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History

The story of Sampo began in 1909. This brief history of Sampo encapsulates all of the relevant milestones of Sampo Group - from the early years prior to Finland’s independence right through to the present day.

Sampo has become a significant Nordic financial group and one of the most valuable companies listed on Nasdaq Helsinki.

Sampo has become a significant Nordic financial group and one of the most valuable companies listed on Nasdaq Helsinki.

The history of Sampo is in many ways the history of a nation. The company was reminded of this when it started searching for the missing owners of old paper share certificates at the end of 2016.

This episode involved shares that were never entered into the book-entry system. Sampo publicly searched for missing shares through a letter campaign which got many Finns rummaging through their attics and old boxes. The company received over 100,000 replies from people around the country. The effort was directly linked to the 1980s when Sampo became a limited company and gained a record amount of shareholders at the time.

Today, Sampo's business divides into three parts: If P&C Insurance is the largest non-life insurance company in the Nordic region, Mandatum Life is in charge of the life insurance business and also offers financial management services. In addition, Sampo owns over 20% of Nordea Bank AB, the biggest bank in the Nordic countries.

Sampo has owned Nordea shares since 2006 and the bank became an associated company of Sampo in 2010. Already strong in Finland, Sweden and Norway, Sampo has also gained a foothold in Denmark. The second largest Danish insurance company, Topdanmark, became an associate of the Sampo Group in 2011. By the end of 2016, Sampo's shareholding was more than 40%.   

The recession of the 2010s has had relatively little impact on Sampo's operations. Sampo has become the biggest P&C insurance company in the Nordic countries, a substantial financial group, and one of the most valuable companies listed on Nasdaq Helsinki. The Sampo of the 2010s is a financially stable group with a long-term mindset and a readiness to continue to increase its shareholder value. 

Main photo: Juha Törmälä, Helsinki Portrait Oy
Small Photo: Johannes Romppanen, Duotone

Shareholders at the Annual General Meeting in 2014.

49

Sampo reached its highest closing share price to date in April 2015 when the A share of the company was valued at over 49 euros.

At the turn of the millennium, Sampo made a surprise move into the banking world together with Leonia Bank. Sampo's new decade also saw the biggest cash deal in Finnish economic history and the company rise to a major Nordic insurance group.

At the turn of the millennium, Sampo made a surprise move into the banking world together with Leonia Bank. Sampo's new decade also saw the biggest cash deal in Finnish economic history and the company rise to a major Nordic insurance group.

The biggest financial news item in Finland at the start of the new millennium was the merger of Sampo and the state-owned Leonia Bank. It was the first time in Finnish history that banking, non-life and life insurances were grouped together under the same roof. The Finnish state became the biggest owner of the new business group.

The new Sampo-Leonia signs had only just been installed on the roof of a single office when the company name was again shortened – this time to Sampo. The name was secured when the investment bank Mandatum joined the group at the end of 2000. Björn Wahlroos became Group CEO and President and brought with him a new type of thinking derived from his banking expertise. The focus of operations shifted towards bank services and long-term savings.

"The Nordic financial field will be most strongly influenced in the coming years by internet banking services, the saving and investing interests of individuals, as well as by the internationalization of investments and of mergers and acquisitions" predicted Wahlroos on a news program of the Finnish broadcasting company MTV at the end of 2000.

During the 1990s, Sampo had ambitions to expand into other Nordic countries but this direction took a firmer stand in the next decade. In 2002, Sampo became a shareholder of the Nordic property and casualty insurance company If. Two years later, Sampo bought out the Norwegian company Storebrand, the Swedish-owned Skandia, and the Finnish insurance company Varma, making itself the sole owner of If.

Sampo announced a business deal in November 2006 that remains in Finnish economic history to this day due to its massive proportions: The Group sold its banking operations to Denmark’s Danske Bank for a purchase price of over four billion euros. It was the biggest ever cash transaction made in Finland.

The economic upturn came to a halt in 2008, but even the challenging years that followed did not affect the success of Sampo. As the owner of If, Sampo became the largest non-life insurance company in the Nordic region. Björn Wahlroos was named Chairman of the Board in 2009 and Kari Stadigh became Group CEO and President.    

