Alumnus of the year Kurt Björklund: The alumni have a collective responsibility to support Hanken
“I am very honoured to have been named Alumnus of the Year! I'm happy to have been able to make a positive contribution to Hanken, the students and the alumni network,” says Björklund, managing partner of the global investment firm Permira.
Björklund started studying at Hanken due to his interest in economics.
“I thought it was a fascinating way of quantifying human behaviour, both at the macro and micro levels.”
Björklund graduated from Hanken in 1993 with a major in economics and a minor in financing and investment. After two years at the consulting company BCG in Stockholm, he applied to join an MBA programme at INSEAD in France. For the past 27 years, Björklund has worked within the same company, which today is Permira. First 12 years in London, New York and Stockholm and the last 15 years in London as the company's CEO.
Courage to make tough calls
Björklund says that Hanken has given him a strong foundation that has furthered his career.
“Finland has quite a technocratic education system. The instruction is quantitative, with a core grounding in the sciences. There is less focus on debate and discussion. Even if you don't end up being the greatest debater, it gives you great self-confidence in what is right and wrong – makes you dare to make tough calls.”
Björklund also highlights the clear benefits of Hanken's exchange programme.
“I took full advantage of the programme, going on two exchanges – one to Norway and one to the United States. They were incredibly valuable experiences at that stage of my career, and I made friends for life.”
Björklund advises current Hanken students to be sure to soak up as much experience as they can.
“It's one of the few periods in your life when you can really feed your curiosity in areas that you might not want to work in later on. Understanding your own strengths and weaknesses is key. Nowadays there's a big emphasis on career planning, but things rarely go quite as planned. If you find something you're passionate about, then go for it, heart and soul.”
Desire to help others
According to Björklund, it is the alumni's collective responsibility to ensure that Hanken can firmly hold its own in a world where the universities worldwide compete against each other, both physically and virtually.
“It is crucial that we help Hanken to be the strongest possible institution, so that we equip young people who are going out into the world and young people who are staying in Finland, with the best possible tools to compete against the rest of the world.”
Björklund has had a long, very successful career in the venture capital company Permira. What has he found most rewarding so far?
“When you are going through difficult periods – which often last for several years – and have the stamina to get through them, then see how they pay off over the next ten years. Daring to believe that you are doing the right thing, even when it feels really hard.”
Now, at a later stage in his career, the most rewarding thing is to make other people successful, whether that be by contributing experience, leadership, funding, or otherwise.
In his spare time, Björklund likes adventure sports that require 100 percent focus and are a total contrast from work, such as long-distance mountain biking, water sports, downhill skiing in tricky terrain, and rock climbing – preferably with family and friends, to combine the best of two worlds.
“I also enjoy building various houses and other constructions. The projects always get completed, but they never end – there are always new ones.”
Text: Jessica Gustafsson
- Watch a video greeting from the Alumnus of the Year:
Alumnus of the Year, Kurt Björklund