Photo: Andrea Björsell
The Board of Directors is a fundamental part of the Chamber and a big reason for its success. As so, we wanted to get to know them better and this time we met with Karine Hirn, a true veteran member of the Board.
Hi Karine! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
Hi! I am Chief Sustainability Officer and Founding Partner at East Capital, an asset management group which was set up in Stockholm 25 years ago. From establishing ourselves as a pioneer and leader in emerging and frontier market equity markets, we expanded into other asset classes such as commercial real estate in the Baltics as well as Nordic and global equities. Among other things, we have specialized in China A-shares, which are companies listed in Shanghai and Shenzhen. I have worked and lived in Asia since 2010. I usually say about myself: I have a French passport, a Scandinavian heart, and an international and curious mindset, having studied and worked in France, Russia, Finland, Sweden and China.
What would you say it is like working with a large Swedish brand in Hong Kong and southern China?
Our company is proud of what we call our Nordic values, based on the concept of being an insightful, respectful explorer. We believe that it is the right way to invest into equity markets which offer very interesting opportunities but also challenges that require specific navigation skills! You will find some elements of “Swedishness” in us (not least in our investment approach related to ESG - environmental, social and governance factors – which is what I coordinate), but we are truly international with 22 different nationalities.
What made you engage in SwedCham?
I was a board member of SwedCham China when I lived in Shanghai, and it was a natural step for me to engage with SwedCham Hong Kong when I moved here in 2013. I am not a Swede, but I enjoyed living in Stockholm for 15 years, speak Swedish at home with my Finnish husband, and I like the idea of supporting Sweden at large and Swedish business overseas. Engaging with the chamber enables me to interact with people that have a Swedish connection – which gives us a commonality – and with people who work within other industries, and are at different stages in their career and in their HK life chapter – which offer new perspectives.
According to you, what is the greatest benefit of being a member of the Chamber?
The greatest benefit is to be found in the very simple and solid concept our Swedcham is based on: a Chamber for members by members. It is a virtuous give-and-take model which works so well! I have always felt that I get more than what I give. Examples that come to my mind are all the insights gained from roundtable discussions with other members, new learnings through activities with the sustainability committee (plogging events, sustainable movie nights, say no to plastic campaign, position paper on the green recovery, “trash talks”), and also, not to forget, lots of fun at these amazing parties.
As a veteran of the Board, what have you been trying to achieve as a Board Member in SwedCham?
When I was first elected at the AGM in 2014, there was a lot of competition to the three open seats and I still remember vividly my pitch: I would contribute to highlighting and promoting, in Hong Kong, many positive features about the Swedish brand which Swedes themselves might not realize there are, and bridge the gap with a third-party perspective. That’s been part of my mandate as Swedcham’s representative to the board of the European Chamber of Commerce. I have also been supporting the chamber through my experience of board work in a regulated industry. As I will leave the board at the coming AGM, it’s time to reflect and I want to say that it’s been a true pleasure and honor to work with highly competent, positive and dedicated people through all these years. I am constantly impressed by the quality, dynamism and pace of work at the Chamber.
"Engaging with the chamber enables me to interact with people that have a Swedish connection – which gives us a commonality – and with people who work within other industries, and are at different stages in their career and in their HK life chapter – which offer new perspectives."
Finally, when you aren’t working, do you have a hidden gem in Hong Kong you like to visit?
There are many. My favorite urban one is the little Cheung Kong Park next to Garden Road where I would just sit for 10-15 minutes in between two meetings, looking at the trees (I am a tree lover) and listening to the birds. I also love taking the time to sit on the upper deck of a tram and just watch around, feeling the wind through the windows. To get away from the crowd, during week-ends, I love trails and there are so many beautiful and isolated places to enjoy; South side of Lamma (behind Mount Stenhouse), Chi Ma Wan peninsula on Lantau and the remote Tung Ping Chau island would be my trifecta!