Christie + Co is one of the leading business property specialists in Europe, with a history going back 70 years. The company offers brokering, valuation and consultancy services within the hospitality, leisure, care and retail sectors.
According to Kimmo Virtanen, Director of Christie + Co in Scandinavia, Russia and the Baltic States, the company sold over 600 hotels in Europe and carried out more than 1000 valuations and consultancies last year. “We were doing quite a lot of work in Scandinavia and the Baltic States so the question arose whether we could do much more if we actually had a permanent presence there,” says Virtanen.
Research showed that there was more demand for the services offered by the company, so the next question was where to locate the new office. “From the outside when you look at the map it seems that the Swedish capital Stockholm is the central point in northern Europe. And there’s no denying the fact that Sweden is a larger property market than Finland,” says Virtanen.
But when Christie + Co started analysing regional cultural and business connections and how to best serve the whole of northern Europe, it soon became clear that Helsinki was an equally strong location to Stockholm. As a result, the company opened its office in Helsinki in April 2008.
Why Helsinki makes sense
For Christie + Co, the decision to locate its new office in Helsinki was the result of a combination of factors that made good business sense. For a start, Finland has a significant population of Swedish language speakers. “It is much easier to find a Finnish hotel consultant who speaks Swedish rather than a Swedish one who speaks Finnish,” says Virtanen.
Another factor in Finland’s favour was its proximity and historical trade links to Russia. “For example, there are many Finnish construction companies with excellent long-term relationships with Russia and the Baltic States. They also build hotels so we have a natural connection there,” explains Virtanen. In terms of business costs, renting office space and employing staff works out cheaper in Helsinki compared to Stockholm.
Logistically, Helsinki is well connected with the rest of Europe. It is easy and cheap to travel from Helsinki to Tallinn and St Petersburg. “In terms of volume, the biggest growth in the construction of new hotels will be in the Baltic States and Russia, while in the Nordic countries the market is more saturated. Here the hotel business is more about changes in ownership,” explains Virtanen.
Useful support from IIF
Christie + Co used the services offered by Invest in Finland (IIF) both before and after establishing the Helsinki office. “Initially IIF helped to prepare the case why Helsinki is a good location, which we presented to the company management,” says Virtanen. Once the decision was made in principle, IIF assisted with practical arrangements like finding a good office space and providing contacts with estate agents, lawyers, accountants and recruitment agencies. “It was a great help that IIF had ready lists of potential partners with a good track record who we could approach. Of course, ultimately you have to be here yourself and make your own conclusions,” says Virtanen.
Now Christie + Co is also benefiting from IIF’s business networks and involvement in projects related to the travel and tourism sector. “It’s definitely useful to be in IIF’s network as we are making Christie + Co more well known in the region and looking for projects, partnerships and investments that require our expertise. For example, we are currently looking at some projects in Lapland related to travel, skiing and hotels to see if there is an opportunity to offer our services,” says Virtanen.