Head of Research at the Bank of Finland Institute of Emerging Economics
I am Iikka Korhonen, and I was born in 1969 in Helsinki. For most of my life, I have stayed within the Helsinki metropolitan area. My studies began in the late Helsingin Kauppakorkeakoulu in 1990 and I finished my master’s in 1994. Presumably, I majored in economics. As a minor I studied finance, formal sciences, and English. Formal sciences consist mostly of mathematics, statistics, and data science. After finishing my master’s degree, my thirst for economics wasn’t satisfied and I continued to doctoral studies and eventually finished my PhD in 2008.
Currently, I work as a Head of Research in the Bank of Finland. In many ways the Bank of Finland has been and still is a very privileged workplace to observe how the world, Europe, and Finland works. For brief periods I have also worked in Italy, Austria, Japan, and Hong Kong.
In Bank of Finland I observe, research, and analyze several different nations’ economies and the world’s economic situation. Majoring in economics created a very good basis to do this. Economics as a major helps to build a very special and systemic way of thinking.
As an advice, I would like to emphasize that theory is important but as equally is the empirical studies. Besides economics, it’s often beneficial for future job applicants that if you have some skills that others may not have. It could be a foreign language or some similar skill. Also, being able to communicate – written skills – are never bad skills to have!
Freely translated to English by Aalto Economics.
Partner at Pilotos Ltd and Board member in non-profit entities
I got interested in Economics because the big picture has always interested me. Economics does not provide answers to all matters at hand, but it provides a structure to handle almost any kind of phenomenon. I thought the university time should be spent studying such large theories that you do not have time for later in life.
I am a finance professional, specialised in equity ownership. I have been an investment director for the State of Finland and a CEO of a family investment office. I started my career as an investment banker and worked for some years in asset management.
Currently I am a founder-partner in a new private equity fund management company. It is in fundraising phase and will start operations later in 2021. After a many-faceted and demanding career in the service of many owners, I am excited to be part of a partnership – yet another type of ownership for me, and terribly interesting.
In Economics, one learns a mind-set to see the structures and incentives in any situation. This is helpful in identifying market malfunctions, risky structures, or even bad HR situations (HR=human resources). This works well in any type of market analysis (which is important for all businessmen) but also at company level: what can happen, how does our market and competition operate, what are the geographic uncertainties, etc.
In work with companies and real markets, no analysis is worthwhile if it is based mainly on mathematical skills. All AaltoBiz graduates, including from Economics, should form a well-rounded sophistication about marketing (which is = company management), strategy, people skills and communication. Economics can be combined to many executive roles and the importance of Economics grows later in one’s career (because you handle and discuss larger matters), but one never grows to be an executive if one cannot grasp a wide variety of topics. If you can scramble by the mathematics in Economics, great – but after that, do concentrate on verbal logic, not formulas. If you cannot explain things to your mother, you may not succeed in a career in business.
My advice: it is worthwhile to acquire working experience from Economics/Market/Investment related fields. Once you have these, be careful to look around and ask yourself: What are my strengths? and What are the Next Big Things? From there you can identify further where to proceed in your career. This may be banking, government, investments, corporates, consultancy, entrepreneurship.
In my experience, it has been absolutely central to work in fields that have been growing at the time, as opposed to clinging to roles that have lost their uniqueness over the years. World changes rapidly, one should too. This means ability to change work every 5-7 years, because it gives you adaptability and a wide coverage of topics that you really know well (through earlier work).
M.Sc. (Econ) from Helsinki School of Economics (years 1985-91)
DBA (Doctor of Business Administration) from Aalto University (years 2013-16)
- CEO of Family wealth office Hartwall Capital
- Investment Director of Solidium, state equity portfolio
- Senior Counsellor, Prime Minister’s Office, state equity portfolio
- Director, New products and open architecture, Pohjola Asset Management
- Partner, Conventum investment banking
- Former board member of Tikkurila, Terveystalo and Patria
- Currently a board member in non-profit entities, e.g, Aalto University Student Body AYY Finance committee and John Nurminen Foundation.
- Talouselämä columnist (a business weekly)
Data Scientist / Economist at QuantCo
I am from Joutsa, which is located in the Central Finland region, but I have lived in Boston since 2013. I started my studies in the late Helsinki School of Economics but my Bachelor’s degree already read Aalto University School of Business. Fortunately, this ambiguity has not had to be explained later. I majored in economics and minored in finance and information and service management. ISM proved to be a great choice next to economics. Also, because I enjoyed mathematics, I did some basics math studies at the University of Helsinki.
