nordic countries – Nordbi Sun, 13 Mar 2022 19:07:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 nordic countries – Nordbi 32 32 Warmed-up Thatcherism was never going to be the answer. Now it would be a disaster | Will Hutton Sun, 13 Mar 2022 16:00:00 +0000

The old adage is that if you’re not leftwing at 20 you have no heart, if you’re not conservative 30 years later you have no head. But from the treatment of refugees to the management of the economy, no one of any age can have a head and be conservative in 2022. For our times, conservatism is just plain wrong.

As the country confronts the acute stagflation of the years ahead, it will look for very different economic leadership from the warmed-up Thatcherism that, it’s becoming clear, is chancellor Rishi Sunak’s core philosophy. Economic prospects in 2023 and 2024 were dire enough before the consequences of Putin’s murderous war. Now they are desperate.

Russia is the world’s largest exporter of gas, oil and wheat and the second-largest exporter of sunflower oil. Ukraine is the world’s fifth-largest exporter of wheat and second-largest exporter of maize. The price of all these core commodities has spiralled upwards for obvious reasons, with the price of oil catching the headlines. Leading forecasters predict the price will surpass $200 (£153) a barrel this summer, a third higher than its record high of $147 barrel.

Past oil and gas price hikes on this scale have unfailingly triggered global recessions and a rise in inflation. The added impetus of the astonishing hike in food prices makes both now certain.

Before Putin’s war, the Bank of England expected consumer price inflation to peak this April at 7%; now, the general expectation is that inflation will peak at 9.5% in October and only fall back gradually thereafter. Over the next five years, it will average at least 5%.

These will be the highest levels of inflation since the 1970s, the decade that incubated the rise of monetarism and the associated view that trade unions and big government were the source of economic evil. In his feeble Mais lecture last month, the chancellor tried to argue that big government remained the economic enemy and tax cuts offered the promise of a renewed enterprise culture. That was a contestable proposition in the 1970s. Today, it borders on genuine madness.

Instead, we need a clear-eyed look at what confronts us. Inflation and fresh recessionary impulse will be overlaid on an economy that both the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Bank of England reckoned was already heading for close to zero growth. Now, the likelihood is a high-inflation recession followed by stagflation for most of the 2020s. Everything that might propel growth is being squeezed: consumer spending by the cost of living, real government spending by inflation, investment by dark economic prospects and the relatively high cost of capital. You have to go back 50 years for every dial on the economic dashboard to flash red.

There was little glamour about the dreary, high-inflation 1970s. It was a decade of defensiveness, defeat and retrenchment. What boomed on high streets were not coffee but charity shops. Some creativity and solidarities did stir in the grass roots – the 1970s witnessed the birth of a vibrant housing association movement, some good bands flourished and people looked to trade unions to protect them from the worst.

But in the main the sense was of closure. There were scant openings for the young. Business startups were few and far between. Successive attempts at stemming a wage price spiral with pay limits, freezes and social contracts worked, at best, only partially. It was the decade social democracy died, the victim of a pincer movement between a Bennite left calling for utopian “true” socialism and a Thatcherite right insisting that utopia lay in the free market.

The 2020s will see the proper eclipse of both. Thatcherism’s illogicalities and base errors were bailed out by a 40-year boom in credit and property, aided by EU membership that compensated for the lack of fit-for-purpose economic institutions and a sane economic strategy. Interest rates squeeze incomes and Brexit has put paid to credit, property and service sector booms. Instead, the prospect is for stagnating, even falling, property values – socially an imperative but an economic depressant. Equally, Benn- and Corbyn-style socialism is obviously neither operable nor sellable to the electorate.

The only way forward is a revivified social democracy. Sunak may not have noticed, but Britain’s Jurassic Park economy, as international investors dub it, is shunned not because of high taxes, which are higher in Germany, Holland, Nordic countries, Austria and Belgium – which all have higher GDP per head and understand the importance of economic openness. We don’t have a viable growth model and suffer from a poverty of supportive economic institutions. Above all, we are dogged by politicians who believe Brexit is an opportunity and Thatcherism worked.

Thus the proper response to high energy prices and Russia’s foreign policy influence is to accelerate independence from fossil fuels led not by big government but necessary government. It is not to double down on fossil fuel reliance, issuing new licences to drill in the North Sea and relaxing rules on fracking. Energy policy requires strategies that work over a generation, not a response to today’s spot prices. Solar and wind power are now even more economically attractive, but so is electricity generated from power stations in space and microwaved back to Earth. Britain’s Space Energy Initiative plans a power station 36,000km high, but why not more? Lift Britain’s tax take to the middle of the IMF’s league table and we could have nil dependence on fossil fuels by 2035.

It’s the same elsewhere. There is a £2.5tn opportunity to boost the economy over 20 years in properly executed levelling up. Upgrading non-graduate skills carries another hefty price tag. Equally, a range of institutions – public development banks, growth accelerators, a scaled-up, well-resourced Catapult network – need to stand behind enterprise. And the whole economy requires unfettered access to the EU’s single market.

All of this is possible. As I’ve argued before, issue 50-, 75-, 100-year bonds to pay for the programme, as we have in wartime – which will now involve sustained defence spending. Mitigate the worst of the cost-of-living crisis with generous rebates on energy bills and targeted income support. Sunakian babble about instilling a culture of enterprise while hoarding public spending today to finance pre-election tax cuts is both wrong and a national betrayal. What is needed is a social democratic mindset – and action today.

Will Hutton is an Observer columnist

]]> FINS: How much does it cost to study abroad? Tue, 08 Mar 2022 12:11:12 +0000

Young Romanians continue to choose to study abroad and are undeterred by the pandemic or Brexit. According to FINS, a non-bank financial institution that offers loans to young people wishing to study for a bachelor’s or master’s degree in Europe, requests for funding for studies abroad have doubled compared to the last two years.

