P27 News sits down with Antti Karhu from Finland’s OP Financial Group, to hear more about the bank’s jump to real-time payments, the benefits of P27 for customers, and the importance of the Finnish perspective.
A special combination of language, history, and geography have given Finland a unique position relative to the rest of its Nordic neighbours.
Finland also stands out as the only Nordic country with the euro, the country’s banking sector has something of a head start when it comes to transitioning toward real-time payments.
“The Finnish market is really moving quite fast toward euro real-time payments,” says Antti Karhu, Tribe Lead for Payment Services at OP Financial Group, Finland’s largest financial services group.
OP has also been a leader in the shift to real-time, both in Finland and within Europe.
“We see real-time payments as the new normal,” he says.
As a result, Karhu and his colleagues at OP are enthusiastic about the prospect of P27’s planned launch of a new platform that would enable real-time, cross-border payments across the Nordics – a region which accounts for a significant share of Finland’s international trade.
“P27 aims to potentially enable the developments we already see underway in Finland to take place across the entire region,” he says.
OP customers that have experienced making real-time euro payments are now looking for solutions likely to be made possible by P27 that will help make payments in other Nordic currencies faster and smoother.
“The Nordic economies are well-integrated in most areas, but we’re a bit behind when it comes to payments,” he says.
The current lack of payment integration in the Nordics means that its more complicated for customers in Finland to make payments to neighbouring Sweden than to Germany.
“Payments to Germany are very easy and can be settled in real time, whereas payments to Sweden are quite cumbersome cross-border payments,” Karhu explains.
But the expected arrival of P27 aims to address this problem by providing an infrastructure that covers the current complexity of cross-border payments in the Nordics.
“With P27, it is expected to be as easy for Finns to make payments to Sweden and Denmark as it is to Germany and other countries with the euro,” he says.
Karhu also believes that the expected arrival of a new payments infrastructure like P27 opens up a host of new opportunities for OP and other banks.
“We feel there is huge potential to help corporate clients rethink and reorganize their financial processes so they can also develop new procedures that help them take advantage of real-time,” he says.
“It will help us bring our services to a whole new level.”
In addition to his responsibilities at OP, Karhu also sits on the P27 Advisory Board where he relishes in bringing a Finnish perspective to the table.
“It’s actually been acknowledged that we are the ‘Finnish guys’,” he says with a laugh.
However, there’s no joking around when it comes to making sure the peculiarities of the Finnish market are taken into account in discussions about potential products or services that would be enabled by P27.
The role is a natural one for OP, Karhu adds, considering its leading position in Finland and its strong contacts with the rest of the industry.
“It fits our corporate values as we are a cooperative and our vision is to act in a way that brings benefits to the whole of Finland,” he explains.
Karhu adds that OP is also “committed to P27’s vision”, a commitment he believes is shared by Finland’s entire banking sector.
“From the Finnish perspective, this is a very good initiative,” he says.
“It aims to facilitate the flow of payments with our Scandinavian friends and help the Nordic countries integrate further, which is expected to bring clear benefits to clients in Finland, as well as the Finnish economy as a whole.”
NOTE: The official launch of P27 services is subject to regulatory approvals and therefore P27 will not conduct any business activities until required regulatory approvals are obtained.