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Global executive and SFU alumnus changes the game through diversity and inclusion

Frode Strand-Nielsen

Frode Strand-Nielsen (BA ’80) believes in the transformative power of Simon Fraser University. As founder and manager of a top Northern European private equity firm who first honed his leadership skills as an international student-athlete, Frode’s success is living proof. Now the former men’s soccer captain is empowering female student-athletes and inspiring global perspectives with a $1 million gift to his alma mater. 

Frode’s generous gift has established endowments to support varsity female athletes and invigorate the women’s soccer program. The investment will provide female student-athletes with the resources they need to succeed on and off the field, enable SFU to attract top student-athletes across the globe and inspire high performance. 

“The impact of Frode’s generosity is an absolute game changer for our female athletes,” says Theresa Hanson, senior director of SFU Athletics and Recreation. “This gift will literally change lives and help us develop incredible female leaders.”

“I’m so grateful to Frode and the support he has provided our program,” added women’s soccer head coach Annie Hamel. “His generosity will broaden our recruiting opportunities and our ability to attract high level student-athletes.” 

As a compassionate business leader, Frode is committed to building stronger teams through diversity and inclusion. This commitment drives the culture within his company, FSN Capital, and has inspired his transformative gift to foster excellence and leadership in women’s athletics at SFU.

“I believe it’s a basic human right that we all have equal opportunity regardless of ethnicity, colour, religion, sexual preferences or gender,” Frode says during a recent interview from his office in Oslo, Norway. “The female athletes should have the same financial backing as the male athletes. That’s only fair, it’s only reasonable.”

Frode led scoring for the 1978 squad that set an SFU 20-win record which still stands. He was chosen “Scholar Athlete of the Year” by the North American Intercollegiate Association and was later inducted into the SFU Athletics Hall of Fame. Frode received an SFU Outstanding Alumni Award for Professional Achievement in 2017 for his exceptional contribution to local and global communities. He previously established SFU’s first $1 million athletic scholarship endowment in support of men’s soccer. 

Frode says his experience on the field helped him learn how to manage conflict, overcome negative thinking, engage with diverse team members, and make his fellow players shine—skills that are vital to leadership in any environment. He describes his time at SFU as “life-transforming.”

“I was inspired by the ability to play my sport at a relatively high level but also by the faculty and the environment, the spirit of the university, and just the location,” he says. “The extremely engaged faculty really brought out the best in me. So from being a straight C student in high school, I suddenly became a straight A student. There was something there that inspired me and energized me to work quite hard at school and then work quite hard in the practices with the soccer team. It was a perfect combination, and so giving back to that has been quite important and rewarding.”

Part of Frode’s recent philanthropic commitment will enhance the educational experience of international undergraduate students and support international graduate students with unforeseen or unmet expenses, furthering his commitment to foster global perspectives at SFU and beyond.

“Just being able to take people from different corners of the world and put them on that mountain for four years together—that will really bridge understanding among different nationalities,” he says. 

Greater diversity, he maintains, is not only integral to a richer learning experience, but to better business outcomes.

“Working in the financial business and particularly private equity investing, it’s quite a male-dominated place. You have a lot of tall dark alpha males asserting their very powerful decisions on everyone else,” Frode says. ”There is actually a lot of good research that says that diverse teams make better decisions than homogenous teams.”

In founding FSN Capital, he set out to create a different kind of investment firm, grounded in strong values, ethical principles and firm guidelines. Its ethos: ‘We are decent people making a decent return in a decent way.’

The firm mandates ethical responsibility throughout its supply chain, methodically addressing environmental, social and governance issues for the companies it owns. Frode says he has zero tolerance for corruption, ensuring that all parties involved with his firm uphold safe work places, institute fair wages, respect human rights and care for the environment. 

“If you’re going to build a culture that radiates trust, you need values, and values are just codified behavior,” he says. “People know that we are people of character and integrity. If you build a foundation of trust, the right people want to come and work for you.”

Not only does an emphasis on trust help resolve day-to-day conflict and build accountability, it acts as a competitive lever when FSN Capital seeks to acquire new companies. 

Frode says it is critical for these businesses to have a clearly defined purpose beyond making profit.

“Crystallizing what impact a company has on its local community, bigger community, employees, customers and suppliers energizes people,” he explains. “Because everybody wants to do something meaningful when they get up on Monday morning and go to work.”

As he splits his time safely between his home and office during COVID-19, Frode looks forward to the opportunity to return to British Columbia—he visits annually to ski, cycle and connect with friends—when he is able.

“I’m a very proud alumnus of SFU and I always will be,” Frode says with a smile. “As soon as it’s safe to travel, I’ll be on a plane and I’ll come visit you.”

Frode’s commitments recognize inspiring leadership at SFU, with athletic awards made in honour of President Emeritus Andrew Petter and Maureen Maloney, professor of public policy; international graduate student support in honour of President Emeritus Dr. Knud George Pedersen and international undergraduate student support in honour of James Dean, professor emeritus of economics who passed away in February 2019.