"You have the opportunity to change the status quo."
Delivery Team Lead Mihkel Matson tell us how his job has changed throughout the years, he has switched between different positions. That is one of the biggest benefits of SEB – you have the opportunity to grow both horizontally and vertically, try new things and learn.
"Life is versatile every day, and that is what I enjoy most about my job."
Business Developer Angelika Piip started working at SEB call center over six years ago while studying at university. Angelika’s career path illustrates how large companies offer a variety of opportunities for professional development. “There is more of everything,” says Angelika about the career opportunities.
"It is important for me that living in Saaremaa I have the opportunity to work remotely."
Kadri Arula is a product owner at Customer Engagement Solutions team responsible for communicating with the bank’s customers in a virtual environment. She works remotely every day from her home on the island of Saaremaa and from SEB Kuressaare branch. People at SEB, creativity at work, and freedom are some of the reasons Kadri recommends SEB as a first job and for experienced professionals seeking a new challenge.
"You do not have to change employer to try something new."
Andreas Pihelgas is a solutions architect who takes care of achieving efficiency in all the bank’s operational processes daily. Coding is his passion. Outside working hours too, Andreas is passionate about trying out new technologies and participates in game jams. According to him, the ability to learn on your own and within a team is one of the most important qualities for a successful career in technology.
"Feed me challenges and I will blossom!"
Sandra Nigulis works as a senior business developer in the bank’s Savings and Investments area and is also a successful football referee officiating Estonian football club matches. She points out that new challenges are the key to human growth, while trust is the key to success. “Trust is of utmost importance because it enables you to face challenges and solve them better,” says Sandra.
“In a large IT organisation, there is an opportunity to learn something new almost every day.”
Our software developer Georgi Suikanen has always known that he wanted to link his future with IT. He got to where he is today largely thanks to his participation in SEB's mentoring programme and his studies at the kood/Jõhvi coding School. “The task of a software developer is to understand what the customer wants and to ask repeatedly why this is necessary. Then you have to come up with a solution, and only then you start writing the code,” Georgi sums up the main role of a software developer.
"SEB gave me the opportunity to get more involved with robotics."
Raivis Lazdāns is the head of the Robotic Process Automation team in the Baltic States. He has worked at the bank for almost seven years. During this time, he and his colleagues have developed robotics as an important development direction for the efficiency of the Bank’s processes. As a self-taught roboticist, Raivis deepened his theoretical knowledge through a SEB-funded training programme. Raivis teaches robotics basics to children in Latgale during his spare time.
"Our job is to turn chaos into structure and order."
Irmina Švambarė is a project manager in SEB bank’s Baltic Portfolio and Project Management team. Together with her colleagues she is responsible for managing large and complex, cross-functional projects and implementing changes. “Our job is to turn chaos into structure and order” - this is how she figuratively describes how ideas are shaped into concrete initiatives and actions.
“The amount of technology available is always greater in a large company.”
Dmitri Kuraksa is an Enterprise Architect who has worked in the technology sector since Estonia’s independence. His experience includes teaching at Tallinn University of Technology and the early days of the Internet, which sparked a great interest in technology among the next generation of students and entrepreneurs in Estonia. Dmitri believes that anyone who is interested in technology and willing to spend a lifetime learning can have a successful career in IT.
Angelika PiipBusiness Developer, Cards & Payments Solutions
Education: High School, plans to resume studies at the University
What exactly does a business developer do?
The job of a business developer is to align the business needs of the bank, the requirements on the business side, and the technological possibilities. Sometimes this work relates more to technological issues and opportunities, and other times - to the business, bank products, and services. This work involves active communication, numerous meetings, and a large amount of information that needs to be applied to make the project development run smoothly.
This means that you need to know both sides of this – business as well as technological - very well.
Yes, that is true, but we also have great helpers on both sides because we cannot be competent in all the details when it comes to IT or, say when it comes to product marketing. But the colleagues who deal with it every day help us get a grasp of the most important things. However, you must be aware of the fundamental things.
Why couldn’t these two sides – business and technology – work together without the mediation of a business developer?
On a daily basis, there are many details and information related to the launching of new ideas and new products. Therefore, it is up to us to keep ourselves from “drowning” in this amount of detailed information, and our colleagues can fully focus on their issues. I think that we are often like a kind of “interpreters”, helping the business world to cope better with the world of technology. And it’s not just these two sides because many teams within the bank work on innovations every day. That’s why we need a kind of coordinating force that works with all the teams involved at the same time.
How did your career at the bank begin and develop later?
SEB is my first employer. After graduating high school, I started working here while studying at Tallinn University. My first job, for about a year, was in the bank’s contact centre, where I was in charge of answering customers’ calls. After that, I was a Chargebacks specialist in Operations for almost three years and then moved to the business development team. My career at the bank has constantly evolved over these six years.
What do you like most about your job?
