I wanted to do this while I still have all my senses somewhat intact.
"People usually say that you should be in the right place, at the right time, with the right skills. But that's not enough, I usually say. You also need to be lucky. And I've been lucky. If I have built up wealth, I should also make sure to use it for something really good while I still have my senses somewhat intact," says Bengt Hjelm, founder of the Hjelm Family Foundation for medical research.
Bengt Hjelm, a Swedish businessman, fulfilled his promise to retire at the age of 60. Now, at the age of 79, he has recently established the Hjelm Family Foundation for medical research.
Bengt Hjelm was born and raised in Gothenburg, Sweden, and graduated from Hvitfeldtska High School in 1962. After completing his military service, he began studying at the School of Business, Economics, and Law at the University of Gothenburg in 1963. During his studies, he also worked in the Port of Gothenburg, taking on roles such as stevedore and tallyman (cargo counter).
As a newly graduated economist, he started working for various companies in the industry. After some time, he wanted to try working on his own and received several assignments to help struggling companies, becoming known as a "corporate doctor." Through this work, he also received requests to serve on several boards, and soon he became a professional board member.
Using the money for something meaningful
One of the board assignments he had was for Nibeverken in Markaryd. In 1989, Bengt, along with some other investors, bought the company, and in 1997, the company went public. When he left the company in 2003 at the age of 60, he retained his shares and ownership in Nibe. One of the board assignments he had was for Nibeverken in Markaryd. In 1989, Bengt, along with some other investors, bought the company, and in 1997, the company went public. When he left the company in 2003 at the age of 60, he retained his shares and ownership in Nibe.
"People often say that you should be in the right place, at the right time, with the right skills. But that's not enough, I usually say. You also need luck. And I've been lucky. If I have built up wealth, I should also make sure to use it for something meaningful while I still have my senses intact," says Bengt Hjelm.
A few years ago, he began contemplating what he should do with the value represented by his Nibe shares. At the same time, SEB (Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken) contacted him and offered him the opportunity to become a client of their Private Wealth Management & Family Office.
"I started doing some stock trading but didn't take big risks. But then I began thinking about what will happen in the world and what should exist after me when I eventually pass away."
"I started donating some money to interesting causes. The first one came up through a contact and went towards an electron microscope for the urology department at Malmö Hospital. After that, I donated money to replace a 30-year-old irrigation system at a golf club."
Passion for boats
Bengt and his family have always had a passion for boats. Through the Swedish Sea Rescue Society, he donated money for a rescue cruiser named "Casque," which has always been the name of the boats he and his wife have owned over the years.
"The 'Casque' is based in Lomma and was involved in the rescue operation when a timber vessel caught fire outside Vinga. Every now and then, I receive updates about the missions they have conducted. It's truly gratifying," he says.
Bengt Hjelm's Nibe portfolio continued to grow, and his thoughts on how to use the money persisted.
"How can one repay their gratitude to the parts of society that have been, and are, crucial for maintaining a good welfare system in Sweden? If I am going to donate money with any substance, it should be for forward-looking medical research, with fairly young researchers who can advance their research with the help of these funds."
Three obvious subjects
He contacted SEB Private Wealth Management & Family Office and shared his thoughts. Bengt had identified three areas of focus: Urology, Geriatrics, and Transplantation Surgery.
"These were obvious subjects for me, partly because I myself have an aortic valve implanted in my heart through transplantation surgery, seven years ago."
Bengt quickly realized that SEB had the expertise in establishing a foundation, drafting statutes, and more. They also had the necessary contacts within the three areas of focus he desired.
"I had already spoken with several law firms, but it turned out to be a complex issue with many parties involved. But with the bank, I immediately felt that they had the competence I needed, all gathered in one place."
After a couple of intense months of work, the statutes were finalized, and the Hjelm Family Foundation for medical research was launched in the summer of 2021.
"We put together a good package. It covers the pitfalls and traps that one can stumble into when starting a foundation if you don't have a comprehensive approach. And thanks to the bank, it has been highly cost-effective," says Bengt Hjelm.
The pitfalls Bengt refers to include, for example, limiting the mission of the foundation too narrowly, resulting in the mission becoming irrelevant once a mystery is solved. Another pitfall could be the decision-making process within the board. In Bengt Hjelm's case, he and his two sons appoint and dismiss board members, as well as decide on capital management, in order to retain control over the foundation's funds.
"Without the bank's help, I wouldn't have been able to accomplish this on my own. The bank has been very competent and helpful in creating and developing the foundation's statutes."
The bank had the contacts
For Bengt, it has meant some work, and he finds it difficult to distance himself from the foundation's work, where he serves as chairman, among other roles.
"You are awake and sleep with the foundation. But the day-to-day operations of the foundation are entirely managed by the bank."
The bank already had the contacts to find suitable board members. SEB also had connections in the research world and has handled all the practical details involving authorities and more to establish the foundation, according to Bengt Hjelm.
"It includes all the demanding practical details that I, as a layman, have no chance of handling. The contribution the bank makes in relation to the value the foundation receives makes the process exceptionally cost-effective," he says.
A great satisfaction
Bengt Hjelm is grateful for the luck he has had in life, for being married to his wife Yvonne for 55 years, and for having children and grandchildren.
"I have had decent health. Having to replace a heart valve, as I have done, is one of life's setbacks. I wanted to do this while I still have my senses somewhat intact. There's no way around it; it brings great satisfaction."