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How do family companies manage risks in times of crisis?

Robert Bergqvist, Ulrika Jisland, Peter Lauridsen and Carl Bennet (Philipp Aminoff and Annelie Karlsson participated via video link)

How do Nordic family companies manage risks in times of war, inflation and energy crisis? This question was discussed in a videotaped talk with business owner profiles such as Carl Bennet, Johan Claesson and Philipp Aminoff together with experts from SEB and the Family Business Network.

SEB is a partner with the Family Business Network (FBN), a network of family business owners that works to promote long-term development of Swedish, family ownership. The talk was recorded in SEB's studio and was moderated by Ulrika Jisland, Director of Communications at the FBN. (You can watch the entire film with English subtitles below.)

The broadcast, which was recorded in the beginning of March, was opened by Johan Claesson, whose company owns large areas of land in Ukraine. He described a challenging year that started out with nearly a third of farmland, north of Kyiv, coming under Russian occupation. Several employees lost their lives, and many employees' homes were destroyed by rocket attacks.

The first question, aside from all of the humanitarian issues, was what the company would do about sowing – if it would invest the SEK 300-350m it costs in such an uncertain situation. But the employees absolutely wanted the company to go ahead, and this proved to be the right decision. Even the occupied land was liberated and could be sowed.

“My least concern was about losing the money – our focus was entirely of how we could handle the situation,” said Johan Claesson. “When facing very major threats, you become operationally focused. Then you put a lot else out of mind and go straight into it.”

Philipp Aminoff, who represents the fourth generation of a Finnish business family with operations in trade, technology, real estate and asset management, explained how the company grouping has worked with its risk management. They devised a matrix divided into the business level, the holding company level and the family level.

“In this way we drew up an action plan that we could discuss with the chairs and owners of all the companies,” he said. “We reached an agreement on the order in which we would do things if a new scenario were to emerge. It felt reassuring for everyone involved.”

Industrialist Carl Bennet, who is the principal owner and Chairman of Getingen, Arjo and Elander, agreed about the need to think through the situation in advance and about what areas may be sensitive.

“I think there should be a combination of keeping calm while at the same time methodically thinking through the entire chain from the customers, to the company and its owners,” he said. “We are there for our customers, and as such we need to go back and take a look at the entire supply chain. Many of us have had to think things through thoroughly. We cannot have it as we always have, but must balance our situation.”

Also featured in the broadcast were Annelie Karlsson, expert on ownership issues at the FBN, SEB's Senior Economist Robert Bergqvist, and Peter Lauridsen, head of the bank's coverage organisation for family-owned investment and holding companies, or professional family offices. They discussed the crisis landscape and what effects this is having on companies.

Everyone concurred that, with their long-term perspectives that span over generations, family companies have a vital role to play in uncertain times.

As Carl Bennet summed up: “I think it is a considerable advantage for family companies that they are a natural part of society. But they also have a long-term perspective that enables them to build together with others. This gives them a great deal of legitimacy.”