In my work, in my team, we deal with many different questions and aspects that are so diverse that I never get bored for a second. I really like the fact that some days are very social and packed with different meetings and on other days, I can dive deep into excel tables and focus on numbers and details. Life is versatile every day, and that is what I enjoy most about my job.
Is there also room for improvisation and innovation in your work?
We know how any project is supposed to proceed, and what the plan is, but in the course of implementing it, we have to consider how we can implement that plan most effectively. And in that sense, we have the opportunity to be creative to achieve the best outcome. For example, we are currently working on responsibility reporting in the area of taxation to harmonise the Bank’s database and information systems with the requirements of the regulator and EU legislation. We need to prepare all the necessary requirements that apply to the data we already have and the additional data we need. On the one hand, this does not seem like creative work, but you can work on it in different ways, and creativity in this sense means creating the most effective, focused working model to achieve the result.
If we imagine a young adult who is thinking about starting a career in a bank – what would you tell them as the main reasons in favour of SEB?
I was young when I started working in the bank - right out of high school. So, I can say from my own experience that you can learn a lot of new and useful things here. It’s not just about banking products or specific knowledge, but also about how the financial world works in general and what its driving forces are. The second important argument in favour of SEB is the possibility of flexible time management. This is especially important for young adults because working at SEB can be combined with studies or training, i.e., the employer is open to such a model. In addition, SEB is a good place to start a career because we have a very supportive environment. People are open-minded and the team is so big that everyone can find suitable and fitting colleagues here with whom they can maintain closer contact. The advantage of a big company is that if you want to learn something, you have many more opportunities to do so. There is more of everything.
Are there any initiatives on the part of SEB that you, as an employee, feel proud of your employer?
There are. Among the most recent examples, I can mention the launch of Apple Pay and Google Pay solutions, which were in high demand by our customers. I was part of the team that implemented the project, and when I saw people in the shop using the payment method we created, I felt really proud. Because this is an improvement that makes our daily lives more convenient.
Do you see what the next step in your professional career could be?
I have been in this job for over two years now and I am just starting to think about what the next steps could be as I am still learning every day something new. Climbing the career ladder is not only about climbing up, but also about learning something new in other areas of the bank's activities. At the moment, I am more attracted to this kind of development path, but in the future would like to be a team lead or manager Because in order to become a senior manager, you must first gain the broadest and most diverse experience.
Mihkel MartsonDelivery Team Lead
Moving within the company
I started as a Field Engineer and I moved from there to Project Manager, and now I´m working as a Team Lead in SEB. One of the benefits of this big international company is that you have the opportunity to grow either vertically or horizontally. So if you see some interesting option or vacancy in some other fields, you have the option to apply to that. Of course, you should have the willingness to learn the new area, but that is always possible. We actually encourage people if they feel that they need to move somewhere, internally rather than outside.
Challenging the status quo
What I like about SEB is that you have the opportunity to change the status quo. So whatever you think could be possible, you elaborate on that, maybe with others, and then you just try to do it. If it is successful, then you will have a result to show. But also if you fail, then you should fail fast. But on the other hand, you also learn and it will be serving the purpose for the future.
Your job is not static. It changes. And you have the possibility to change the status quo as well. So I think this makes this job very interesting and also sometimes challenging, but I like challenges.
Kadri ArulaProduct Owner of Customer Engagement Solutions Team
Education: Bachelor's degree, Computer Science; Master of Business Administration – MBA, Entrepreneurship and Technology management, University of Tartu
What does your team do?
My team is responsible for the virtual advisor, the video meetings with customers, the online appointment booking system, and the contact centre solution for all Baltic countries. Our task is to make sure that all systems keep up with time and customer requirements, processes run smoothly, are secure and customer data is protected. The use of virtual communication not only simplifies the lives of our customers, but also those of our staff on a day-to-day basis, as, for example, the booking of appointments is automatic, and the customer is brought together with the bank's consultant at a mutually convenient time. In general, it must be said that these types of virtual communication mean the automation and simplification of many processes, which makes work processes more efficient and allows bank employees to concentrate on problems that require personal intervention and to interact with customers regardless of location.
How big is the team that delivers all of this?
Relatively small - there are nine of us. My job as product owner is to create the vision for products and put it on a timeline. This helps us envision how we want to move forward in this area and helps the team to set clear priorities for the next steps.
Is your work creative daily, or are all activities known and described in advance?
No, not known. And the best thing about my job is that I can come up with my own ideas of what to do and how to do it. It means always keeping an open eye on the world, noticing current developments in the area and technology, and understanding what we can use from all this. The mind is constantly working in this direction - how can we make things even more effective. In that sense, my work is very creative and that's cool.
What are you working on now?
