Executive Vice President Juuso Heinilä: A positive year for the availability of financing
The year 2018 was very positive for the availability of SME financing. In Finland, economy grew briskly, and during the first months of the year, enterprises’ investments and the financing we granted for them were increasing slightly. Competition among banks and the increase in the use of European guarantee instruments partly replaced Finnvera’s financing. We welcome the increasing versatility of corporate financing options as the most important thing is that Finnish enterprises get financing for their projects.
Early in the year, Finnvera and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment jointly changed the State’s credit and guarantee loss compensation commitment, which considerably simplified the commitment that had become very fragmented over the years. The change improves operational efficiency both at Finnvera and in the ministry, although it impaired the SME financing unit’s result in 2018.
A positive development in our financing was the fact that enterprises seeking growth and internationalisation were more willing to make investments. This group of enterprises is one of our key target groups, and we want to improve the conditions enabling their growth in every way we can. A survey commissioned by us indicated that SMEs are not sufficiently familiar with the means of export financing and consequently suffer credit losses or fail to close deals. The export trade financing tour was launched to concretely increase awareness of financing options and protection against risks. Our message is that even a cautious enterprise can embark on the journey of internationalisation as there are ways to protect the enterprise from risks. Furthermore, financing offered to the buyer may seal the deal for Finnish enterprises.
“From a European perspective, the corporate financing market in Finland works extremely well, and we want to contribute to ensuring that the growth of enterprises does not come to a halt due to financing.”
Considering the economic development, we need these enterprises to be active. Economic growth is not coming to a standstill but the world economy does not boost growth as strongly as in the previous years. Building a future requires both tangible and intangible investments. There are plenty of buyers and clients in the world. With the aid of digitalisation and digital marketing, Finnish enterprises may take significant steps along the path to growth and internationalisation also when operating from Finland.
Our task is to ensure, together with our partners, such as other organisers of the tour and the Team Finland network, that Finnish enterprises are familiar with export trade financing solutions. Other factors facilitating internationalisation include our representative office in St. Petersburg, opened in the early 1990s, and the cooperation pilot project that we launched in 2017 in Oslo with Business Finland. The key goal is to help Finnish SMEs establish themselves in Russia or Norway or to find partners in these countries.
Towards the end of the year, there was more news about the peak of the economic cycle being over. One should bear in mind that Finnish enterprises are in excellent financial condition. That is a good foundation for renewal, investment, growth and internationalisation. From a European perspective, the corporate financing market in Finland works extremely well, and we want to contribute to ensuring that the growth of enterprises does not come to a halt due to financing. We look for new solutions to make financing more easily available especially to small growth-oriented enterprises. We are ready to take greater risks in those focus areas where we detect financing bottlenecks.
We are continuing our work to accelerate transfers of ownership. Especially in enterprises providing employment, a transfer of ownership is a major opportunity as it often clearly increases orientation towards growth. Many surveys indicate that young people are now more interested in entrepreneurship as a career option. I would like to see this interest take concrete form with young people taking over the ownership of existing enterprises, which is known to be a more risk-free way of entering business life.
To improve our service, we started our first robotised process automation project and, towards the end of the year, we clarified the distribution of tasks between national and regional units. We launched an SME financing mini-evaluation as a continuation of the assessment of the entire Finnvera, which was commissioned by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment in 2012. The aim of this evaluation project is to get a more concrete picture of our future role as the provider of financing to SMEs.
I am glad that our client satisfaction rating has remained high. It shows that we have succeeded in acting as experts who serve enterprises in their financing needs. We believe that our increasingly active approach and the development measures we have initiated will lead to high NPS ratings in the future, too.
Executive Vice President, SME and midcap financing