For Saara-Maria Helminen, working as a corporate counsel at one of Finland’s major listed companies is professionally challenging, demanding, diversified and mind-broadening. ”And most of all, it’s fun,” adds Helminen with a laugh.
Saara-Maria Helminen joined Kesko as a corporate counsel in 2012 from Ernst & Young where she worked as a legal counsel and manager in transaction law practice group. When she took on a one-year secondment with Kesko Food, she had no idea what lay ahead.
- When I came to Kesko Food, I hardly knew anything else about the K-Group except K-food stores and the Plussa balls. But my knowledge about the scope of Kesko’s business operations increased rapidly and I got in touch with the regulation concerning the trading sector and its special features.
When the secondment ended, Helminen was offered a position in Kesko Corporation, the Kesko Group parent company.
- Changing from the grocery trade to the world of listed companies was another leap into new territory for me, but I’ve always thought that change is only good. It’s really great that within one Group, a lawyer can work with very different matters and develop her/himself in different areas of law. At Kesko, I have a grandstand view of the operations of one of Finland’s largest listed companies.
Helminen’s current duties largely consist of Kesko Corporation’s legal affairs, especially securities market law, company law, corporate governance, contract law, intellectual property rights and data security matters. In fact, Helminen describes herself as a “Jill-of-all-trades” in the world of listed companies.
- That’s because in my job, I get to deal with very different legal matters, which requires extensive competence in addition to your own areas of expertise. Fortunately, Kesko has its own brilliant experts in tax and HR laws so that those areas are not included in my portfolio of responsibilities. Every day is different and that’s good!
In Helminen’s opinion, one of the biggest challenges in a lawyer’s job is the constantly changing regulation.
- Kesko has a large business portfolio and operations in eight countries, which is why we are affected by an enormous amount of regulations. Legal challenges in the car and machinery trade, in the food trade and the building and home improvement trade, and in the listed company world are all different. The sea of regulations is massive and navigating it while surfing among the changes poses certain challenges.
At the workplace, Helminen does not show off. She emphasizes that a lawyer’s main duty is to serve and support the management and the business. Displaying her easy-going style in pink Reino slippers, bought at a K-store, she wants to say that there is no need to be scared of a lawyer.
- A lawyer’s duty is to help and support others in their day-to-day work, to be a partner to the management and the business– a facilitator, not an obstruction. And the issues I personally handle are usually relatively challenging, and difficult things won’t become easier if you put on airs and graces. At work, you can and should have fun!