We are working on several projects in various stages of development. I can mention a new version of the Contact Centre solution, where we will also add voice AI functions, which will be a quite rare in the Baltic countries. We are also working on a number of innovations for the virtual advisor solution, which will hopefully benefit both the customers and the Contact Centre employees. We are working on solutions for scheduling working hours as well as migrating systems to the cloud.
Will I be able to meet my bank manager in a virtual office in the near future?
Why not? This is one of the directions we are working on. A particularly good target group for this are the Estonians, who tend to avoid direct contact (laughs). A conversational AI with a voice function is already a step in this direction, allowing the customer to contact the bank at any time of day and clarify a current problem in conversation without talking to an actual person. That is an important step because it enables a digital service for customers who are not comfortable with or proficient in technology in everyday life. It's the equivalent of a phone call, which everyone knows how to handle. But when it comes to the picture - video meetings are already our daily routine, and that's nothing new. So, a virtual meeting with a virtual consultant is by no means too far away. The only obstacle to overcome is the language barrier. The Baltic languages are relatively small, so their inclusion in digital solutions may take some time. One important thing to be solved is the secure identification of customers when it comes not only to providing advice but also to completing some transactions in a virtual environment.
What gives you the most satisfaction in this job?
The first thing is the possibility of being creative, which is fully applicable to the field of technology today. To be honest, I never thought before that I am a creative person, and I could use it at work. It has been eye-opening. The second thing is that I can be myself, to proceed as I see and understand, taking responsibility for my own decisions, of course. I also like the fact that it is not a routine job, but one that changes every day. During my three years at SEB Bank, I have learned something new every day. Here, you always feel like you are evolving and facing new challenges, so there is no creeping "comfort zone" where progress is halted. I have more than 15 years of professional experience and SEB is undoubtedly the most outstanding employer where you feel this team spirit, support, and cohesion. As they say, work is like a second family. At SEB, this feeling really exists. I have never experienced anything like it anywhere else. What is also very inspiring to me personally, is the fact that SEB has many amazing women leaders who are a great role model for me and give me faith that everything is possible.
Why is SEB a good choice for a young adult thinking about working in IT?
One thing is the innovative, creative working environment, and the fact that SEB invests a lot in internship programmes as well as in the training of its employees. Also worth mentioning is the flexibility of working conditions, which was an important selling point in my case. Living in Saaremaa, I had the opportunity to work remotely even before the Covid pandemic, and this opportunity still exists today. I am also able to visit the SEB branch in Saaremaa, which I do frequently, as I do not want to meet people only in a virtual environment. Another reason I would recommend SEB is the people who work here. There is always someone there to help you and the staff is friendly.
You have studied IT and worked for several companies. Why did you choose IT?
Already during school, I was more interested in science and computers, which at that time were just beginning to appear in the homes of ordinary users. So even then I was completely sure what I would study at university. It was rare for a girl to study computer science during my university years, and it wasn’t always easy for me going that technical, especially as I also have the other side of me that likes art and literature. I was fortunate that I met people who trusted me and believed in me more than I did myself. I think that thanks to this and my own courage to choose this speciality, I have reached where I am today professionally. My first job was at the IT helpdesk in an Estonian government institution, but after that, I worked for different companies - Gemalto, EMT, and Telia. In my previous positions I have been working more on the technology support and implementation side, but at SEB I moved to the business side collaborating with IT which allows me to take the maximum of my strengths – experience in IT but using communication skills and creativity to come up with new ideas and solutions and really feel like I can change something to better.
What are your hobbies?
I love to travel. Playing badminton is a relatively new hobby for me. Concerts, books, theatre - nothing too extreme, simple things and new experiences.
Andreas PihelgasSolutions architect
You have been working at the bank for almost six years, how did you end up at SEB?
Yes, I started at the bank in the summer of 2017 and initially worked in the internet banking team. After being invited for job interviews, I became aware of the attractiveness of this organisation. I guess our crush was mutual, and that’s how I came to work at the bank. I started my career in internet bank team as a software developer. I have to say that since I started working, I have always been interested in how our work can be automated as much as possible to make the processes more efficient. When the Automation team was established, I was offered to join the team as developer and later became a solutions architect there.
What does this team do?
In short, we automate processes wherever possible. We automate integration of new solutions developed by developers into the bank’s systems, and this in turn helps to make them available to customers faster and more efficiently.
Where did you work before banking?
Before joining SEB, I started as an intern at Brightspark, an Estonian technology company, where I later also continued working as a developer. My area of responsibility was overly broad and included many projects with a global character.
Have you studied programming?
I studied computer and systems engineering at Tallinn University of Technology. Due to my intensive work schedule while studying, I did not complete my studies. I chose technology as my professional career path because I have always been excited about how diverse and extensive the possibilities are in technology. Even as a child, I was interested in electronics, computers, and how they worked. My subject at university had to do with programming controllers and microchips, but I was more fascinated by software programming (coding) because the accessibility and possibilities there are much greater. There you can create something completely new.
