Lost In Helsinki

Our first stop in Finland was full of exploring and experiencing Finnish culture. From saunas to trying reindeer meat, this country has a lot to offer. We had several company visits here, two of which included Nordea and Valio.


Nordea is one of the biggest banks in Europe that implements a One Bank Model. They incorporate cross-border branching throughout the 4 Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Norway,and Sweden (the headquarters being located in Helsinki). Nordea is the most diversified bank in the Nordics, where their percentage of credit in each country is reflective of each of the Nordic economies.

There are many differences in the way Nordea operates in comparison to American banks. One major contrast is that its clients cannot declare bankruptcy, which is widely different from the US. A reason for this are the social safety nets provided by the Finnish government. The country's high taxes support its economic stability. When a firm's debt falls, the government provides programs to work with the firm to pay off the debt.

What also contributes to this stable economy is Nordea's competitive advantage: risk management. In risk management at Nordea, there are 3 lines of defense when analyzing their credit clients. The first line of defense is their group credit risk management team that oversees day-to-day decisions. The second line is the group risk management and compliance team. And lastly, the group internal audit team. One factor of this risk management process is that the managers that approve or deny the decisions of these teams cannot contribute to these decisions. This leaves little room for error on Nordea's end and further contributes to their stable economy.


Valio is a major dairy company located in Helsinki. They produce fresh dairy and cheese products made of milk from local farmers. They are one of the largest food product exporters, shipping products internationally. The farmers that are supplying the dairy are also owners of Valio. Because of this, Valio keeps its cost of goods sold as high as possible in order to pay its producers as part of the company.

Valio's major competitors are Arla Foods and Nestle. While these companies produce similar products and practices, Valio's competitive advantage is its innovation to increase well-being.

Valio has maintained the legacy of the Nobel Peace Prize winner and chemist, A.I. Virtanen, when operating their labs in using science to improve food products. One example is the salt found in milk from the grass the dairy cows have been fed. Valio's labs have been able to separate the salt from their milk to improve the health of consumers.

Part of Valio's innovation is the way it prides itself on sustainability. The company has been voted the most sustainable brand in Finland 5 years in a row. Valio's cows are raised without added hormones or antibiotics. Valio has also been able to recycle fertilizer and manure into biogas, which has been used to fuel milk trucks.

Another aspect of Valio's innovation is through its website. They have created an encyclopedia of recipes involving Valio products that consumers are able to search and save to their profile. Customers are also able to find nutritional information on all Valio products. We learned from their marketing team that there is a positive correlation between the number of website visits and the number of products sold.

Valio is using this digital innovation to their advantage in the industry. Their specialization in dairy products allows them to compete with bigger companies and focus on their goal to improve the health of their consumers.

We have enjoyed our time in Helsinki and are excited to see what's next. Off to Estonia!