Meet Carl Pihlgren

13 February 2024

New SCC board member and EY Partner, Carl Pihlgren, has a foot in no less than three countries. Based in Stockholm, he keeps his ties to his previous home countries, the UK and the US, by staying active in the two countries’ Swedish Chambers. The Link met up with him at EY’s Stockholm office to get to know more about him and his relationship with the UK. 

”I’ve always had a connection to the UK, ever since I was a child. My mother was an au pair in Yorkshire back in the 1950’s, and when I was a child we spent some summers there, doing language courses and those type of things.” 

Carl’s relationship with the UK began at a young age; growing up, he spent several summers at the English countryside and later on, as he completed his Law studies at Lund University, he moved to London to continue with a Master’s degree in European Law at the University of London. “I’ve always been interested in international matters, so when I graduated from Lund University, I was keen on going abroad to continue my studies. I ended up going to London in 1990, taking both a Master’s degree at the University of London, and individual courses at King’s College, London School of Economics and Queen Mary University of London.” 

After his studies, Carl returned to Sweden where he served three years at the County Administrative Court in Mariestad, then moving to Gothenburg to serve at the Administrative Court of Appeal. It was during this time that he first entered the field where he would spend the next decades – tax law.

“While I was serving at the Administrative Court of Appeal, I encountered a lot of tax cases and found it very interesting. So later, when it was time for me to get a ‘real job’, it came natural to me to stick to that path.”
Entering EY
In 1995, Carl joined EY as a tax lawyer. Thanks to his experience from the University of London, he was offered a position within the firm’s department for international taxes, working both with international businesses and Swedish companies abroad. “As I had international experience, I got to work on EY’s international accounts – including some of the large multinational businesses based in the west part of Sweden, as well as with various international clients based outside of Sweden.”

Carl’s experience within the international department, combined with his interest in international issues and his relationship to London, made him stand out as a candidate when EY needed Swedish representatives to the London office. This time, he joined a team working with global clients. 

“Back then, the London office used what we called a ‘desk system’, meaning it created these clusters of team members from various countries, and had them working together with global clients. When they needed a Swedish representative to join one of them, I was offered the position and decided to go for it.”

Encountering the Swedish communities abroad 
Carl’s second move to London was in 1997, as he joined EY’s international team. This is when he first got in touch with the Swedish Chamber of Commerce for the UK, and the Swedish-British community. “One of my Swedish colleagues, a senior audit partner, was a board member at the SCC, and when I joined EY’s London team, he brought me in to the Chamber as a junior.” He recalls. “We went to events, created partnerships and worked with clients we met through the Chamber community.”

After a couple of years in London, Carl moved back to Stockholm only to get ready for his next international move. This time, his work brought him across the Atlantic and into the Big Apple, where he touched down in 2000. “Me and my wife moved to New York, where I was working with US companies investing in Sweden. We truly loved it there, and we ended up spending a decade in between Stockholm, New York and, later, Connecticut.” 

Despite his appreciation for the US, Carl kept his ties to the Swedish community, and he joined the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce in New York. He eventually became director of the Chamber – a title he still holds and cherishes today, 13 years later. “I always recommend our junior colleagues moving to the US to join the Chamber. There are so many benefits of being part of the Chamber community – it offers useful programmes, you meet people with whom you might have valuable exchanges – it’s just a great platform for anyone who wants to build a network, be it personal or professional.”

Building a broader network
Today, Carl is back in Stockholm, but he keeps his role as Director of the Swedish-American Chamber in New York. Being back in Europe has allowed him to reunite with another old acquaintance – the city of London. “I’m in London on a regular basis, I’d say at least once a month – a big part of my team is operating from London and I have plenty of Swedish clients with businesses or subsidiaries there.”

As Carl started reviving his relationship with the UK capital, he decided to get involved with the Swedish Chamber of Commerce for the UK, and on 8 June 2023, he was appointed board member at the SCC’s Annual General Meeting. Now he’s looking forward to leveraging the learnings and experience what is available within the board, and the rest of the Swedish-British community. “The value is just incredible, and there is so much knowledge gathered in one place – if you look at the Chamber and its Board of Directors, it adds up to hundreds of years of experience in doing business. It’s both a neutral platform for us to meet and discuss current issues, as well as an endless source of learning and lessons.”

Most of all, Carl hopes that by joining the board, he will be able to help Swedish companies who want to enter and flourish in the UK. And while he continues working on that mission, he says he is equally excited about his next chapter within EY. “During this financial year, EY is focusing on a few key areas – sustainability being one which keeps expanding rapidly. This is affecting us in multiple ways, and I’m excited to see how it can help us, as well as the businesses we work with, grow and develop.” 


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