What is the difference between the work of a software developer and a solutions architect?
Solutions architect thinks more about the overall technical vision of a specific solution. To be specific, how will the solution, which consists of several different processes or components, look and function. The work of a solutions architect is more about planning and monitoring than coding. However, the involvement in coding stage also depends on how fascinated and interested a particular individual is in the programming process.
Do you work from home?
SEB offers its employees the opportunity to choose between office work and remote work. Here, too, much depends on the wishes of the individual. I prefer to work from home, but others prefer to be among colleagues in the office. The main thing is that we have such a choice.
Besides the flexible working model, what else would you mention as the advantages of working at SEB bank?
There is a wide range of career options here. As I mentioned earlier, I started in the online banking team and then decided to try something else. That is one of the biggest advantages of working in a big company – you do not have to change employer to try something new. Changing teams gives you the opportunity to learn new skills, meet new colleagues, and progress professionally. So, it is much easier not to get bored.
In addition to technical skills, what other qualities are required to be successful in an organization of such size as SEB?
The most important thing is the ability to learn on your own and in a team. Considering that IT is a field that is constantly changing, you need to be able to adapt to these changes. You also need to be able to work with people because all the work here is structured in teams. Teamwork is our daily routine. You must be willing to work well within your own team as well as with other teams.
Can you mention a project on which you are currently working?
We are currently working on integrating a code quality and security scanning tool that can be used to automatically review developers code, to our automated processes. It will highlight the issues that need to be fixed or improved to ensure that the solution is secure and of first-class quality. With it each software developers work is automatically scanned, and the relevant person receives the feedback in real time. This will improve the coding work much more quickly and efficiently, as the results of the scans will clearly show what needs to be improved.
What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?
My leisure activities also have to do with development. As a hobbyist game developer, I sometimes take part in game jams where you develop a game from scratch within a limited period. Then the proposed games are voted on and the best ones are chosen. My second hobby has to do with 3D printing where I am trying to learn 3D modelling. Another hobby is woodworking. I guess I need woodworking to distract me from thinking about technology.
Sandra NigulisSenior Business Developer, Savings and Investments Tribe
Education: Bachelor's degree, Applied Physics, TalTech – Tallinn University of Technology
How did you end up at SEB Bank?
At university, I studied applied physics, and when it was time to put my knowledge into practice, I ended up at SEB bank internship programme Youth LAB in Savings and Investments. As I was interested in this area, I applied and that’s how I started my career at the bank. This is my third year working here.
The bank, however, was not your first job?
Yes, I worked in a completely different field before - at the Radisson Blu Sky Hotel as a waitress and later as a supervisor. However, I decided to focus on my studies more, so I had to give up working at the hotel.
Why did you study physics?
Because I have always loved maths and physics. I have to say, though, that I never dreamed of working in engineering. When I was in my final year of high school and thinking about a future career, science took centre stage. I tried IT but physics fascinated me more.
What does it mean to be a business developer at a bank?
Since I work in savings and investments, we are talking about development projects in this area. More specifically, I work in the Funds, Deposits, and Trading team. We develop products in these areas in all Baltic countries. As a bank, you must fulfil several conditions and requirements when developing new products and improving existing ones. It is my responsibility as a business developer to understand what is in demand on the market and what customers expect from their bank in accordance with bank’s long-term goal.
Can you give an example of your work or project?
One example my tribe has developed is Robo-Advisor, which allows customer to invest via our mobile app. The user can run a simple test on the phone, after which the Robo-advisor will determine your risk tolerance and recommend the most suitable investment strategy. This can be investing in funds or investing in ETFs (exchange-traded funds) in the portfolio. This is an impressive example of automation and technology entering a field where this was previously unthinkable.
How do you rate SEB as an employer?
The first thing that comes to mind is that I know SEB is open to any career path I want. All the opportunities are there, you just need the spark to take one of the paths. I think that is very important for people who are at the beginning of their career and maybe not quite sure if they want to stay in what they are doing. SEB offers a great opportunity to try different things. I feel very confident because I know that this is a company that cares about the future of its employees.
Do you already know what you would like to try out more, to achieve at the bank?
I’m quite an ambitious person, so, yes, I know that. One day I would like to try being a team lead, to take on more responsibility, but for now I’m still getting the experience I need in my current role. I want SEB to be the best possible offer in the Savings and Investment area, of which I am currently a part, and for SEB to be the best bank in its field. Additionally, I am also a football referee, which requires considerable time and effort.
What do you like most about SEB?
First and foremost, it’s the people, my colleagues. They inspire me the most. The other thing is the constant change - because every working day is a new adventure, a new experience. When I come to work, I never know what the day will bring, and these surprises keep me motivated. You must think all the time, always come up with new solutions, and always strive to improve.
On your LinkedIn profile, you write: “Feed me challenges and I will blossom!” Do you still feel that your daily work presents these challenges?