The Netherlands, UK, Germany, Denmark and Belgium are the top 5 countries for students applying for FINS study credits, and cost is often a factor influencing young people’s decision on chosen destination.

Tuition fees

Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland are the countries where there are no tuition fees, followed by Austria, Belgium and Germany, where it costs less than 1,000 euros per year for public universities. At the opposite pole is the United Kingdom, where tuition fees vary between 9,250 and 34,000 euros per year.

To rent

However, the lifestyle in the Nordic countries means the highest expenses unless students choose to live in the dorm, in which case the money they have to pay can be halved. The same thing happens in countries like Switzerland, France or Germany. On the other hand, the average cost of renting a studio starts at 550 euros per month in Spain and can reach 1,450 euros per month in Switzerland.

Transport and food

Italy is the country where the monthly expenses for food can be made with only 150 euros, while in Switzerland the monthly average is 400 euros. The cheapest transport is in Germany (35 euros/month), and the most expensive is in Switzerland (100 euros/month), followed closely by Denmark (80 euros/month).

“From discussions with young students, we realize that they often miss important costs that they may have in the country where they want to study. For example, most of them focus on the fact that certain countries offer them free education and enthusiastically do not fully consider the cost of rent or living in that country, sometimes even with unrealistic expectations. FINS encourages all students to responsibly plan for any expenses they may have while studying. That’s why we give everyone a budget template as part of the FINS credit application, free financial counseling sessions, and free advice from an academic advisor to guide the student through the application process. When a student applies for a FINS loan, he must build his budget according to his specific needs, his destination, the other income he has or will have (family support, scholarships, a future job), there is no one size fits all approaches,” says Alexandru Ghiță – President of FINS.

If we draw the line and calculate the average total amounts, which include tuition, dorm room rental, food, transportation, personal expenses, books, contingencies, but also ticket return plane, then the cheapest living is found in Italy, Sweden, Austria and Belgium, and the most expensive in the UK, followed by Switzerland and Ireland.

In 2021, the European Investment Fund and FINS signed a second guarantee agreement under the EFSI Skills & Education pilot project. It allows EU students who want to study for a bachelor’s degree in an EU member state to take out credit without co-debtors and without a real estate guarantee. The guarantee agreement enables FINS, a non-banking financial institution, to provide loans amounting to 5.5 million euros and support approximately 300 to 350 students who wish to pursue bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in the countries of the European Union. Students who receive funding do not need a bank or financial history, do not need a work history, and are covered even in extraordinary situations, as FINS loans are not transferred to parents or heirs.

In addition, the student loans offered by FINS are built with maximum flexibility, in order to best adapt to the real needs of students, benefiting from a long grace period (loan repayment begins 6 to 12 months after graduation and can be structured for 5-10 years). So students will usually not have the pressure of loans but will be able to repay the money while most likely they will have a job and salary level according to their experience.

russia: Recognise security concerns: China sole ‘backer’ of Russia Tue, 01 Mar 2022 01:24:00 +0000 UN Secretary Antonio Guterres berated Russia for its actions, calling its decision to put its nuclear arsenal on higher alert a “chilling development”.
“This escalation of violence, which leads to civilian deaths, including children, is completely unacceptable. Enough is enough!. . . the fighting in Ukraine must stop,” Guterres said in his opening remarks at a rare special emergency session of the UN General Assembly that even a Russian veto could not prevent. Urging Moscow to pull back its troops, Guterres said Russia’s nuclear posturing was “simply inconceivable”, adding, “nothing can justify the use of nuclear weapons”.
The White House said it sees “no reason to change” its nuclear alert levels at this time as it sought to ignore the nuclear-baiting while escalating sanctions. The Biden administration lined up more financial sanctions against Russian entities and its central bank, and even large private banks and equity firms joined in the strike against Moscow.
There were few takers for the Russian narrative that it was provoked into taking action after Ukrainian excesses on its people in the Donbas region, among other long-standing grievances, including security concerns as NATO and EU cornered it.
Delegates speaking on behalf of EU and Nordic countries all lashed out at Moscow for choosing military options, with even Switzerland breaking its historically neutral status to join in the sanctions against Russia.
About the only country that offered a modicum of support to Russia (till the time of writing; India has not spoken yet) was China, which while urging de-escalation and dialogue, said the “legitimate security concerns of all countries including Russia” must be recognised. The Chinese envoy to UN also criticised the continuing Cold War mentality of forming blocs and alliances in a clear smackdown of NATO.
On a day of rapid geo-political developments, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which its officials insisted was not aimed at a permanent occupation, pushed Ukraine into applying for membership of the European Union. ]]>
Publication of the financial statements of Oma Savings Bank Plc 1 Mon, 07 Feb 2022 06:30:00 +0000


Oma Savings Bank Plc Publication of financial statements 1 January – 31 December 2021: Record year in all key figures

This release is a summary of Oma Savings Bank’s (OmaSp) January-December 2021 financial statement release, which can be read from the pdf file attached to this stock exchange release and on the company’s web pages www.omasp .fi

CEO Pasi Sydanlammi: Record year in all key figures
Overall, 2021 was a year of strong growth for OmaSp and all key figures reached new records. The profitable growth that has continued year on year is reflected in the accumulation of equity, which allows for future investment and an even greater distribution of profits to owners.

The continuation of earnings and business performance throughout the start of the year also continued into the fourth quarter of the year. In addition, the acquisition of the activities of Eurajoen Savings Bank was finalized in December, which will have a positive impact on the profit of approximately 14 million euros in total. Of this amount, 7.5 million euros were recorded for the 2021 financial year. The comparable profit before tax for the last quarter increased by almost 110% compared to the comparison period and amounted to 14.5 millions of euros. The comparable return on equity stands at a good level of 12%.

