Panel discussion. From left to right: Jeanette Vitasp, Vice President and Head of Lending at NIB, Maiju Westergren, Senior Vice President, Sustainability and Public Affairs and Member of Management Group at Helen Ltd, Nina Arkilahti, Head of Business Banking, Member of Group Leader Team at Nordea Bank Abp and Anna Kajander, Director and Sector Head for the Services & Consumer at NIB.

16 Jun 2023

ICMA Women’s Network: security, sustainability and inclusive recovery

On 13 June, NIB, International Capital Market Association (ICMA) and Nordea held ICMA Women’s Network (IWN) event at the Bank’s headquarters in Helsinki. Watch the event recordings on the nexus between security, sustainability and the rebuilding of war-torn countries.

The IWN provides a global, impartial and open forum to encourage, support and inspire women at all stages of their career and to further the aim of gender equality within the capital markets. In the latest IWN event, experts discussed how to navigate the ongoing turbulence in light of war, economic uncertainties and climate challenges. NIB invites you to relive these discussions.

Watch the welcome words from Katie Kelly, ICMA’s Senior Director and IWN founding member, and Angela Brusas, Director, Funding & Investor Relations at NIB and Chair of the IWN International Steering Committee:

Current security environment in Europe

To set the scene for discussions, Hanna Smith, Senior Strategic Advisor to the Secretary General at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) gave a keynote speech on the current security environment. According to her, Russia’s war in Ukraine is much larger than a conflict between two countries, and its affects are already visible beyond.

“When we are starting to deal with things: whether it is doing business, civil society interactions, even travel – all of that will be affected by the growing confrontation between democracies and autocracies,” said Smith, explaining one of the changes that came with the war.

As stated by her, we need to get used to the new security environment that comes with these changes. “The adaptation ability is the winning formula. We should manage to adapt, to capture the situation, and push our own strategy and vision rather than wait for things to happen,” Smith concluded.

Watch the keynote speech from Hanna Smith:

Sustainable finance: navigating turbulent waters

Adaptation is needed not only in terms of security challenges, but also the current economic uncertainties and the ever-increasing need for the green transition. In a panel moderated by Anna Kajander, Director and Sector Head for the Services & Consumer at NIB, industry experts aimed to answer what will be the role of financiers.

Despite overall investment levels decreasing in Europe, the panelists agreed that the demand for green financing remains. “There are more energy investments than ever before. The energy crisis accelerated the pace”, said Nina Arkilahti, Head of Business Banking, Member of Group Leader Team at Nordea Bank Abp. “This year only, there will be 440 gigawatts of new renewable electricity installed – that is twice as much of what the International Energy Agency predicted three years ago.”

Maiju Westergren, Senior Vice President, Sustainability and Public Affairs and Member of Management Group at Helen Ltd supported these statements. “We can all see that fossil-fuel based economy is not sustainable in any way you measure it,” said Westergren, confirming that the current environment is also transforming the energy sector. “Despite last year being challenging, we still made investments of several hundred million euros in green transition, mainly in wind energy, bioenergy and heat pumps.”

“While it is clear that financiers favor environmental projects, we also see that even the projects that are essentially linked to productivity are also turning green, fulfilling both of our mandates,” said Jeanette Vitasp, Vice President and Head of Lending at NIB. She added that in this environment, however, higher risk projects, hard-to-abate sectors, or smaller companies might have some difficulties accessing financing from commercial lenders. “We are looking into those areas as well, as it is important that they also get assistance.”

Watch the panel discussion:

Hope on the horizon; from warzone to rebuild

In order to bring the event even closer to the realities affecting us all, Antti Kuronen, foreign news correspondent at the Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle, joined virtually from Ukraine to report on the current situation. Having been covering the conflict developments in the country for the past nine years, Kuronen had to share both terrible personal stories and glimpses of hope for recovery.

“The potential of Ukraine is massive – you have over 40 million people, people are well educated, and in many sectors, even high-tech, it is very advanced,” he said in a live interview with Angela Brusas.

When asked about the upcoming rebuild and the demand for investments, Kuronen said that some needs, such as essential energy infrastructure and housing, are already acute. However, according to him, there is no need to wait until the war ends to push forward the green transition.

“Ukraine is a big country, and the war is fought mainly in the East – there are some places that are not that much affected. People should be thinking about building the future already now,” said Kuronen, explaining that before the war escalated, Ukraine had been significantly investing in renewable energy.

Watch the interview with Antti Kuronen:

The IWN supports gender equality at a global level: all employees of ICMA member firms are welcome to join, and international connectivity is achieved through active IWN committees operating worldwide. The IWN also actively welcomes participation from all genders and ethnicities, acknowledging that broad participation is essential in achieving positive, sustainable change.

IWN comprises over 3,000 individuals. With events taking place over 14 different regions, the IWN is represented by an International Steering Committee of professionals spanning ICMA’s membership who are committed to developing the IWN in their respective regions. As of June 2023, Angela Brusas, Director, Funding & Investor Relations at NIB, chairs the Steering Committee of Network.