Remember to look at the big picture
That is my key takeaway from my eleven years at NFU.
When I started in November 2008, the big picture in the Nordic and European finance sectors was changing dramatically. The biggest financial crisis in a century unfolded before our eyes, destroying trillions of euros and dollars in assets and hundreds of thousands of finance jobs all over Europe. The big and the small, the faraway and the close, the perspectives blended rapidly together and NFU had to navigate through it all.
And NFU acted. In response to a massive regulatory reform by the EU to prevent another crisis, we directed most of our resources towards influencing financial regulation. Throughout years of dedicated efforts, NFU managed to secure freedom of collective bargaining in the finance sector, strengthened positions for union influence in company decision-making, fair rules on sales and advice of financial services, the right to professional development and competence to meet new demands, to name a few areas. Together with the secretariat, the NFU member unions managed to continuously develop strategies and actions to stay relevant and contribute to stable and sustainable financial sectors.
Using a strengthened knowledge base as a platform, NFU also managed to be proactive and put our own topics on the agenda of the policymakers. NFU produced reports on, for example, performance indicators and compliance pressure challenging established views of financial sector stakeholders. We also built knowledge by cooperating with the research community in financial sector and regulation issues, and did Nordic union communication training. Through supporting organising in Estonia, NFU contributed to double union membership in the finance sector and the signing of a collective agreement. All of these achievements are worth building on in the future.
Looking ahead, the big picture continues to challenge unions in the Nordic financial sector. The framework of financial regulation is entering a phase of revision – in January 2020, the most central legal framework for the insurance sector Solvency II will begin to be overhauled. NFU is responding to the 800+ page consultation document and the work to influence that process has only just begun. Cross-border efforts to prevent money laundering are increasing, also in a regulatory sense. Several other key legal texts are in the pipeline, and the EU has put sustainable finance on top of its agenda for the coming five years, with far-reaching consequences also for finance employees. Technological change in the sector begs new questions to union policies and positions. How should unions navigate to best represent members’ interests in issues of artificial intelligence and big data, issues that know no national or company borders?
Aside from all the exciting work NFU has done, it is the relationships that I will remember most. I am deeply grateful to have worked with the many committed, value-driven, brave and considerate people that make up the NFU family. Even in disagreement, we have supported each other. These strong relationships are the key component of the bigger NFU picture. And I owe so much to all the colleagues and friends in the NFU secretariat and member unions throughout the years – no one mentioned, no one forgotten: you know who you are. In addition, I want to thank the members of the NFU Management Board throughout the years and NFU President Michael Budolfsen, whose support and trust in the NFU team have made us deliver results that I am proud of.
Remember to look at the big picture – the person who coined this term is former NFU General Secretary Christina Colclough, the one person who has had the biggest impact on me as a professional. Christina had the courage to believe in the inexperienced and overconfident young man that she hired in November 2008. Christina was brave enough to challenge me to develop and grow, both as a professional and as a human being, making it possible for me to take the helm of NFU as new General Secretary in 2013.
What can we learn from that? Have the courage to believe. Believe in people and in the power of togetherness. That is the foundation and glue of NFU, and with it, we can continue to influence the big picture to reflect the needs and priorities of Nordic financial unions.