Interview with Tom Kagerer, Program Director of the LGT Impact Fellowship

Interview with Tom Kagerer, Program Director of the LGT Impact Fellowship 

Tom Kagerer is not only the Program Director of the LGT Impact Fellowship but was also part of the inaugural fellowship cohort in 2009. Over the past decade, Tom and his team have seen 159 motivated people enroll in the LGT Impact Fellowship program. They have established a fellowship program with an industry-wide leading position that attracts high profile talents to deliver added value to portfolio organizations of LGT Venture Philanthropy and LGT Lightstone.

Tom, what was your motivation to become an LGT Impact Fellow (at the time called iCats fellow)?

Having worked at BMW for ten years, I wanted to pivot my career and find a more meaningful job. However, a traditional volunteering gap year wasn’t an option for me, as I was eager to use my professional skills acquired during my corporate career. I was looking for an opportunity that allowed me to build a relevant track-record that better positioned me for a permanent career change in the social impact sector. I was motivated to gain hands-on experience working in the field and being trained on the job. Also, it was essential for me to join a program with a trusted brand. When I first heard about LGT Venture Philanthropy’s philosophy to apply private sector principles to support social organizations to scale their impact, it became apparent to me that this was very appealing. Also, LGT’s excellent reputation as a successful financial company gave me confidence that joining this 12-month full-time program was the right thing to do.

What are the Unique Selling Points of the program for fellows?

The program was designed around three value-add principles for the fellow, for the portfolio organization, and LGT Venture Philanthropy and LGT Lightstone. For the fellow, the program provides a unique opportunity to work at an organization that is backed by LGT Venture Philanthropy and LGT Lightstone – two globally renowned impact investors. Furthermore, the fellowship is an essential pillar of the investment support to our portfolio organizations. Consequently, the roles that LGT Impact Fellows execute are of high importance and therefore allow fellows to make a meaningful and impactful contribution. In combination, this is an incredible stepping stone for fellows to build a valuable track-record in the impact space.

Moreover, the networks a fellow taps into are precious. Fellows not only connect with partners of LGT and its portfolio organizations but also build up meaningful relationships with their peers. Each cohort consists of an inspiring group of people coming from diverse cultural, educational, and professional backgrounds, thus enriching the peer learning experience of every fellow.

What are the Unique Selling Points of the program for portfolio organizations?

With a decade of experience and several program iterations, the LGT Impact Fellowship design has been proven and achieved a solid track record and good reputation in attracting high talent profiles globally. Our portfolio organizations appreciate our efficient yet flexible processes, which allow us to adjust to our organizations’ needs. Financial support, combined with strategic human capital support, often referred to as smart capital, is a unique package for our portfolio organizations and sets us apart from most other investors/funders.

Tom, now that you have managed the program for ten years, what are you most proud of?

Since the inception of the program in 2009, we have enrolled 159 fellows. It is, of course, a great pleasure to welcome new, inspiring and enthusiastic talents every single year, but what amazes me is to see how every individual develops after the program. Many of our alumni follow impressive and meaningful career paths. For example, one of our fellows became the CFO of leading global biodigester company, or another fellow became a Vice President of Global Philanthropy at JP Morgan. Knowing that the LGT Impact Fellowship helps talented people build their track record is very satisfying for me. Moreover, it makes me proud to see that many of our portfolio organizations continuously recruit fellows year after year, demonstrating that the program delivers real added value to them.

What happens to fellows after the program?

71% of our fellows stay within the impact sector after the program, while 30% of fellows stay on with their organization – proof of the value add they provide to our portfolio organizations. We support them actively in their transition into the impact sector by sending out a CV book to our network and keeping alumni in the loop about job opportunities arising from our network.

What are the key success factors of an LGT Impact Fellow?

While the minimum requirements to join the program are certainly a good base to succeed, the critical success factors go beyond professional and educational background. The work environment at the host organization plays a crucial role. From our experience, for fellows to excel in their position, an excellent induction process to learn about the organization and build up networks is vital. Additionally, a clear role description and strong management support are also essential. We ensure that those criteria are met by setting up “Gateway Calls” with fellows and their line managers at the beginning of the fellowship to ensure full buy-in for the outlined objectives from all stakeholders.

Moreover, fellows succeed if there is a strong alignment of incentives, namely if the fellows’ motivations are in line with the culture and critical priorities of the organizations. Finally, what makes the difference in the success of a fellow are several personality traits. A fellow who feels confident dealing with ambiguity in a dynamic environment, who is flexible and can quickly adapt to changing requirements, and who is humble enough to find a right balance between what he/she wants to get out of the fellowship and what the organization needs, will excel at his/her assignment as an LGT Impact Fellow. It is for that reason that we explicitly look for individuals who are passionate and impact-driven and whose vision aligns with the vision of LGT Venture Philanthropy and LGT Lightstone.

Can you give us an outlook for the fellowship program? What’s next on the agenda?

While we are well established and enjoy an excellent reputation in the industry, our aim remains to continuously develop the program. We are enthusiastic to enhance the program in the coming year. Thus, we have various ideas we are working on, including an enlarged offering for our current fellows, such as knowledge webinars. Moreover, many organizations look for ways to fully exploit the potential of their data to make their solutions more effective. To accommodate data analytics and artificial intelligence needs of our portfolio organizations, we are currently assessing the possibility of offering thematic fellowships in that domain. Similarly, as our portfolio organizations grow, their talent needs are for more executive roles, which is why we increasingly recruit senior fellows with significant experience who can fill managerial and advisory positions.

What tips do you give to our current and future fellows?

Stay true to yourself and follow your passion; be flexible as the social impact space is dynamic and requires people who can adjust quickly; and nurture an entrepreneurial mindset, because some of the world’s biggest challenges require out of the box thinking capabilities. Finally, if you have doubts if the LGT Impact Fellowship is right for you, feel free to reach out to us or any of the former program participants. Please have a look at our LinkedIn page.

Any final comments?

I want to thank all our fellows, alumni, portfolio organizations, partners, and our team. We are excited to see a growing number of applications, an increasing number of fellows completing the program every year, and growing interest from our portfolio organizations. However, we are aware that what makes the program so successful is the greatness of every single person involved in it.

Thank you for all the fantastic work, collaboration, and team spirit!

In the name of LGT Venture Philanthropy and LGT Lightstone, I wish you an impactful new year and hope to be in touch with many of you!

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