Main photo: Marja Seppänen-Helin, Lehtikuva
Small photo: Kimmo Mäntylä, Lehtikuva

The new era of Sampo came with new sleek signs.

2005

This was the year that Sampo's headquarters were moved from Turku to Helsinki.

In the 1990s, Sampo took steps into Europe but also strengthened its position in Finland. Following several transactions, Sampo became the biggest insurance company in the country.

In the 1990s, Sampo took steps into Europe but also strengthened its position in Finland. Following several transactions, Sampo became the biggest insurance company in the country.    

The economic recession of the early 1990s hit the nation hard and resulted in growing rates of both bankruptcies and unemployment. As Sampo's business focus was on households, the depression had less impact on the company as compared to many of its competitors.

In 1994, Sampo acquired the insurance companies Otso and Teollisuusvakuutus. The latter specialized in large-scale industry and suffered badly from the economic depression. In spring 1994, Sampo also acquired Vahinko-Kansa.

During the same year, the European Economic Area (EEA) was formed, which transformed Europe into a common market for 320 million people. For Sampo, the EEA Agreement meant that Finnish companies working on an international level would have more freedom to purchase their insurance policies in other European Community (now European Union) countries. Foreign insurance companies now also had easier access to the Finnish market. The competition for clients was intensifying, but Sampo retained its opportunities for growth.

Sampo accommodated the pressure of internalization at the time by expanding into the Baltic states and Russia. It was the first international insurance company in Saint Petersburg to form its own body of representatives to assist Finnish and international companies in risk management. Sampo also closely followed the steps of the insurance company If, which was founded in 1999 by Skandia, a Swedish insurance company and Storebrand, the Norwegian insurer.   

As the depression wore off, life insurance policies gained more in popularity compared to other insurance policies. Nordic insurance companies started to invest in this growing sector and Sampo also went on to found a life insurance company in 1997, which was at the time called Henki-Sampo (Sampo Life) and is nowadays known as Mandatum Life. At the end of the century, Sampo had grown to become Finland’s largest insurance company by some distance. 

Main photo: Jukka Ritola, Lehtikuva
Small photo: Marja Seppänen-Helin, Lehtikuva

The pension insurance providers Eläke-Sampo and Eläke-Varma merged together as Varma-Sampo in the summer of 1998.

1999

In 1999, most household insurance matters could already be handled on Sampo's website. Corporate clients could handle all of their business in a completely paper-free manner.

Sampo was listed on the Helsinki Stock Exchange in 1988. The company from southwestern Finland became a publicly listed company that was looking for opportunities to grow throughout the country.

Sampo was listed on the Helsinki Stock Exchange in 1988. The company from southwestern Finland became a publicly listed company that was looking for opportunities to grow throughout the country.

In October 1984, the top management of Sampo gathered in a meeting room in Helsinki's legendary Hotel Torni. The meeting kicked off a top secret project, which was only referred to with a code name ´Capital Suffiency´. The project was deemed so sensitive that its documentation was not even filed in the material available to management.

The project moved forward and at the end of 1984, the Board decided that the company's legal form would be changed from a mutual pension insurance company to a limited company. The decision was reached in a typical 1980s style: Finland was undergoing an economic boom and many companies had started to list themselves. As Sampo believed strongly in growth, it also realized this required capital.

The listing process took several years of preparation and Sampo examined other Nordic companies such as the Swedish company Trygg-Hansa in search of benchmarks. At the start of 1988, everything was ready: Sampo was listed on the Helsinki Stock Exchange on 14 January.

Sampo's shareholders initially amounted to over 800,000 individuals, which was more than any other limited company in Finland. Millions of stock certificates were printed. The amount of shares available for each client was determined by the total amount of insurance services purchased by the client.

The majority of the new shareholders had never owned shares in a company and the stock exchange was foreign territory to most people. When Sampo later adopted a book-entry system, some of the paper share certificates were unfortunately not transferred into the book-entry account and were instead passed into a joint account under Sampo’s name.  

The 1980s were characterized by years of economic growth and the rise of the Yuppie culture, as well as the era of the welfare state. Child benefits, unemployment benefits and pensions were raised while working hours were reduced. Finland even enjoyed moments of full employment in this decade. 

