The year 2016 was marked, in particular, by a few high-profile political events, such as Britain’s referendum on leaving the European Union and the result of the U.S. presidential election. These events also have financial implications and, as such, they added to the uncertainty prevailing on the market. On the other hand, there were also positive signals in the world economy. What’s more, messages received from Finnish companies indicated an upturn in demand towards the end of the year.
In some sectors, such as shipping, telecommunications, forestry and energy, Finnish export companies won some large contracts during the past year. This was seen as constantly rising demand for export financing services. The more stringent bank regulation following the financial crisis also increased the need for export financing services. Finnvera is needed increasingly often to manage the export deliveries of Finnish companies.
Individual large export deals gave much-needed impetus to Finland’s otherwise sluggish exports and also raised Finnvera’s total exposure. According to forecasts, demand for Finnvera’s export financing services will continue to grow in the near future. In consequence, the Finnish Parliament decided to raise Finnvera’s authorisations to grant export financing up to EUR 27 billion. Alongside the higher authorisations, Finnvera will continue to have the opportunity to offer competitive export financing arrangements to Finnish enterprises.
In domestic enterprise financing as well, Finnvera’s role is highlighted because of bank regulation. Finnvera is needed, in particular, as a provider of financing for SMEs.
The ageing of Finnish entrepreneurs has increased the need to promote transfers of business to the next generation and other ownership changes. Together with enterprise organisations, Finnvera is campaigning across the country to raise awareness associated with transfers of ownership. Transfers of ownership financed by Finnvera reached a new record in 2016. This trend is likely to continue in 2017.
Parliament’s decision to raise Finnvera’s authorisations requires increasingly diverse risk management for the projects that are financed. In the financing decisions made by Finnvera, liability may extend up to 20 years. Thus, when loans and guarantees are granted, risks must be analysed carefully and priced so that Finnvera’s self-sustainability is realised in the future as well.
In autumn Finnvera adopted regular and continuous measurement of customer experience. When more measurements are done in real-time, more accurate information is obtained about customers’ service expectations. The Business Units use the measurement results to develop their services so that they are even better suited to the expectations of various customer groups. The first results, obtained late in 2016, are encouraging; for instance, the grades given for the usefulness and quality of meetings have been excellent. The development of services also continued in the Team Finland network that promotes internationalisation among enterprises. Finnvera is a member of this network.
Corporate responsibility is an integral part of everyday work
We want to ensure that Finnish enterprises get the financing they need for good and profitable projects. The objective of Finnvera’s strategy is to raise the competitiveness of Finnish enterprises so that they can also compete on international markets. We plan to focus closely on this task in the coming years as well.
The basic pillars of Finnvera’s corporate responsibility consist of financial profitability, thorough risk analysis in financing decisions, minimisation of the impacts of the company’s own operations, and open and active cooperation with stakeholders.
Finnvera is a responsible provider of financing. We comply with international agreements defining the common principles for export credit guarantee activities. Before making decisions, we conduct thorough reviews of the environmental and social impacts of export projects. We also require anti-bribery undertakings from the various parties to the project. In its capacity as a provider of financing, Finnvera also has the opportunity to influence projects from the perspective of responsibility. We monitor the progress of projects from the planning stage to implementation.
Finnvera’s export credit guarantee activities are self-sustainable. The price we charge for our services covers the credit risk and operating expenses, and we do not grant gratuitous support. Our operations are efficient by international standards, and with the introduction of more digital services, our efficiency keeps on increasing.
Changes in Finnvera’s operating environment affect the way we examine our operations from the perspective of corporate responsibility. Among megatrends, climate change, in particular, is reflected in Finnvera’s clientele. Increasing numbers of Finnish companies engage in business based on the reduction of fossil fuels, the utilisation of renewable energy sources and energy conservation. By financing these projects, we can make a contribution to efforts to slow down climate change.
Our greatest impacts on the environment and society arise indirectly, through the operations of our client companies. One example of this is shipbuilding. Increasingly often, cruise vessels use energy solutions and materials that minimise the environmental impact.
We must ensure that the environmental and social impacts of all projects are analysed before decision-making; the projects that we finance must not damage the environment or cause harm to the local population. All in all, the projects that we finance must be in line with international requirements.
Admittedly, our own activities also have impacts for instance on energy consumption. During the past few years, we have taken steps to make our use of premises more efficient. Our offices across Finland have moved to smaller premises. The numbers of square metres have shrunk to one third. This is seen, among other things, as a saving of two million euros in our annual rents. Some of the energy used by the head office in Helsinki is obtained from the solar power unit on the roof of the building. The shift to mobile work environments, in turn, reduces paper consumption, and the revised teleworking policy means less commuting as employees do more and more of their work at home.
Good governance and transparency are the starting points of Finnvera’s operations. During the past year, all of Finnvera’s ethical guidelines and policies were compiled into a single Code of Conduct. In addition, the practices associated with knowing our customers were expanded.
When developing corporate responsibility, we attach importance to cooperation with other export credit agencies. The best results are obtained when responsibility issues are advanced in the international networks and organisations of our sector.
Change has become permanent
It is very likely that the coming years will be characterised by constant changes in the operating environment ‒ changes that are increasingly challenging to predict. Changes arise from factors such as political decisions and various crises. Finnvera must ensure that, whenever necessary, it can make rapid changes to adapt to the environment. I believe that this can be achieved by means of continuing strategy work, also in the future.
I extend my warm thanks to our customers, partners, stakeholders and our owner for good cooperation and for their trust in Finnvera. I would also like to thank my colleagues at Finnvera for their excellent work on behalf of our customers.
In 2017 Finland will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its independence. Let us continue our work together so that Finnish companies can succeed in competing for growth, exports and internationalisation.
"Finnvera is needed increasingly often to manage the export deliveries of Finnish companies."