A farewell to Singapore and SEA – and a big thank you to all! Blog post by resigning FBC Board member Jani Valtonen

TLDR: Singapore is in the middle of the bustling South East Asia. People there are business-minded, very friendly and easy to connect with. It was an epic experience both professionally and personally, thank you, everybody!

Disclaimer: I was in Singapore for almost (one-quarter short of) 2 years and have now moved back to the Nordics. This blog post consists of my personal views and not those of the Nordea Bank.

Photo: Singapore skyline/gettyimages

Looking back to my time in Singapore, in the middle of South East Asia, brings me feelings of gratitude and joy for the experience. It was an amazing opportunity both professionally as well as personally and I enjoyed it hugely. Thanks to all who participated in my adventure and made it extraordinary.

People keep asking me, what were the best things in Singapore?

Of course one could say that the year-round tropical weather and the amenities and possibilities it brings are great, but for me personally these were overshadowed by two things: 1) the people and 2) the booming region.

The people – all of you, were the best part of the experience. So open and friendly, it was a privilege to get to know you, both in work as well as in social settings. It was also very interesting to get to know many businesses and the plans and ideas you have for the future. Finding so driven and motivated people from so various backgrounds was an extraordinary opportunity. If the saying goes that “the sky is the limit”, then my personal feeling is that in Singapore the sky is higher than elsewhere.  Also as people are so international and always coming or going, and as most of them are open and friendly, it makes getting to know people really easy!

The booming region was also a big eye-opener for me coming from Europe where the economic growth has not been on those levels in ages. Getting to know the SEA cultures and nations with their smaller and larger differences was an education for me. I am still in my early steps in learning how to do business in the region, but the main takeaway I want to bring back to Nordics is that the future is there. The challenges and opportunities lie with these huge nations that have economies leaping to higher and higher levels. It is in my view crucial to get sustainable and safe technology there as early as possible. The Nordic companies can provide this, and one should also not forget the developments done there on the consumer side – those digital solutions will challenge the old business models in Europe someday.

Photo: One of the many receptions held at the new Residence of the Finnish Ambassador.

It was an honour to be part of the FBC board and part of the Nordic ecosystem

It was my privilege and honour to be part of the Finnish Business Council’s Board in Singapore. Right from the very first weeks when I arrived in Singapore, FBC, as well as the other chambers in the Nordic ecosystem took me in and introduced me to the right people and networks. It was only proper that I tried to give back and support these efforts as a board member of FBC. I hope this very important work continues and that FBC is able to find good new board members as well as members to enjoy the benefits. Also, I hope that the good collaboration between the Nordic chambers will only increase, as I see that many people and companies share many similarities as well as the challenges and that everybody can easily learn so much from each other.

Photo: Me (in the middle) with some great friends from the Finnish ecosystem at the official Finnish Independence Day Reception 2019 that was held at Chijmes, an old church that is nowadays an event venue.

Now back in the Nordics

Getting back to the Nordics was actually much easier than I originally thought. It feels good to be with the family and friends again. In the Nordics, we also have so many other things that have a huge value. Yet still, it feels that we mostly take them for granted. Nature and the pureness is something that one starts to miss when one is far away. It is so nice that seashore is not littered with plastic trash or that in supermarkets you know the things you are buying at least feel more ethical and safe, locally produced, and it is possible to recycle properly. People should also wake up to this a little more and realise, that we should appreciate and safeguard what we have here in the Nordics. And hopefully, as stated before, we might try to help also others to reach the same standards.

On the professional side, I am returning to advise the Finnish SME clients on their FX possibilities and risks as well as to help them more broadly on the topic of international trade. Foreign trade is crucial for the economies in the Nordics, and although its shape is changing constantly, there are so many tools firms could use to support their mission. Usually, the products and services from the Nordic companies are world-class that could sell themselves, but there are also many banking tools that could support the international sales and make the expansion more profitable, less risky and just more convenient for the companies. This is something I try to advance by bringing my international and especially SEA experience to the table.

From the societal point of view, the return is more challenging. Coming from Singapore where everything works and people are focused on a shared vision, at least Finland looks a little contradictory to this. The labour unions are going on strike and the inability to find a common ground together with the business unions is halting the economy. At some stage in history, we used to have a common and positive group mentality, so the question is, why are we fighting over the pieces of the shrinking cake that is our economy? And maybe even more, how could we find the common spirit again?

So farewell and until we meet again!

There are so many people to thank for this experience. The bank in the Nordics for sending me, the branch in Singapore for taking me in so fondly, the FBC and other Nordics chambers, as well as business organisations and embassies. All the customers and businesses I met, as well as the people I got acquainted with both professionally and personally. Thank you all for all the interesting discussions and the moments we shared!

I hope that you all stay safe in this virus epidemic and let’s meet again either here in the Nordics or in Singapore on my next visit.

All the best,


Jani Valtonen was a member of the FBC Board and he is an expert in international trade and financial markets. He worked in Nordea Markets Singapore and served both institutional and corporate clients in the region. He is now back in the Nordics and has a mission to help Nordic businesses to do more international trade as well as to increase the awareness of possibilities and challenges in South East Asia.