk’s place as Denmark’s biggest taxpayer, turning what would have been a recession into economic growth; the 10,000-employee-party in a field in Roskilde – the site of one of Europe’s most famous festivals – to celebrate. And the company doesn’t just perform well financially: it regularly tops lists of the best places to work – in the whole world.
We talk to Daniel Bohsen, corporate vice president and head of IR at the Bagsværd-headquartered company, about what it’s been like to do IR under the weight-loss spotlight – and why it really is all about obesity.
What are the top issues you’re being asked about today?
It is really about semaglutide, the molecule behind Ozempic, the Type 2 diabetes version of the drug and Wegovy, which is the version for obesity. Even within that, it’s really all about obesity because we’ve gone from people asking us why we continue to do research into obesity – which we’ve done properly as a company for 25 years – seeing as it was never going to go anywhere, to success.
This molecule has completely changed how patients and physicians look at obesity. So the questions we get around obesity are essentially, How is it progressing with your supply-scaling efforts? The conversation around obesity is just getting started, and now our competitors are launching products so that [conversation] will continue for some time.
Can you tell us more about the supply challenge?
We’re in a situation where we don’t have enough products to satisfy demand, which of course makes it more difficult for an analyst. Normally, you would try to forecast demand – and you always assume the company would have enough products to satisfy that demand. But right now, we don’t.
Trying to navigate that, and helping the analyst understand that we have some products but not an unlimited supply, is a challenge. Interest in the company has never been bigger. At the same time, we also face this situation where we don’t have enough products, which makes it more difficult for an outsider to look at.
What other impact has the success of this drug had on the IR program at Novo Nordisk?
We have always been fairly open and transparent as a company. We go out with management on a quarterly basis, we have some members of probably the level below executive management participating in conferences, and so on. So we have always provided good access, and we do a lot of activities. That hasn’t changed.
But if I look at an earnings call today, the number of listeners will have increased maybe fourfold. If I look at the number of meetings we had last year with investors, that has doubled since 2022.
We expanded the team slightly because although we haven’t done a lot of extra activities as such, we had many, many more calls and many, many more virtual meetings, in particular with people who suddenly reached out to say they wanted to know more about us because we had been under the radar a bit before this.
Has this interest translated into greater retail ownership?
Yes, probably. We always had quite a few Scandinavian retail investors. But international retail investors have also reached out more over the last year. And we do already have retail-focused activities, such as a retail investor meeting right after our AGM each year and also a quarterly ‘magazine’ for private shareholders called SHARE. It’s not just a translation of the quarterly report; it’s a bit more retail-friendly with stories about what’s going on in the company.
Where does the media – and social media – coverage of Wegovy come into your communications?
I work closely with our media relations and public affairs team. And we take that very seriously. From an IR perspective, our shareholder base has probably gone from being a bit more specialist pharma to adding a greater number of broader, more generalist and retail investors – which we’ve always had but we have more now. When they read stories in the news, they get concerned – and for good reason – if they don’t understand the pharma world and its dynamics.
You’ve talked about expanding the team as attention on Novo Nordisk has grown. Can you tell us more about how you got into IR and how the team is set up?
I joined Novo Nordisk around 15 years ago, as part of a graduate program where you moved between departments. But I had a finance degree from university in Denmark and when I rotated into IR I realized what a super-cool function it is.
IR is a great place to gain a very deep understanding of the business you’re working in. Historically, we have recruited a lot of internal people to our IR function. They stay for three years, and then they rotate out into the business again, taking with them a lot of insights from the financial markets and, of course, a very deep understanding of Novo Nordisk as a company. That’s how I got involved with IR. I spent three years in the team before I also rotated out and went to Colombia, as the CFO for a local affiliate, before coming back to IR in 2020.
IR is fantastic because you get a great overview of the company you work for. And you need to have a very broad knowledge, but also a very deep knowledge in many cases. So if you’re a curious person and you want to gain a holistic understanding of the company, and sometimes even the broader environment the company operates in, it’s the best place to be.
There’s also another benefit: you have the pleasure of working and engaging with very smart, external people. Analysts on a daily basis, more or less, and also with investors that have deep insights into your company, strong opinions, challenging questions and good advice.
How does the share structure affect the IR program?
Novo Nordisk is owned, ultimately, by a foundation. That foundation has the majority of the voting rights at the AGM. But we still take IR very seriously. The fact that we are owned by a foundation, and our whole company culture is extremely long-term-oriented, means we’re not just trying to do what’s best for tomorrow, or for the next quarter, but also what’s best for five or 10 years down the road.
Finally, what do you think you’d be doing if you hadn’t gone into corporate finance?
I would probably work in another role at Novo Nordisk. I’m very happy with this company – we have a great purpose and it’s a great place to work. I think that’s down to this long-term mindset, this focus on purpose and on treating others with respect. That creates a lot of opportunities for people to grow professionally and personally.