| 22.05.2024

Alumnus of the Year Kaj Rönnlund: “We alumni can do a lot for Hanken”

Kaj Rönnlund i Hankens korridor
From studying and working as an IT administrator at Hanken to pioneering in options trading and hedge funds. Business angel and board professional Kaj Rönnlund from Vaasa is Alumnus of the Year at Hanken School of Economics.

“I was very happy when I heard that I had been named Alumnus of the Year. The recognition makes me both grateful and proud”, says Rönnlund.

Rönnlund, who graduated from Hanken School of Economics in Vaasa in 1987, studied international marketing and finance & investment.

“For me, Hanken was an obvious choice because I come from an entrepreneurial family. My grandfather founded Vaasan Vihannes and I was supposed to take over the company from my father, but things don’t always go as planned”, says Rönnlund, who during his studies was employed as an IT administrator at Hanken.

“The networks I created with everyone from professors to assistants at Hanken have been very useful during my career. Among other things, I have recruited many competent students.”

Rönnlund has always had close ties to Hanken. He has donated funds to initiate a new professorship in Vaasa, been a Hanken ambassador and a member of the donation committee. Rönnlund is currently a member of the council of the Hanken Support Foundation and is also invited as a guest lecturer.

“We alumni can do a lot for Hanken. The collaboration with companies is incredibly valuable for the university and especially the students.”

Rönnlund's first job in the business world was at Procter & Gamble, but after a short time he switched to the finance sector to work with options.

“We had an unusual amount of options theory at Hanken. It was Björn Wahlroos who brought the knowledge from the US to Hanken. I questioned why we should learn so much about options when there was no options market here, but a little after that we founded Estlander & Rönnlund, the first company that dealt with digital options trading. My advice to students is that you cannot know exactly how useful the knowledge you learn at Hanken will be. Be curious because you never know where you will land.”

In the early 90s, Estlander & Rönnlund were again pioneers in the financial sector, this time by starting to work with hedge funds. Gradually, Rönnlund also started investing in start-up companies, mainly in the technology sector, and after 20 years in the company he sold his stake and became a full-time investor and board professional.

“I only invest if I feel I have something to contribute to a company and can be active on the board. There are currently seven companies I’m involved in, ranging from financial and health technology to metal companies.”

Estlander & Rönnlund, which was founded in Stockholm, moved to Vaasa in the mid-90s. Today, Kaj Rönnlund lives in Bayreuth, Germany, but visits Vaasa about once a month. In his spare time, he enjoys skiing, golfing and hunting. Rönnlund has also held a private pilot's license for 20 years.

“When I lived in Finland, I owned a four-seater Piper with a few other people, and I used to fly more frequently than I do now, for example to board meetings in different locations. There are some stories about how employees at different companies have been flying with Kaj in varying weather. I have been told that it was probably sometimes a bit too exciting!”

Text: Jessica Gustafsson
Photo: Gustaf Hafström

Watch a video greeting from Kaj Rönnlund:
Alumnus of the Year 2024

The Alum of the Year is awarded annually on the homecoming day "Hankendagen", every other year in Helsinki and every other year in Vaasa. The Alum of the Year is an inspiring role model in society in his or her professional or personal capacity. The alum has kept in touch with the university after graduation and shown interest in the university's development.