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This Norwegian giant kick-starts the new Telia – rebranding is just the beginning

5 min
Stein-Erik Vellan, Telia Finland CEO Stein-Erik Vellan, Telia Finland CEO

Telia Finland's CEO Stein-Erik Vellan intends to revamp the operator business in Finland. Sonera’s transformation into Telia has been a good start.

Stein-Erik Vellan was a happy man on the evening of March 23. Sonera and Tele Finland’s transition into Telia had gone without a hitch. This was no trivial issue: for example, around 200 systems, a million logos and 80 stores had to updated in a single night.

"Everything went even better than expected,” says the over two-metre tall, ex-national basketball player in a gym in Vallila, three weeks after the change.

“Of course, the work does not end here.”

New brand a step towards internationalisation

Telia is one of the largest telecommunications operators in Northern Europe. In 2016, the company’s net sales amounted to EUR 8.8 billion. In addition to Finland, Telia operates in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, among others.

Stein-Erik Vellan believes that the rebranding raises new kinds of expectations in Finland.

“What does Sonera’s becoming Telia mean to me? What will be better in the future? These are questions that our customers will ask, and we must be able to give them answers. Furthermore, with our actions we must show that we, an international telco, are ideally placed to help our customers get by in the digitalizing world,” says Vellan.

Telia Company’s networks carry 37 per cent of all traffic transmitted via the world’s backbone networks. The company wants to bring the world closer, on the customer’s terms, of course. In Finland, this can be seen in the inclusion of EU calls in monthly charges for consumer subscriptions.

"The digital future has already arrived. The way we all live, work and communicate with each other has changed hugely over the last few years. IoT, Big Data and virtual reality will provide mind-blowing opportunities in the near future. And everything will change again due to 5G. But telecom operators are and will continue to be strongly involved in the lives of their customers."

Finnish resilience has made an impression

Stein-Erik Vellan, a Norwegian, became CEO of Sonera, now Telia, in January of this year. He is regarded as a motivational, energetic leader who is a team player. This energy is also evident in Vellan’s leisure time, since he trains five times a week in the head office’s gym. That is his way of relaxing.

"I visit the gym at the end of each working day because it takes my mind off work," says Vellan, who lifts a weight and grins:

"I can then continue working at home in the evening.”

Stein-Erik Vellan trains five times a week in the head office’s gym.

Stein-Erik Vellan has been working in the telco business for 19 years, for example as the Telenor Group’s CEO in India, Serbia and Bulgaria. He says that, despite the many similarities between telco businesses in different countries, there are also differences. What are they?

“People are very straightforward here. I appreciate the resilience of the Finnish people and the fact that they are not afraid to say what they think,” says Vellan and continues:

“Finns also do what is expected of them. Where Americans would try to create hype about doing the dishes, Finns expect others to take note of them without having to make a big deal out of their achievements. Every now and again, though, you have to be prepared to stick your neck out and sell your own achievements,” Vellan points out.

From a telegraph office to a new generation telco

”1855. That’s how far back our roots go. In fact, we existed even earlier: at the beginning of the 18th century, we were the telegraph office of the State of Sweden. I have visited a couple of ministries in Finland, and in one of them, rules were hanging on the wall for a company engaged in telecommunications in the 19th century. The sector was based on only nine rules back then, so there’s no need to make things any more complicated today,” Vellan says, laughing.

Vellan has a loud and infectious laugh. In fact, Vellan’s huge size, boyish and mischievous features and jokes make him very easy to like. It is no wonder that the employees treat him like a friend when in the gym.

Vellan refers excitedly to travelling around the country to meet Telia staff. Above all he has been listening, because he wants to hear about everything that’s been done so far. There are also plenty of new ideas. What are they?

“My vision is that we will be the number one telco for both consumers and companies in Finland. The world is continuously becoming more complex, but we aim to be a digital pioneer that simplifies life for our customers."

“In the future, we will need only our phones – all communications between us and the rest of the world will be handled through them. This means that telcos will play a huge role in people’s lives. We’ll enable all aspects of people’s daily lives,” explains Vellan.

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