As part of our 200-year anniversary celebrations we are shining a light on the exceptional relationship between Heriot-Watt University and Norway.
To highlight this, we are profiling some of our exceptional Norway alumni and Honorary Graduates. This month we are delighted to profile Dr. Nils-Odd Tønnevold, a Heriot-Watt alumnus, Honorary Graduate and inspirational figure.
Dr Nils-Odd Tønnevold is an outstanding entrepreneur and philanthropist with an upper second class degree in Business Organisation from Heriot-Watt.
Nils-Odd is a very determined man who has overcome adversity to pursue his goals and make an impact in the world. For over 30 years he has been an exceptionally successful businessman providing strategic and financial advice to many high-level individuals and organisations. His enthusiasm for both his native Norway, and home of his alma mater, Scotland, has seen him forge important links between the two countries, supporting business development and diplomatic relations.
His story is a remarkable one. During his first year of study, Nils-Odd was the victim of a serious hit and run accident in Edinburgh. Getting out of a taxi on the way to meet friends in the city, he was hit by a drunk driver. His injuries required the amputation of both of his legs and he was hospitalised for over six months. Despite this trauma, Nils-Odd went on to complete his honours degree on time and was among the top ten in his year. In 1990 his remarkable determination over the four years he studied with us were recognised through the Forth Bridge Centenary Award Gold Medal for outstanding fortitude and achievement.
Nils-Odd reflected later: “To me it was no use crying over spilled milk. What had happened had happened. Instead of spending my whole life being bitter, it has been more important to concentrate on the fact that I survived and thus got a new chance in life. It is much more useful to allocate time to what you can do something about.”
After graduating, Nils-Odd set about establishing himself in the business world. He created a consultancy practice specialising in international business strategy and corporate finance, with offices in Edinburgh and Oslo. One of his early professional achievements was introducing Edinburgh Fund Managers plc to the Norwegian retail banking and institutional markets and the negotiation of a strategic alliance with the Norwegian financial services group Terra. In 2002 he was a Founding Partner of the investment advisory firm – Connectum Capital Management – and is a trusted adviser for wealthy clients on five continents, a role he continues today. The firm has grown substantially in recent years and experienced record demand for its services and resultant growth during the recent pandemic, reflecting a need for completely independent financial planning and investment advice.
Besides his many years as a financial advisor, Nils-Odd has provided expertise to a range of Norwegian and international boards of directors, both pro bono and within companies. He is a past Chairman of the Scottish Norwegian Business Forum and of the International Marketing Consultants Association and has been involved in many projects to further Scottish-Norwegian business and understanding.
Nils-Odd’s strong desire to help fellow amputees led to him founding the charity Momentum – the Norwegian Limbless Association – the first of its kind in the country. His goal has been to inspire and encourage amputees and prosthesis users to look forward, not backwards. The Norwegian Royal Family has recognised the significant value of the charity’s work and HRH Princess Märtha Louise became its Patron and an Honorary Member in 2006.
Nils-Odd commented: “I co-founded Momentum in acknowledgment that it was very difficult to stand alone with the pain the accident had caused me. Most people, even the most resourceful, benefit from inspiration and help in a crisis. To be connected to others in similar circumstances is very important. You have a thousand questions, wondering how life is going to go on, but learning that others have found a way through and are doing well is extremely valuable. Life is full of challenges, and amputation is one of them. Rehabilitation starts in the head and peer support is about encouraging people to make the best of life.”
His philanthropic work also includes support of other charities and foundations, including being a co-founder of the International Confederation of Amputee Associations.
Nils-Odd remains deeply committed to Heriot-Watt and has played a hugely significant role in establishing and developing the Watt Club in Norway, serving currently as its President. In 2011 the University awarded him an Honorary Doctorate in recognition of his extraordinary achievements and innovation within the field of investment advice and for his contribution as an inspiration for other amputees.
The alumni team is excited to share this special animation, showcasing our long history of Norwegian comradeship.