Introducing the Honorary Consuls of Finland: Veikko Valli, Oregon

Introducing the Honorary Consuls of Finland: Veikko Valli, Oregon

In this series, we highlight the important work done by our honorary consuls around the 13 states in the jurisdictional area of Consulate General of Finland in Los Angeles. Veikko Valli, the newly appointed honorary consul in Oregon, has a solid background in the finance industry having previously worked at investment banks and institutional investors in Helsinki, San Francisco and London. In this interview, he shares his US market entry tips and sheds light on Finland’s long history in the state of Oregon.

Honorary Consul of Finland in Oregon Veikko Valli
Veikko Valli, Honorary Consul of Finland in Oregon. Image: Kelsey Landis

Education: Master of Science in Economics, Swedish School of Economics and Business Administration (Hanken), Helsinki, Finland. Exchange semester at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY.

Profession: Co-founder and Chief Investment Officer of Snowstorm Capital, an Oregon-based company developing equity investment strategies that leverage the strengths of both quantitative and fundamental analysis by utilizing 'big data' to forecast quarterly earnings surprises.

Favorite thing about Finland: I am very happy that I can be genuinely proud of my home country! The things I love and miss most about in Finland are long summer nights, sauna and Finnish candy with just the right level of sweetness.

You have a long career in the finance industry from cities like Helsinki, San Francisco and London. What brought you and your family to Portland, Oregon?

After living in Helsinki and San Francisco, I lived in London for ten years, where I met my wife. When our second child was born, everyday life in a big city started to get a bit complicated. We began considering where would be the ideal location to try to combine both our professional and family lives. Finland and the West Coast (i.e. Seattle, Portland, or Los Angeles) were both on the table. It took us time to decide, but we ended up in Portland, where my wife’s family is from.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs has recently appointed you as Honorary Consul of Finland in Oregon. How will you be able to support Finnish people and companies in your new role?

In many other countries, having an embassy in the nation’s capital is usually sufficient when serving people and businesses. However, traveling can get quite complicated in a large country like the US. As honorary consul, I look forward to providing local services in Oregon as part of the MFA’s extended network. I have always been active in the local Finnish community, and I am genuinely interested in helping people with practicalities relating to my home country. In my new role as honorary consul, I earnestly wish to be of service and hope that anyone needing assistance in issues related to Finland will not hesitate to get in touch.

I am also looking forward to promoting economic and business relations between Finland and Oregon. Trade promotion between Oregon and Finland is an integral part of my role as honorary consul and as a member of Team Finland. As honorary consul, I can advise companies, for instance, in obtaining information about local business culture and in finding business partners.

An interesting fact: I interned at the Consulate General in Los Angeles 20 years ago. In addition to being an enjoyable and rewarding experience, it also gave me perspective on the issues that the consulate staff and Team Finland network encounter on a daily basis.

The State of Oregon is home to a large Finnish community of Finnish citizens, Finnish companies and many Finnish Americans with ancestral roots. What kind of reputation does Finland have in your state?

Finns immigrated to Oregon before the last century leaving a lasting footprint in Oregon. This is particularly the case in certain cities such as the scenic and historical city of Astoria, where almost every fourth resident is of Finnish heritage.

Finland and Finns have a very positive reputation in our state. Two things are often mentioned when speaking with locals. Firstly, Finland is known for its world-class education and teachers seem to be very well informed about our education system and why it performs so well. Secondly, Finland’s reputation as the happiest country in the word (for the fourth year in a row), which frequently sparks lively conversation.

One can analyze the happiest country ranking in many ways. I believe Finnish happiness builds on our country’s key strengths: safety, reliable society, equal opportunities, high-quality education, good healthcare, and pure nature. I think that, for Finns, the happiness metric is more about feeling very content with our everyday lives rather than feeling exceptionally happy all day. Nevertheless, I believe the Finnish “happiness” underlines our country’s biggest success stories.

Where do you see the biggest opportunities for Finnish businesses in Oregon?

Oregon and Finland have many similarities. They are similar in size and population and share similar cultural values. This is why Oregon is a very interesting target market for Finnish businesses.

Both Finland and Oregon have thriving start-up economies, a growing presence in clean-tech, a large forestry industry and cutting-edge know-how in the electronics sector. Where Oregon’s focus in electronics is in computers and semiconductors, Finland is strong in telecommunications. I would say the biggest opportunities for cross-cultural business collaboration lie in these sectors.

The Covid-19 pandemic has created major challenges for businesses globally. In your opinion, has the pandemic also created new business opportunities for Finland?

Yes, definitely. I analyze the economy and its effects to businesses for a living. In many countries, the pandemic has been a huge shock to the economy; travel and service industries have suffered particularly badly. However, Finland’s economy is largely based on production, and demand for tangible assets grew during the pandemic. Therefore, Finland’s economy was actually able to benefit from the unfortunate situation.

Secondly, Finland has been able to handle the Covid-19 pandemic very well on a societal level. This has attracted many high-level professionals to Finland. In my direct experience, many of my Finnish friends and contacts back in London have either already moved to Finland or are seriously considering doing so. There have also been initiatives designed to attract Silicon Valley professionals to live in the “happiest” country in the world.

I am very happy to see that Finland is taking steps to make immigration more fluid for professionals. The country is an ideal place to live, especially if you have children; with free, high-quality education and functioning and affordable healthcare as the main attraction. This basic safety net creates a feeling of fundamental security that is often hard to value, if you have never experienced life without it before.

What is your best advice for Finnish companies considering market entry to the US?

The United States is a vast country, so it is important to remember that every state is unique. With that in mind, it is smart to do your research carefully and have a clear focus. Make sure your target market is a cultural match for your company before making any major entry moves.

Secondly, get a good lawyer from the beginning. Lawyers are well-integrated in the corporate world and can help navigate the local business landscape and do the necessary paperwork. It may be beneficial to hire a lawyer in your target state, rather than buy services from a bigger or more well-known law firm outside your market.

Finally, the U.S. is a huge market, so make sure to build your expansion plan systematically. Rather than going all-in for the whole country, start by picking a smaller target market that is the best match for your company. The results can be extremely rewarding if you have the right focus.

One more thing is good to remember when doing business in Oregon. It is usually a good idea to leave your tie at home! While local professionals take business seriously, the general atmosphere here is very down-to-earth, much like in Finland.

Honorary consulates

The honorary consulates augment Finland’s network of diplomatic missions, made up of embassies, consulate generals, consulates and other liaison offices. An honorary consulate is headed by an honorary consul. Honorary consuls are private individuals who take care of their tasks on a part-time basis without remuneration. Read more about all of our honorary consulates here: