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Sampo Bank: Don’t worry - 2006 and 2007 will be good for Lithuania
Interview with CEO and Chairman
Gintautas Galvanauskas
When the doors open to Mr. Galvanauskas’ corner office on the 14th floor of the Hanner Building, we are immediately overwhelmed by the breathtaking view to the centre of Vilnius, where the reflections of the city lights waver on the Neris River far below us. From up here, even this darkest time of the year seems bright, and the lights of Vilnius seem to be blinking more optimistically than ever. We have come to Sampo to discuss the future for Lithuania’s economy, and we start with the planned introduction of the euro.
More than 150 Finnish companies in Lithuania
Interview with Juha Mähönen,
President of Finnish Guild in Lithuania
Juha Mähönen is the President of the Finnish Guild in Lithuania, the General Manager of Reval Hotel Lietuva in Vilnius, and has been in Vilnius for three and a half years with his wife and children.
The Finnish Guild in Lithuania celebrated its 10th anniversary in Vilnius last year with a fashion show at Forum Palace, featuring Jukka Rintala, a famous Finnish fashion designer who presented a show of his latest work, and a gala dinner at Reval Hotel Lietuva, and even Finnish TV was there to report on the event.
My first question to Juha was about the business environment and what brought him to Lithuania. He tells me that basically he is an optimist. “I know that some Finnish companies have become dejected and left the country, but I believe in the youth and the EU and the future, and my opinion of Lithuania has improved greatly since I was first here in 1992. The development has been fantastic - mind boggling even.

Finnish finish for monolith buildings from the 1960s

It is estimated that over 3,000 apartment blocks in Vilnius will need thorough renovation over the next 15 years. The biggest problems are expected to emerge in the typical large-panel buildings constructed according to industrial technologies proudly invented by Soviet technicians in the middle of the 1960s, and obviously, a lot of money can be wasted if the quality of materials and work is not properly controlled. With this in mind, Vilnius Municipality started a pilot project last year in Žirmunai, a renovation project for an apartment building from the 1960s. The Finnish company ‘Elias ir Partneriai’, and its leader Mikko Waltari, took an active part in this project by co-operating closely with the municipality professionals and with the architect in charge, helping them by supplying research material of similar cases in Finland and inviting them to Finland to learn from projects there. Finland, among several West European countries, has been facing similar problems of old concrete panel houses needing façade renovation, and the goal was to share this knowledge with Vilnius.
ISKU is our life in Lithuania
Seppo Siren is a native of Finland, and the proud manager of the ISKU store in Žirmūnai. Seppo and his wife Paula celebrated ten years in Lithuania on 3 December and Seppo jokingly tells me what brought him here. “I had been working at the ISKU export department for three years when this position in Lithuania came up, and lucky for me they wanted to get rid of me. Before that I used to sell cars, but people keep their furniture and carpets for a lot longer than their cars, so I consider that I have progressed in the world.” I’d heard that the Finns were a reserved and serious people, so I was pleasantly surprised by Seppo’s sense of humour.
I was interested in finding out about the adjustments the Sirens had to make to life in Lithuania, but Seppo again surprised me by saying that they came to Lithuania because it was warmer. “We were on our way south and this is as far as we have got so far.
“Somehow the Finns are very similar to the Lithuanians. We are both religious for example, and I feel very comfortable here. Business is not easy of course, but it is constantly growing and it keeps you interested and on your toes to keep improving. It is good to see everyone grow and progress here, it creates an exciting working environment. I am also a hunter which is a great attraction to living in Lithuania.
Riina Ailio has seen 5,000 Lithuanian homes
Riina Ailio came to Lithuania to open three shops selling fashion, fabrics and curtains over ten years ago. The contract was for one and a half years but at the end of that time the company Riina worked for closed down in Finland, the Baltic countries and in Russia. Instead of returning to Finland she decided to stay in Lithuania and to continue working with textiles.
She called her friend Seppo, another Finnish business person living in Lithuania, to talk about the possibility of starting her own business and within half an hour she had a name for her new company, Sortimenti, and two weeks later she had signed with the lawyers and established her own business.
“My clients didn’t want me to leave and they keep giving me work, even though my mother calls me every week to ask if I am coming home yet.
Gintautas Galvanauskas
CEO and Chairman of the Board of UAB Sampo bankas since June 2001.
Experience: Senior Vice President and Director of the Distribution Channels Department of Vilnius Bank, Deputy Chairman and Member of the board of Hermis Bank, Deputy Director of International Relations Department and General Manger of the World Bank Loans Management Unit with Bank of Lithuania. Married with two children, and enjoys windsurfing, tennis and other sports.

Seppo Siren and his wife Paula
Riina Ailio
has seen 5,000 Lithuanian homes