01 Apr 2019 09:30

A good bank is there in good times and bad

Edvard Kälvesten and Roland Nilsson

“Any bank can be good in good times. It’s when times are tough that you really need a good banking relationship – a mutual trust and understanding for your business,” says Edvard Kälvesten, CEO of Silex Microsystems, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of microelectromechanical systems.

The company, with 200 employees and sales of SEK 530 million in 2018, is a pure-play producer of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). These are advanced semiconductors which, in contrast to ordinary semiconductors, also feature integrated mechanical functions.

The company’s founder, Edvard Kälvesten, earned a Ph.D. in this technology in the late 1990s. He was then asked by a Swedish medtech company to develop and MEMS-based medical pressure sensor for the coronary artery. This became the foundation of Silex Microsystems, which was established in 2000. After a few years in which operations were conducted out of KTH Royal Institute of Technology’s lab in Stockholm, the company set up operations in new premises in Järfälla, outside Stockholm.

“We have been bringing in new customers slowly but surely,” explains Edvard Kälvesten. “Today we have some 70 international customers, of whom about 60 per cent are in the USA.”

The company has grown by about 20 per cent per year, but in strictly financial terms it has weathered a few shaky years, 2008-2009 and 2012-2013. The company has operated in the black since 2014. Today profitability is good and confidence in the future is strong.

“Things are looking very good,” says Roland Nilsson, CFO. “We are expanding to meet demand.”

Edvard Kälvesten confirms that the company is going full-throttle, while also building up a buffer in order to have resilience in the event of any future downturns.

“We are regarded to be the biggest and best pure-play MEMS manufacturer,” he says. “Which is important in this market. You have to be at the forefront when it comes to technology and talented engineers.”

But isn’t it hard to conduct industrial production from Sweden?
“We work with high-tech automated manufacturing. Commodities and machines cost the same no matter where production is conducted,” says Kälvesten. “For highly educated engineers as well, the cost level is quite the same no matter what country you are in. Production employees’ share of total costs are not so high that they have a decisive significance. Moreover, our engineers and other employees are very talented, and we are blessed with very loyal employees.”

Silex Microsystems is a so-called MEMS foundry, which means it does not have any products of its own, but develops and designs MEMS products from the bottom based on its customers’ needs. Customers are in all types of industries, from medical technology to the automotive industry and consumer electronics.

In 2011 the company conducted a bank procurement process and met with all of Sweden’s major banks. Due to a tough financial situation, it wasn’t a good time to switch during that year, but in 2015, when the tide had changed and all curves were pointing up, the company chose to switch to SEB.

“SEB was the bank that believed in us the whole way,” says Edvard Kälvesten. “This is what made us choose you when things started going well again.”

What is the most important factor in a banking relationship?
“That there is a mutual trust and understanding for our business,” says Roland Nilsson. “That we can depend on the bank in good times and bad. Then, of course, it is important to have good service – that you can call and get help fast when a problem needs to be solved.”