Throughout 2020, we will be highlighting the Queen Silvia Nursing Award partners that bring the scholarship to life in their respective regions.

Currently in its 6th year, The Queen Silvia Nursing Award motivates nursing students in Germany, Finland, Poland, and Sweden to contribute to the quality of life and care of the elderly and people living with a dementia diagnosis. We are very proud to announce that a fifth country, Lithuania, will join the program as of this fall 2020. 

The Queen Silvia Nursing Award is made possible with the dedication and commitment of partners with a firm focus on the growth of nursing talent and nursing opportunities.

In this interview, we speak with Martin Ringberg, Sweden Country Manager of Nordnet, a digital bank for savings and investments. He explores the importance of idea generation as an integral part of business growth; how businesses are being tasked to operate more responsibly within communities; and the importance of preparation to weather challenging times.

Hej Martin! Could you give us a brief introduction to Nordnet?

Nordnet is an investment and savings bank with operations in Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway. The business was established 25 years ago with the vision to democratize savings and investments. Using the power of technology and information systems, Nordnet embarked on a journey to make banking easy and engaging for anyone. We place heavy emphasis on providing clients with the right tools and guidance to make decisions aligned with their goals and ambitions. We’ve grown a lot over the years. Today, we have around 1 million customers and counting.

I joined as the Country Manager for Nordnet Sweden two years ago and have worked in banking all my life. Previously, I was at SEB doing a variety of different roles from broker to private banking to head of sales.

I think Nordnet is really special because there is a distinctly human element to the business. The people engagement at this bank is at a totally different level. It is such a flat organization that if you have a good idea and can see it moving the organization forward, then we want to hear about it and find a way to make it happen together.

Creative thinking has really driven Nordnet growth over the years, so it is natural that this spirit extends to our support of the Queen Silvia Nursing Award as well. If great ideas and passion can improve a bank, then we can only imagine what kind of impact it could make in healthcare systems.

“If great ideas and passion can improve a bank, then we can only imagine what kind of impact it could make in healthcare systems.”
Martin Ringberg, Sweden Country Manager, Nordnet AB

(Image credit: Nordnet)

There are increasing demands on businesses to be more responsible, more ethical and more engaged. Consumers are expecting businesses to not only deliver a product or service but demonstrate good professional practice that is aligned with their own values and principles. By working on initiatives that drive foundational improvements and sustainability, this trickle-up impact makes us all better. Nurses are the beating hearts of care structures and their quick thinking and solutions orientation consistently make for better care for patients, the family members and care teams alike. It is an honor to support the Queen Silvia Nursing Award and its focus on innovative thinking within healthcare.

How has Nordnet evolved throughout the years?

The Nordic consumer is pretty sophisticated in terms of demanding a sustainable profile from businesses, so we have had to demonstrate this not only in our corporate initiatives but also how we operate and deliver information to our customers.

Since sustainability is so important, we have made it simple for our customers to exclude funds and investments that might not align with their personal ethos. If you invest with Nordnet, there are 14 filters in which you can exclude investments from tobacco to oil for example. With that in place you have a better opportunity to make decisions that you are comfortable taking. That is very important for us. There is no reason why we can’t make the decision-making process easier with the power of tech and information.

Simultaneously, we know that there are still some factors that might override those ethical filters, mainly that of performance. Investment trends have shown that there continues to be a heavy emphasis on performance over sustainability. Over time, we’re getting better and stronger at finding the balance between the two so that they are not exclusive of each other but in fact interdependent. This will be easier over time, as even at the policy level there are regulators pushing for change in business operations. Unsustainable businesses will be taxed more if they fail to meet certain operating criteria, and that definitely helps the business of sustainable banking.

We know that this is making a difference because in 2018, 31% of our customers’ investments were placed in sustainable funds at that time.

How has personal banking and finance been impacted by the current Covid-19 crisis?

First of all, it is important to emphasize that the countries where Nordnet operates have enjoyed a number of years of robust growth. There have been strong upwards trends in our economies, and as a result there has been an illusion that there were a lot of funds available. Lending money has been quite easy and as such our spending has really expanded over time.

What Covid-19 has taught us is that we remain vulnerable to so many external factors that we cannot control. This time, it is a virus that has impacted millions of lives all over the world. It is a virus that has hit businesses and day-to-day living, which in turn has directly impacted our personal financial situations. Many of us were not fully prepared for this situation. Suddenly, jobs are disappearing and people are left without any income. If you look at your savings or lack-thereof, you might realize that you have very little buffer for the next little while.

Covid-19 has reinforced a few lessons for us. Firstly, that we have in general been spending too much and saving too little. What is positive from this is that people are beginning to come to that realization themselves. In these dire circumstances, Nordnet has seen a bump of thousands of new customers starting their savings accounts with us. People are realizing that it isn’t too late to save even if things are a little tight and scary, and they are willing to make that change in the midst of this pandemic.

Secondly, Covid-19 is an extremely human crisis, particularly for those who are trying to keep us safe. We have to support the nurses who are risking their lives caring for our neighbors, friends or family members who get sick. Nurses are under pressure to bring their very best skills to work day in and day out, and for how long? We don’t know at this time. Nordnet has been supporting the Queen Silvia Nursing Award for a number of years now, and we believe that a strong foundation of nurses equates strong healthcare systems that all of our societies can benefit from.

Would you say that planning for any eventuality is an important take-away from the pandemic?

There are many lessons that we can learn from this crisis – most importantly that we all could learn how to plan ahead a little better in the future. This can be applied to so many different scenarios linked to the pandemic, but if we stick to financial and physical health, then yes – there is an element of planning, safeguarding and prevention that goes along with it.

In terms of finances, if you can, it helps to set aside a bit of money on a regular basis so that you have a buffer to get you through lean times. This kind of preparedness should be easy to set up, easy to understand and easy for you to access when the time comes that you need to use the buffer.

In terms of physical health, you would probably like to ensure that you are in as good of condition as possible. This could potentially help safeguard your health and help you recover quicker from the event of falling ill.

You can even apply this to healthcare systems, which is a societal responsibility for all of us to safeguard together. We have to make sure that the foundation of that system is in good operating order; that the system fundamentally moves and functions as smoothly as possible. Nurses are really the building blocks of healthcare systems so we need to collaborate across society to lift competence, skills and innovation among nurses to make things happen.

Nordnet is part of a lot of initiatives from driving better financial knowledge among young people in Finland to gender equality and diversity in fintech. How else has the company helped during the during the ongoing crisis?

In Sweden and Finland, we have organized initiatives that delivers meals from local restaurants to hospital personnel working with coronavirus patients. We did this in order to support both restaurant owners, who have seen their livelihood disappear overnight by the impact of the virus, as well as the healthcare professionals who are working long and demanding days.

Nordnet’s Chairman of the Board Tom Dinkelspiel has been in touch with a small business owner who provides training within cardiovascular rescue and works as a paramedic here in Stockholm. Nordnet worked together with this gentleman to map the need for protective equipment for a number of care homes and smaller home care organizations in the region. We estimated the amounts and purchased the visor plastic that will be distributed to the team members in the hopes that this will provide much needed safety in the day-to-day interactions and care between caregivers and clients.

These are just some things that we are doing  to make a difference in our communities. Even with the availability and openness of online platforms, we still need to get ourselves involved with what is happening around us. There are so many organizations that can make a difference and help the most vulnerable members of society. We have to try to work together to make a positive impact and come out of this experience better than we did going into it.