CEE architects of transition: Karine Hirn
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CEE architects of transition: Karine Hirn

Karine Hirn is co-founder and chief sustainability officer of leading emerging and frontier markets investment firm East Capital. She has been based in Hong Kong since 2010, where she heads the firm’s Asia operations.


When East Capital co-founder Karine Hirn first arrived in Moscow in 1991 as a young French student, the city was reeling from a coup attempt two weeks earlier. Tanks were still in the streets and there were shortages of everything, including food.

For Hirn, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise. 

“I was starving and there was nothing in the shops, the only way to eat was to go to restaurants or be invited to people’s homes,” she says. “That meant you had to make friends quickly. I learned Russian in four months, because I was obsessed with food.”

She also acquired an enduring fascination with Russia and went back to her studies in France determined to return. 

Three years later she succeeded, this time as a French government-funded consultant to a local bank in Nizhny Novgorod. “I had just graduated from Sciences Po Paris and I was helping bankers understand credit risk without knowing much about it myself,” she says.

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