By all means! This applies to my professional work as well as to my personal development. I know my team trusts me, they know I can do it. Trust is a crucial element in building a work culture, in developing an organisation, because it allows you to take on challenges and overcome them more easily. Here it is.
What qualities do you need to succeed in technology in a big bank?
You must be able to take responsibility, have analytical skills, and have critical thinking. Also, we are learning every day, so you must be willing to learn. My colleagues who have been working here for years are also learning every day. This is the best thing about working in the technology sector.
Your hobby is football. Do you play it or are you mainly a football referee?
I started playing football in primary school and played for several years. During my university studies, I stopped playing because I did not have the passion anymore. Then I took a break for a few years, but in 2020 I applied for the referee course, completed it, and now I am an assistant referee. I deliberately chose this position because I know I want to build a career at SEB and therefore I do not want to take on too much responsibility on the football pitch. Since this year I am on the list of the FIFA referees, and I mainly officiate matches in the second and third Estonian football leagues.
Which is the best football team in Estonia right now?
The football refereeing team is the best (laughs).
And from clubs?
I do not have a favourite club in Estonia.
What are your hobbies?
I love to travel. Playing badminton is a relatively new hobby for me. Concerts, books, theatre - nothing too extreme, simple things and new experiences.
Georgi SuikanenSoftware developer, Customer Review and Digital Solutions Department
Education: master's degree in business information technology, TalTech (Tallinn University of Technology), 2020
What are the role and duties of a software developer?
For me, the role of a software developer is much more than just writing a code. The developer needs to understand the real problem that the colleagues from the business side need to solve. You need to understand what the customer wants and sometimes to ask repeatedly why this is necessary. Then you have to come up with a solution, and only then you start writing the code. The role of a software developer is summed up, I think, the best by John Johnson's quote “First solve the problem. Then, write the code.”.
How did your career at SEB begin and develop later?
I will soon be five years at SEB. I started my career as a business controller in the life and pension insurance area of SEB. In a couple of years, I understood that I want to move on, but I did not know where exactly. It was at that moment that another SEB mentoring programme started, for which I applied as a mentee. By working together with a mentor, I was able to solve many challenges, including to learn how to be more productive and plan my work better. Yet, the central topic for me was career planning. As I had been involved in IT all my life and it had always been in the back of my mind, I realised pretty soon that this was where I wanted to focus my future. After some time, my mentor recruited a new software developer and offered me a chance to try. For now, I have been developing the customer data side in our CORE back-end system for about a year and a half. Recently I moved to a team where we develop tools used by advisors, client executives and colleagues from support units.
What was your precious experience in IT?
I became familiar with the IT area already during my master's studies in Business Information Technology. In addition, in my role as a business controller, I had to analyse large datasets, which could no longer be done manually, and I had to learn new ways to do it more efficiently. Then I learned to use SQL and automation of the more routine tasks with Python. I was looking for opportunities on how to start career as a software developer and discussed this topic with our Agile coach. Later I read his social media post about the kood/Jõhvi coding School and his comment that it is probably the best way to become software developer – and this inspired me to apply to the school. I'm currently in the final stage of my studies at the kood/Jõhvi coding School.
What do you like most about your job?
In particular, the fact that you can constantly learn something new. Previously, I had worked as an analyst in different companies for many years; the daily challenges were very similar, and I felt I was no longer developing. But there hasn't been a single month in my role as a software developer in the last year and a half when I haven't had to learn something I haven't been familiar with before or where my knowledge falls short. I like the fact that when you're involved in a big project, you have to learn something new all the time, and thus, you're toned up and not bored.
Does SEB encourage and reward the development of its employees?
We have our own e-learning platform SEB Campus, that brings together thousands of training courses on banking, management, technology and development of the so-called soft skills. It is also possible to take the courses of Pluralsight. On a day-to-day basis, colleagues also support learning from each other, and you can, for example, go job shadowing. In addition, SEB has had its own mentoring programme for several years, in which I also participated. So, I would say that there are many options, and you just have to find the right one for you. I'm pleased that my love for learning has been noticed, as I was recently nominated for the Self-developer of the Year.
Which products/services have you developed that the customers can use today?
We have just rolled out an updated customer data sheet in Internet Bank. This was a landmark project for me, as it is the first application in SEB Baltics that is built using the microservice architecture. This means that besides writing the code, our team is responsible also for the DevSecOps (development, security, and operations) of this application. We also had to set up an automated CI/CD pipeline and automated security checks. This is a long-term project that reviews the entire process of managing customer data, from its entry and validation to its continuous updating.
Why would you recommend someone to work at SEB?
Our organisation currently employs approximately 600 people in the IT-area throughout the Baltics and this year, another 100 will be recruited. We have a professional team, meaning that we have people to learn from, and the organisation supports knowledge sharing. If an area becomes too narrow, there is a wide choice of where you can challenge yourself and grow, for example, as a team leader, architect, front-end developer to back-end developer and vice versa.