2021 as a whole was a great year and we broke all previous revenue records. Demand for residential mortgages and business loans was strong, and the quality of the loan portfolio improved further. The residential mortgage portfolio grew nearly 30% year-on-year, and the growth rate was about seven times the market rate. Excluding the acquisition of the activities of Eurajoen Savings Bank, the growth of the mortgage loan portfolio was 20%. The two main sources of income developed strongly throughout the year; Net interest income increased by 18% and fee and commission income and expenses by 15%. The comparable cost/income ratio reached an excellent level of 48%. The remuneration received from the central banking project, of approximately 22 million euros, was recorded as a significant non-recurring item for the year.

The balance sheet increased by almost one billion during the financial year, exceeding for the first time the 5 billion euros to reach 5.4 billion euros. From January to December, pre-tax profit increased by 121% to 83.3 million euros. Comparable profit before tax also doubled to 53.1 million euros.

Dividend increase for the sixth consecutive year
The ever-increasing profitability allows a growing dividend to the owners. The dividend proposal at the Annual General Meeting reaches a record level, totaling EUR 0.50 per share. In accordance with the Board of Directors’ profit distribution proposal, an effective dividend of EUR 0.30 per share is proposed based on the result of continuing operations for the last financial year, and an additional dividend of EUR 0.20 per share is offered due to significant exceptional items last year.

In the years to come, the use of company capital will become even more efficient with IRB methods. OmaSp has been preparing for the application of the IRB method in capital adequacy calculations for a long time and we filed a request for authorization with the Finnish Financial Supervisory Authority at the beginning of February. It is also important to us that the application of the IRB method improves risk management and places OmaSp in a position comparable to that of reference banks.

Excellent customer and staff experience as the basis for profitable growth
Our operations are based on excellent staff and customer experience, and both components are at record levels as studied. OmaSp has been one of the most profitable and efficient banks in the Nordic countries in recent years, and we also want to cherish it in the future. We follow with great interest the ongoing changes and possible restructuring in the financial sector. In line with our earnings forecast, we expect OmaSp’s profitable growth to remain strong in 2022.

Warm thanks to customers, staff, owners and partners for 2021! »

January-Decemberember 2021
• Net interest income continued to rise sharply by 15.8% in October-December and by 18.2% throughout the year.
• The residential mortgage loan portfolio has increased by a total of 29.8% over the last 12 months. At the same time, the business loan portfolio increased by 27.4%.
• Deposit inventories have increased by 21.9% over the past 12 months.
• Income and expenses (net) of fees and commissions increased in October-December by 9.1% and by 15.1% for the year as a whole.
• In accordance with the plan, the company finalized the acquisition of the activities of Eurajoen Savings Bank in December. The acquisition increased the company’s balance sheet by around 335 million euros and increased the number of private and corporate customers by around 12,000. The positive impact of the acquisition on the profit of the he business is estimated to be worth approximately €14 million, of which €7.5 million has been recognized in the company’s pre-tax profit for the financial year 2021. The costs related to the acquisition of the business are amounted to approximately 14 million euros. 4.4 million. The costs were mainly recorded in the last quarter of 2021.
• In June, the company announced that it had reached an agreement with Cognizant to terminate the contract for the central banking project. As part of the agreement, Cognizant paid the company financial compensation, which had a positive impact of approximately 22 million euros on the company’s pre-tax profit. Earnings were recorded in the second quarter.
• Total operating income increased by 26.9% in the last quarter and amounted to EUR 39.5 million. During the year, total operating income increased by 41.0% to EUR 156.6 (111.1) million.
• Impairments of financial assets decreased significantly compared to the comparison period and amounted to 1.6 (7.6) million EUR in October-December. For the year as a whole, the impairments of financial assets decreased compared to the previous year and amounted to 7.3 (21.6) million EUR.
• The cost/income ratio for the last quarter increased and stood at 49.9 (41.3)%. The comparable cost/income ratio increased slightly to 47.9 (46.5)%.
• The cost/income ratio for the full year improved and stood at 41.9 (46.6)%. The comparable cost/income ratio also improved and stood at 48.0 (51.2)%.
• For October-December, profit before tax increased significantly compared to the previous year and amounted to 18.0 (10.5) million euros. Also for the full year, the profit before tax increased significantly compared to the previous year and amounted to EUR 83.3 (37.7) million.
• For October-December, the comparable profit before tax increased significantly compared to the comparative period and amounted to 14.4 (6.9) million euros. For the full year, the comparable profit before tax amounted to 53.1 (26.7) million euros.

The key to the group figures (1,000 euros) 1-12/2021 1-12/2020 ∆% 2021 Q4 2020 Q4 Δ%
Net interest income 80 130 67,819 18% 21,873 18,890 16%
Income and expense from fees and commissions, net 33,686 29,257 15% 9,094 8,332 9%
Total operating expenses -65,294 -51,676 26% -19,518 -12,758 53%
Impairment losses on financial assets, net -7,294 -21,587 -66% -1,632 -7,602 -79%
pre-tax profit 83,271 37,707 121% 17,967 10,541 70%
Cost/revenue ratio, % 41.9% 46.6% -ten% 49.9% 41.3% 21%
Total balance sheet 5,372,633 4,381,999 23% 5,372,633 4,381,999 23%
Equity 401 294 353 493 14% 401 294 353 493 14%
Return on assets (ROA) % 1.4% 0.8% 70% 1.1% 0.9% 23%
Return on equity (ROE) % 17.6% 9.1% 93% 14.5% 10.4% 39%
Earnings per share (EPS), EUR 2.22 1.04 113% 0.48 0.31 55%
Common Equity Tier 1 (CET1) ratio % 15.5% 15.9% -2% 15.5% 15.9% -2%
Comparable profit before tax 53 142 26,729 99% 14,448 6,910 109%
Comparable cost/income ratio, % 48.0% 51.2% -6% 47.9% 46.5% 3%
Comparable return on equity (ROE) % 11.2% 6.5% 72% 11.6% 7.0% 66%

Orlooked for fiscal year 2022:
The company believes that profitable growth will continue to be strong. The Group’s 2022 comparable pre-tax result will increase compared to the previous year.

