Peter Van Veen '88
I attended UWCSEA from 1982 to 1986. I finished my O levels (as they were then) at UWCSEA and then moved to New Zealand with my family to finish High School. So while I didn’t graduate from UWCSEA, there are dozens of alumni from the College that I stay in contact with. Some of my friends from my UWCSEA days remain my best friends to this day, because I still feel a great connection with them as ‘my community’.
After school, I focused on economics at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, and then followed this with a Masters degree at the Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of London to focus on how economic policy works in reality. Unfortunately when I graduated there weren’t a lot of jobs around in this field, so after a short stint as an economist at the Economist Intelligence Unit and then Shell, I built a career in management consulting. Having developed my skills at companies such as Accenture, Stanford Research Institute and Bertelsmann, my work and interest became more focused on corporate governance and business ethics. And this really brought me back to where I wanted to make a contribution, which is doing business with integrity and improving things from the inside.
In 2011, I moved from the private sector to Transparency International, the anti-corruption NGO, to set up their Business Integrity Programme in the UK. Although I have moved back into the private sector, I remain involved with Transparency International as a board member of the Dutch chapter.
Since 2017, I am the Global Ethics and Compliance Director for Dentsu Aegis Network, the international arm of the Japanese communications and marketing group Dentsu. So I am now able to combine my expertise and anti-corruption, business ethics and corporate governance with wanting to improve things from the inside.
Besides my roles at Dentsu and Transparency International, I also guest lecture on the CEMS Masters in Management programme at London School of Economics, and in the past have provided advice to the UK government and businesses on anti-bribery policy and raising ethical standards in business.
My interest in development economics was started by growing up in Brazil, seeing the poverty and the real social and economic challenges that the people I was surrounded by were faced with. This contrasted with the next part of my life in Singapore, and the privileged life we enjoyed here. My time at UWCSEA helped me to develop a sense of responsibility to give to, and to help in, my own community. Donating my time and expertise to others gives me a sense of purpose, and I first experienced being able to actively contribute in this way at UWCSEA. It was there that I started to build that sense of responsibility and commitment to help the communities I live in, and to consider ways I could contribute to building a better world.
One of the things I real the most about studying at UWCSEA was the breath of opportunities offered to develop yourself. Opportunity was everywhere; it was available in the range of sports and the facilities that we had the chance to try. Drama, music and art were seen as something you did to develop yourself as a person. When I arrived I was rather shy, and I remember the Drama lessons. These were not just about being on stage, they were about how to collect, communicate and project yourself and your ideas. The lessons gave me the confidence to build and share my voice.
I enjoyed getting involved in the Arts Festivals. I remember once dancing on stage with Kevin Stea and Sean Ghazi, who were one year above me, in a performance called African Sanctus. It was no surprise even then that they both went on to professional careers in the performing arts and, alas, no surprise at all that I did not!
In my last year at UWCSEA I had the chance to produce a play and I learned a lot from that experience: how to work with others, how to take feedback, a lot of coordination of moving parts, and how to take charge of a big cast made up of many different people who I needed to get working together. It was an awesome experience, and I think one that really helped shape me.
A better world to me would a be world where we would all be able to trust one another. Where our politicians, our business leaders and others are working together for a better and sustainable future. My time at UWCSEA was some of the best times in my life and I am very grateful for the role it played in shaping me and my values.