Main photo: Matti Björkman, Lehtikuva
Small photo: Sampo plc

Sampo's insurance clients became shareholders in the limited company.

830,000

The new limited company Sampo had a staggering 830,000 new shareholders.

Considerable numbers of people migrated from rural to urban areas and Finland was built - one concrete suburb at a time. Sampo was at the core of shaping a new decade by financing the construction efforts.

Considerable numbers of people migrated from rural to urban areas and Finland was built - one concrete suburb at a time. Sampo was at the core of shaping a new decade by financing the construction efforts.  

A grid-like concrete suburb with a vast area where children played represents a strong mental image of the 1970s. Finland was in the midst of a construction boom and cities grew out into new suburbs. During the peak years of the 1970s, approximately 70,000 housing units were built per year. In comparison, construction today occurs at less than half this rate.

Sampo closely followed the trends of the time and offered loans for housing construction. As an example, Sampo participated in financing over 6,000 new units in 1971.The suburbs were born out of need as half of all Finns now lived in cities.

The hot topic of the era was “customer focus”.  Sampo developed its organizational structure and the company's branches prided themselves on providing excellent service. Following the introduction of computers into offices in 1976, work tasks could be completed in less time.

Sampo refreshed its product catalogue and the concept of “packaging” became popular. For example, a single travel insurance would gather together all insurance policies needed while traveling.

The field was marked with a trend of centralization, which was partly supported by the state. Sampo acquired the Tarmo Mutual Pension Insurance Company in 1970. Meanwhile, in 1977 the country's oldest life insurance company, Kaleva, a company which had found itself in financial trouble during the recession, joined Sampo Group.

The company headquarters in Turku was by now too small. Therefore, a new office building was constructed close to the original headquarters and this was completed in 1975. The building's quirks included a pool and sauna facilities on the ground floor, as well as a drive-in service for car damages.

Main photo: Lea Bucciarelli, Helsinki City Museum
Small photo: Pekka Kyytinen, The Picture Archives of Pekka Kyytinen, Ethnographic Picture Collection, National Board of Antiquities

The peak years saw as many as 70,000 new housing units built in a year.

1977

Sampo launched the groundbreaking Sampo Agreement, which gathered all of the insurance policies of a family under one joint policy.

The decade of motorization also brought with it the first traffic jams! Sampo was soon on the way to insuring all motor vehicles - from tractors all the way through to mopeds. At the same time, the insurance industry was the talk of the town all over Finland.

The decade of motorization also brought with it the first traffic jams! Sampo was soon on the way to insuring all motor vehicles - from tractors all the way through to mopeds. At the same time, the insurance industry was the talk of the town all over Finland.

"By settling your claims, Sampo makes your life safe". This was the Sampo slogan from its first television commercial in 1962.

The marketing buzz of insurance companies was not the result of new, exciting mass communication devices. It was instead due to the common increased interest towards insurance business in the 1960s. The relevance of insurance companies became stronger during the war years and there was a new wish to nationalize the business branch and its profits.

The pressure to develop the insurance field led to business mergers among insurance companies towards the end of the decade. In 1967, Sampo merged with Kaupunkien Keskinäinen Vakuutusyhtiö, which was one of the oldest insurance companies in the country.

The 1960s were also a time of shaping the welfare society. Older people had more security following the employee pension act and the national pension and the maternity allowance was launched. Furthermore, a law was passed to secure medical insurance. Saturdays were no longer classified as working days and Sampo employees had their first summer Saturdays off in 1966. By 1968, they no longer had to work on Saturdays at all.

The decade of motorization also saw the first traffic jams. A new traffic insurance act was introduced in 1960 which required all motor vehicles from mopeds to tractors to be insured when on the road.

Sampo focused on traffic and the company's most important products became the motor liability insurance and voluntary comprehensive motor insurance. Insuring motor vehicles became a diverse range of business: For instance, a sobriety discount on the traffic insurance was offered from 1961 to 1968. This involved insurance being provided at a reduced rate for those car owners who declared they never drink alcohol.   

Main photo: Helsinki City Museum
Small photo: 75 Sampovuotta, Keskinäinen Vakuutusyhtiö Sampo 1909 – 1984 (1984)

Transporting the first computers to the Sampo office was a demanding task.

