Niels Hoeben is a Dutch businessman with international ambitions and work experience. He is primarily involved in the field of fashion and apparel. For the past six years he was employed by Tommy Hilfiger and Adidas in Japan. His most recent business success includes establishing a break-through partnership with Amazon and a growing e-commerce business in Japan. We asked him about the person he is, his international career and future goals in life.
You are born in Veghel, an ancient city in the south of the Netherlands. After your childhood you moved to Maastricht to study International Business. When did you realize that you wanted to venture out and go abroad?
Don’t ask me why but I have always been interested in exploring the world. As a teenager I already wanted to study abroad and do a high-school year in the states. I’ve studied International Business as it would give me the best chances for an international career.
During my studies came the opportunity to participate in an exchange program for six months. I decided to follow a minor Business Administration in Madrid, Spain. After I successfully obtained my bachelor’s degree, my international ambitions were fully triggered, and I decided to travel through Central America.
As a student you were already interested in visiting other countries and places outside of the Netherlands. You have travelled for an extended period. Which countries have you visited?
I visited Guatemala, Belize, Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. Then I continued my studies in 2007 by following a master program in business at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Subsequently, I completed a second master course in Buenos Aires, Argentina, at a prestigious private university. After finishing these two master studies, I decided to travel again. This time I travelled first through South America visiting Chili, Bolivia, Peru and Brazil. Thereafter I travelled to South-East Asia where I visited Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.
After the gap year you took to travel, you started working full-time. Did you immediately aim or opt for a vacancy abroad?
No, I started my career at ABN AMRO Bank in Amsterdam. I undertook a traineeship at the bank and gained financial knowledge. My first work experience abroad started in Singapore, where I was posted by ABN AMRO for several months. After my foreign adventure, I worked as a strategy consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC). I advised large companies and helped private equity professionals with strategic decision-making.
Did you always have the ambition to get a career in the financial sector?
No, not in particular. After my career at PricewaterhouseCoopers I made a switch to the fashion and apparel industry. I took a job at Tommy Hilfiger and worked for the following three years as a business analyst. Part of my job was to advise the CEO with strategic decision-making, something I was already familiar with.
From the financial industry to the fashion and apparel industry, that is a slightly different direction in your career path. What were your next steps?
Two years later, the company, Tommy Hilfiger, is renamed to PVH. I was given the opportunity to go to Japan to lead a business turnaround. Together with the management team I designed and implemented a new strategy. One of the pillars in this strategy was the focus on e-commerce. Soon after implementation, I was offered to lead PVH’s e-commerce division for Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, a brand that was added when the company changed its name. I carried out my tasks successfully; within three years the number of employees as well as the turnover increase by 300 percent. The team grew from 4 employees to 12 employees and its turnover increased from 4 million euros to 15 million euros. After being in Japan for three years, another business opportunity came my way. They offered me a senior management position at Adidas. I had the opportunity to set up a completely new team and work closely together with the CEO on strategic topics. Soon after I joined the company, I became part of the executive team at Adidas.
You have accomplished significant growth at Tommy Hilfiger and within Adidas. Besides your professional career, are there any activities that you find of relevance in your life?
Yes, I find it important to give back to the community. Therefore, I am involved in and support several charities.
What kind of charities have you supported?
I have been a participant (boxer) at executive fight night 2018 for Shine On! Kids (SOK). SOK is a certified non-profit organization dedicated to support children and their families who deal with cancer and other serious illnesses in Japan. I am also a volunteer at the Heart Foundation in the Netherlands. Furthermore, I have been a participant in the Atma Challenge. This challenge consists of thirty young professionals who climb to the top of the Nepalese Himalayas. The Atma Challenge Group is part of the Atma Foundation. This foundation supports small development corporations that strive to provide better educational opportunities for children of all races, religions and backgrounds in India. Furthermore, I supported the charity of Afri-can, by developing and professionalizing their business plan. Afri-can stimulates prosperity in Kenya by engaging individuals and communities by providing trainings, so youth can be become self-supporting.
You try to find and have a healthy work-life balance. What do you like to do in your spare time?
As you might have noticed, I like to travel. I also like to play sports: I play tennis, field hockey and I love skiing. I would consider myself an outdoorsy and active person. If I am not playing sports, I am outside walking my dog. I have a French bulldog called Frankie.
What are some of the highlights in your professional career and what would like to achieve in the future?
Because of my international ambitions and experiences, including both my travel and work experience, I can take on many responsibilities. I am able to lead, manage, motivate and inspire my team members. I gained excellent financial, strategic and analytical knowledge. I consider my achievement at PHV (increase turnover) as a highlight in my career. I am also proud of setting up a new team at Adidas in Japan. I find my interesting to be involved in the decision-making process that takes place at a large powerhouse brand like Adidas. Additionally, I have a keen interest in digital technologies. Hence, I have good digital understanding and understands how digital developments can be at the heart of a business to ensure sustainable profitable growth. In the future I want to further develop my management skills and hopefully fulfil a managing director position.