Secondly, I would highlight interesting projects. There are few companies of this scale in Estonia, where even the smallest change you make affects many people. For example, several millions of people throughout the Baltics visit the Internet Bank section of customer data to update their data.
For me, it is also important that SEB cares about its people and enables work-life balance. For example, each sprint is planned taking into account how much time the developer will have in the next two weeks to write the code, and no more tasks are planned than is realistic. Managers are also making sure that employees do not work more than eight hours a day, as this is not in the long-term interests of the employee or the employer.
What are your hobbies?
In addition to being my day job, programming is also my hobby. Running and triathlon help me relax mentally and clear my mind. I have run twice the Ironman 70.3 Tallinn triathlon. I'm also investing, although at the moment I'm spending a lot of energy on studies and work.
Raivis LazdānsRPA team lead / Lead automation developer
What do robotics specialists do at the bank?
I have been leading the bank’s Robotic Process Automation team at the Baltic level since December 2022. As a small team, our main objective is to develop innovative solutions and identify areas where robots and artificial intelligence can make life easier and more efficient. Digital robots can mimic human actions to relieve our colleagues from routine tasks. A manifestation of these digital robots is the repetitive execution of relatively simple actions. However, the next step is the incorporation of artificial intelligence that allows them to deal with more complex situations in the future. During the process of automatically processing a scanned document, for example, a robot must be capable of distinguishing between a long stroke over a letter and a strip that is just similar to a long stroke.
Can you think of another example where robots are already working for humans today?
Robots are already preparing templates for various contracts. We also use them to communicate with our clients, for example, to remind them of documents to be submitted. As a result, our employees are not required to write to each customer individually via email or SMS, but it happens automatically and much more quickly.
Do robots test themselves? That is, are they able to tell that they have made a mistake?
Compared to a human, however, a robot is more accurate because it is not tired on Friday evening after a long week at work or on Monday morning after a holiday. And yes - robots have a special safety mechanism built in that makes them constantly check themselves. This happens regularly, every minute, every evening of the day or at some other interval. As soon as the robot detects an abnormality, it notifies the human. The system is designed so that the robot does not skip any of the required steps. Unlike humans, robots do not skip steps - for reasons of fatigue and routine or to move on to a more important task. The results of work processes are more accurate and efficient when robots are involved.
How do you look for and find new solutions where robots can help colleagues?
As robotics was taking off six years ago, we held many meetings and discussions with colleagues to find out what the most pressing needs were and what opportunities there were for automation. We held brainstorming sessions and gradually came up with the first solutions. In the meantime, we have developed our brand within the bank to the point where colleagues themselves come to us with ideas and questions about how we can help. Sometimes these are fully developed ideas that just need to be properly planned and implemented. We regularly participate in process improvement workshops with colleagues from different departments of the bank and inform them about the possibilities offered by modern robotics solutions.
What are your department’s future goals and ambitions?
One goal is to incorporate more AI into automation. In the world of AI systems, these solutions are getting smarter and are not just based on a "yes-no" principle. It is about deductive reasoning, the ability to "think" and solve more complex problems by mimicking human thinking. Another important goal is to integrate more data analysis into these processes, so that the robot can draw conclusions based on a larger amount of information than a human can.
But surely you can go as far as the world’s solutions will allow in this endeavour?
Not quite, because most of the time we develop solutions ourselves, from scratch. Of course, there are things that we adapt here, but there are also things that we develop all by ourselves, taking into account our specific needs. So we are only limited by our own knowledge when it comes to the possibilities.
The next visible leap forward in this area could be the involvement of the robot’s voice in communication with the customer. Can we expect it in the near future?
To a certain extent, this is already possible, e.g., when you write a text with Google translation solutions and receive a translated version with it. For websites, there are automatic translations that are becoming increasingly "intelligent" and understand not only individual words but also the context of the text. The only thing left to do is to add language to the solution. The practical application of such a solution is the question here - as soon as it is mature, the solutions will be available.
How did you become interested in robots?
Like many people, my passion for computers began in childhood. One becomes more interested in it when one is able not only to use an existing possibility, but also to influence and transform it, for example a computer game created by somebody else. So the first steps were hacking computer games to get more possibilities. Next came the automation of computer games, the development of robots that played for humans over a very long and patient period of time. I studied business administration because I am passionate about working with people, not just robots. SEB gave me the opportunity to get more involved with robotics since they may have noticed my efforts to automate some processes that were not running as efficiently as they could. At the bank, I was first a card processing specialist, then a securities specialist. Although I initially taught myself robotics, SEB provided me with a solid theoretical foundation through a special training programme.
What is SEB Bank as an employer?
