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“Diplomacy rests on the notion of managing relationships in an increasingly complex world”

Career Path: The new Nordic business development director at Eaton Vance, Henrik Hoffmann-Fischer, has always been fascinated by foreign affairs and aspired to a career in diplomacy. But an overseas job in corporate finance introduced him to the world of finance and he changed direction. Today, he is certain that his background in foreign affairs is a strength that he uses every day.

The new Nordic business development director at Eaton Vance, Henrik Hoffmann-Fischer, has always been fascinated by foreign affairs and aspired to a career in diplomacy. | Photo: PR / Eaton Vance

Which career path did you envision for yourself when you were younger? 

"Growing up, I had a keen interest in foreign affairs and was convinced that I would ultimately pursue a career in diplomacy. My family lived in a residential area on the outskirts of Copenhagen, home to a lot of expat families and diplomats, which meant that I was exposed to a very diverse and international environment from an early age.

I remember listening firsthand to some of these career diplomats sharing their insights from working all over the world, and I was fascinated by their experiences. I went on to attend Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in the U.S, where I got my bachelor’s degree in Foreign Service.

I ultimately found a home in finance. Nonetheless, I found the skills I had learned in foreign affairs, such as strategic thinking and negotiation, highly relevant and transferable. After all, the whole construct of diplomacy rests on the notion of managing relationships in an increasingly complex world and finding amenable outcomes – a concept which, of course, is not unique to the diplomatic corps."

Which part of your education have you used the most in your career? 

"My studies in the United States, in many ways, have contributed the most to my professional career, but the most important lessons I learned actually stem from the work environment. As much as I have a very high regard for academic achievements, I also believe that schooling, on its own, is not sufficient: practical experience is essential.

We live in a world that increasingly requires us to find new ways to adapt. I think we become more interesting to the extent that we are able to continuously evolve and learn."

Which part of your resumé represents the biggest change in your career?

"Even though I had already gained experience in the financial industry – working in corporate finance in London following the completion of my bachelor’s degree in the U.S. – it was really my time at consultancy firm Kirstein in Copenhagen that ultimately codified my professional career in finance.

Prior to joining Kirstein, I had returned to Denmark to obtain my master’s degree in political science and during part of that time, I interned for three years at the at the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), in The Middle East and Northern Africa Department. My time at the MFA coincided with some of the most significant crises Denmark had faced since the Second World War, including the Cartoon Crisis, when I really got to experience diplomacy from a front row seat.

In fact, I felt very privileged to be part of the crisis management team that was dispatched to Cyprus during the summer of 2006 to assist in the evacuation of almost 6,000 Danes from Lebanon. Those 11 days spent with my colleagues in Larnaca, working practically 24/7, made a very big impression on me and is an experience I often look back upon with a sense of pride.

When I applied for a job at Kirstein, I remember being concerned that my background in foreign affairs would be perceived as an unfortunate duality as I had work experiences that seemingly went in very different directions.

However, over time, I actually came to embrace this duality as a strength.

Which leader in the business has inspired your career the most?

"I am inspired by leaders who exhibit a high level of emotional intelligence, who know how to lead a team and from whom I can learn. Many different individuals have inspired and helped shape my career.

As individuals, we all exhibit different personal and professional traits, which in turn make us who we are, and oftentimes may even become a source of great inspiration to others. Observing some of these traits and adapting them to my own reality has been a source of success in my career."

What occupies you the most right now?

“The start of my new role as Business Development Director in early February came just a week after the first reported case of COVID-19 in Europe. Of course, the world as we knew it has fundamentally changed since then, and as such my focus has first and foremost been on our clients and on providing them with any and all support during these unprecedented times.”

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