1962

This was the year that Sampo's headquarters leased its first computer - the IBM 1401.

Wartime rationing was now in the past and Finnish industry picked up. Homes started to be equipped with electric stoves, washing machines and other household appliances, which were paired with new insurance products by Sampo.

Wartime rationing was now in the past and Finnish industry picked up. Homes started to be equipped with electric stoves, washing machines and other household appliances, which were paired with new insurance products by Sampo. 

The early 1950s saw Finnish supermarkets including oranges and bananas among their product ranges, which represented the end of wartime rationing.

The number of Sampo employees had doubled by the end of the 1940s. The growing company also started to place emphasis on securing a sense of togetherness. In 1955 Sampo purchased an island estate on the southwestern coast of Finland near Turku for use as shared recreational facilities for employees.  Sampo employees could now spend summer days in the archipelago and enjoy such activities as volleyball, Finnish baseball and orienteering. Friendly games were organized between company departments, as well as with different insurance companies.

Employee education was another new focus point. Sampo organized in-house training sessions on a variety of insurance-related topics. The first study program in the field, which included a standardized degree, was founded in 1958.

The 1950s was marked with a transition from an agricultural society to an industrial one. Paying off war reparations had a positive impact on both the metal and shipbuilding industries. Department stores were opened in cities, mopeds and motorcycles took over the streets and highways, and the Helsinki Summer Olympics in 1952 left the population enthralled.

Homes became equipped with new appliances such as FM radios, electric stoves, refrigerators, and pulsator washing machines, all of which came with their respective insurance policies. Meanwhile, the television insurance premium at the time was determined by the size of the picture tube.

Working through the demands of war reparations brought a new focus on planning and efficiency in Finland. And even Sampo started to actively "rationalize" its actions. In 1950, there were no less than 28 distinct rationalizing projects. These included optimizing account settlements and speeding up the processing of insurance policies. Sampo was seen as a well-organized, technically up-to-date company.

Main photo: Olavi Mannonen, Helsinki City Museum
Small photo: Teuvo Kanerva, National Board of Antiquities

Television offered entertainment also for children and new business opportunities for insurance companies.

1957

This was when Sampo insured the first television.

The Second World War once again derailed the everyday life of Sampo employees. The war years shaped insurance companies into important institutions that stabilized the national economy.

The Second World War once again derailed the everyday life of Sampo employees. The war years shaped insurance companies into important institutions that stabilized the national economy. 

The bombing of Turku started at the end of 1939 and made working conditions difficult at the company headquarters. At the turn of the year, office hours were switched around in order to minimize the risk of bombing. For a period of time, the working day started at 4 pm and ended at 10 pm. Meanwhile, during another period, the working day was split into two parts: From 9 am to 11 am, and again from 4 pm to 8 pm.

In February 1940, life at the headquarters took an unfortunate twist as the roof and facade of the building were damaged by the bombing. This resulted in the office functions being transferred to the in-house bomb shelter.

The work of insurance companies gained significance during wartime and the sector was seen to be an important part of stabilizing the national economy. Fire and accident insurances became the most sought-after Sampo products. As the volume of fire insurance policies grew, so too did the volume of accidents, which directly impacted on the company's profitability.   

The company experienced financial shake-ups due to heavy losses from buildings that had been destroyed in Karelia. This is a region of Finland that was lost to Russia in the Winter War. In addition, the company's offices in Vyborg now remained behind the new border.

In spite of the troubles at the time, the Finnish economy began to recover and starting from 1948 witnessed an economic boom like never before. This growth also benefited Sampo and the company started to set up offices across other large towns in Finland. More employees were needed and towards the end of the decade the amount of Sampo employees had grown to over 200.

Main photo: 75 Sampovuotta, Keskinäinen Vakuutusyhtiö Sampo 1909 – 1984 (1984)
Small photo: Pekka Kyytinen, The Picture Archives of Antell/Pekka Kyytinen, National Board of Antiquities

Holding on to the joy of life in wartime through dances and social gatherings.

1944

A recreational committee was founded at Sampo to organize celebrations and activities for employees.

After the years of the depression, Sampo found itself in financial trouble. However, the company was back on its feet at the end of the decade and the recovery was symbolized by the brand new headquarters that were completed in 1938.

