Great Finnish success story
For over 110 years, OP Financial Group has been building Finnish society and enhanced our national prosperity. It has firm roots in Finland.
OP Financial Group’s history is considered to date back to 1902 when Osuuskassojen Keskuslainarahasto (Central Lending Fund of the Cooperative Credit Societies Limited Company) was founded. Pohjola, which the Group acquired in 2005, started its operations under the corporate name of Palovakuutus-Osakeyhtiö Pohjola (fire insurance company) in 1891.
The Central Lending Fund is founded on 14 May 1902.
The first local cooperative credit societies are founded in autumn 1902 but lending does not actually begin until 1903 after the Central Lending Fund has received a large loan promised by the State.
Palovakuutus-Osakeyhtiö Pohjola joins the Helsinki Stock Exchange being established.
OKO Bank receives the right to grant loans not only to the credit societies but also to other cooperative enterprises and later on to municipalities and parishes. The first domestic bond is issued in 1916.
The operations of credit societies become firmly established in the 1920s. In 1920, the credit societies obtain a licence to receive deposits from not only their members but also from the public, and their operations begin to resemble banking business to a great extent.
The Central Association of Cooperative Funds is founded with the aim of acting in rural areas as the ideological central organisation for cooperative funds and local associations of cooperative funds and a link between them, as well as promoting cooperative credit societies.
During the 1930s, the cooperative credit society organisation increases its market share of public deposits to around ten per cent and the credit societies become the most important group of credit institutions in rural areas.
OKO Bank floats its first international bond issue in the French capital market.
The cooperative credit society organisation’s mutual liability becomes reality in 1933 when the Guarantee Fund for Cooperative Funds begins its operations.
War years and post-war years 1939–55
OKO Bank starts mortgage bank operations in 1941.
The post-war period is a real success story when it comes to the cooperative credit society organisation. During post-war reconstruction, its market share first increases in lending and in a few years’ time in deposits by up to ten percentage points. As a result of this most abrupt market share change in the Finnish banking history, cooperative banks are on a par with the old-established bank groups.
Rural-urban migration intensifies in the early 1950s. This also means that the focus of the cooperative credit societies’ operations shifts towards urban areas. This presents a challenge to cooperative credit societies to arrange home loans and be involved in building homes for new urbanites.
During 1955–69, the market share of cooperative credit societies develop favourably, which is proof of the credit societies’ flexible adjustment to new circumstances.
As a result of larger deposits with the cooperative credit societies, funds deposited with OKO Bank as the central bank increase. As a result, OKO Bank is much better-positioned to provide finance for businesses too. OKO Bank acquires funding mainly from Germany by issuing bonds that help increase lending to small and mid-size companies.
In honour of the 50th anniversary, the cooperative credit societies adopt the Sower logo symbolising growth, saving and sense of security.
In the 1960s, OKO Bank takes its first step in the field of automated data processing. It signs the first purchase agreement for computers in 1966.
The granite bear statute becomes established as Pohjola’s symbol and appears in Pohjola's headed notepapers in 1968.
In 1970, new banking laws come into force, which means that local banks are almost in an equal position with commercial banks. The cooperative credit societies become cooperative banks. In 1974, cooperative banks accepted the approach adopted in practice, according to which they act as general banks serving all population groups equally.
The market share of cooperative banks develops favourably from the early 1970s. In the mid-1980s, the market share of FIM deposits reaches some 25 per cent.
Good reputation of cooperative banks among their customers is of great help in their success. Customers regard cooperative banks as reliable banks focusing on personal banking.
A stylised percent sign becomes the new logo. It also depicts a combination of the acronyms op and ab.
OKO Bank branches out into finance company business. OKO Bank joins the SWIFT payment transfer system established by the banks' international cooperation network.
OKO Bank and five Western European cooperative banks establish Unico Banking Group for cooperative central banks in London.
A bear paw becomes Pohjola companies’ new logo in 1979.
The banking system in place since the World War II is deregulated in the 1980s. Bank funding is decontrolled and the nature of the banking business changes. The former “regulators” become “money sellers” within a short period of time. However, the cooperative banks and their central bank OKO Bank move ahead and make steady progress.
