Finnish diplomat and former Ambassador to Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic, Ilkka Räisänen, has started as a new Alternate Board Director at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). To understand the role of the EBRD and the opportunities it offers for Finnish companies and professionals, Team Finland interviewed Räisänen.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development was established in 1991 to help build a new, post-Cold War era in Central and Eastern Europe. Today the bank supports transition, progress towards market-oriented economies and the promotion of private and entrepreneurial initiative. It has its headquarters in London but operates in more than 36 economies across Europe, Central Asia and North Africa, from Morocco to Mongolia.
The EBRD is owned by 69 countries from five continents, as well as the EU and the European Investment Bank. Despite having a governmental ownership, it sees private sector as the main driver for change, and this is the idea in the core of the bank’s operations. “EBRD is involved in areas such as banking systems reform, liberalisation of prices, privatisation, and the creation of proper legal frameworks for property rights. Such reforms are supported by sound advice, training and technical expertise, and supplemented by major investments in the private and public sectors”, Räisänen explains.
When domestic capital on its own is insufficient to finance transition, the EBRD brings in external capital from both private and public sources. The bank can give loans, make equity investments and provide guarantees to promote trade. “Financing for private sector projects generally ranges from $5 million to $250 million, in the form of loans or equity. The average EBRD investment is $25 million. It also supports small and medium-sized enterprises via assistance through financial intermediaries”, Räisänen tells.
Finland is a founding member of the EBRD and an important contributor to the bank's work. Finland has provided €75mn worth of funds to support EBRD operations and Finland-EBRD investments rise to almost €2.7 bn. Ten Finns are currently working at the bank, and Finnish companies and consultants are frequently participating in the EBRD’s operations.
Perhaps most importantly, Finnish companies and consultants are frequently participating in the EBRD’s operations. The bank can provide financing for projects in various fields, and its channels for procurement can provide lucrative contracts. According to Räisänen, EBRD involvement in the projects guarantees that its high standards are applied and one can be assured of uncompromised quality. In countries where the Bank operates, Finnish companies can make use of local expertise in the EBRD Resident Offices to find new project business opportunities.
Räisänen tells that the most prominent Finnish companies and consultancy firms have been involved in the EBRD’s projects, especially in Russia. “Nowadays when new business is located further away from Finland’s immediate neighbourhood we have experienced a diminishing involvement, but often times the statistics do not provide the names of subcontractors, so it is difficult to get the full picture”, he says.
Yet there is certainly demand for Finnish products and know-how, especially in projects that call for green solutions. “Recently Finnish cleantech companies have won contracts and environmental projects are on the rise. For instance, under the EBRD’s new Green Cities Programme urban landscapes will be improved through more efficient public transport systems, better waste and water management, improved district heating, energy efficiency in residential and public buildings, and many more activities”, Räisänen tells.
He also encourages Finnish professionals to consider joining the EBRD: “The bank is a good employer and purchases a lot of consultancy services, which should attract attention of Finnish experts and professionals.” There are various careers for bankers, analysts, economists, IT specialists and researchers. In addition, for young professionals the EBRD can provide an opportunity to join the bank for two years, with two placements in London Headquarters plus an international assignment in one of resident offices.