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Amsterdam’s best asset? It’s nationalities

Schiphol Airport, that great megalith of international aviation, turns 100 this year. As the founder of a reputation management company with a globally rooted client portfolio and offices in Amsterdam, London and since this month, Los Angeles, I have walked through its corridors many times. This year alone business travel has seen me visit New York, Moscow, Cannes, Stockholm, London, Riga, Los Angeles and Zagreb. But for me, one of Schiphol’s greatest gifts is not indulging a penchant for globetrotting, rather than its role as a gateway for Amsterdam’s thriving international population.

While many of Schiphol’s 58 million passengers are merely passing through each year, there are those that choose to stay, making the Netherlands home. Over 180 nationalities today reside in a capital city that, as a Brit –15 years on – I call home. The resulting kaleidoscopic population is rich, diverse, and what I believe to be the creative community’s greatest asset.

Today, Amsterdam’s reputation as a centre of excellence for the creative industries is both hard-won and monumental. The country has a long history of artistic prowess, having borne a myriad of talented artists, designers, architects, photographers, writers and beyond over the centuries since the pioneering Golden Age. Today is no different, with the Dutch creative sector – from tech innovation and TV format syndication, to product design and gaming – ranked consistently in the top 10 worldwide. This brings in more than €7bn each year to a country with a footprint roughly the size of Wales. It’s testament to this that the Netherlands won over 40 awards at this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, with J. Walter Thompson and MediaMonks taking home the grandest hauls.

Now, history and heritage are undoubtedly significant factors in Amsterdam’s creative inheritance but in today’s lightning-paced world what is happening right now counts for as much, if not more. The proverbial melting pot that sees collaboration – and at times collision – between the myriad of cultural and ethnic influences dwelling across the city is an incredible asset that fuels artistic outlets and creative work in the most inimitable way.

Walk into an internationally focused creative agency in Amsterdam and you’ll meet some of the most global workforces around. I see this first hand at FinchFactor with seven nationalities under one roof. This has a healthy impact on both insight and output because, on a daily basis, our cross-fertilisation of heritage and hometowns positively influences our collective experience as outsiders on the inside.

The benefit reaches beyond Dutch borders, of course. Working with clients across the world, spanning countries and continents, creative agencies must develop a sensitive and informed knowledge of different markets – be that from the clients’ or the consumers’ perspective. An office of native staff can do this well, but an office with first-hand experience of Rio+Paris+Oslo+Tokyo+Berlin+Chicago+ can do this brilliantly. Such diverse team DNA helps the industry question more vigorously what the norm is for any native. This encourages inventive solutions and cross-borders connections, which in turn can stimulate growth. In Amsterdam? My experience is that 20 nationalities working together under one roof is more commonplace than in any other top-tier creative hub.

Ultimately, the Netherlands has a tradition of pioneering sea-faring exploration, coupled with centuries-old open-borders trading, to thank for that. Long may it last.

Kerrie Finch, Founder & CEO, FinchFactor

Tel: +44 (0)20 3432 4234

Email: hello@finchfactor

Web: finchfactor.com

Twitter: @FinchFactor

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