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Thomas Thesleff

Born 31 March, 1951, Helsinki

Master of Arts 1975 (General History), University of Helsinki

Evli Investment Bank, Managing Director 1985–1994, Chairman of the Board, 1994–2006 and Board Member 2006-

Acting lector, Minervaskolan, 1975–1977
Expert, Oy Hackman Ab, 1977–1978
Copywriter, Interplan Oy, 1979
Regional manager (France), Finnfacts ry 1979–1985
Stockbroker, Oy Bensow Ab, 1984–1985

Military rank, Lieutenant (senior grade)
Honours: Knight of the White Rose of Finland, 1st class

Written by Thomas Thesleff and Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta (ed.)
Translated by John Calton.

In search of role models for working life

The offspring of Viipuri stock, Thomas Thesleff has commerce, civil service, farming, art and research flowing in his veins from his father’s side. On his mother’s side, there are traces of academic education and commerce from the Turku region and Sweden. The family’s moniker is clearly civil humanism however. Thesleff admits to his background and how his forebears shaped his life choices “Claris obligamur exemplis” (‘We ought to follow great characters’).

– I have throughout my life striven to live up to humanist ideals and ethical norms without losing sight of life’s realities. My life has been quite an adventure.

Thesleff took the classical line in the Svenska Normallyceum. He had his sights at that point set on a research career as a philologist or as a historian. Equally administration also intrigued him and the idea of “the civil servant working in the service of the state” did not seem entirely repugnant. Thomas Thesleff’s university studies included included general history together with Latin, Romance language philology and general linguistics. His MA dissertation Ranskan sivistyshistoriaa: Pariisin yliopiston syntymä ja tarpeellisuus kasvavan porvariston ja poliittisen eliitin silmillä 12001300  (’The history of French education: The origins and necessity of the university of Paris in the eyes of the growing bourgeoisie and political elite’) was supervised by Professor Jarl Gallén.

– After graduating with a Master’s I tried my hand at research. I went to Villa Lante, the Finnish Institute in Rome, but had to concede that I didn’t have the patience for that kind of work. I had no wish to give up on my studies or the world of scholarship, so I found myself working as a history teacher and assistant to Professor Matti Klinge. The new qualification requirements for teachers in basic education forced him out of the school system in search of happiness elsewhere.

In 1977 and 1978 Thesleff was employed by Oy Hackman Ab as a consultant planning a history to celebrate the company’s bicentenary. The company was founded his maternal grandfather’s forebears in 1790. His career at this stage was modelled on Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrock, quite clearly thanks to his ancestors.

Next in line was a departure from everything conventional. Thesleff spent a year exercising his creativity as a copywriter for Oy Interplan Ab. Then as Finland opened up to the world he soon found himself on international assignments. Five years as the regional contact for Finnfacts in France gave him a taste of business life and the demands of industry.

Throughout this time Thesleff had kept his historical knowledge in good shape, by serving as the curator of the Mannerheim Museum. By 1984 his instinct drew him increasingly into the commercial sector. A few years working as a stockbroker for Oy Bensow Ab consolidated his career path.

– The establishment of the Evli Securities Plc in 1985 with a few good colleagues (Henrik Andersin and Roger Kempe, as well as Carl Ahlström in passing) put me firmly in the ‘freelance’ entrepreneurial camp. The Buddenbrock spirit was alive and well and I had found my metier.

Photo: Thomas Thesleff.​​


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