Alongside my studies, I worked summers in VATT and as a research assistant for a few professors who recommended me to continue economics studies in the USA. So, I sent my application to six so-called top universities and got accepted into four of them, from which MIT was an easy choice. I had already done first-year micro and macro doctor courses in Helsinki, but I had to redo them at MIT. Content-wise I didn’t see much difference between Helsinki and Boston. As I was completing my doctoral studies, it became clear that I didn’t necessarily want to become a full-time researcher, so I didn’t apply for academic positions, even though I enjoyed teaching. So, I finished my PhD in 2018 and started working at QuantCo, which is a German-US data science company. Generally, I work at the crossroads of economics, machine learning, and statistics. Because of this, I try to stay up to date with the latest research and try to implement them into practical problems. My job description includes handling and making sense of big data, so I face billions of rows of data every day. So far, I have built models to forecast demands for millions of products and a model to prevent unnecessary back surgeries.
Economics, in my opinion, can prove to be beneficial in every profession because it gives the tools to analyze and model how people behave. Also, from my studies, I was left with the desire to understand concepts on a deeper level and the skill to ask the right questions. The presentations and lectures that I gave have proven to be useful because I had to find a way to compress difficult concepts into easily digestible packages.
I recommend you keep the basic theories in the back of your head since they are usually asked in job interviews. I encourage you to also study other subjects than economics and not to label yourself only as an economics student. I studied programming and machine learning in my own time which eventually helped me in getting my current job. Data science remains a hot field that hasn’t fully understood the value of economics. For this reason, an economist who can code can be a valuable asset for a company. As of this moment, Python remains the most beneficial language, but R would be an excellent choice as well.
Today, one of the fastest-growing fields of economics is causal inference, which practically means finding causal relationships either from experimental or observational data. It is also practiced frequently in companies outside the academic world. You can familiarize yourself with the field by reading the already famous Mostly harmless econometrics (Angrist & Pischke, 2008) and the latest research by Susan Athey.
Freely translated to English by Aalto Economics.
Analyst at Copenhagen Economics
I started at my current firm Copenhagen economics in Fall 2019 after my graduation. I work in our Helsinki office, but I lived and worked in Copenhagen for a while as well. At CE, I work in the competition economics department, in which we help clients to build their best economic argument when they face interest or intervention from competition authorities. Before joining CE, I worked for If-insurance company, while my studies. My responsibilities included project coordination and data-analytics. Besides CE and If, I have also worked as a course assistant in Principles in Economics course.
Naturally, I majored in economics. As a minor, I selected programming courses, marketing, finance, and some accounting courses. Besides just studying, I was very active in student activities. I was part in KUJ, KY board, and KY body of representatives.Especially beneficial courses have been the ones teaching quantitative skills. For example, econometrics and programming courses in Python and SQL were especially useful at the beginning of my career. I do not necessarily use these skills daily, but they have opened many doors job wise. I want to also emphasize that being active in the student community has helped me later in life. It has thought me soft skills like argumentation skills or how to work in teams. Also, from student organizations, I have met a lot of friends that have later helped me to navigate in my career.
Aalto has many exiting courses that I recommend current students to explore. Studying other topics than economics, can bring advantages when applying entry-level jobs, since many positions in economics unfortunately require at least bachelor’s degree.
Analyst at Compass Lexecon
I started working as an Analyst at Compass Lexecon after graduation, in early 2020. In the past few months, I have worked in multiple cases in the EMEA region (Europe, the Middle East and Africa), mostly in antitrust and competition cases such as mergers. I have enjoyed applying economic theories learned at the university to real-world cases and working with talented individuals in a supportive atmosphere.
For economics students, I suggest utilizing the extensive learning opportunities provided by Helsinki GSE and Aalto University. In addition to being active in classes, it is also useful (and fun) to participate in student life and organizations. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to pursue your goals, and do not undervalue yourself.
Developement Manager at Nordea
I started in my current position as Development Manager in Nordea Finance in 2018, after being in various positions within financial industry before this. Development manager is a business role but acts between business and IT, therefore good understanding of not just banking but IT as well is helpful. As an application owner I am responsible for a portfolio of different applications. My areas of responsibilities are quite wide and include stability, security, compliance, access management and change management just to name a few. I use that mandate to make decisions, drive development initiatives and secure sufficient funding in order to improve the overall health of my applications.
In this position, economics degree is not a prerequisite since I don’t use economic theories to do my job. However, I need to understand large and complex systems and causal relations and economic studies really help to understand them. Also, economics teaches you to communicate complex issues in a way that is easy to understand. It is an important skill when you want management to understand why they need to spend large amounts of money in something that doesn’t directly bring more profits.
I recommend to fully use the learning opportunities that Aalto offers and taking part in different activities and organizations. For example, accepting the role of chairman in Aalto Economics back in 2012 was one of the wisest decisions I have made during my time in the university. I hope I can act as an example that studying economics doesn’t really rule out any career paths but enables you to pursue a wide range of careers. You really can do what you want after graduation.