Port of Helsinki
10.12.2018 17:30:45 //
Heli Koivuniemi
Rami Hanafi

Building a vibrant and experiential hub

Sari Nevanlinna, the new Vice President of Passenger Services, sees the port playing a key role in the tourism ecosystem. Nevanlinna has come to the maritime industryfrom aviation, and she intends to enter into wide-ranging discourse in order to develop the port’s surroundings, passenger experience and operations.

“Sari, you will be wasted here,” said a Store Enso director on a desert safari in North Africa.

In her early twenties, Sari Nevanlinna worked as an associate officer in the Embassy of Finland, hosting export promotion trips. She was interested in the relations between states, world trade and international business. 

Very soon, Nevanlinna felt the draw of business life, with its strong sense of transformation and continuous development.

Effective development work

Nevanlinna’s career has progressed at a good rate. She has taken on new responsibilities when the opportunity has arisen.

“My prior experience is intertwined with the future, and I have felt that I have something to give,” says Nevanlinna.

When she began working at Finnair, the company was caught up in a spiral of negative publicity and was struggling with profitability.

“Finnair at that time, was facing many challenges.”

The new strategy and business development team was built around Mika Vehviläinen, who was then Finnair’s CEO. The key projects executed strategy with Must-win Battle methodology. The aim was to focus on core business, cut costs, and improve profitability.

“In my first few years, we were cutting heavily and carrying out operational development in every part of the organization.”

Nevanlinna’s career at Finnair taught her how to develop business operations at a large listed company and how people can be inspired to be part of transformation.

After the strategic development projects, Nevanlinna moved to operational line management roles and worked on leading Finnair´s ground experience. As a leadership team member of the customer experience unit, Nevanlinna improved the travelling experience and was responsible for Finnair’s most profitable business, ancillaries.

“Together with our great team, I created the ancillary strategy and developed the service portfolio significantly. The work won many awards. Finnair received the most prestigious recognition in the aviation industry for its ancillary product portfolio at the Future Travel Experience Awards in 2017 and 2018.

“I was not planning to leave Finnair. However, I became more interested in the Port of Helsinki when I heard about the new strategy and vision”

Now, the Port of Helsinki and its strategic development have become Nevanlinna’s mission.

A leader who listens and is eager to further develop

Whenever the management is restructured, it always raises interest. Nevanlinna has been pleased to see that the personnel are proud to work for the Port of Helsinki. That is a good starting point. 

Ville Haapasaari, the Port of Helsinki’s CEO, and Sari Nevanlinna, who will take up her new position in December, both have a background in aviation. Nevanlinna was on the other side of the table with Haapasaari in her role as head of ground experience.

“I became more interested in the Port when I heard about the new strategy and vision, and the aim to have the world’s most functional port concept.”

“I was probably recruited to this position because of my background and for the fact that the aviation industry is known for operational excellence and processes that could also be utilized at the port,” says Nevanlinna.

Nevanlinna is known for excellent results in increasing revenues, developing customer experience and coaching high-performing teams. She does not consider herself a leader for the status quo – she thrives in companies that are seeking to develop and challenge themselves.

“Modernization is a strong part of my DNA. The things that work well will be retained.”

Needs analysis has begun

The first thing that Nevanlinna intends to do is to identify the customer needs. She will use the organization, partners and stakeholders. 

Nevanlinna believes that useful information for development work can be found from customer insights.

“When you have a 360° view of a situation, you can build concepts that can take you far,” Nevanlinna says.

She is planning to analyze the needs of shipping companies, citizens, individual holidaymakers and people travelling on business: Which services should be available at the port? What needs and expectations do the various stakeholders have? 

As she jogs around the harbour surroundings, Nevanlinna has been preoccupied with broader issues such as what type of role the port could play in the everyday lives of citizens living in Helsinki.

“In order to develop services, the owner’s target state must be understood and customers’ needs must be extensively studied. The port plays a major role in the society. The Port of Helsinki is the gateway to Finland.”