First and foremost, there are opportunities for growth. These range from career opportunities to training where you can develop your skills extensively. The internal culture here is geared towards encouraging employees to grow. Secondly, people at SEB are always open and helpful. This applies to colleagues and to the public. Thirdly, there is the freedom of flexitime. The option to work remotely is important to me because I live in Latgale. And one of the manifestations of this freedom is the robotics training I give to children in my hometown Livani.
What are your hobbies?
The orchard I grow at home is one of my hobbies. As a person who enjoys long-term processes, I find the garden to be very fulfilling. Another hobby that helps me relieve pressure is boxing and kickboxing.
Irmina ŠvambarėProject Manager, Baltic Portfolio and Project Management team
Education: Graduated from Birkbeck, University of London with a bachelor’s degree in Management
How did you start working at SEB bank?
My formal educational background is financial management. However, through my international experience, I have obtained knowledge in event management, property management, as well as project and service management. I was so delighted when I received an offer from SEB to join the team where I was sure I will be able to apply all these skills. I have been working here as a project manager since August 2021.
What do you do as a project manager?
Baltic Portfolio and Project Management team is a part of Baltic Product Development and Technology organization within the bank. We are a relatively small team - 12 people from all Baltic countries. The main role of this team is to facilitate, track and ensure the progress of large banking projects, as well as to ensure efficient delivery of the portfolio. Each of us works on four or five big projects at the same time.
Does it basically mean project coordination?
That would be a rather narrow and simplistic view. In the context of project management, I would rather emphasise the word “facilitate”. Figuratively speaking, I would say that it is our job to transform chaos into structure and order. Sometimes there is a bright idea or a plan for introducing something new, but in the initial stages, nobody really knows who is going to implement it and how. How will it happen? Here our task is to think about the initial idea in terms of project progress and to create and establish project working group with involving respective stakeholders. A very important part is stakeholder management, i.e., identifying and involving these stakeholders in the necessary decisions and working with them during the project. For example, we are currently working on a sustainability reporting project, which is particularly complicated and extensive initiative as it involves many different levels and functions. Sustainability goals affect all of us - from bank’s strategy to product development and customers. Sustainability is one of the main priorities in the bank, so we are having large working group and many stakeholders representing many areas within the organization. This is a relatively new thing requiring innovative ideas and actions to implement.
Sustainability reporting is gradually becoming the standard in all business sectors. As a matter of fact, you are setting a standard of sorts for others to learn from.
This is because banks are already obliged to report on their advancements in the field of sustainability. Soon, large companies will also have to prepare such sustainability reports. It is an inspiring project due to its scale, impact, and importance. I hope that I am helping our team to have a more simplistic, structured view and action plan towards this complex and multifaceted initiative. This is a special project for me because sustainability is a topic that I have been interested in for a long time.
What qualities must a person have to become a good project manager in such a large organization as SEB bank?
In short, you must have common sense and the ability to work with the unknown. In our work, especially in the early stages of projects, there are many questions that need to be understood and properly structured. This requires critical thinking and a broad perspective. Also, an open mindset and the ability to look at each question from different angles. A complete picture always emerges from many different angles, opinions, and perspectives. The third point I would like to emphasise on is the ability to transform and adjust because we work in a very agile environment here at SEB, where adaptation is an important characteristic. It is comparable to working in a start-up, where there are many unknowns, many new things, only in this case - within a large organization that provides stability.
You mentioned the agile environment, which is an important element of the bank's internal culture. How does this manifest in life?
In the agile approach, smaller steps are taken and what has been achieved is constantly tested and tailored, considering changes identified during implementation. Meaning, we can be flexible and versatile towards our deliveries.
What do you like most about this job?
First, the very knowledgeable, smart and motivated people around me. Experts in their field who are self-confident. The second point is the working environment - not only in my team but in the bank. The culture of the company is that people here are open and helpful. That encourages and makes the daily work much more pleasant.
Can you name three reasons why it would be worth applying for a job at SEB bank?
This is an organization that is working towards building more sustainable economy. Therefore, it makes a great contribution to society by facilitating the transition from the historical business model to the modern one. I know that this is an important aspect for many people because people want to be a part of something valuable. It is also worth applying because there is a diverse environment here where everyone can develop their potential and find opportunities to grow. Ideas and initiatives are heard here and that leads to the third reason - people are greatly valued at SEB and you can feel that in the daily work and interactions. Therefore, I would advise those who are thinking about applying to SEB bank to give it a try. Maybe you will manage to unleash your true potential here that you have not even thought of before. Bank is a large organization where a career can develop in many different directions. It is worth a try!
Dmitri KuraksaEnterprise Architect
Education: TalTech – Tallinn University of Technology
When and how did you start working at SEB and in the IT industry in general?
