“What an ideal place to work,” Kristian Pullola thought about Nokia during his studies. He had followed the enterprise’s growth with interest but ended up in the banking sector after graduation. When a friend called in him in late 1990s and asked him to come to Nokia to build a corporate financing team, Pullola decided to seize the chance. The chance turned into a career that has now lasted for 20 years. Starting from the beginning of 2017, Pullola has worked as Nokia’s CFO.
“I still learn something new every day. Working with so many talented people keeps your mind sharp. Energy generated by cooperation is exactly what is needed for development and innovation,” says Pullola, describing the best aspects of his work.
Good work has a significant impact on society
Five years have passed since Nokia’s mobile phone business was sold. Since then, the network business – in addition to technology development and licensing – has been one of Nokia’s main operating sectors. Year after year, Nokia has been the largest enterprise in our country when measured in terms of turnover and is among the leading European investors in research and product development.
“Finland is important for Nokia because projects that are critical for the future, such as mobile network and programming product development, are led and carried out here. Innovation relies heavily on top Finnish expertise and sisu, the national spirit of determination.”
The Oulu factory, manufacturing base stations, is also a source of pride for Nokia. It is a good example of how automation influences productivity and competitiveness; in fact, the factory recently received recognition from the World Economic Forum (WEF). In addition to its own operations, Nokia has approximately 700 supplier enterprises around Finland.
According to the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy (Etla), Nokia’s impact on the Finnish economy is based on product development input and added value. In its report last year, Etla estimated that the EUR 1 billion deliveries within the scope of Nokia’s export credit guarantees and export financing create approximately EUR 320 million in added value in Finland.
“Many experts in various fields of business and society have developed their skills and gained international experience at Nokia. The resulting impact can be significant,” says Kristian Pullola.
It is difficult to create anything new if you are not ready to do things differently, says Kristian Pullola.
Public financing makes it possible to take risks – and grow
Nokia is one of the largest users of export credit guarantees and export credits in Finland. In the international network market, these means of financing have been crucial.
“We have really tough competitors in our western neighbour and in China. We must be able to offer our clients competitive financing arrangements and finance guarantees to ensure that we do not give others a head start or lose the competition in this respect.”
In the past few years, the role of financing arrangements in export agreement negotiations has kept on growing. Two years ago, Finnvera facilitated Nokia’s telecommunications equipment deliveries to North America, to the teleoperator Verizon, together with the Canadian export credit agency Export Development Canada (EDC). This joint financing arrangement was the first of its kind.
“It is natural that network investments amounting to hundreds of millions of euros also require long-term financing. Financing solutions on OECD terms are much sought after as they diversify our clients’ sources of financing, make it easier for other providers of financing to become involved and, as a result, distribute risks.”
According to Pullola, the importance of financing is related precisely to risk-taking.
“Innovation is partly risk-taking: it is difficult to create anything new if you are not ready to do things differently. By enabling risk-taking and risk distribution, public financing makes development, growth and trade possible.”
While functional financing arrangements give enterprises access to the international playing field, Finnishness has been a necessary wild card in Nokia’s success.
“Nokia’s values and corporate culture stem from Finland. The good and reliable reputation associated with Finnishness is a huge advantage, especially in the uncertainty that currently prevails in the world economy.”
Ready for the 5G era
It is believed that the new generation of technology and 5G will revolutionise data transfer in the next few years. Can this transformation be compared with how mobile phones became more common in the 1990s?
“Mobile phones particularly changed communication between people. 5G will also be visible in consumers’ lives in many ways. Telecommunications connections will be faster and there will be significantly more capacity available, which will reduce network congestion caused by the increasing data volumes. New kinds of terminal devices and augmented reality services, for instance, will be introduced as well. However, a larger transformation will take place in industry.”
Pullola refers to the fourth industrial revolution, which many of the current buzzwords are linked to: 5G, automation, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud computing, smart cities… These open up huge opportunities for Nokia.
“We cannot even start to imagine the services that will be available in ten years’ time. In that sense, technology is miraculous. It creates new opportunities that serve as a foundation for something that we cannot comprehend yet. Later on, we will wonder how we could ever manage without it,” Pullola says with a grin.
The extensive product selection is a good basis for Nokia when it comes to 5G. New technology will result in operators building new kinds of networks, for which they will need different products, services, software, applications and automation – all of these are part of Nokia’s product and service selection. Nokia has worked determinedly towards this goal. According to Pullola, 5G will create conditions for the current Nokia to reach its full potential.
“Our vision is to create technology connecting the whole world. Even though we cannot predict all the changes brought along by coming decades, this will continue to be our basic task.”