Sætre was born in Vartdal, Norway. He has a master’s degree from Norwegian School of Economics, Bergen.
He has been working for Statoil since 1980. He was one of the key influencers who developed the company and allowed its listing on the Oslo Stock Exchange and New York Stock Exchange in 1981, its historic privatization. He has been an executive board member since 2003. Initially as CFO and between 2010 and 2014, as CMO. As CFO he played a central role in the merger that saw Statoil merge with Hydro Oil & Gas in 2007. Europe Natural gas sales have also been under his responsibility as chief of Marketing.
In 2014, when CEO Helge Lund resigned, Sætre was appointed CEO ad interim. He did not publically express interest in assuming the position permanently. But after being officially asked by the board in December 2014, he eventually accepted the position. Sætre is the first CEO in the history of Statoil to have be promoted from within.