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The sustainability focus at SEB makes us a forerunner

Anssi Kiviniemi

Anssi Kiviniemi is the Head of Sustainability for SEB’s operations in Finland, made up of transactions, products, and advisories. He is there to help the organisation, particularly when an issue related to sustainability arises. 

A few years into his time at SEB, he noticed that sustainability was becoming a theme.  

“I started in the Capital Markets as a Summer trainee in 2011 and I worked in Equity Research, which kicked off my career in finance. I’ve been with the bank since then. Between 2015 and 2017 I noticed that sustainability was a theme that could transform these industries and value chains permanently for the next 20 or 30 years.” 

That’s when Anssi decided to delve deeper into the topic, and this decision ended up guiding his journey through the company.  

“I started to look into the sustainability aspect of the industries quite thoroughly, and that meant that I was able to build some internal models and be part of the discussions that were emerging increasingly within SEB. I essentially went from being an equity analyst to being a sustainability guy, helping organisations and clients whenever there was a need. It was a slow but steady journey and quite a natural move for me.” 

When asked why he has stayed in the company this long, Anssi notes that SEB is the number one bank in sustainability. 

When I was young, I always wanted to work in the stock markets, and SEB was the place to be in the Nordics. However, SEB has been also a forerunner in sustainability connecting that theme to financial world. As an example, we did the world's first Green Bond with the World Bank in 2008. I liked that there was this whole part of the bank doing state-of-the-art stuff with emerging trends that will transform the world over the next 30 years.” 

At SEB, relationships are crucial.  

Although Anssi started in a new position, he maintained his previous relationships, and that enabled him to do his new job even better. 

“Relationships really make a huge difference in terms of clients and internal relations. Because I was seen as an expert in my field when I was an analyst, I worked with so many different parts of the bank, and that has facilitated an easy transition to my new role.” 

Anssi may have changed roles, but the faces around him remained the same, and this enabled existing connections to continue to grow.  

“Being a familiar face to the clients is important and that emphasises one of our core principles in SEB in terms of being an advisory-driven bank.” 

The bank also plays a significant role in enabling the customer transition towards sustainability.  

“Helping clients is all about close collaboration and relationships with them. We start from where the customer is and then discuss where we see the market and industries going.” 

As a bank, SEB handles the risks to allow a smooth transition for the client. Although the client does the hard part, Anssi notes that banks play a crucial role enabling transition and hopefully through advisory allow clients to see things from a different perspective.  

In his own personal life, Anssi does what he can for sustainability. 

“I drive an electric car and so on, but I view my role as an enabler in my professional position as having a much larger impact than what I do as an individual on a daily basis.” 

His role in sustainability wasn’t given to him, he went for it himself. This further emphasises Anssi’s belief that everything starts and ends with curiosity. 

“No one told me to look into sustainability, it was my understanding that I needed to know more about sustainability, focus on it and do more work on it. From there, the company enabled the work and assisted me where they could.” 

Anssi always wanted to know more about how the world runs and how value chains work. That all came from curiosity.  

“Every project is a new project, and all companies do things differently, which encourages me to always learn new things and keep up with all the fast changes happening in the world.” 

What has Anssi looking forward to the future? 

“The main element that I enjoy about SEB is that the people are really nice and it’s such an interesting time to work in the financial industry. The heritage and roots of the company goes back to 1856, but we’ve grown and adapted so much since then. There are huge changes happening currently, and that makes me excited.”