Bringing modern innovations to finance
The finance department is often considered boring and conservative. Anu Hämäläinen, Vice President, Group Treasury and Financial Services, explains how it is actually a hot area for innovation.
The ink on her Master’s degree in accounting and finance from the University of Vaasa was barely dry when Anu Hämäläinen joined Wärtsilä in 1991. It was a very different company back then.
“On my first working day Lohja and Wärtsilä merged and the company’s name was changed to Metra,” she says. “Metra was a conglomerate at that time. We had the same Wärtsilä businesses as we have today, but including Sanitec sanitaryware, Abloy locks, Imatra Steel and Lohja building materials, for example. We were already, back in the 1990s, a front-runner in development when looking at Finance and Treasury.”
Anu worked with Wärtsilä in 1991–1999 and then went on to have a distinguished career in investment banking and corporate finance. In 2008 she returned to Wärtsilä.
Today, Anu is the Vice President, Group Treasury and Financial Services. Her responsibilities include much of the realm of corporate finance, from project financing to risk management, from treasury functions to global credit control. Just like when she first joined Wärtsilä in the 1990s, she continues to innovate in finance.
Automate the repetitive tasks
One of the major innovations Wärtsilä has made in finance involves Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Many corporate finance departments are overwhelmed by handling simple, repetitive tasks. RPA automates these chores, freeing up people for more value-added work. It can boost quality by eliminating manual entry errors, complete duties more quickly and cut costs.
“Wärtsilä has been a front-runner in RPA,” says Anu. “We have been successfully doing RPA in-house and that is something we all need to be proud of. We have all this knowledge in-house and other companies from different countries want to hear our RPA story as it is quite unique.”
While it is typical for a corporation to choose RPA to improve their finance functions, they usually contract out the work to a specialist third party. Wärtsilä chose a different path.
“We had the possibility to use an external consultant for our pilot RPA case,” explains Anu. “RPA was totally new in Wärtsilä, but we noticed it was totally new everywhere in the world. We decided to do our pilot case in-house with our employees who know the processes and are interested in RPA. The pilot was a success and as of today we have robotised more than 200 processes within Wärtsilä.”
Always changing, always evolving
Her typical workday consists of both external and internal meetings, such as with banks, other external counterparties and consulting on new business cases where financing is needed. Anu also works on the development of the organisation, processes and systems. Every day is different.
“For example, yesterday I interviewed a couple of employee candidates, met Japanese bankers and had some organisation and process planning meetings,” Anu says.
She enjoys the always-changing and stimulating environment in which she works. There is always something new, and she cites the need to always put Wärtsilä Group first when thinking of different solutions and making decisions. Solving challenges is never simple, but Anu says that in general, resolving issues gets easier the more extensive knowledge and experience one has.
“I enjoy the challenges in my job,” Anu says. “I enjoy having fantastic and intelligent colleagues with different nationalities. I have great people working for me. I also enjoy working with new technologies and being able to develop things around me.”
Digitalisation is key for innovation
Wärtsilä has innovated in the finance department with Robotic Process Automation, but Anu says the new ideas haven’t stopped and they are now implementing new improvements. The end goal is to make Wärtsilä’s finance department run smoothly and efficiently, enabling the company to offer the best solutions to customers.
“We have also started artificial intelligence and machine learning this year in support functions and I’m excited to see where that path takes us,” she says.
When Anu joined Wärtsilä she viewed it as more of a traditional engineering company, while today it is a digital and solution-based company. She thinks digitalisation has been one of the keys for the company’s innovation over time but stresses the need to find ways to make money from it.
“I also would like to say that I have been really lucky having competent and intelligent colleagues and team mates,” she concludes. “So ‘thank you’ to all around me for making my Wärtsilä journey so interesting.”