On May 17 2023, Nils Andén was appointed the new interim CEO of Kindred Group. A couple of weeks into the job, we thought it was time to get to know him better. Said and done – We sat down with Nils to talk about his new role, his experience of almost 20 years within the gambling industry and how Kindred's strength and values can drive future success!
Nils, first and foremost – congratulations on your new role. I can imagine that it has been a hectic couple of weeks. What are your first impressions?
I would lie if I said there had been a few busy days and late nights. But I've found my feet quickly and am surrounded by a great team that makes it easy to keep the ball moving and look ahead. I feel honoured by the responsibility given by the Board and humbled by the task at hand, but more than anything, I'm excited to embark on this next phase of our journey.
You have had two stints at Kindred: one between 2006 and 2016 and then your current one beginning in 2020. What compelled you to come back to Kindred?
The first thing that comes to mind is the culture. Kindred stands out in that regard. But there was also something exciting about Kindred's outlook at the time. Many things happened during my time away, both in the regulatory and operational arena. The move from the dot-com era, the expansion of locally regulated markets, and new business ventures all accumulated into many opportunities. And challenges, of course. I found that super exciting and strongly understood "here I could really make an impact".
The Kindred culture is often mentioned positively; what is it all about?
It all starts with trusting each other. And the cascading effect of that is very powerful. It allows for a strong sense of team, fairness and respect for each other. And it fosters a culture of learning, accountability and trust, where we tell each other what to do– not how.
And if we go even further back, before you knew about the Kindred culture, what made you go into the gambling industry, to begin with?
The short version? It offered a way to combine my interest in sports and my background in business in a fast-moving environment where I could truly make a mark. But it was more to it, of course. In my early twenties, before I had begun studying at the Stockholm School of Economics and working in business, I spent a couple of years as a professional football player. And some pervading values from that time just stuck with me.
What type of values are we talking about?
Resilience, accountability, and practice make perfect – the sum of the team is greater than the parts. It was a way of thinking that resonated with me and something I felt I could draw on at Kindred.
Regarding professional sports, what from being in a highly competitive environment have you brought with you into your career? How is it reflected in your work today?
For one – and yes, this might be obvious – I like to compete, and competitiveness is easy to convert into what we do. Tangible outcomes and keeping score – those things drive me. But it's also about coming together as a team and having everybody embody a shared set of values. I like seeing how the sum can become greater than the parts, much like I could on the football pitch.
Having spent almost 20 years in the gambling sector, what are some of your main takeaways from how the industry has developed?
I've seen the industry develop from the early marketing-intensive days to where it is today. Following the last decade, we're still at the early stages of a new phase, which centred around learning to pivot from dot-com to locally regulated markets. Those years put operators to the test, as local markets meant different regulations, rules and criteria to adhere to. And for good reason – there has been a need for the industry to better itself and take more responsibility regarding the risks associated with gambling. I also think this has been contributing to the consolidation we've been seeing.
Looking forward, where do you see things heading?
In the last five years, we have begun moving toward more regulated environments that demand and reward more responsible actors. The complexity of regulations and compliance is setting the scene for the future. Executing in navigating said complexity and finding key differentiators on the customer journey would be deciding success factors. I also see further consolidation being a key part of our industry in the future as scale has proven to give real advantages.
And for Kindred, what is it that sets you apart from others?
Well, I mentioned the culture resulting from the fantastic individuals that built our company. That has certainly been key in getting us to where we are today. But there are other factors as well.
Would you care to develop?
We still bear the stamp of how we entered the industry as an online disruptor in the late 90s. We have always focused on tech as a key differentiator and have been very CX-centric. And, on the more artistic side, breaking new ground and looking ahead is part of our DNA. We are also good at reacting fast when external factors require us to – the Netherlands is a prime example.
How is that reflected?
In The Journey Towards Zero, for instance. And that is part of a larger transition where we are at the forefront in manoeuvring the integration of compliance and sustainability into the business model.
How do you envision building upon the company's strengths and values to drive future success?
Of course, the focus on providing an enjoyable and safe customer experience remains intact. In addition, we have much low-hanging fruit and a good understanding of what we need to do to execute our goals. The business is doing well, and we have a proven track record, with several recent examples speaking to our ability to navigate the current regulatory and commercial landscape. Just look at our re-launch in the Netherlands last year!
Do you see some room for improvement as well?
There is always room for improvement; we are no exception there. But what all this boils down to – our culture, our top-of-the-line customer experience, our staying-ahead-of-the curve-type of thinking – is a really solid foundation. We need to fine-tune some things and become even better at channelling our focus in the right direction, but the core is there.
Thank you, Nils. Any final thoughts as we round up?
Kindred always comes up big in crunch time, so I am confident as we enter this new stage. I look forward to working with the Board and our amazing team to ensure we continue to build on our strengths and get the most out of our potential.