The market share begins to increase markedly as the problems of a rival group of local banks, savings banks, come to a head.
OP Fund Management Company Ltd is established and introduces its first mutual funds, OP-Tuotto and OP-Kasvu, into the market.
OKO Bank goes public. OKO receives around 60,000 new shareholders when it organises an initial public offering and lists its shares on the Helsinki Stock Exchange.
In the early 1990s, banking business in Finland experienced an unequalled crisis. Despite difficulties, OP Bank Group survives the crisis years under its own steam.
In 1991, OP Bank Group becomes the largest bank group. The sale in 1993 of Suomen Säästöpankki SSP Oy’s sound business to competing bank groups strengthens OP Bank Group’s position further. The market share of deposits rose to almost 34 per cent at its best.
The role of OP Bank Group as a nationwide player can be seen in the lending structure. In 1996, private customers account for almost 52 per cent of loans raised, corporate customers for 36 per cent and agricultural and forestry customers for 11 per cent.
During the decade, OP Bank Group also becomes a forerunner of electronic services even on a global level.
A non-life insurance company is established in Estonia, which later becomes a Pohjola subsidiary, Seesam International.
OP eServices is launched. It used to be the first online bank in Europe and the second in the world.
The logo is modernised with its round shape conveying a message of service and people-first approach.
A decision is made to convert the Central Association of Cooperative Banks into a cooperative acting as the central institution of the amalgamation of cooperative banks. The Group’s cooperation model undergoes a thorough reform.
Finland experiences strong growth and increased prosperity. During the decade, OP Financial Group further strengthens its role as a creator of wealth in Finland.
OP Financial Group becomes a financial services group. It achieves the market leading position in almost all of its business areas. Bankassurance proves to be a concept appreciated by customers. At the end of the decade, OP Financial Group has more than 1.1 customers using both banking and insurance services. The Group also receives international recognition when The Banker magazine awards OP Financial Group the title of the Bank of the Year in Finland for several years.
The introduction of a modernised sharp-edged and strong-coloured logo that conveys a message of expertise and a high level of activity.
OP Bank Group becomes Pohjola Group plc's largest shareholder. With the historical significance for the Group, the transaction has been the largest ever done by OP Bank Group which branches out into non-life insurance. As a result, OP Bank Group becomes the leading financial services group in Finland.
September sees the introduction of the financial services group’s new name:
In March, OKO Bank plc is renamed Pohjola Bank plc.
OP-Pohjola Group’s logo ranks among the most recognisable ones in Finland:
a survey reveals that 95% of the respondents recognise it spontaneously.
OP-Pohjola Group enters 2011 with a new central organisation. Accordingly, OP-Pohjola Group Central Cooperative is split into two entities of which OP-Pohjola Group Central Cooperative as the central institution is in charge of steering and supervising the Group’s business while
OP-Services Ltd, a service company separate from the central cooperative, is tasked with the development and production of shared services for OP-Pohjola Group and its member cooperative banks.
The United Nations General Assembly declares 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives.
OP-Pohjola Group's central institution, OP-Pohjola Group Central Cooperative, acquires Skandia Life Finland's business with the acquisition involving the transfer of the insurance portfolio to Aurum Investment Insurance Ltd.
The Pohjola Health hospital for outpatient surgery specialising in the examination and treatment of orthopaedic illnesses and injuries is founded.
The election of the Representative Assemblies is hold simultaneously in all member cooperative banks for the first time. The number of owner-members in 62 member cooperative banks as electors totalled over 900,000, i.e. around two-thirds of all OP-Pohjola Group cooperative banks’ owner-members.
OP-Pohjola makes a tender offer for all Pohjola Bank plc shares. It also announces its plans to delist Pohjola shares and to become again a financial services group fully owned by customers in terms of ownership structure.
Currently, it provides its customers with the most extensive and diversified range of banking, investment and insurance services. OP-Pohjola constantly develops new, innovative financial services for the changing needs of consumers.
The Group is made up of some 180 member cooperative banks and OP-Pohjola Group Central Cooperative which they own, including its subsidiaries and closely related companies.