A Q&A with our new CEO, Jorge Pikunic

Jorge succeeds Osvald Bjelland, who transitions to a new role as Founder and President, focusing full-time on collaborative growth initiatives with Xynteo’s client and partners that address systemic global challenges.

Born in Venezuela, Jorge brings an entrepreneurial spirit, future-fit leadership skills and deep consulting experience that will accelerate Xynteo and its mission to help businesses develop new growth models that are scalable, sustainable, and more just.

“I know Xynteo has the right talent and organisational alignment to play an even greater role in transforming businesses and their leaders across industries, and I am confident that Jorge is the leader we need to take us there,” Bjelland said. “He couldn’t have joined us at a better time, given the vast opportunities that lie before us.”

Jorge joins Xynteo from Centrica, serving most recently as Managing Director of Centrica Business Solutions, which includes British Gas Business and Centrica’s global business solutions division. There, he focused on creating a decentralised, flexible, and lower-carbon energy system.

With a background in engineering, energy, and technology, Jorge has also worked for McKinsey & Company, Procter & Gamble, University of Oxford, and PDVSA (Venezuela’s national oil company). He is a member of the Board of Directors for the Faraday Institution, the UK’s independent institute for electrochemical energy storage science and technology.  

In an interview, Jorge talks about what drew him to Xynteo — and how businesses can use collaborations and partnerships to create new forms of growth.

  • What attracted you to joining Xynteo at this point in your career?

Let me say up front that I am really excited and honoured to serve as CEO of this wonderful company. To your question, there were three factors that attracted me to this role.

First, Xynteo’s mission and entrepreneurial spirit is one I deeply connect with. Xynteo has a unique purpose in helping companies transition to a new form of growth — one that works with and not against nature; that delivers benefits to more people; and that creates value across generations rather than quarters.

Second, Xynteo has a very talented team, doing amazing work for some of the world’s leading companies.

Third, I believe in collaboration. Company boundaries today are blurry – no company can innovate on their own across the full range of solutions that their customers demand – or even then, at the pace that their customers and competitors demand. No company can tackle big challenges like decarbonisation on their own, either, so effective collaboration is essential to innovation these days. In fact, it is a real source of advantage for businesses that do it well. I have seen how Xynteo builds unique cross-sector partnerships that have helped businesses grow and address existential challenges like climate change.

We have seen a renewed commitment in 2020 and 2021 from businesses and governments to take on the global challenges we are facing. I am ready to help businesses convert these commitments into action.

  • You have a fascinating life story. Has it influenced who you are and how you think?

I was born and grew up in Venezuela. That is where my parents met each other and lived most of their lives, although both of them are from Croatia. They are a source of inspiration for me.

My father was a national rowing champion of Yugoslavia; he trained to compete in the Olympic games in 1956. However, in 1955, together with six of his team mates, he made the difficult decision to escape from the regime at the time, leaving behind everything he had. They rowed across the Adriatic Sea to Italy, arriving somewhere near Ancona three nights and two days later. They nearly lost their lives on that trip. One year after arriving in Italy, my father had the opportunity to migrate to Venezuela, and he grabbed it. My father was an adventurer at heart, which I always admired. After arriving in Venezuela with nothing, he worked, he met my mother, and after a few years they formed a family and he was able to start his own construction business.

I grew up with my parents and my three siblings in Venezuela, a country that has deteriorated dramatically over the last two decades. My parents left Venezuela eight years ago, once again leaving behind a country they love. My father passed away three years ago in the same house where he was born, in Dalmatia. His values – particularly his integrity, courage and entrepreneurial spirit – have deeply influenced who I am.

From my own experience, I know the impact that dysfunctional societies can have on people. I also love nature and I am passionate about the future of our planet. I think that drives me to want to create better societies, better growth, and a better environment for current and future generations. That is why Xynteo’s purpose resonates with me.

  • As we create a new kind of growth, what role do you see business playing?

Growth has been a powerful force and a source of prosperity for a long time – we have experienced the negative impact on people and societies when growth stops. However, we are at a point where we can’t continue to grow in the way we used to. We need a new kind of growth – one that works with and not against nature; that delivers benefits to more people; and that creates value across generations rather than quarters – as we discussed earlier.

Business plays a crucial role in driving this new kind of growth. The big challenges we need to tackle as a society, like decarbonisation, require systemic changes. Therefore, I simply can’t see the change we need without the private sector. However, the role that business plays must change and is already changing.

Herein lies the challenge, because the change that is needed within businesses is very hard to deliver. It requires a deep change in the perspective and mindset and priorities of leaders, changes in culture and strategy, and changes in the ecosystem of partners – suppliers, customers, technology partners, and other stakeholders – and a change in how business works with government.

However, businesses that manage this change effectively and urgently will be rewarded by customers and see the positive results. New perspectives and collaboration between businesses from different sectors will spark new thinking, innovation, and a new kind of growth. Investors know this – which is why they, like other stakeholders, now expect this new kind of growth.

In summary, this is a difficult but very important challenge for businesses – not only important for themselves, but for society. That was one of my motivations for joining Xynteo: the role we can play in tackling this challenge. Our team has first-hand experience and an unparalleled track record in working with leaders to help them and their businesses play a role.

  • How do you spend your free time?

Being active is very important to me and I like being outdoors, so you can often find me going on walks, hikes, or bike rides in the country. Every now and then, you can also find me under water, scuba diving. I also practice yoga.

I love photography, mainly because it helps me explore and appreciate our planet. I get absorbed in photography; it has allowed me to be a better observer, to create and learn about myself, and to express what I see. I like portrait, landscapes, wildlife, and travel photography.

Finally, reading a good book is also something I really enjoy. One of my all-time favourites is The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov – an incredibly imaginative book, which was recommended to me by a dear friend. I can also recommend the biography of Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson. I find Leonardo da Vinci’s imagination, passion, and curiosity very inspiring, and I think Isaacson does a great job at portraying da Vinci’s personality – his values, his virtues, his flaws – and explaining how he brought together science, technology, and art to do some amazing things.