BCBusiness managed to snag Nonacs in September on one of the rare days he was actually in his office at Endeavour Financial, a Vancouver-based investment banking firm specializing in the mining sector.
When Vancouver investment firm Endeavour Financial landed Eric Nonacs as its managing director for global affairs earlier this year, it was a coup. The 38-year-old’s previous gig had been foreign-policy adviser to Bill Clinton in his post-White House years. And before that, the graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science had directed a handful of not-for-profit organizations devoted to things such as peace, freedom of the press and human rights all over the world, from Northern Ireland to Nicaragua and throughout Africa and Eastern Europe. BCBusiness managed to snag Nonacs in September on one of the rare days he was actually in his office at Endeavour Financial, a Vancouver-based investment banking firm specializing in the mining sector. In between wrapping up his affairs back in New York City, where he has lived for the past 16 years, Nonacs is scouting out Vancouver neighbourhoods for a home for himself and his wife, who will be joining him in a couple of months. In the meantime, he’s living downtown in temporary corporate housing. What exactly do you do at Endeavour? It’s really a job with two pieces. On the one hand, the main thrust of my work for the foreseeable future will be the set-up and implementation of this joint project between the William J. Clinton Foundation and Frank Giustra: the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative, which was launched a few months ago. Also down the road, I’ll be working at Endeavour Financial on global issues more generally. So it’s sort of a half-NGO, half-private-sector position for now. Your past titles include executive director of the Coexistence Initiative and director of the Project on Justice in Times of Transition. How do you train for a career like that? With all jobs in the not-for-profit, or NGO, sector, I don’t think there is an established career track. You kind of pick up bits and pieces in terms of education and experience along the way. For instance, there was a point in my career where I became frustrated with “NGO management” being an oxymoron, so it seemed to me that I should go to business school and focus on management. I’ve worked on fundraising, I’ve worked on program development and implementation – the whole gamut. The best preparation you get for any job is by doing. How did the Clinton connection first come about? Also by chance. I was really brought on commensurate with the transition of the Clinton Foundation from a vehicle for raising the funds and putting together the various institutions President Clinton was doing post-presidentially in Little Rock, Arkansas, to becoming a really engaged NGO. I ended up hitting them at a point when they were looking for someone with that kind of background. I was one of the first two people hired who didn’t work for President Clinton during his administration. Did your new job at Endeavour fall out of your role with the Clinton Foundation? It did. And it kind of hit me in my own way at the right point. I had gotten to know Frank Giustra a little bit during the preceding two or three years as he had become a big supporter of the Clinton Foundation. I was really struck by the similarity between Frank’s vision and President Clinton’s vision about how the public and the private sectors could co-operate and really make a difference on poverty. When the opportunity came up to really focus on that, as opposed to the broad array of things I’d been focusing on, along with the opportunity to put one foot in the private sector, it was a pretty hard one to turn down – combined with the prospect of moving to Canada and Vancouver in particular. How much face time do you have with President Clinton and Frank Giustra? I spend less time with President Clinton, obviously, now that I’m not in New York and will probably see him sporadically. I continue to serve as a senior adviser to the Clinton Foundation, principally with involvement in this new project but also on some of the other projects that I was working on or helped found. That ebbs and flows. Frank is another person with a very heavy travel schedule, so we seem to catch each other at various points: in Vancouver or Toronto or other places. But Frank is certainly the person I work closest with here at Endeavour. Had you been to Vancouver before? The first time I’d been was in 1986 for the World Expo. And then I had come subsequently a couple of times on vacation. So I had been – as most people are – caught up in the combination of the dynamic multi-ethnic metropolis that’s caught midway between the sea and the mountains. After 16 years of living in New York City and being somewhat estranged from the sea and the mountains at least, it seemed like a very attractive proposition. Once you arrived with the intention of moving here, what surprised you most about Vancouver? The pace of development is really something to behold. And obviously with that is the affluence. The other thing that has really struck me is that it has become a lifestyle destination, that there are people who move here because they want to live in Vancouver. I guess that shouldn’t be shocking to me because people do the same thing for New York or San Francisco, but it’s interesting that it’s a destination in its own right, and it’s attracting a lot of creative people and people who follow the mixture of climate and multiculturalism and all those things. Would you consider yourself one of those people? The last places I’ve lived have been New York and Chicago and London, so it just seems like a great mix of a lot of what I love about cities, but with things that are truly unique, like Stanley Park and mountain vistas and all those things that make you feel a little bit happier when you get out of bed in the morning. Eric Nonacs is the Managing Director for Global Affairs, Endeavour Financial.