After the years of the depression, Sampo found itself in financial trouble. However, the company was back on its feet at the end of the decade and the recovery was symbolized by the brand new headquarters that were completed in 1938.

In 1936, Sampo ran an architectural tender to find a design for the new headquarters. The old spaces in the Verdandi House had become too small as the company continued to grow. By the mid-1930s, the number of Sampo employees had surpassed 130.  

The winning bid was that of the Turku-based architect Erik Bryggman, who was one of the pioneers of functionalist architecture in Finland at the time. Bryggman's proposal was completed on Yliopistonkatu in central Turku in 1938. The building was equipped with the most up-to-date technology and this was admired by many visitors. New applications included a modern timecard for the tracking of working hours. 

By the 1930s, one in every four Finns was living in cities. Life was taking modern turns and city dwellers were enjoying new educational opportunities, better housing and factory-made clothing.

At the same time, new legislation and best practices standardized the insurance field. In fact, 1933 was a landmark year for Finnish insurance legislation following the introduction of a set of laws that was considered the most advanced in all of Europe.

Whilst the depression of the 1930s was short-lived in Finland, Sampo was slow to recover from it. Cutbacks in construction projects, companies shutting down and lower pay checks made a dent in premium income. In addition, Sampo was cautious about jumping on the bandwagon when it came to new approaches to gaining business, such as providing special offers on insurances.

Sampo was seen as a Swedish-language company, which in turn was thought by some to be harming its business development in Finland. The language battles that affected Finland in the 1930s also played out in the company. As most insurance clients were Finnish-speaking, the company wanted this to transfer into decision-making. In 1938, Finnish was made the official and the only language of the Board of Directors.

Main photo: Pietinen, The Picture Archives of Pietinen, National Board of Antiquities
Small photo: 75 Sampovuotta, Keskinäinen Vakuutusyhtiö Sampo 1909 – 1984 (1984)

The employees celebrated Christmas in jazz cabaret style at the beginning of the 1930s.

1935

Sampo opened its first local branch in Helsinki.

With motor vehicles becoming more popular, Sampo was among the first companies to offer car insurance. The standard of living was also improving promisingly until the 1929 stock market crash in New York, which triggered a worldwide depression.

With motor vehicles becoming more popular, Sampo was among the first companies to offer car insurance. The standard of living was also improving promisingly until the 1929 stock market crash in New York, which triggered a worldwide depression. 

The new innovation in the insurance sector in 1920 was car insurance. Sampo was one of the pioneers to offer this new type of insurance. And just five years later a new traffic law was introduced in Finland that obliged car owners to insure their vehicles against possible accidents.

The idea for car insurance served to complement Sampo's wide range of insurances, which included a livestock insurance. Sampo's pioneering approach was rewarded as the new law came into effect. Car insurance became one of the main business areas of Sampo throughout the following decade.     

The standard of living in Finland rose in the 1920s and consumer behavior changed. City dwellers became accustomed to factory-made clothing and enjoyed more free time. Meanwhile, the country's economy was propelled by the growing export of paper and timber goods, as well as construction projects. However, despite these developments, the main source of livelihood in Finland continued to be small-scale agriculture. 

A worldwide depression was set in motion as the New York Stock Exchange crashed in 1929, which resonated in Finland with the decline of the construction and forestry sectors. With the food shortage of the previous decade still fresh in the memory at Sampo, the company continued to take care of its employees. The headquarters offered porridge every morning and employees received a paycheck for an additional month in December. 

Sampo secured its position in the Finnish insurance market and started to make international contacts. In 1928, Sampo began a reinsurance collaboration with the the Danish enterprise Kjøbenhavnske Re. It proved to be a collaboration that would last for decades. 

Main photo: Pietinen, The Picture Archives of Pietinen, National Board of Antiquities
Photo 2: 75 Sampovuotta, Keskinäinen Vakuutusyhtiö Sampo 1909 – 1984 (1984)

Insurance advertisements were often linked to current events.

62

The number of Sampo employees in 1923.

Initially based in the city of Turku, Sampo started to branch out into the countryside as it developed new insurance products. Towards the end of the decade, Finland was faced with civil war and an urgent shortage of food products.

