News & Views

Experiences from Hannes Snellman and Nordea’s Joint Trainee Programme

29 March 2023

The purpose of the joint trainee programme is to offer law students the opportunity to experience what it would be like to work as a lawyer not only at a law firm but also at the largest bank in the Nordic countries. At the beginning of 2023, Viivi Miettinen and Tobias Palmgren, two of our former associate trainees, continued their traineeships at Nordea. Viivi and Tobias worked in different teams based on their own interests, finance and M&A.

Viivi Miettinen is a fourth-year law student at the University of Helsinki. Viivi spent a total of five months in a joint trainee programme arranged by Hannes Snellman and Nordea. At Hannes Snellman, Viivi worked in the Finance Team, and at Nordea, she worked in the Large Corporates & Institutions Legal (LC&IL) Team.

Tobias Palmgren is a sixth-year law student at the University of Helsinki. In addition, Tobias is studying finance at Hanken School of Economics. Tobias spent a total of seven months in a joint trainee programme arranged by Hannes Snellman and Nordea. At Hannes Snellman, Tobias worked in the M&A Team, and at Nordea, he worked in the Group Corporate Legal Team, which handles Nordea’s company law and securities market law matters, including corporate governance, insider, and disclosure matters and Nordea’s M&A activities and other structural changes.

Why are you interested in financial law/M&A in particular? When did the fascination begin?

V: My curiosity to learn more about the financial sector started during my law studies, where I have enjoyed diving into difficult technical questions as well as connecting the dots on a bigger scale. Both of these aspects are combined in financial law: there is often some greater ratio behind many rules and details that regulate the constantly evolving financial industry. I love the feeling when you learn to see why something is the way it is and how it is a part of the bigger picture.

T: Having a long-standing interest in economics and societal matters in general, my fascination began during the early years of law school. I can still vividly remember the great sense of satisfaction when the first transaction I worked on was closed a few years ago. The multi­disciplinary nature of M&A and capital markets transactions is perhaps the one single factor that makes the field highly appealing to me. The convergence of several fields of law, financial decision-making, and strategy makes for an interesting and stimulating working environment, while also being meaningful as the transactions often have potentially significant societal impacts.

How was your traineeship at Hannes Snellman?

V: I truly enjoyed my time at Hannes Snellman and felt like a part of the community right from the start. Everyone at the office was friendly and wanted to get to know us trainees, which immediately made the atmosphere welcoming. In addition, I appreciated being a part of the Finance Team, where sharing knowledge and experiences was highly prioritised — my learning curve in terms of substance was steep, as I got to work with such skilled and professional people.

Furthermore, we formed a great group of trainees over practice-borders and also spent time outside of work organising different activities together. As a result, I made many new friends during the autumn and was glad to continue my traineeship through the secondment with Tobias.

T: Working as an associate trainee at Hannes Snellman, you are an integrated and highly appreciated member of the team. At Hannes Snellman, there is a strong sense of community, and working among dynamic and driven professionals in a down-to-earth atmosphere was truly motivating. The ability of maintaining a sense of fun while working on complex and demanding projects made my traineeship in the Public M&A Team a blast!

How did your time as an associate trainee at Hannes Snellman prepare you for your traineeship at Nordea?

V: My traineeship at Hannes Snellman taught me the basics of financial transactions and their documentation. The most valuable thing for me, however, was to see the working methods of financial lawyers. I learned, for instance, what kind of legal issues to pay attention to when drafting or reviewing documentation, how to conduct legal research by using various sources, and, most importantly, how to communicate with both clients and counterparties. Understanding all this enabled a smooth transition to Nordea, wherefore my time as an associate trainee clearly felt like an advantage when I started in the LC&IL Team.

T: At Hannes Snellman, there is a strong emphasis on learning and professional development, and even though a traineeship goes by quickly, I felt I had been given all relevant tools and experiences to be set up for success. The commitment to ownership and quality at Hannes combined with the excellent support from my colleagues at Nordea allowed for a feeling of confidence in tackling all challenges laid before me. My assignments at Nordea were very much the other side of the same coin in terms of the nature of the work. Consequently, continuing at Nordea felt like a natural extension, and the experiences I had previously gained could be applied across the board, although I still had to learn the fundamentals of the special characteristics relevant to financial institutions.

What kind of perceptions did you have about working in a bank beforehand?

V: I had heard some secondment stories and good experiences of the LC&IL Team from my colleagues at Hannes Snellman, but honestly, I did not know much about working in a bank's legal department in practice. My perception was that in-house lawyers working in a bank are generalists that work with legal questions at a more overall level and more independently than lawyers in a law firm.

T: I was not unfamiliar with the fact that banks are stringently regulated but due to my limited previous exposure I still managed to be surprised by the both the multitude of regulations applicable to significant credit institutions and the sheer scale of legal operations at Nordea. Having previously worked at a large-cap engineering company, I had not expected the extent of specialisation of lawyers and teams dedicated to Nordea’s business operations and relevant fields of law. The old stereotype of in-house lawyers being generalists certainly does not hold true in the case of Nordea, and the organisation is in many ways akin to that of a large law firm, consisting of some of the leading experts in their fields.