Proposal of the board of directors for the distribution of profits at the general meeting
The Board of Directors proposes, on the basis of the accounts to be closed for 2021, a dividend of EUR 0.30 taken from the distributable profit of the parent company for each share giving right to the 2021 dividend. In addition, the Board of Directors proposes to pay an additional dividend due to the strong results and significant exceptional items for the financial year 2021. An additional dividend of EUR 0.20 is proposed for each share entitled to a dividend for 2021. For 2021, a total dividend of EUR 0.50 per share would be paid for the 2021 financial year.

General assembly
The Annual General Meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, March 30, 2022. The Company’s Board of Directors will convene the Annual General Meeting separately at a later date.

Oma Savings Bank Plc

Additional information:
Pasi Sydänlammi, CEO, puh +358 45 657 5506,
Sariana Liiri, CFO, puh. +358 40 835 6712,
Minna Sillanpää, CCO, tel. +358 50 66592,

Nasdaq Helsinki Ltd
Main media

OmaSp is a growing Finnish bank and Finland’s largest savings bank by total assets. Approximately 330 professionals provide services nationwide through OmaSp’s 35 branches and digital service channels to more than 150,000 clients. OmaSp focuses primarily on retail banking operations and offers its customers a wide range of banking services both through its own balance sheet and by acting as an intermediary for its partners’ products. Intermediated products include credit insurance, investment and loan products. OmaSp is also engaged in mortgage banking.

The central idea of ​​OmaSp is to provide personalized service and to be local and close to its customers, both in digital and traditional channels. OmaSp strives to provide a high level customer experience through personalized service and easy accessibility. In addition, the development of operations and services is customer-oriented. Staff are engaged and OmaSp seeks to support their career development with cross-functional tasks and continuous development. A substantial part of the staff also holds OmaSp shares.

  • Publication of OmaSp’s financial statements on December 31, 2021

]]> Wind powers change in England’s industrial heartland Sun, 06 Feb 2022 03:12:23 +0000 Kingston upon Hull (United Kingdom) (AFP) – On the banks of the River Humber in northern England, the winds of change are blowing through Hull, where factory workers busily craft turbine blades in a green revolution.

Hull, known for a once-thriving fishing industry, the poet Philip Larkin, rugby league, and the city’s eponymous football club recently bought by Turkish TV personality Acun Ilicali, is home to Britain’s biggest wind turbine blade plant.

That has placed Hull at the centre of the UK government’s long-term plan to slash carbon emissions, tackle climate change and cut rocketing household energy bills.

German-Spanish giant Siemens Gamesa is rapidly expanding its facility to meet booming demand and keep the country’s much-trumpeted 2050 net-zero target on track.

The need for cheaper sources of energy became increasingly urgent this week, as the government scrambled to head off a cost of living crisis, faced with runaway electricity and gas costs that are fuelling decades-high inflation.


Britain unveiled financial support for households after the UK energy regulator lifted prices to reflect the spiking natural gas market.

‘Cheaper and cleaner’

“We are doing our bit to tidy the world up and get cheaper and cleaner energy for everybody,” blade painter Carl Jackson, 56, told AFP from the factory floor.

“I think wind power is a big part of the future. It’s been a massive boost to jobs and the economy in Hull,” added Jackson, who joined when Siemens Gamesa opened six years ago.

The hub has since manufactured 1,500 hand-made turbine blades and now employs more than 1,000 people.

A wind turbine blade is moved outside for shipping at the Siemens Gamesa blade factory in Hull, northeast England.
A wind turbine blade is moved outside for shipping at the Siemens Gamesa blade factory in Hull, northeast England. Paul ELLIS AFP

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, host of last November’s UN climate change summit in Glasgow, has vowed to “level up” economic opportunity in places like Hull, which voted overwhelmingly for Brexit.

Siemens Gamesa built the £310-million plant jointly with Associated British Ports in 2016, and it is now undergoing a major extension to build bigger blades.

The Hull factory manufactures about 300 turbine blades per year, with each measuring 81 metres in length — about the same as the wingspan of an Airbus A380 aircraft.

A wind turbine, comprising three such blades, can power an average house for 24 hours with one single rotation.

New, even longer 100-metre blades will provide enough power for up to two days.

‘Driving down energy costs’

In the cavernous Hull factory, staff assemble balsa wood, fibreglass and resin into vast blade moulds to start a journey that will eventually harness the ferocious winds of the North Sea.

That enables Britain to cut carbon emissions while curbing its dependency on imported energy and lowering prices in the long term, said plant director Andy Sykes.

Plant director Andy Sykes says 25 percent of the UK's electricity was delivered from wind power in the last year
Plant director Andy Sykes says 25 percent of the UK’s electricity was delivered from wind power in the last year Paul ELLIS AFP

“Over the course of last year, 25 percent of the UK’s (electricity) was delivered from wind power,” said Sykes.

“That will only continue to grow and help drive down the cost of energy by reducing the need for the import of energy.”

The group will open another factory in Le Havre, northern France, this year in a push for cleaner energy across Europe, where wind generated an average 16 percent of electricity according to 2020 industry data.