Initially based in the city of Turku, Sampo started to branch out into the countryside as it developed new insurance products. Towards the end of the decade, Finland was faced with civil war and an urgent shortage of food products. 

In spite of its local Turku-based image, the company kept a keen eye on the entire country right from the very beginning. To depict the times, word-of-mouth marketing was handled during one winter by a salesman who travelled with a carriage from town to town in search of new clients.

The early part of the decade saw an economic boom. Timber exports reached an all-time high in 1914 and the same year saw Sampo create the first forest insurance cover in the Finnish market. The company was also engaged in developing other new insurance policies. Meanwhile, some new ideas, such as insurance to cover hailstorms and the expropriation of domestic animals, were left on the drawing board.

Sampo was keeping busy in terms of new business development. In 1912, the company put in place a full-time CEO position. Previously, decisions had been taken by the Board of Directors. The headquarters were modernized with a telephone system and an electronic calculator. However, not everything old goes out with the new: The head of fire claims maintained his reputation for having very quick abacus fingers.       

The First World War understandably disrupted the economic upturn. Finland plummeted into crisis in the fall of 1917 and the nation was hampered with inflation, unemployment and a food shortage. In the following year, the Red Guards occupied Turku and business in the city came to a halt. Sampo employees tried to keep going even as the paramilitary Red Guards confiscated machines and at times monitored the daily functions in the offices.

During the post-war famine, Sampo secured the working capabilities of its employees by renting a farm in nearby Vehmaa for the summer of 1918. A distribution center was set up at the headquarters where the wives of Sampo directors handed out food and produce from the farm to employees. 

Main photo: Markku and Feeliks Kumpula, The Picture Archives of Kimy Publishing Ltd, National Board of Antiquities
Small photo: 75 Sampovuotta, Keskinäinen Vakuutusyhtiö Sampo 1909 – 1984 (1984)

Sampo’s organizing committee meeting at the Turku office in 1911.

09:30 am – 04:00 pm

The official working hours of Sampo employees in 1913, which included a refreshment break during the day.

An industrializing Finnish society and a growing economy called for new types of insurance cover. Founded in 1909, Sampo offered a new line for the insurance sector by providing multiple lines of insurance rather than just a single one.

An industrializing Finnish society and a growing economy called for new types of insurance cover. Founded in 1909, Sampo offered a new line for the insurance sector by providing multiple lines of insurance rather than just a single one.

The Sampo insurance company started out in offices in a Neo-Renaissance style building. This stone structure in central Turku (southwestern Finland) had been completed in 1898. Two other Turku-based insurance companies – Fennia and the reinsurance company Verdandi – had their offices in the same building. The companies shared a visiting address where clients were able to purchase all types of insurance policies available from the portfolios of these companies.

Sampo came about following years of strong industrialization and the need for insurance that followed an economic boom. For example, a law was passed in 1895 requiring industrial workers to be insured against the risk of unsafe work conditions.

Sampo started out as something of a unique newcomer in the Finnish insurance field. This was because most insurance companies at the start of the 20th century only offered a single line of insurance. Therefore, a number of businessmen in Turku came up with the idea of centralizing different lines of insurance under the same roof so as to better serve their clientele. Sampo was founded under this principle.

Its unorthodox business approach meant that Sampo was initially met with skepticism. The company was called a chameleon and a Jack of all trades, master of none. Nevertheless, the clientele soon appreciated this new approach and Sampo employed sixteen people by the end of its first year.

Being a Finnish company was a major advantage for Sampo. Whilst several international insurance companies had offices in Finland at the beginning of the 20th century, there was a clear wish for local entities. National identity was present in the company name: The Sampo is described as a magical artefact that brings good fortune in the national epic poetry Kalevala. Indeed, the Finnish romantic era was marked with many references to Kalevala. Another example of this is the life insurance company Kaleva that was founded in 1874.

Main photo: The Picture Archives of Åbo Akademi
Small photo: 75 Sampovuotta, Keskinäinen Vakuutusyhtiö Sampo 1909 – 1984 (1984)

The first print advertisement by Sampo was published in the Uusi Aura newspaper following a disastrous tramway accident.

16

Sampo employed 16 people at the end of its first year.