He wanted to study sports, but thanks to his father’s persistence he chose engineering. Today Geir Håøy takes the reigns of KONGSBERG after 23 years at the company.

  • Ove Ronny Haraldsen
    Group Communication Manager

It all began on June 15 in 1993 when a 27-year-old Geir Håøy had his first day as a systems engineer in Kongsberg Maritime. Today, a week away from his 23rd anniversary in the company, he takes over as the new CEO of KONGSBERG, a company that has grown to have more than 7 700 employees in more than 30 countries and with operations worldwide.

January 26 2016 KONGSBERG announced that Walter Qvam would step down as CEO of the company after more than eight years as CEO. According to Finn Jebsen, Chairman of the Board, the internally recruited Geir Håøy was the perfect match for the next chapter of KONGSBERG.

- Geir Håøy excels with long international and industrial experience and has for five years led Kongsberg Maritime, KONGSBERG’s largest business area. It is very pleasing that the best candidate came from KONGSBERG. We put great emphasis on internal recruitment and are very pleased that this now also succeeded at the top level, Jebsen commented.

It was no doubt an honor for the then 49-year-old Håøy to be appointed, after more or less working his entire work-life in KONGSBERG.

- My first thought when the position became an opportunity was that I am very happy with my current position of President of Kongsberg Maritime. I still had plenty to learn and do heading Kongsberg Maritime. However, after some thought I felt that I have something  to offer to the position of CEO, and it became well-considered decision, says Håøy as he reflects on the responsibility of leading one of Norway’s largest companies.

- It is of course a big responsibility, but like I said when I assumed the position of President at Kongsberg Maritime; this is not a one-man show, we would be nowhere without acting like a team, Håøy emphasizes.

Former President of Kongsberg Maritime

23 years of experience from KONGSBERG, including more than nine years abroad in Asia, has given a solid foundation for understanding both markets and the company, according to Håøy. From 1997 until 2006 he had various management positions in Korea, Singapore and China. When returning to Norway he took on the regional sales responsibility for Asia until 2009 when he took on the position as Excutive Vice President global customer support. From 2010 to date he has been the President of Kongsberg Maritime, currently KONGSBERG’s largest business area.

- The experience I got from more than nine years working in Asia has been important. As roughly 80 per cent of our revenues come from outside Norway understanding culture is very important. I think that this understanding and experience also has shaped me in many ways as a leader, says Håøy.

Building and being a team has always been at the core of Håøy’s leadership philosophy. Both because he is convinced and has experienced it to be the most effective for a knowledge based company like KONGSBERG, and because he sees himself as a distinct team driven leader.

- Through the years I’ve taken quite a lot of personality tests, and one thing always stands out; team player. I like to build strong and diversified teams with a low threshold for new ideas and solutions. I like to be available, and not have a very hierarchical organization, Håøy explains.

- I expect that we show commitment and initiative at every level as a team. We have to pull together as one team, one KONGSBERG, across business areas and business units, wanting to develop the company together. We need to continue to cheer on each other and share successes, experiences and opportunities. In my opinion we’re very good at doing that, but we can always improve further in building our team, says Håøy.

That approach has been with Håøy for as long as he can remember, even going back to his youth years when he was an eager athlete doing competitive skiing and rowing. The interest in sports was so strong that it almost ensured Håøy not choosing the path of engineering and technology. If it had been entirely up to him back when the choice was made at the age of 16, he most likely would not have graduated from Vestfold University College in 1989 and become CEO of KONGSBERG today. His father, who worked at a shipyard and within energy, influenced the young Geir Håøy to choose an education that would lead to a «proper job», as he called it.

- My father advised me that I needed a “proper” job. Sports was not a job, but a hobby, he said. To this day, I still remember that conversation more than 30 years ago. Looking back I think it was a good piece of advice, says Håøy.


The long-term strategy will be steady going forward, but Håøy emphasizes that KONGSBERG will look different in the future.

- We will definitely see changes, that’s something we will have to see. KONGSBERG wouldn’t have reached 202 years of continuous operations if we hadn’t changed and adapted according to both opportunities and threats around us. In only the first half of 2016 we’ve made some significant strategic decisions, for instance in buying 49.9 per cent of shares in the Finnish company Patria and also establishing Kongsberg Digital. We’re staying agile and adaptive, and seizing opportunities to further develop the company, and that’s something we have to continue, Håøy points out.

Although the company operates in many different industries, each in different cycles, Håøy sees some common challenges in the years ahead.

- We’re an international company with most of our revenues from outside Norway and all over the globe. Our home market is extremely important and is key to obtaining many of our international positions. In certain segments, for instance currently within oil and gas, that home market is challenging, but it’s a must win battle for us. In many of the markets and segments we operate there’s also an increased degree of protectionism. We have to stay agile, aware and proactive to seize opportunities.

Going forward Håøy thinks the most important attributes of KONGSBERG will be the ability to innovate and adapt, being agile and making the right priorities. Financial robustness will be of utter most importance to be able to make the crucial strategic moves according to Håøy.

- Staying close to the customer has always been a success recipe. That won’t change, and it will become increasingly important. We have to be where our customers are, have an open dialogue and understand their challenges and needs. KONGSBERG’s culture is one of our key assets, if not the most important asset we have. Agility, innovation and the ability to prioritize and prioritize right, that is what we need to focus on so that we stay ahead, says Håøy.

Walter Qvam, who had his last day as CEO on his 63rd birthday June the 6th, refers to the extensive experience and leadership qualities for why Håøy will make an excellent CEO for KONGSBERG.

Former CEO of KONGSBERG, Walter Qvam

- KONGSBERG is a diversified, international, complex and technologically advanced company with a very strong and innovative culture. In the position of CEO leading very competent and talented people with different cultural backgrounds the ability to handle complexity and build strong relations to customers, partners and authorities is important. In addition you need to have a high working capacity, curiosity and clear communication, reflects Qvam on the requirements he has experienced as necessary after eight years at helm of KONGSBERG.

- Geir has been part of the corporate management team the last five years and through this he has acquired knowledge about the entire company’s operations, in addition to the in-depth knowledge he has from being President of Kongsberg Maritime. This, in combination with his extensive international and industrial experience, leadership qualities and his personality, gives him a solid foundation to do an excellent job as CEO of KONGSBERG, says Qvam.