Scotland recently awarded a string of vast offshore wind projects after Johnson vowed to make Britain the “Saudi Arabia of wind”.

Hull is also expanding into the broader renewable sector, with plans for biofuels, green hydrogen, and carbon capture, as well as solar and tidal power generation under the city’s “Green Port” initiative.

The local authority is eager to slash carbon output from the Humber estuary region, which accounts for 40 percent of Britain’s industrial emissions — particularly from the cement, gas, oil, petrochemicals and steel sectors.

“You really have to decarbonise the Humber area for the UK to be really able to address significant parts of its net zero challenge,” Hull City Council climate officer Martin Budd told AFP.

Hull City Council's Martin Budd says tackling climate change is vital to saving his low-lying city from flooding
Hull City Council’s Martin Budd says tackling climate change is vital to saving his low-lying city from flooding Paul ELLIS AFP

“And this Siemens offshore wind plant provides a key activator to achieve that.”

The Humber estuary’s high seabed makes it ideal for offshore turbines.

At the same time, the estuary expels an estimated 12.3 million tonnes of carbon per year.

Ensuring survival

Budd said tackling climate change was vital to saving low-lying Hull from flooding.

“We are the second most vulnerable UK city after London to flooding. So the survival of the city depends on tackling climate change,” he added.

“It’s integral that we tackle climate change and that as a city we take those steps by supporting manufacturing in industries that are going to tackle climate change.”

The UK wants offshore wind farms to provide one-third of the country’s electricity by 2030.

Climate change specialist Nick Cowern, an emeritus professor at Newcastle University, cautioned that Britain also needed to develop chemical storage capability.

“It’s realistic to put wind power at the centre of the UK’s low carbon electricity generation approach, which is a major part of the effort towards net zero,” he told AFP.

Wind turbine blades are stored on the quayside ready for shipping
Wind turbine blades are stored on the quayside ready for shipping Paul ELLIS AFP

He added that while wind and solar were safe long-term bets, gas still had a significant role to play.

“Until we have the ability to store electricity as hydrogen — or alternatives like ammonia — and be better grid-connected to our neighbours in continental Europe and the Nordic countries, gas will still be needed during periods of low wind speeds and low solar generation.”

Aktia issued a EUR 500 million covered bond Thu, 20 Jan 2022 14:30:00 +0000

Aktia Bank Plc
Press release
20 January 2022 at 4.30 p.m.

Aktia issued a EUR 500 million covered bond

On Tuesday 18 January 2022, Aktia Bank Plc issued a new EUR 500 million covered bond, due in October 2028. The bond was priced at a negative margin compared to swap rates (MS -1). This was the first Finnish covered bond in 2022. Aktia’s previous corresponding issue took place in 2019.

The final order book included subscription offers corresponding to over EUR 1.1 billion from over 45 investors. Most of the orders were received from the Nordic countries, approximately 43 per cent, more than half of them from Finnish investors. Subscription orders were also submitted for example from Germany and Austria (35 per cent) and from the Netherlands and Luxembourg (14 per cent).

The issuing banks were ABN Amro, Danske Bank, LBBW, Nordea and Swedbank.

“The issue was very successful and attracted a great deal of interest in the European investor community. It is great that Aktia’s stable and predictable business and consistent implementation of the strategy are reflected in strong demand in the debt market,” says Outi Henriksson, CFO of Aktia.

Aktia Bank Plc

Further information:
Timo Ruotsalainen, Head of Treasury, tel. 010 247 7211

Nasdaq Helsinki Ltd
Mass media

Aktia is a Finnish asset manager, bank and life insurer that has been creating wealth and wellbeing from one generation to the next for 200 years. We serve our customers in digital channels everywhere and face-to-face in our offices in the Helsinki, Turku, Tampere, Vaasa and Oulu regions. Our award-winning asset management business sells investment funds also internationally. We employ approximately 900 people around Finland. Aktia’s assets under management (AuM) 30 June 2021 amounted to EUR 15.6 billion and the balance sheet total was EUR 11.2 billion. Aktia’s shares are listed on Nasdaq Helsinki Ltd (AKTIA).

]]> Ikano Bank’s robot team exceeds 2021 targets Thu, 13 Jan 2022 11:22:48 +0000

Ikano Bank surpassed its goal of saving 100,000 hours in 2021 with free time, thanks to the use of UiPath robotic process automation (RPA) software in all of its activity.

After a nudge from the CEO and previous experience in one of its operations, the bank embarked on its automation journey in late 2018. Since then, it has automated 168 processes, established an internal RPA team and integrated automation into the thinking of each department.

The Swedish bank, owned by the family that founded Ikea, offers credit cards, savings accounts and loans to consumers and credit services to businesses, including retailers.

At just over a quarter of a century old, Ikano Bank has around 1,200 employees in eight countries, including the UK, neighboring Nordic countries of Sweden, Germany and Austria.

Viktor Törner, Automation Office Team Leader at Ikano Bank, says growth, through mergers and acquisitions, has led to fragmentation of processes and applications, which she says could be solved through automation.

This is something that the CEO of the company had identified before approaching the operations development department to start work on automation. At the time, Törner was responsible for processes within the department, “taking care of a bit of everything related to process improvement”.

This wasn’t Ikano’s first encounter with RPA. A transformation project that ran in 2017 and 2018 at its Polish subsidiary had a robotic process automation workflow but was never completed.

“The project ended up being scrapped, but our CEO had good experience with RPA implementations in his previous roles,” says Törner. “He contacted my manager and asked me if we wanted to work with RPA.”

The first automation project materializes

A new fledgling team was created. After a random coffee machine meeting, the new team got their first project, which involved updating customer names on a central banking system.

