Collaboration is not just the best way to excel in today’s world – it’s the only way, says OP’s Jouko Pölönen.
Why does a Finnish financial group go into building hospitals? Or, for that matter, is extremely active at Amcham Finland?
We applaud both, make no mistake.
Yet, as OP has become an outlier by, for example, unwaveringly backing its customers during the financial crisis and by its presence in the social media and pro bono scenes, it does raise the question: how come.
“The financial sector is undergoing tremendous change. Its boundaries are coming tumbling down,” Executive Vice President for Banking Jouko Pölönen says right off the bat.
“When you couple the increased regulation and starkly changing customer behavior with disruptive competition, traditional banking is under hard pressure.”
It takes an hour and a half of intense discussion to get started on the transformative business model OP has undertaken, strategically designed to keep the well-to-do banking and insurance group resilient and relevant to its greater ecosystem.
It is downright impressive when an up-and-coming executive walks one through a well-developed strategy – and insists on talking about community and collaboration.
Even without the sharing economy, community and collaboration would likely be OP’s strategic drivers. The company was founded as a cooperative of local banks in 1902. In 2005, it merged with insurance company Pohjola to become a financial group.
With 1.7 million owner-members in a country of 5.5 million people, OP is a synergy platform pooling the demand and supply of its members for efficiencies and value-add.
“As OP is a sum of its parts, we’d better make sure the parts do great and the sum adds up,” Pölönen explains.
“We drive growth and constant investment on behalf of our members.”
As industrial development has throughout history transformed enterprises first from conglomerates to sharply focused specialists and now to integrated and dynamic parts of a value chain, the economy is becoming one big cooperative.
For OP, this is an opportunity to position itself as the center of a modern multi-business company that supports its owner-members throughout their lives and the society at large. The company has also tapped into its roots for thought-leadership.
From this vantage point, the building of a nation-wide hospital chain no longer seems outlandish. You can strip it down to an insurance company wanting to make sure its owner-members are healthy as a horse. Everyone wins.
Although today the OP network only covers Finland and the Baltic countries, the company is proactive about its place in the global economy. It has a tight partner network in 150 countries, and has a mission to support the born global businesses. More importantly, it benchmarks itself with the best in the world.
“With mobility, the competition can come from any direction. The choices are right in your pocket,” Pölönen says. “That’s what everyone is now dealing with.”
It is the collaborative mindset and ambition level that attracted OP to Amcham. In the international business community, it found a kindred spirit.
Pölönen is inspired by Amcham’s mission to make Finland a more globally savvy and connected market and appreciates the shared ideas of community, synergies, value-chains and give-and- take. In his opinion, the Finnish market should aim higher and push the leading edge.
OP has taken part in the new Life Science Group, which breaks traditional industry silos to create new innovative ecosystems for new revenue streams. Jouko Pölönen is also pleased that Amcham has selected digital transformation as its key theme for 2017.
“We’re all in,” he says.
Walking out of the meeting, I have a strong realization that in a hyper-networked world, the winner no longer takes it all. The winner shares it all.
That being said, building hospitals is likely to be just the beginning.