ALUMNI STORIES: ‘GOVERNMENT IS LEADING THE STRATEGY TO CONFRONT THE VIRUS. I’M PRIVILEGED TO BE PLAYING A SMALL PART’
ALUMNI STORIES: 'GOVERNMENT IS LEADING THE STRATEGY TO CONFRONT THE VIRUS. I’M PRIVILEGED TO BE PLAYING A SMALL PART'
Eric Clement (Hertford, 2013) discusses his strategy work within the NYC government and how this changed alongside COVID-19
Published: 1 September 2020
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Is it true that you started out as a baseball player? Can you talk us through your journey from there to where you are today?
Yes, this is true. After graduating from college, I was lucky enough to have played in the independent league for a few years. It was a great experience traveling around the country and playing the game you love. After a few years playing ball, I started working in finance. From there, I worked in consulting for a bit because I wanted to learn how companies operate, and then took those skills and helped start two entrepreneurial endeavors focused in emerging markets. While working overseas I met my wife, we decided to build a life back in NYC, and shortly after moving back I started at New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC).
You left a high-flying private equity career to return home and run the NYCEDC’s Strategic Investments Group (SIG). Can you tell us more about that?
SIG is the impact investing arm of the City of New York. We are housed within NYCEDC and as such, our main directives are to make investments that expand opportunity, unlock access to capital, promote economic resiliency, and combat climate change. We do this by bringing to bear both traditional financial and governmental tools that together comprise a comprehensive suite of solutions that make us an effective investor and partner.
What are you most proud of achieving with the SIG project?
Honestly, it’s the building of the team and the platform. Three years ago, the group as it stands today did not exist – historically, SIG was two of the five platforms that currently are in operation – this is in addition to managing a substantial amount of capital. Moreover, the people who comprise SIG are a diverse group of individuals with legal, policy, and financial backgrounds – all super smart with a desire to make a positive impact in the world. There is a trend among many (especially the millennial generation), that is not just about making money – people want to feel good about what they do. I’m happy to have been given the opportunity to create a platform that is able to achieve that.
What has been the biggest surprise related to your experience at NYCEDC?
In February the answer would have been totally different… As of March, the biggest surprise is most definitely what we as a City have done (and are doing) to combat COVID-19. Specifically related to SIG, as of March our fund portfolio was frozen because NYCEDC was purchasing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) on behalf of the City. Additionally, SIG has been involved in the structuring of joint venture partnerships that have led to the creation of ventilators in NYC, in addition to being at the forefront of the City’s long-term financial recovery efforts. All over the world, government is leading the strategy to confront the virus. I’m privileged to be playing a small part.
What do you have on your list of goals to achieve in the next 10-years?
I would love to either run my own impact investing fund or run an impact platform at a larger private organization. I love what I do at NYCEDC. That said, managing a pool of capital that is not specifically tied to NYC is attractive given there is a lot to do globally. My wife and I would also like to have a family. After all, what’s the point of working so hard of you don’t have people to share your special moments with?
If you could give your 18-year-old self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Be patient. Looking back, a mistake I made repeatedly was always looking for the next best thing. I would work really hard to achieve a particular goal, and as soon as I got it, I immediately went on to the next. There is something to be said for being able to take a step back and reflect on the process – what worked? What could you have done better? I never did that when I was younger, and as a result I had to learn things the hard way.
You were 36 years old when you decided to go to Saïd Business School. What was the highlight of your time at Oxford?
Definitely the people. What initially stood out to me was the diversity of the cohort. After that, formulating relationships with both the class and faculty (many whom I consider friends) has been invaluable as I will undoubtedly have these relationships for life.
Can you give us a sneak preview of your Meeting Minds talk?
Given what is happening in the world today, it will be increasingly important for public and private entities to work together. The problem is, most private companies have no idea how to work with government entities because it’s not clear what many of these organizations do. I will walk through what NYCEDC is at a high-level, then talk more specifically about SIG, and give examples of how we have worked across industries. Hopefully this will spark some thoughtful conversations about the nature of the world today and how together we can address the challenges that face us.
How have you looked after yourself during lockdown?
For the most part, my wife and I have been in NYC; this was difficult at first given NYC was the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S. From March until June, we didn’t see anyone in person, and we made sure to take daily walks for a few miles at the end of our workdays. I also made sure to get a workout in at least three days a week to stay sane.
Do you have any predictions for the post-COVID-19 world?
I think until we have a vaccine, things are going to look similar to what we are experiencing today. In the U.S., we are seeing increases in cases throughout much of the country and as a result, schools can’t reopen, which affects whether or not parents can go back to work. This will have negative effects on the economy. As a society, we are going to have to make the choice to socially distance, wear masks (and other PPE to the extent necessary) so that we can be effective in combatting COVID-19.
How do you feel Oxford has changed you?
Oxford has taught me to take a look at issues with a more global view. I always enjoyed how many of the business models we studied were internationally focused as compared to the typical U.S. based case studies. This allowed me to learn the nuances about how business is carried out in Europe and emerging markets, and I have been able to apply these learnings when I worked in Africa as well as today in NYC.