6. Financial Sector
Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
Finland is open to foreign portfolio investment and has an effective regulatory system. According to the Bank of Finland, in end December 2020 Finland had USD 126 billion worth of official reserve assets, mainly in foreign currency reserves and securities. Credit is allocated on market terms and is made available to foreign investors in a non-discriminatory manner, and private sector companies have access to a variety of credit instruments. Legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are transparent and consistent with international norms.
The Helsinki Stock Exchange is part of OMX, referred to as NASDAQ OMX Helsinki (OMXH). NASDAQ OMX Helsinki is part of the NASDAQ OMX Nordic division, together with the Stockholm, Copenhagen, Iceland, and Baltic (Tallinn, Riga, and Vilnius) stock exchanges.
Finland accepts the obligations under IMF Article VIII, Sections 2(a), 3, and 4 of the Fund’s Articles of Agreement. It maintains an exchange system free of restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions, except for those measures imposed for security reasons in accordance with Regulations of the Council of the European Union.
Money and Banking System
Banking is open to foreign competition. At the end of 2019, there were 246 credit institutions operating in Finland and total assets of the domestic banking groups and branches of foreign banks operating in Finland amounted to USD 859 billion. For more information see:
Foreign nationals can in principle open bank accounts in the same manner as Finns. However, banks must identify customers and this may prove more difficult for foreign nationals. In addition to personal and address data, the bank often needs to know the person’s identifier code (i.e. social security number), and a number of banks require a work permit, a certificate of studies, or a letter of recommendation from a trustworthy bank, and details regarding the nature of transactions to be made with the account. All authorized deposit-taking banks are members of the Deposit Guarantee Fund, which guarantees customers’ deposits to a maximum of EUR 100,000 per depositor.
In 2019 the capital adequacy ratio of the Finnish banking sector was 21.3 percent, above the EU average. Measured in Core Tier 1 Capital, the ratio was 17.6 percent. The capital adequacy of the Finnish banking sector remains well above the EU average. The Finnish banking sector’s return on equity (ROE) was 4.9 percent, slightly below the average ROE for all EU banking sectors (5.4 percent). Standard & Poor’s in March 2021 reaffirmed Finland’s AA+ long term credit rating and stable outlook while Fitch kept Finland’s credit rating at AA+ in November 2020. Moody’s kept Finland’s credit rating unchanged at Aa1 in July 2020. The Finnish banking sector is dominated by four major banks (OP Pohjola, Nordea, Municipality Finance and Danske Bank), which together hold 81 percent of the market.
Nordea, which relocated its headquarters from Sweden to Finland in 2018, has the leading market position among household and corporate customers in Finland. The relocation increased the Finnish banking sector to over three times the size of Finland’s GDP. Nordea is Europe’s 21st largest bank (2020) in terms of balance sheet. Consequently, Finland’s banking sector is one of Europe’s largest relative to the size of the national economy.
Nordea became a member of the “we.trade” consortium in November 2017, a blockchain based trade platform for customers of the European wide consortium of banks signed up for the platform. “we.trade” makes domestic and cross-border commerce easier for European companies by harnessing the power of distributed ledger and block chain technology. Commercially launched in January 2019, the we.trade’s technology is currently licensed by 16 banks across 15 countries.
The Act on Virtual Currency providers (572/2019) entered into force in May, 2019. The Financial Supervisory Authority (FIN-FSA) acts as the registration authority for virtual currency providers. The primary objective of the Act is to introduce virtual currency providers into the scope of anti-money laundering regulation. Only virtual currency providers meeting statutory requirements are able to carry on their activities in Finland.
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
Finland adopted the Euro as its official currency in January 1999. Finland maintains an exchange system free of restrictions on the making of payments and transfers for international transactions, except for those measures imposed for security reasons.
There are no legal obstacles to direct foreign investment in Finnish securities or exchange controls regarding payments into and out of Finland. Banks must identify their customers and report suspected cases of money laundering or the financing of terrorism. Banks and credit institutions must also report single payments or transfers of EUR 15,000 or more. If the origin of funds is suspect, banks must immediately inform the National Bureau of Investigation. There are no restrictions on current transfers or repatriation of profits. Residents and non-residents may hold foreign exchange accounts. There is no limit on dividend distributions as long as they correspond to a company’s official earnings records.
Travelers carrying more than EUR 10,000 must make a declaration upon entering or leaving the EU. As a Financial Action Task Force (FATF) member, Finland observes most of FATF’s 40 recommendations. In its Mutual Evaluation Report of Finland, released April 16, 2019, FATF concluded that Finland’s measures to combat money laundering and terrorist financing are delivering good results, but that Finland needs to improve supervision to ensure that financial and non-financial institutions are properly implementing effective AML/CFT controls. To improve supervision, a money laundering supervision register of the State Administrative Agency (AVI) and a register of beneficial owners controlled by the Finnish Patent and Registration Office were set up on July 1, 2019. In addition, the responsibility of preparing amendments to the Act on Preventing Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing was transferred to the Ministry of Finance (in charge of national FATF coordination) on January 1, 2019. FATF’s Mutual Evaluation Report of Finland, April 2019: .
In Finland, the Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive was implemented, among other things, by means of the Act on the Bank and Payment Accounts Control System, which entered into force on May 1, 2019. In accordance with the Act, Customs has established a bank and payment accounts register and issue a regulation on a data retrieval system, which entered into force on September 1, 2020. The Ministry of the Interior has set up a legislative project to implement the EU directive on access to financial information at national level. The directive contains rules to facilitate the use of information held in bank account registries by the authorities for the purpose of preventing, detecting, investigating or prosecuting certain offences.
Sovereign Wealth Funds
Solidium is a holding company that is fully owned by the State of Finland. Although it is not explicitly a sovereign wealth fund, Solidium’s mission is to manage and increase the long-term value of the listed shareholdings of the Finnish State. Solidium is a minority owner in 12 listed companies; the market value of Solidium’s equity holdings is approximately USD 10.46 billion (March 2021),