Active ownership creates growth

Tesi is a responsible investor. We try to select good investment opportunities with the potential to drive growth. We set the bar high – our goal is for Finnish companies to grow and internationalise, and we also want to make a positive social impact.

When we screen companies and funds as portfolio prospects, we look at responsibility issues and social aspects, not just profit targets. A company or fund does not need to be a forerunner in social responsibility at the time we invest, but it must be willing to make progress and be developed in the right direction.

CONSTANT DIALOGUE. We co-own 48 companies and 87 funds. The companies are in different stages of development and operate in different sectors. The ownership structures of portfolio companies vary, but Tesi is almost always a minority owner, and thus does not wield the most authority in a company.

As an investor in our portfolio companies, also, we act more like an owner than a conventional investor. The difference between an owner and an investor becomes apparent when the business faces challenges. If profit targets are not met, an investor might withdraw his capital and invest it somewhere else. An owner, on the other hand, rolls up his sleeves and gets down to work to set the company on a new path for growth. The difference is the time span and the mindset.

Ownership involves supporting a company through the necessary changes.

JUSSI HATTULA / DIRECTOR, GROWTH &
INDUSTRIAL INVESTMENTS, TESI

It is typical for a company to experiment with different ways of working and to make other fundamental changes on its path to growth. When the chips are down, owners must believe in the company, and be able to see a new direction for it. Tesi’s ownership involves supporting a company through the necessary changes.

ALWAYS THERE WHEN NEEDED. Our value to a company, as well as to a fund, is built up through constant dialogue. We are often involved in the company’s boardwork and a fund’s investment committee, actively asking questions, commenting, challenging and supporting. Our influence is indirect, and we always act hand-in-hand with co-investors and other owners.

Our role as an owner varies a lot, depending on the company’s needs. We monitor all our portfolio companies so that we are aware of their situation and whether they have the necessary resources, organisations and tools. If not, we are ready to jump in and get them.

Usually a Tesi nominee sits on the company’s board of directors, or a Tesi staff member acts as an observer, but other arrangements are also possible. We try to actively exert influence on the investment committees of our portfolio funds.

CONTACTS AND EXPERTISE. For a company seeking growth, Tesi’s active ownership provides welcome contacts, expertise and tools. As an organisation, we have long experience in ownership strategy, financing arrangements and management recruiting. When problems arise, we act as a facilitator, moving the conversation onwards at board meetings and ensuring a solution acceptable to all owners is found. Any actions to be taken are always decided on together.

Juha Lehtola

Tesi’s ownership provides contacts, expertise and tools.

JUHA LEHTOLA / DIRECTOR, VENTURE 
CAPITAL, TESI

If the other owners and the board so request, in exceptional circumstances we may take part in operative activities – for instance, presenting prospective acquisitions or in strategic projects.

JOINT OWNER STRATEGY. Before any investment decision, we discuss the ownership strategy with other investors and owners. It does not have to be the same amongst the owners, but it must be properly distributed. We ensure that investors and other owners agree about the important points and plan to develop the company along the same lines.

Tesi is a long-term investor, but a temporary one. We agree in advance with the other owners upon the timing and manner of our exit. Circumstances might change along the way, however, leaving a mismatch in owners’ time spans. In that case, we always try to find the best solution together.

FACILITATOR OF FOREIGN INVESTMENT. Tesi serves Finland’s corporate sector by channelling also international financing to companies. A country the size of Finland can seldom offer its companies sufficiently diversified investor and owner candidates. In recent years we have to an increasing extent been a partner in international investment syndicates as a Finnish investor.

EXAMPLES OF SUCCESS. Good examples of the international growth of our portfolio companies are LeadDesk, in which Tesi has invested since 2015, and BMH Technology, of which Tesi has been an owner for three years.

LeadDesk, offering Contact Center software as a cloud service, was on a fast track to growth in 2015 and Finland’s market leader in its sector. The largest investor was the British company Dawn Capital, when LeadDesk raised MEUR 5 in its first round of financing. LeadDesk used that financing to expand its operations in the Nordic countries and in continental Europe. The company has generated strong and steady growth in net sales and currently plans to list on the Nasdaq First North exchange to obtain capital for its next surge of growth. Tesi’s investment strategy is often long-term and its ownership of companies can continue through many stages of development. It is natural for us to be the anchor investor for LeadDesk’s IPO.

BMH Technology, for its part, specialises in developing ecofriendly energy solutions. The company’s refining plants separate the valuable ingredients of municipal waste for reuse, and the refined products can be burned in more environmentally-friendly manner to produce heat and electricity. The company has delivered waste treatment plants to over 50 countries and employs some 150 people. Hollming, a Rauma-based, family-owned company, is BMH’s largest owner. Together with Ilmarinen, we co-invested in the company in 2016. During 2018 we actively strengthened the company’s board of directors and executive management with new key personnel.