Jesper With-Fogstrup is global head of digital as a channel at HSBC based out of London. Before that, he was the COO of ComparetheMarket.com.
Prior to joining ComparetheMarket.com, he spent more than 15 years in trade and consumer travel technology businesses and served for a decade with the global online lodging platform GTA, leaving at the position of senior vice president for global partner services.
With-Fogstrup, a native of Denmark, holds an Executive MBA from London Business School.
When did you first realize you were LGBTQ+?
I think I knew from a very early age. Probably around 10. Although, I didn’t really express it until sometime later. I think I progressively started coming out from about 15.
Can you talk about how you came out?
The first time with my family was at dinner with my parents and my brother and someone mentioning going off with a girlfriend and I said, “for me that would be a boyfriend.” My parents were very casual about it, my dad looked at me and that was it.
How about coming out at work?
Coming out at work; it happens all the time, right? When you change jobs, when you meet new people and people join the business. I have never really made a point of saying, “Hey, guess what? I am gay.” It’s more, “I spent the weekend with my husband and this is what we did.”
How do you think being openly LGBT+ at work has influenced your leadership approach?
I think I am probably more resilient. I think I have more empathy and am probably more supportive, especially of as it relates to diversity than some of my straight peers that I worked with during my career.
If you can have any job other than the one that you have now, what would it be?
If I didn’t have the career that I have had, I probably would’ve been an investigative journalist or a maniac radio DJ. That was my first job while I was at school back in Denmark.
What did you like about being a radio DJ?
I loved entertaining people and engaging with people. When I stopped liking it, it was becoming too mechanical, and you sort of lived by the minute of the hour. I might as well be an assembly line worker or the sort of very sit-down job where I didn’t have the ability to be creative as I did in the earlier stages of that gig.
What is the most important thing you have learned from a boss in the course of your career?
It does not really matter who you are or what your background is. What matters is who you are as an individual and what you bring to the team.
What about the most important thing you have learned from someone who has worked for you?
How important context is for understanding why you are doing something.
If you could tell someone who is graduating from college this year one thing that you have learned, what would it be?
Always be open to opportunity and be an activist when it matters.
When you are interviewing people to work on your team, what is the best question or your favorite question to ask?
“If you could travel back five years, what advice would you give your younger self?” And I think answering that question requires a lot of vulnerability and commitment to infer truthfully and authentically. Typically it allows me to understand a lot about the person responding, how they are thinking and what motivates them.
Who is your most important ally?
So when I was in my late teens, I was an exchange student in the US, and my host mother to this day remains my most important ally for being very direct and transparent. I still see her a couple of times of year and speak to her more often than that. What she does is keep me real – she is always supportive whenever I need it, and brutally honest. I was not out to her initially and I think she very well spotted signals and she said to me, “You should come with me to San Francisco for the weekend. I booked tickets, let’s go.” And I did, and had an amazing time, and it really sort of built a stronger bond between us.
Do you have a personal motto?
“Just f***ing do it.” Just give it a go.
What do you think the next big thing for the global LGBTQ+ community is?
I think securing and safeguarding what we, as a community, already have achieved is incredibly important. The world is in a negative cycle, retreat at the moment, and I don’t think that we can take that all for granted. We need to protect what we’ve achieved so far and keep bringing people into the tent. Now is the time for more care, understanding and progress.
If you were planning a dinner party and you can invite any five people from history, who would they be and why?
Good question. I would probably like Allan Touring, Marco Polo, Aretha Franklin, Andy Warhol, and I probably also invite Nelson Mandela. I won’t go through each one of them sort of individually, but I think that group together because of their personal sacrifice, entertainment, contribution, openness, and willingness and excitement about exploring new territory, see other perspectives, a new side of a problem, or the individual; they would bring amazing conversation, I think they are fun and entertaining people as well, and we will have a ball.
What would be the opening song in a movie about your life?
It probably would be Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”. It’s just so important to try new things. I’m not a born extrovert – I have had to work hard to sometimes break barriers trying new things and to get comfortable with being wrong. It is certainly true that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
How about a song that you associate with Coming Out?
I think anything really early Kylie or Taylor Dayne’s ‘Tell It To My Heart.”
What are the six things you cannot live without?
Probably books, music, news – I am a great fan of news – unfortunately my phone, and since I have to survive as well and I have a bad gluten and dairy allergy, it would probably be anything gluten-free and espresso.
What is your favorite vacation destination?
I have been very spoiled going to so many different places, that makes it harder to choose just one. The one place I would love to come back to is Cambodia, because the country has had a very challenging past yet managed to come out strong and smiling on the other side. The people are incredibly warm, welcoming, loving, and it is a beautiful country. It is a gorgeous culture.
And finally, what are three books you would take to a desert island?
I would first take the complete works of Hans Christian Andersen –the fairytales. It would reconnect me with my childhood and I’m sure be entertaining. And Guns, Germs, and Steel. These are the books that I have reread a couple of times, I feel really strongly they inspire and challenge thinking as well.