We are starting a new phase as a company, becoming the Nordics’ first, and one of the world’s first, publicly listed business law firms. The journey so far has been a fantastic experience. Fondia now has approximately 5,200 new owners – a warm welcome to everyone! Along the way, there have been lots of opportunities for discussions with investors, and it has been great to see so much interest in the field as well as in Fondia. We have also received an astonishing amount of enthusiastic and positive feedback in the traditional media and on social media, as well as many new customers.
Now is a good time to look at some of themes that emerged during our initial public offering (IPO) journey in the first part of the year. Key topics of discussion were Fondia’s business idea; how Fondia differs from others in the field; the aims of the listing; how to find and keep good experts; the role of technology in Fondia’s operations; and why and how to become international.
Fondia’s business idea combines the best of both worlds
Traditionally, companies have had two possible ways of handling their legal affairs: hire one or more lawyers to work internally or buy counselling one assignment at a time from external service providers such as law firms. In-house lawyers know the company and its business well, are part of its everyday life, and are able to anticipate future legal development needs. However, larger law firms are able to offer expertise in a number of different areas, which cannot be fully covered by an in-house lawyer.
Fondia’s service model and in particular its flagship service – Legal Department as a Service (LDaaS) – combines both of these elements. Our lawyers work with customers on a long-term basis and over half of them have an in-house counsel background; they understand how law is used for business. On the other hand, our team of over 80 lawyers has the wide-ranging expertise that companies may need at different stages. The service package is designed according to the needs of each customer, and can be scaled to suit both small and large companies. Corporate transactions and other independent projects can also be handled through the same contact.
We have, along the way, noticed that LDaaS fits an underserved market perfectly: it is ideal for companies for whom it is not cost-effective to hire their own lawyers or a larger legal department, or for whom commissioning individual assignments is difficult and costly. Purchasing individual legal services requires know-how – you need to be able to identify and anticipate needs, and know where to obtain the service most cost effectively.
Not just financial goals
As mentioned in our press release, the IPO will allow us to improve our business model and further develop our digital tools and our internationalisation. We also saw other benefits in the listing. Announcing our IPO intention at the beginning of the year started a very positive discussion in the media and brought some new customers. We believe that the quality label of a listed company will bring benefits in the future too, not least in new markets such as Sweden and Estonia. Listed shares also provide new tools for incentivising and ensuring commitment of current and future staff, which was also of great importance.
We are an expert service company and everything is based on the work of excellent people. Through this project, the share incentive became an even more relevant tool for creating an engaged and committed workforce. But even more important for finding and keeping good people is adhering to Fondia’s original idea: a combination of enjoyable and meaningful work and a good work-life balance. At the heart of all of this is an exceptionally great work community, where the most important recruitment criteria has always been getting the feeling that ‘I would like to sit next to this person at the Christmas party’ – ie, “no jerks” policy. For this reason, it is of course of utmost importance for us to continue cultivating our values and culture in the future.
Technology is a farmhand, not a master
Fondia is a service company, not a technology firm. We do not develop our own code, but we are building solutions by making the most of existing software tools. Technology allows both operational efficiency and customer service to be developed further. For several years now, our lawyers have utilised electronic customer spaces in teamwork and in managing customer-related documents. At the end of last year, we also launched the MyFondia platform, which will make these services visible to customers and has been specifically designed for continuous collaboration. It enables continuous monitoring of the customer service package, bringing together documents and messages related to different projects, and helping customers and lawyers to jointly plan future steps for optimising resources and prioritising projects. Here is the core idea behind our technology: make value-creating processes digital and accessible from start to finish, focusing not just on point-to-point solutions. We are continuously developing MyFondia based on user experience and believe that the technology-powered LDaaS has a lot of potential outside Finland as well.
Windows open to the world
The same underserved market in which we have built our growth in Finland can also be found in nearly every other developed country. LDaaS is a very universal concept. We established offices in Stockholm and Tallinn in 2012. As with many other Finnish companies, we have had to learn some things through trial and error in our internationalisation stage. The breakthrough of our new service model required persistence, but we are convinced that it has great market potential and is worth tapping into – the Swedish legal services market alone is more than twice the size of the Finnish market.
Finally, I have to say that our IPO has been a very positive experience in terms of project management as well. Christmas did not have to be cancelled and weekends were also mostly spent outside of work. The project went according to plan without any big surprises – in true Fondia way! This was largely thanks to our fantastic team, which I truly enjoyed being a member of. Our dream team consisted of our own lawyers Joni Paananen, Katja Häkkinen, Ulrika Nirkkonen and Antti Iso-Markku; CFO Kirsi Untala; Commercial Director Marianne Saarikko Janson; digital-visual wizard Lotta Vänskä; Timo Nuutilainen, Marjut Rokkonen and Niklas Virtanen of Alexander Corporate Finance; as well as our IR consultant Antti Nummi. Super people!