Could you describe your assignments at Nordea?

V: At Nordea, my assignments aligned with my interests. I got to work with matters related to the PRIIPs Regulation, jurisdiction clauses of ISDA Master Agreements, and the Benchmark Regulation. Furthermore, I conducted ESG-related research and got familiar with green bonds and sustainability-linked loans.

My assignments also included tasks that were familiar to me from Hannes Snellman, only now from the bank’s perspective: drafting loan and amendment agreements, reviewing ancillary documentation, and participating in meetings with the clients. In addition, I reviewed a non­disclosure agreement and helped the Business Banking Team by reviewing the terms of multi-currency loan templates.

During my traineeship at Nordea, I also got a chance to take part in legal design training and internal Nordic meetings, where I met LC&IL colleagues from Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, which I found inspiring.

T: I joined Nordea a few weeks prior to the publication of the Q4 and full-year results 2022, wherefore my assignments early on were mainly related to drafting, proofing, and translating related material and disclosures. Once the Q4 results had been published, the lion’s share of my assignments was related to the arrangement of Nordea’s AGM. Working closely with colleagues from investor relations and group communication, I supported them in preparing statutory material and disclosures leading up to the AGM. I also assisted in shareholder and stakeholder communication and worked closely with external service providers in arranging the registration and advance voting. Additionally, I conducted research and drafted internal memos on various topics relating to company and capital markets law.

What did you learn during your time at Nordea? Any surprises?

V: Since I had only worked in law firms before this experience, it was eye-opening to learn what a bank's legal team does and what kind of a huge entity the team is part of. The lawyers working at Nordea focus on a broad overall picture, and their perspective on work assignments is practical and business-oriented, as the lawyers work closely together with people from Nordea's business side. I also realised that the loan arrangements and transactions that were familiar from the law firms were only a fraction of what Nordea's LC&IL Team does. There was a diverse range of financing products new to me, and I was excited to learn more about arrangements concerning bonds, derivatives, and ISDAs, for example.

Even though I knew beforehand that banking is heavily regulated, the amount of regulation and guidelines, especially those focusing on ESG-related questions, managed to surprise me. It was fascinating to see how deeply the lawyers delved into the regulation in order to evaluate its impact on the bank's operation and how the lawyers had such a risk-based approach to doing business.

T: There was no shortage of learning opportunities at Nordea. In general, seeing the operations from within and getting to know the people was a valuable experience in and of it itself. You naturally pick up a lot of insight regarding, for instance, the business itself, risk management, processes, and governance, in a manner that is difficult to replicate fully when working in an external advisory role. On a more particular note, the stringent regulation of the banking industry, especially the single supervisory mechanism, further posed challenges in terms of rapidly acquiring something resembling an overview and grasp of the framework. The fact that Nordea is listed on three stock exchanges across the Nordic region and has a very broad and diverse shareholding basis adds an interesting additional distinctiveness. I started at Nordea with an open mind and a humble approach in terms of my own limitations but still managed to be surprised by how much you can learn over a period just two and a half months.

How did you find the combination of these two traineeships?

V: They complemented each other perfectly. The traineeship at Nordea offered a new perspective on legal questions relating to financial markets and a possibility to enhance further the knowledge and skills I had attained from Hannes Snellman. Furthermore, the lawyers at Nordea eagerly wanted to help me get the most out of the traineeship, and my interests were noted from the beginning.

T: The transition from Hannes Snellman to Nordea was seamless and with experience gained and lessons learned during the autumn I was able to hit the ground running at Nordea. I was well received and quickly integrated by my colleagues at Nordea, with whom it was an absolute pleasure working! The traineeship at Nordea felt like a natural extension and I am thoroughly pleased in having taken part. The level of support from both companies was first class and after, among other things, having worked on AGM and disclosure-related matters at Hannes Snellman, it was a valuable experience to be part of the full lifespan of the AGM project in such a large company as Nordea.

What would you say to applicants applying to our associate trainee programme who are also willing to continue at Nordea?

V: I would warmly recommend the joint trainee programme! It is a huge learning opportunity, as you get to work with the top financial law professionals in Finland, both at Hannes Snellman and at Nordea. I would suggest keeping that in mind and trying to recognise the ways that the professionals work and think — be curious, ask questions, and ensure you understand the bigger picture behind the assignments you are given. Since the atmosphere at both companies was very supportive and friendly, I cannot think of a better opportunity for a law student with a particular interest in financial law.

T: The combined traineeship offers the opportunity to work at both one of the largest law firms and the largest bank in the Nordic region. I would highly recommend applying to anyone who is considering either a career in private practice or as an in-house lawyer. This unique programme offers valuable experience and insight into both roles in a format that, to my knowledge, is not replicated elsewhere.

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