“During a review of one of our systems in Sweden, we noticed that a number of customer names had not been updated, after changing by marriage, for example,” says Törner.

“The idea to use automation came from one of those coffee machine moments. I ran into someone at the coffee machine and he told me about the problem, and I said that this might be something we can solve with RPA.

“We tried and within days we had a process in place to scan customer names and compare them with names in public records in government databases,” he says. “A total of 34,000 customer names were automatically updated over the following weeks.”

Previously, operations staff printed a list and updated records manually.

The automation team understands the importance of talking to people across the business to solve their problems through automation, as the coffee machine moment proved. To this end, the department works separately from the IT department.

“I wasn’t in IT, and that’s true today because we deliberately kept the RPA project on the business side,” says Törner. “We work closely with our colleagues in IT, but from an organizational point of view, we are still part of operations.”

From strength to strength

Since launching its RPA journey at the end of 2018, Ikano Bank has automated 168 different processes and achieved a major milestone. “In 2021, we had a KPI to achieve 100,000 hours of time savings – we reached the goal before the end of the year,” says Törner.

The success of the bank’s RPA projects has seen the automation team grow in size and status. When he launched the initiative, he had two developers, with Törner in a business analyst role. It now has seven full-time RPA developers and four process analysts, as well as a virtual organization at the top, with around 50 people from different departments in the bank working with the automation team.

The team uses an agile scrum technique with three-week sprints, during which it “produces up to eight automation projects,” says Törner. Its biggest project to date is an e-commerce process automation, conducted with Ikea in Poland, to automate the onboarding of Ikea customers applying for financing.

“It took a while, but it’s the biggest commercial success,” he says. “We have onboarded tens of thousands of new customers and a large part of the overall Polish business.” In 12 months, the turnover generated was more than 150 times the amount of the budget invested.

Change management, a company-wide effort

Törner says addressing staff fears about how automation would affect their work was an important first challenge.

“Change management is always a challenge, especially in automation work, because one of the main motivations behind many projects is cost reduction, and it’s hard to escape that,” he says.

The bank didn’t want the automation team to be a feared squad. “We made choices at the beginning of the journey, which allowed us to overcome this problem,” says Törner. “The department that is today the automation office does not take responsibility for change management, we just offer automation support, but the person responsible for the team and the department can manage this in a normal way .”

There are now 50 people from across the bank working closely with the team. “We consciously have an open door policy and people join us for three week sprints from different departments. It created transparency and it’s fun for people to do something different,” he says.

Novo Nordisk Foundation DKK 200 million (€ 27 million) grant to create better future prospects for young Syrian refugees in Jordan Thu, 06 Jan 2022 06:00:00 +0000


Copenhagen, Denmark, January 6, 2022 / PRNewswire / – Welcoming more than 1.3 million Syrian refugees, Jordan is among the countries that have received the most refugees from the conflict-affected country. The lives of Syrian refugees are uncertain and many struggle with poverty and unemployment. A consortium led by PlanBørnefonden will ensure that more young Syrian refugees enter educational programs and join the workforce.

Youth unemployment in Jordan is a record, and up to 50% of young people were unemployed in 2020. With a grant from the Novo Nordisk Foundation of 200 million Danish kroner (27 million euros), PlanBørnefonden will strive to give more young people access to employment and income opportunities.

The Foundation donated over DKK 500 million (€ 67 million) to counter the effects of the conflict by Syria, which over the years has grown into the most widespread humanitarian crisis in the world. The last grant from 200 million Danish kroner is the largest humanitarian grant in the history of the Foundation.

“With the grant for PlanBørnefonden, we are sowing the seeds for many more Syrian children and young people to have a better future in which they can support themselves and their families and lead a life of dignity. Unemployment is a huge problem among young people, so considerable effort needs to be made in primary schools and other levels of education, paying particular attention to ensuring that the educational programs offered correspond to the current labor market ” , declares Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, CEO, Novo Nordisk Foundation.

The initiative is expected to reach up to 48,000 young Syrian refugees and other young people in Jordan affected by the conflict of Syria, which has been going on for over a decade. PlanBørnefonden is using the grant to launch Najahna, a 5-year program that includes initiatives to strengthen the transition from education to employment through, for example, financial offers that will allow young people to access loans to very interesting conditions so that they can start their own business.

Professional and mental tools targeting young women

Girls and young women are particularly cut off from educational institutions and the labor market. This is partly a result of traditional conceptions of education and work, but also of the fact that more young women drop out of school at an early age due to early marriage or pregnancy.

Dorthe petersen, CEO of PlanBørnefonden, says: “It is absolutely crucial that girls and young women, especially Syrians and Jordanians, have access to high quality education and employment. This is the only way to long-term sustainable development. By giving younger women the professional and mental tools to become financially independent, we are ensuring that more people can support their families and have a say at home. We can do it with Najahna because we and our partners have a strong presence among young people but also in the labor market to which they enter. We are extremely happy and proud to receive this grant.

PlanBørnefonden’s Najahna project comprises a consortium of international and Jordanian public and private actors, including the Confederation of Danish Industry (DI), whose sister organization, the Jordan Chamber of Commerce, contributes to local efforts in Jordan, as well as the PlanBørnefonden country office in Jordan that advances the rights of children and young people in Jordan with particular emphasis on equality for girls.

Thomas Bustrup, Deputy Director General of the Confederation of Danish Industry (DI), says: “We need to work to ensure a greater focus on vocational education in Jordan, and above all that these educational programs correspond better to the needs of companies. We rely on many years of experience of Jordan creating better apprenticeships for young people and making finding employment in a Jordanian company attractive to refugees and other young people. “

The Najahna Consortium also includes the Norwegian Refugee Council, the Royal Health Awareness Society (RHAS), the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and the King Hussein Foundation. From the start, a key element of the Consortium has been to involve private and public actors to strengthen the local base of initiatives. The project was created in collaboration with the government of Jordan.

