Knowledge building and personal growth – Renja Raatikainen's educational journey from customer service to finance management
Finance Manager Renja Raatikainen, 28, discovered her strengths at the beginning of her career when she worked in customer service duties. Her ability to solve problems and eagerness to develop shared practices rapidly took her to OP's Centralised Service Production (Kepa) where she works in internal development.
In 2010, Raatikainen was still studying in Tiimiakatemia for the degree of Bachelor of Business Administration, hoping to find a summer job more or less in her field. Aside her studies, she had always been working and thus gaining experience of some customer service sector duties.
She decided to apply for a job at OP since the brand had a strong presence in a Tervo village and the company with a reputation of being customer-focused, humane and promoting community spirit seemed like a good place to work. Matching values seemed important to Raatikainen already during her summer job.
"I was overflowing with happiness when I landed a job at OP and would've never guessed that I'd still be with the company after eight years", says Raatikainen.
Problem-solving attitude confirmed in telephone customer service
Raatikainen started her summer job at OP as a customer advisor in the telephone customer service team, contacting customers and making maintenance calls. The work taught her a lot about customer contacts and, over the summer months, she got an overall picture of the various needs that a bank's customers may have.
Work at OP continued the following year too. She spent another summer making outbound calls in the telephone customer service until she was hired permanently by OP. Studies had to slightly give way as Raatikainen was enthusiastic about work. However, when she later needed more time to complete her studies, her work shifts were flexibly adjusted – enabling her to take exams also during the day when necessary.
After becoming a permanent employee in 2013, she also started handling inbound calls. The couple of years in customer service made her realise her strengths: strong problem-solving capabilities and a solution-focused approach to listening to the customer.
"I also learned that nobody can remember or know everything. A problem-solving attitude and good information skills became my strengths, enabling me to best help our customers rapidly," says Raatikainen.
Further training opened up new career prospects
After some years in the telephone customer service, Raatikainen felt strongly that it was time for new challenges. She decided to take the course for the General Securities qualification (APV1), with OP paying for both the actual course and a preparatory one.
The course enabled Raatikainen to work as an investment advisor and, for a short period thereafter, she provided investment advice to customers through the telephone customer service. At the same time, she also conducted orientation for new employees, thus gaining experience on training others. During reorganisation of teams, however, she decided to leave investment advice behind and stepped on the path of financing – for good.
Rapid rise to being a coach and developer of practices
In financing, Raatikainen started as a Financial Advisor, meaning that she helped customers with their loan applications. She processed applications and checked the details provided by customers, which made getting a loan offer easier and faster for the customer. In addition to her new experience in financing, Raatikainen had also gained a broad-based understanding of the customer interface in many units.
Raatikainen was then promoted as coach in the financing team. While coaching, she also developed the team's work and improved practices in order to make them more efficient and customer-focused. Together with her supervisor, she soon realised that as a forward-looking and solution-oriented person, it was development that was close to Raatikainen's heart. The career shift towards a Finance Manager developing OP's internal practices had, in fact, begun little by little.
Raatikainen points out that she has always had excellent, mentor-like supervisors. She has gone a long way together with Team Leader Milla Ruokolainen who was her long-time supervisor, starting in 2010. Raatikainen was always trusted and given opportunities to show her abilities, for which she is happy and grateful.
After taking up her duties as Finance Manager, her supervisor changed but she continues to be highly satisfied. "OP has a good management culture: you are given opportunities and challenges if you're ready to take them on", describes Raatikainen. "During my time here, I have gained substantial expertise and I'm glad to have been able to show it too. In addition, I have always been keen on taking bold new career steps."
Interest in opportunities of robotisation and digitisation
Becoming a Finance Manager in 2018 was a true career leap for Raatikainen. "Within a short time, I have been given a lot of new responsibilities and been able to go a long way. In my new job, I can not only apply everything I learned in the customer interface but also put my enthusiasm for development into use", she says.
She characterises her eight years with OP as a personal educational journey during which she has gained expertise and has undergone personal growth. "It has been a pleasure to see OP's agility in the ever-changing world and a delight to be able to work with highly skilled people", says Raatikainen.
"I like it when things change and the fact that every day is different. We honestly can't say which challenges we will be facing after six months", she adds. Raatikainen thinks that the hot topics in the industry, robotisation and digitisation, hold great potential. She believes that they will create new type of jobs and that traditional job titles may transform into something completely new.
"The best is that even when facing big changes, I'm surrounded by highly competent and professional colleagues", she says. "When I'm developing our practices and trying to make them even better and more customer-driven, the greatest moment is when the new practice I have sketched on paper is actually implemented in my colleagues' daily processes and benefitting, in the end, our customers."
If customer focus is close to your heart and you would like to be involved in driving change, Centralised Service Production might be just the place for you.