NORWAY - Knut N. Kjær, head of the $328bn (€235bn) Norwegian Government Pension Fund - Global, has resigned after 10 years at the helm to "pursue new challenges".

Kjær will continue in his position as head of Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), which manages the pension fund and the bulk of Norges Bank's foreign exchange reserves, until a successor is found.

"After a long period of consideration, I have notified the governor of Norges Bank of my wish to step down," he said.

"I think the time is right for Norges Bank and NBIM, and on a personal level I would like to pursue new challenges."

Kjær told IPE he had not made any concrete plans.

He confirmed he had received various job offers over the years but added that he had not yet considered any of them "because I have been very dedicated to this job".

"I will spend the coming weeks considering different opportunities and it may also be that my next job will be outside Norway but what exactly that is I'm not sure yet," he said.

"This was a unique once in a lifetime opportunity that I had to build an organisation from scratch and handle the inflow of such huge amounts from zero to $370bn within 10 years. With that unique experience, it's impossible for me to find something like this again, so I think my next job will be completely different but still within the financial sector."

Siv Meisingseth, spokesperson for the oil fund, said no decision had been made on whether the successor would be an internal promotion.

Espen Klitzing, who was appointed finance director in May this year, is second in command.

"We do have internal candidates but we will also look at the possibility of taking a broader perspective," she said. "No decision has been made."

Governor Svein Gjedrem praised Kjær's contribution to the fund's development.

"Kjær has contributed to achieving excellent results, building up an efficient management organisation and to the fund's renown at home and abroad," he said.

"We would have warmly welcomed his continued presence, but we take note of his wish to conclude his career at Norges Bank. We are now faced with the demanding task of finding his successor."

Kjær led the project that prepared the ground for the management of the petroleum fund and the bulk of the foreign exchange reserves and in January 1998 became head of the new management organisation NBIM.

The fund was established by separate act in 1990 with an initial capital transfer of $300m in the spring of 1996.

"It has been a privilege to have played a part in securing Norway's financial wealth for future generations," Kjær said.

"I am grateful for a strong display of confidence and will miss the close and rewarding contact with my highly competent colleagues in NBIM."