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Americans ‘just work harder’ than Europeans, says wealth chief

Nicolai Tangen, chief executive officer of Norges Bank Investment Management
People in Europe are less ambitious and more risk-averse than their US peers, claims Nicolai Tangen - Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Europeans are “less hard-working” than Americans, the head of the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund has said.

Nicolai Tangen, who manages Norway’s $1.6 trillion (£1.3 trillion) wealth fund, said people in Europe are less ambitious and more risk-averse than their US peers.

In comments first reported by the Financial Times, Mr Tangen said: “We are not very ambitious.

“I should be careful about talking about work-life balance but the Americans just work harder.

“There’s a mindset issue in terms of acceptance of mistakes and risks. You go bust in America, you get another chance. In Europe, you’re dead.”

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Norway’s wealth fund, which invests surplus revenues from oil and gas, owns around 1.5pc of all globally listed shares and has stakes in more than 9,200 firms.

Mr Tangen’s comments come amid growing concern in the UK and Europe about the struggle to keep up with America’s booming stock markets.

The London Stock Exchange has already fallen victim to this trend as a string of high-profile firms have ditched the Square Mile in favour of New York.

The malaise gripping European equities has been underlined by the shift in Norway’s investment priorities.

Half of its wealth is now invested in US stocks, up from a third in 2013.

Meanwhile, its holdings of British shares have shrunk to 6pc compared to 15pc a decade ago.

In contrast, one in every eight dollars in its equity portfolio is invested in the “magnificent seven”, a group of US tech giants including Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta, Microsoft, Nvidia and Tesla.

Mr Tangen also fired a warning shot over red tape in Europe, as he said that American chief executives see tough regulation as a hindrance across the continent, particularly in technology.

He said: “I’m not saying it’s good but in America, you have a lot of AI and no regulation, in Europe you have no AI and a lot of regulation. It’s interesting.”

When asked about the potential return of Donald Trump to the White House, he said it was an area of concern but stressed that Norway will remain committed to US stocks.

He said: “We will stay invested in America.”

The wealth fund generated returns of 16pc last year amid a recovery in tech stocks, the third-best year in its history.

The fund, created in the 1990s, largely tracks a benchmark index by a framework it receives from parliament.

Mr Tangen’s remarks came as it emerged that US fund managers are turning their backs on ESG investments after they were branded “woke” by high-profile Republicans.

Figures from Morningstar show that American investors withdrew $8.8bn worth of cash from ESG stocks in the first three months of the year, unlike Europeans who invested $11bn.