Mikael Ahtokari is D&I’s new Director of People and Culture. He joined D&I from the banking sector. Most recently, he served on the management team in one of the largest banks in Finland.
Q: You’ve built your career in an industry hit by challenges of the digital age. How would you describe the banking sector from an employee’s perspective?
With one word: customer-obsessed.
Changing customer expectations and evolving digital preferences rewrote the rules of competition and service models in banking. From an employee’s perspective, it is two worlds in one. While it’s all about innovation and improvement for the future, you have to be serving today’s customers every day.
Thanks to my years in banking “change leadership”, “customer journeys”, “service design” and “employee experience” are not just buzz words but real bread and butter to me. Just like in the legal industry, everyone in banking wants to develop customer experience to gain competitive advantage. Looked from the angle of people and culture, the big thing is to look at that goal in terms of internal capacities and abilities. After starting with the famous “why”, it’s imperative that we know what we need to learn. And how do we need to change? Hiring new people and investing in technology is important, but pretty straight-forward. Developing processes and renewing the way we work to deliver more value to the customer is hard stuff – with a higher return.
Q: What’s your biggest career lesson learned so far?
That an organisation will thrive when everybody is able to pitch in and contribute to reaching a common goal.
I have three things that I pay attention to in an organisation: purpose, trust and ability for renewal. They quickly show in the way people think and the way they work together. I believe that the only way to accelerate change in the long-term is to make sure you get everyone on board. Even if it takes longer. People really need to feel the “why” and be able to explain it to their colleague.
Q: Share an anecdote linked to D&I’s culture?
On my first day at D&I, by the coffee machines at our 4th floor kitchen, I got swept into a passionate discussion on the meaning of life with one of the firm’s litigators – someone who fights for a living! I don’t think I will ever forget the discussion. Passion is the first of our Cultural Cornerstones and here it really means something. Whatever people do here they always put themselves fully in play, as complete equals to one another.
Q: What’s your superpower?
I like to think it’s my curiosity for life and people, trends and the future. My superpower could also be that I play the bass. I like giving rhythm to the whole band.
“In a short time Micke has understood the essence of our culture which is a live mixture of being extremely goal-oriented and completely humane at the same time. This fall, he has been instrumental in setting forth the framework for the coming years. One of the things I admire in him is his ability to prioritize. Everyone at D&I wants to discuss their ideas with him. Somehow he still manages to stick to his timetables. His focus produces extraordinary end-results. From my perspective, the way he works embodies D&I’s ambition for excellence. It is “D&I Passion” defined.” – Anders Carlberg, Managing Partner