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Industry veteran checks out after 33 years: "This is a good time for me to pass on opportunities to the next generation"

Career path: Danske Bank Wealth Management's Kimmo Laaksonen has been part of the industry since the first Finnish pension funds started outsourcing investments, but he has recently decided to turn a new chapter in his career.

"I started in asset management back in 1987, and this was around the time when the Finnish pension funds started outsourcing their investments," says Kimmo Laaksonen. | Photo: PR

Which career path did you imagine for yourself when you were younger?

"I always thought of having a career in engineering and something related to technology and IT or whatever area has different types of gadgets etc. An alternative career might have been a "save-the-nature" career path, since my dearest hobby was to combine ornithology with photography. Somehow, those thoughts didn't really materialize career-wise and I ended up taking a master’s degree in Economics.

That didn’t have a bad outcome either, and I have truly enjoyed being a pioneer within the asset and wealth management industry in Finland. I started in asset management back in 1987, and this was around the time when the Finnish pension funds started outsourcing their investments. We started offering asset management to one pension fund, but we soon came to realize that we could offer our services to other pension funds as well, and shortly thereafter, we invested on behalf of many pension funds in Finland."

Which part of your education have you used the most in your career? 

"Education-wise, I have always encouraged people to focus on their presentation and communication skills. It’s not just about storytelling, but you need to be able to communicate clearly and explain what you are doing and why you are doing it. In our business, we sell professional services, and you need to be able to simplify what you are doing in order to get through to people."

Which part of your CV represent the biggest changes to your career?

"I have been extremely lucky to be a part of the evolution that our wide wealth management industry has undergone over the last 30+ years. I haven’t really made any major detours on that journey, but I have seen and lived through the rise of mutual funds, the evolution of long-term savings, the birth of third-party institutional asset management, private banking, and now the awakening of a true, unbiased, open architecture advisory business with the help of MiFID II+ regulatory regimes.

That being said, I admit that when Danske Bank bought Sampo Bank, this was a big change. Mentally, more than anything, but also in terms of resources. A takeover always has pros and cons.

It is clear to me that the evolution in our industry will continue, and that business and earnings models will still go through major shifts in the years to come. The best part of that development is that customer preferences and industry objectives will now connect in a way which we have never seen before. And that makes for a lot of opportunities for clever wealth management companies to prosper – also in the future."

Which leader in the business has inspired your career the most?

"As I mentioned earlier, I consider communication skills to be of the utmost importance when working in wealth management. Therefore, my most important inspiration and lessons learned and inspiration from our industry have come from leaders showing exceptional skills in simplifying complex issues, and in being able to present and communicate their core ideas in a way that was loud and clear.

To name my top three people in this category, in no particular order, they are Björn ”Nalle” Wahlroos (currently chairman of Sampo Group), Mika Ihamuotila (currently chairman and owner of Marimekko) and Jacob Aarup-Andersen (currently Group CEO of ISS)."

What occupies you the most right now?

"Currently, I still have some issues I need to finalize and hand over to the Danske Bank organization before my departure from the bank at the end of this year. It seems, though, that I’m currently most occupied with replying to all those nice farewell messages that I'm receiving through various channels. It is almost unbelievable how many interesting people I have met over the past decades, but now it is time for me to take a deep breath and look into the future.

I decided to leave the bank in late summer, as I felt that it was time for a change. I am 57 years old and this is a good time for me to pass on opportunities to the next generation. To be perfectly honest, I don’t know what I will be doing next. I’ll take a break to consider my options.

I don’t have any ambition of taking a similar position in a similar company. Maybe I’ll think of something which better matches my original career thoughts in the areas of nature and technology, now combined with my experience coming from the wealth management industry. This might materialize either professionally or on a leisurely hobby basis. But for now, I look forward to going skiing in Lapland."

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