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Alum Anton Jantunen: 'In my role, analytical skills, a comprehensive understanding of complex concepts, and the ability to see connections are especially useful.'

Anton Jantunen's journey led him from major consulting firms and startups to working in Nairobi at the UN Sanitation and Hygiene Fund, which aims to improve access to safe sanitation, hygiene, and menstrual health products and services. Jantunen works with innovative financing models for the fund.
Anton Jantunen at Aberdare mountains in Kenya.
Anton Jantunen at the Aberdare mountains in Kenya.

Who are you? What did you study at the School of Business, and when did you graduate?

I'm Anton Jantunen. I studied at the School of Business from 2009 to 2014, with a major in Accounting for my bachelor's and Finance for my master's.

How did you become interested in studying business?

Studying business offers a wide range of career opportunities both domestically and internationally. I wasn't sure which career paths would interest me before starting my studies, so business was a perfect fit due to its versatility. Additionally, I was aware that business graduates typically earn a reasonably good salary, which also influenced my decision.

What did you find most rewarding about your studies?

I found solving various case studies with other students both rewarding and interesting. I began working full-time a year before graduation, which made it challenging to find the motivation and time to complete my master's thesis alongside work. In hindsight, I would have taken a second exchange period. I did one at the Thammasat University in Bangkok and the exchange experience remains one of my most positive memories from my studies.
 

Anton Jantunen in cycling race in Mount Kenya region
In a cycling race in Mount Kenya region.

What work experience did you gain during your university studies?

I did various internships and part-time jobs, including sales at Danske Bank, auditing at Deloitte, and other work at Finnvera. These internships were crucial because they gave me practical insights into different types of jobs and helped me understand what I might be interested in pursuing in the future.

What are the most important skills required in your industry?

In my role, analytical skills, a comprehensive understanding of complex concepts, and the ability to see connections are especially useful. When working at the UN or in other international environments, communication, and negotiation skills with people from various backgrounds are essential.

What would you like to change about the work environment?

The flexibility of remote work during the COVID-19 era was a positive development for knowledge-based work, and I believe we should retain some of that flexibility, even though many employers have returned to office-based work.

How do you use creativity in your job?

In my current role at the UN, I design innovative financing models for the sanitation and hygiene sector in Africa. This sector is highly challenging from many perspectives, so my daily work involves developing innovative solutions. This requires a detailed understanding of the market, even at the grassroots level, to ensure that the innovative financial instruments and solutions address genuine needs.

Working at the office in Nairobi
At the office in Nairobi.

What has your career path been like?

After completing my internships, I began my full-time career at EY in 2013, working in corporate finance as an M&A advisor. After countless PowerPoint presentations and Excel models at EY, I became a venture capitalist at Tesi in 2016, focusing on growth equity investments as an Investment Manager.

In the summer of 2019, I took three months of unpaid leave from Tesi and joined Mercy Corps Ventures' portfolio management team in Nairobi, consulting with their portfolio companies (seed-stage/series A) for 2-4 weeks on various projects, often related to financial modelling, fundraising, or market research.

During my three months in Nairobi, I received job offers, which led me to move to Nairobi permanently. I became the CFO at the growth company Kasha in the fall of 2019. At Kasha, I led the strategy, fundraising, and reporting functions in Kenya, Rwanda, and the US. I was also a board member at Kasha.

In 2022, I received a job offer from a new UN fund (The UN Sanitation & Hygiene Fund), which focuses on sanitation, hygiene, and menstrual health. I joined in April 2022, focusing on innovative finance. Most of my team (around 15 employees) is in Geneva, with a small African team in Nairobi. In April 2024, I relocated to the UN Sanitation & Hygiene Fund's headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, where I continue in my current position.

What does your job at The Sanitation & Hygiene Fund entail?

My responsibility is to develop and lead the fund's innovative finance projects and activities in target countries across Africa. This requires traveling to target countries, meeting with key stakeholders, such as private sector companies, financiers, and government officials, and becoming familiar with significant projects in the industry. I build the fund's understanding of the market and design innovative finance projects. Essentially, innovative finance means attracting "normal" return-seeking capital (from banks, investors, etc.) into the market by creating instruments that reduce investor risk or funding early-stage startups that are not yet able to raise conventional capital.

What motivated you to work in an international organization/fund?

Nairobi hosts the headquarters of many international organizations, including the UN, as well as major regional offices. This made it an excellent opportunity, especially compared to Finland, to explore working at the UN. UN roles often involve working with highly international teams on challenging projects that significantly impact people's basic well-being and human rights. I find my current work highly meaningful, especially compared to the jobs I had in Finland. The opportunity for a better work-life balance also influenced my decision, as being in the leadership team of a startup/growth company made it quite challenging before.

At the top of Mount Kenya
Anton Mount Kenyan huipulla.

How could a student interested in pursuing an international career get started?

In my case, working at large international consulting firms like EY and Deloitte was helpful during recruitment. If you're planning to work abroad at some point, it might be beneficial to start by working at a global company in Finland.

Especially in Kenya, I found that being on-site made a significant difference compared to applying from Finland. If you are interested in moving to a developing country like Kenya, some good options include 1) contacting startups and offering to work for a low salary or for free for 2-3 months, allowing you to then search for jobs locally, and 2) actively applying for jobs/internships at international organizations or Finnish/EU embassies.

How do you perceive the impactfulness of your work?

My current job has a significant impact. For example, in Kenya, one of the most developed countries in sub-Saharan Africa, less than 30% of the population has access to safely managed sanitation. This directly affects health, disease spread, mortality, and children's education. The UN Sanitation & Hygiene Fund aims to improve access to safe sanitation, hygiene, and menstrual health products and services. Many UN organizations are increasingly focusing on innovative finance, creating a growing demand for employees who understand the private sector, startups, impact VC/PE investors, and banks. Although my current job is quite different from my previous roles in Finland, the skills I gained from my degree in Finance at Kauppis and my work at EY (corporate finance) and Tesi (growth equity investing) are immensely helpful in my current role.
 

Learn more about Anton's career path and studies on LinkedIn!

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