Alumni Spotlight: Kathrin Hassler, 2015 cohort

Alumni Spotlight: Kathrin Hassler, 2015 cohort 

Kathrin was part of the LGT Impact Fellowship 2015 cohort. With a solid track record of more than 10 years in Financial Services she now has started a new role as Finance Manager at the Jacobs Foundation in Zurich, Switzerland. Jacobs Foundation is dedicated to promoting child and youth development by providing support for individuals and institutions active in research and practice, also operating its own programs.

In the Alumni Spotlight series, we dive deep into past Fellows’ experiences and learnings from the Fellowship, and their career trajectories since then.

Q: You were matched with the former LGT Venture Philanthropy portfolio organization Meds & Food for Kids in Haiti – an organization that is dedicated to meeting the essential nutritional needs of malnourished children, pregnant and nursing women and school children. What exactly was your LGT Impact Fellowship role at the organization and what were your main contributions?

A: I was hired as a Finance and Business Development Manager, which was a good match considering my background in banking and finance. However, as usual when working for a small organization, other topics were quickly added, including strategic projects, relationship management, legal work or corporate development.

I would say my main goal was to trigger a mindset shift at the board and management level. This shift consisted of seeing the organization Meds & Food for Kids more as a social enterprise, rather than an NGO. Besides the NGO activities of MFK, such as farmer training or nursing support at malnutrition cliniques, MFK runs its own factory where it produces nutritional supplements. These products require pricing strategies and cost controlling in order to break even and potentially be able to cross-finance some of the NGO activities.

More tangible contributions were the preparation of the yearly budget together with the management, writing of the business case and financial model for growth projects and  refining of the pricing strategy.

In short, the Fellowship was a great opportunity to make a first step into the social impact space.

Q: Many Fellows use the Fellowship as an opportunity to shift career from the corporate sector into the social sector. You have worked for a major Swiss Private Bank prior to the Fellowship and have joined a big consulting firm after your Fellowship. What were your motivations, for both, joining the Fellowship program and your career choice after the Fellowship?

A: My journey towards the impact sector has started about one year prior to the Fellowship. At that time I had heard about impact investing for the first time. I was fascinated and knew that this is the direction I wanted to take. In order to transition into the impact space, I engaged in networking and after many conversations with specialists in this field, I realized that field experience is a beneficial asset to enter this domain. When I came across the LGT Impact Fellowship (at the time iCats program) I felt that this program offered an ideal starting point: It is a great opportunity to gain field experience, while throwing myself into a new adventure. Moreover, the Fellowship gave me the certainty that the organization, being part of the LGT VP portfolio and hence being carefully briefed by LGT VP, knew exactly why I was there and hence gave me considerable responsibilities. The organization had a concrete problem to be solved and it was my mission to solve it. Moreover, I was also attracted by the fact that there were other Fellows starting the adventure at the same time, whom I could exchange with. In short, the Fellowship was a great opportunity to make a first step into the social impact space.

After my Fellowship I moved back to Hong Kong, where I had lived with my partner at the time of leaving for Haiti, and was looking for suitable opportunities in impact investing. However, it proved to be a rather tough market to enter, particularly with my geographic limitation to Hong Kong, which is not a typical impact hub. By working on a few projects for Impact Investors and a foundation, I received the feedback that consulting experience is a valuable asset in addition to my banking experience and hence I joined a consulting firm to take another step towards my goal. My home-team at the consulting firm was Finance and Risk, but I engaged in many extra-curricular projects, such as the co-creation of a sustainability working group to share knowledge and create a client offering.

Q: You have been appointed the Finance Manager at the Jacob Foundation in Zurich recently. What is that you do exactly in this role? And what excites you about your new job overall?

A: My role is very diverse and this aspect attracted me to the job. There are two main areas I am responsible for: 1) I support the different program areas of the Foundation with respect to any Finance related matters, including budgeting, project structuring and impact finance activities; and 2) I am involved in the internal financial management such allocation of funds and investment management. Moreover, I work on the roll-out of the new project management tool, which fits my background in technological project implementation.

What really excites me about this job is the fact that it is purpose driven. I have finally arrived in the domain that I have been looking to enter for so long. Moreover, I was really looking for a positive and supportive work environment and I am very happy to now work with a super cool and motivated team.

Q: In your opinion what are the main differences of working in a Finance role in the corporate sector and a Finance role in the social sector?

A: Finance is a very broad area of expertise and Finance roles certainly vary particularly according to the size of the organization or company. For example, investment management for a corporation may be very similar to investment management in a large foundation, though the investment priorities may be different of course. Previously I have held very specific specialist roles in a corporate setting, where my area of involvement was clearly defined. The organization I was working for during my Fellowship and also the Foundation I work for now, are smaller and hence the area of involvement and responsibility is broader and requires more flexibility and entrepreneurial spirit to support wherever needed.

Q: Whom would you recommend the program to?

A: The Fellowship is very useful for people who are looking to set foot in the social entrepreneurship or social impact sector as well as for people who are interested in gaining field experience. However, it is also important to understand that the Fellowship is not a wild card for a successful career transition. As I have seen on my own journey, it may take time to shift career, as other factors play a crucial role too, such as the location, the job market, the personal network and the flexibility of a person.

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