Experiences And Insights From Sami Miettinen by Valerie Porfano


This article is part of a series focused on bringing you insights from experienced and successful professionals about what they’ve learned and how they are adapting to the current business climate.

Sami Miettinen
Executive Director
Royal Bank of Scotland

V Porfano: What characteristics, skills or abilities have you developed that help make you successful as a leader?

SM: I’m intensely interested in the best practices across many disciplines, and have a strong habit of constantly sharing and learning them globally. That gives me a slight informational edge which is useful to my colleagues, when I am engaging in this habit locally. I am curious and fairly fearless socially. Weak leaders hoard information, and destroy this edge for themselves and their colleagues.

V Porfano: Given that many corporations are now recovering from the economic meltdown, what leadership challenges are taking center stage today?

SM: Shrinking markets cause uneven pain. Some sub-segments of financial markets are hit very hard right now, sometimes deservedly, sometimes unfairly. Managing the excess capacity by allowing personnel to refocus, often temporarily as the markets do come back eventually, in markets which continue to be strong is one of the key task for leaders everywhere. This is especially challenging if emerging markets generate the most growth and the personnel is located in the old world. The leaders need to train and motivate refocusing and sometimes relocation, all at the same time. This includes the leaders themselves.

V Porfano: What experiences in your career best positioned or prepared you for a global leadership role?

SM: I have intentionally spent most of my career outside my home country, Finland, ever since I did my MBA at Tulane University in New Orleans. I have coupled this with working with clients and colleagues who have mostly not been Finns. Now that I do work in Helsinki with Finnish clients, I maintain the global relationships and understanding which is vital in delivering and sourcing the global service for their complex needs. Another critical experience was writing a negotiation handbook in 2008. It allowed me to interview international negotiation experts such as Dr. Robert Cialdini, and the Nobel Peace Prize winner Martti Ahtisaari. These and other intellectual giants I met have inspired me in my career. The negotiation skills I achieved through the experience were a bonus.

V Porfano: Did you take risks in your career? If so, what type of risks and how did they prepare you for the unexpected?

SM: I have changed countries from Finland to the USA to the UK and back to Finland.  Uprooting oneself is risky both professionally and socially, especially since I have four daughters. I have prepared for the changes by developing a local network well in advance in the target countries. An efficient implementation of this was to have lunches and other informal introductions with future clients and key contacts before I was officially assigned to them. I have also maintained my old contacts after the moves, so reversal of my tracks would be fairly straightforward as well. Constantly build global bridges; never burn them.

Articles in the Experiences And Insights Series

  1. Experiences And Insights From Sami Miettinen
  2. Experiences And Insights from Cynthia Young
  3. Experiences And Insights from Suri Surinder
  4. Experiences And Insights From Cedric Thurman
  5. Experiences And Insights From Clara Wong
  6. Experiences And Insights From Mariano Legaz

Update 2/10/2013: Added photo of Sami Miettinen