Facts about Najahna

Development of the Najahna project began in early 2021, with the Foundation awarding a first grant of DKK 1.2 million (€ 160,000) to PlanBørnefonden. The stream 200 million Danish kroner (27 million euros) the grant for the project extends over a period of 5 years from the January 2022.

The project is part of the Youth Empowerment Foundation’s flagship strategic humanitarian initiative, which aims to improve access to education and self-reliance opportunities among young people in conflict-affected areas, by emphasizing the crisis in Syria.

About the Novo Nordisk Foundation

The Novo Nordisk Foundation is an independent Danish foundation with business interests. It has two objectives: 1) to provide a stable basis for the commercial and research activities of the companies of the Novo group; and 2) supporting scientific, humanitarian and social causes.

The Foundation’s vision is to contribute significantly to research and development that improves the lives of people and the sustainability of society. Since 2010, the Foundation has donated over 30 billion Danish kroner (4 billion euros), mainly for research in public institutions and hospitals in Denmark and other Nordic countries as well as research-based diabetes treatment and prevention. Read more on

About PlanBørnefonden – part of Plan International

PlanBørnefonden works long term in the most fragile and vulnerable areas of the world to guarantee the rights of children and young people and to create equal opportunities for all, regardless of gender. This is done in close collaboration with colleagues from Plan International in 77 countries around the world. Plan International is one of the largest and oldest children’s rights organizations in the world. Read more here: (in Danish).



Discover cross-country skiing in Sweden Wed, 05 Jan 2022 16:48:11 +0000


One of the oldest winter sports in the world, cross-country skiing is a popular way for Swedes to train when temperatures drop. It’s gentler on your joints than running and exercises muscles all over the body.

During this time, you breathe in the fresh mountain air and enjoy many breathtaking snowy landscapes. With the centenary of Vasaloppet (Sweden’s most popular cross-country race) taking place in March 2022, there has never been a better time to try out this national obsession. Here’s our guide to Swedish cross-country skiing tradition and how to try it out for yourself.

The history of cross-country skiing: a Swedish national obsession

Unlike downhill skiing, where slopes and ski lifts usually help you get around, cross-country skiers use their own body movements to push themselves over snow-covered terrain. In the centuries before the invention of trains, cars and snowmobiles, this type of skiing was an essential mode of transportation throughout the Nordic countries. By donning a pair of (then wooden) skis, people could travel long distances to hunt, collect firewood, and visit family and friends. The word “ski” even comes from the Old Norse word skid, which translates to “a stick of wood”.

The technique became a sport in the 19th century, when the Norwegian army began to organize cross-country ski races to help train soldiers for war. Today, tens of thousands of Scandinavians still participate in public competitions each year. Others take things at a slower pace, using their skis as an adventurous way to reach lakeside grills or picnic areas in the winter.

Cross-country skiing was an essential means of travel in the Nordic region before vehicles and snowmobiles © Henrik Trygg / Getty Images

The Vasaloppet race takes place in March

Sweden’s most popular cross-country race, Vasaloppet, is the largest public event of its kind in the world and celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2022. The challenging 90 km (56 mi) classic course stretches between mountainous towns from Sälen and Mora to Dalarna, central Sweden. Competition requires dedicated training throughout the winter, and it is not uncommon to see enthusiastic beginners training on roller skis in Nordic towns in the fall.

There is also a range of shorter contests during Vasaveckan (Vasa week), which is usually the first week of March. Watching these events is also a popular sport for spectators, broadcast on the biggest television and radio networks in Sweden. Tens of thousands of people also flock to Dalarna each year to cheer on their friends and loved ones, or to spot professional stars like Britta Johansson Norgren and Oskar Kardin, sliding past them in brightly colored lycra.

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Four people dressed in brightly colored ski gear walk up the slope as they practice cross-country skiing
It is advisable to pay for an introductory course, even if you have already been alpine skiing © Johner Images / Getty Images

How to try cross-country skiing in Sweden

If you want to try cross-country skiing yourself, perhaps the most important first step is to pay attention to the famous Swedish saying: “there is no bad weather, only bad clothes” (Det finns inget dÃ¥ligt väder, bara dÃ¥liga kläder). You will need warm, breathable gear, including thermal leggings, a windbreaker, a light headband or beanie, and gloves.

Cross-country skis are easy to hire at major winter resorts, costing around 350 SEK ($ 38) per day. You can also rent skis in most towns that regularly receive snow in the winter, which can be a convenient option if you are planning day trips by car to more remote locations. Try Sporthyra, which has rental shops in Stockholm and Gothenburg. The non-profit organization Fritidsbanken lends donated skis for up to 14 days free of charge in dozens of locations across the country, but there is less guarantee that you will find the right size or fit.

Paying for an introductory lesson is advisable, especially if you’ve never been on any type of skiing before. If you’ve tried downhill skiing before and are in good shape, you’ll likely master the basics within an hour. Prices at ski schools vary from around 700 SEK ($ 77) per hour for individual lessons, dropping to around 300 SEK ($ 33) per hour for group lessons.

Multigenerational family of two adult women and one male child cross-country skiing in a snowy forest
Sälen is a family-run village in central Sweden, with hundreds of kilometers of cross-country ski trails © Johner Images / Getty Images

Where to cross-country ski in Sweden

Northern Sweden has snow guaranteed

For guaranteed snow and breathtaking high altitude landscapes, northern Sweden is your best bet. It usually offers plenty of cross-country skiing opportunities between November and April. Most resorts are postcard-perfect, with accommodation ranging from rustic log cabins in the forest to minimalist apartments and scandi-chic boutique hotels.