I started working at SEB about five years ago. I came here as an experienced professional – it was a time when SEB was starting to grow in a targeted way and there was a lot of demand for building forces in the technology sector. In my case, it was cloud architecture, a relatively new technology with lots of potential. My first task was to build a cloud platform, which my team and I did. It was a new development direction that improved the bank’s ability to develop new solutions as well as enhance and operate existing ones. I have worked in the past in several IT companies as well as in the banking sector in Estonia. Before that, I worked as a lecturer at Tallinn University of Technology. So, I know many of my colleagues very well, because some of them were my students or studied with my friends who were teachers, too.
Why did you switch from teaching to business?
I stayed at the university after graduating because I had the opportunity to pursue a career in academic science. But the 1990s were a time of change and it quickly became clear that there would be no funding for science. At the same time, a new, purely academic project called the “Internet” emerged, which was known only to a few specialists at the time. It seemed overly exciting, and my colleagues and I set up one of the first internet connections in Estonia. It should be noted that the Internet looked quite different back then, it was much more complicated to use and there were only a few connections that were used for transferring documents, for example. The connections that existed in Europe could be drawn on a large sheet of paper. For many people, it was a complete novelty because even IT people came to me and asked me to show them what the Internet looked like and what they could do with it. As we know today, this was the beginning of a new era, not only in technology or business but in society in general.
You have a lot of experience in the technology sector - what made you want to join exactly the SEB team?
Development potential. As a bank, SEB used to be quite conservative, but it took a qualitative change at some point. I had been a customer of SEB for a long time, so the bank was familiar to me, and I was keen to join the team to be part of the next stage of development. During this time, we created and implemented a lot of automated processes, which have replaced manual work in many areas and made the bank more modern and efficient. This is the work of a large and ambitious team that is not afraid to make bold decisions, for example updates and improvements – we can now update many banking apps several times a day without even shutting them down. In the past, none of this was possible.
What exactly is the scope of your responsibility?
My team and I are responsible for the bank’s IT – mainly communication channels, applications, and platforms. One of the biggest challenges in this area is to ensure interoperability and collaboration between all systems, anticipate potential problems, and keep up with key developments. For example, we completed an important phase of work on the new version of online banking, in which my team also played a major role. After all, it is one thing to programme a new solution, it is another to make this new solution work efficiently and fit into the rest of the IT infrastructure. This is the biggest challenge for me and my team.
In what ways is an architect’s job different from that of a programmer?
A programmer, for the most part, fulfils requirements given to him by the business side of the bank. And the programmer is essentially thinking about the task that has been given to him. The challenge for architects is to look at the field of IT as a whole – to see the connections between many applications, to recognise the potential problems, for example in the case of huge workloads, and to recognise the main directions in which the big machine is moving. You could compare it to the captain of a big ship, who thinks about the direction of the journey, the safety and functioning of all systems, and is able to foresee emergencies. For example, we have several data centres to ensure the continuity of the service in unexpected moments.
How would you describe SEB as an employer?
SEB has grown from a national organization to an international one. This brings with it a change in corporate culture, which is becoming much more diverse and colourful. In turn, this means another level of cooperation between people of different cultures and backgrounds. It may be harder at some points, but in the end, this diversity is definitely good for the organization.
Would you recommend SEB as a first place of work for those who have chosen an IT area as their profession?
First of all, what kind of people do I recommend for a career in IT? The most important prerequisite is the willingness to learn constantly, all your life. Because this is not a field where you read books and articles, listen to lectures and that is it – you have mastered the subject. Here, knowledge becomes outdated very quickly and you have to constantly improve. I am still learning, even though I have been in this field for over 30 years. As far as working at SEB Bank is concerned, the biggest advantage is the size of the company. Only in a company of this size can young employees have access to an experienced mentor. In my opinion, this is crucial for your future career - whether you are taught practical things by someone with experience or someone who is still learning. Small companies simply cannot afford to have several very experienced people who also have mentorship skills. Experienced staff is crucial when it comes to attracting good new employees. Other benefits include the wide range of possible working fields – you can try different things until you find what you like best. Also, the amount of technology available is always greater in a large company. I would therefore recommend that a new employee starts his or her career in a company like SEB rather than in a start-up.
What other qualities should a person who wants to make a successful career in this field have?
You need to have an interest in IT and technology as well as a healthy curiosity. I know that there are often problems with drawing a line, with finishing the job. That is usually the hardest part, but it can be learned. But if you like it, are interested in it, and are willing to learn, you will succeed.
Which university would you recommend in the IT area in the Baltic States?
I think all the old technical universities in the Baltics are quite strong. They have historical baggage, a modern perspective, and good teachers.
What do you think is Estonia’s special recipe that has allowed the country to develop so strongly in the field of IT and technology?
The most important thing was the development of the Internet, which happened a little earlier and faster here. That made a big difference because people became interested in the subject. The first big companies emerged, the best-known brands are internationally known, and the whole technology landscape developed as a result. But in the beginning, there was interest in the technology and the belief that it had a great future.