The Funäsfjällen flagship area has 300 km (186 mi) of groomed, well-marked trails, as well as numerous rest stations, and is a popular place to take lessons.

Ã…re, Sweden’s largest ski resort, is a great place if you want to try cross-country skiing, while still having access to stellar downhill runs and the country’s most vibrant après-ski nightlife. You will need to purchase a daily or weekly pass to access the slopes in both areas.

In Swedish Lapland, Kiruna – a popular base for tourists keen on dog sledding and snowmobile experiences – has a decent range of municipality-maintained cross-country ski trails. Day passes cost just 50 SEK ($ 5.50). Sunlight is scarce this far north in winter, but public roads are lit between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. You will need to prepare for temperatures below -10 ° C (14 ° F).

Central Sweden offers milder temperatures

Dalarna in central Sweden is home to the official start and finish points of Sweden’s beloved Vasaloppet race, as well as hundreds of miles of groomed and wild ski slopes. The ski season here is slightly shorter than further north, but the lower elevation and latitude tend to provide warmer temperatures.

Sälen, a family village, is the most famous seaside resort in the region. It offers 250 km (155 mi) of cross-country ski trails as well as over 180 downhill alpine trails. Other popular destinations include Mora and Rsa, at opposite ends of Lake Örsa, which freezes and sparkles for most of the winter. Please note that accommodation prices in the region skyrocket during race weeks.

The positive side of so many Swedes who spend time in Dalarna training for Vasaloppet is that you will find plenty of instructors offering private and group lessons. Cross-country ski schools include Cykel & Längd in Kläppen, just south of Sälen, Aktiv Sport in Möra and Långdcentrum in Örsa.

Southern Sweden is convenient for day trippers from Gothenburg and Stockholm

Billingen in south-central Sweden is a certified training base for Vasaloppet participants and offers a handful of well-groomed slopes suitable for complete beginners. Located 3 km (1.8 mi) from the town of Skövde, it lacks a bit of the rural charm of other popular cross-country ski destinations. But it’s a convenient all-in-one facility offering ski rentals, overnight cabins, and coaching. Located on the main train line between Gothenburg and Stockholm, this is a doable day trip if you are staying in either city.

The capital of Sweden might not seem like the most obvious place to do your first cross-country ski trails, but if you are lucky enough to be in Stockholm when the snow falls, there is a range of free trails available. and accessible, suitable for beginners. Try Hellasgården, a lakeside nature reserve in Nacka, which is easily accessible by bus from the city center. There is a ski rental station on site, as well as a public sauna to help relax your muscles afterwards. The nearby island of Lidingö, accessible by tram or bus, has a handful of popular trails, including the Långängen-Kottla road, which is lit after dark.

Since Stockholm doesn’t have snow all winter, be sure to check conditions ahead of time. On, symbols indicate the amount of snow and the optimal conditions for cross-country skiing.

You can also ski in the footsteps of the champions at Stockholm’s former Olympic stadium, the Stadion, which uses artificial snow in milder weather and is lit until 9:30 p.m. on weekday evenings.


Ecotourism in Ancient Boreal forests – Williams Lake Tribune Sun, 26 Dec 2021 18:00:00 +0000

With all the restrictions on travelling and impacts of climate change maybe it is time to think about visiting some unique areas in our own backyard.

We usually think of our giant trees on the coast when talking of ancient forests not the old short stunted boreal forests but that all changed for me after listing to a CBC interview with Edward Struzik about his new book Swamplands.

His enthusiasm was infectious as he described his river trips down the Mackenzie and the Thomson River on Banks Island where he saw musk oxen along with caribou and the associated predators of wolves, bears and no doubt foxes.

The surrounding wetlands and small ponds contained the usual Sandhill cranes, Snow geese and a variety of ducks and other water birds.

If you appreciate plants you will be able to find some of the rarest and most beautiful in the world but don’t forget to include a sturdy bug jacket and hat so that you can enjoy all of the wildlife, many edible plants and some of the best fishing if you thought to include your gear.

The boreal forest (or “taiga”) is the world’s largest land biome. The boreal eco zone principally spans eight countries: Canada, China, Finland, Japan, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States (Alaska).

It is typically comprised of coniferous tree species such as pine, spruce and fir with some broadleaf species such as poplar and birch.

The circumboreal belt of forest represents about 30 per cent of the global forest area, contains more surface freshwater than any other biome.

From a biological perspective, boreal forests are defined as forests growing in high-latitude environments where freezing temperatures occur for six to eight months and in which trees are capable of reaching a minimum height of five metres and a canopy cover of 10 per cent.

While there are some industrial forest resources it is the potential of rare minerals, peat and abundant clean water and tourism that will likely have the most significance.

Hopefully we have learned ways to carry out extraction of these resources while minimizing impacts on the water and ecological potential of these fragile landscapes.

As far as advancing the tourism industry we would be advised to see what the Nordic countries have done . As described on some of the advertising they have put some thought into the main principles.

The Nordic countries consist of a lot of stunning national parks and other protected areas, where you feel free to access and enjoy.

In countries like Sweden and Norway, they created a law for free access rights to nature.

The principles of ecotourism include the following: minimize environmental impact, build environmental and cultural awareness and respect, provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts, provide direct financial benefits for conservation and for local people, raise sensitivity to host countries’ political, environmental, and social climates and support international human rights and labour agreements.

My vision would be to increase our presence in the north following the Nordic principles which would include joint ventures with industrial development and government research which will no doubt be taking place.

Having a tourism component should help ensure the natural resources including the First Nations were being taken into account.
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