Tallinn seeks to become the financial centre of the region by 2012

At a think tank held in the House of the Blackheads under the auspices of Enterprise Estonia and the City of Tallinn on 18 February around 70 business people and representatives of the public sector discussed the possibilities of Tallinn as a financial centre.

"You normally have to advertise products and services, and advertise them a lot, but a good legal and tax environment, competitive prices and excellent products are the advertisement for a financial centre, and investors will naturally be drawn to it," said James Oates, a British CEO working in Estonia.

Discussions were held in working groups covering four topics: education and labour; the tax environment and legislation; IT and support services; and international marketing. Government and ministry support plays a vital role in the development of Estonian's financial services sector, which is useful to the country as a whole through employment, taxes, the financing of enterprise and the activities of foreign investors. Experts say that a strong financial services sector leads to a strong enterprise environment boasting competitive workers.

Niches highlighted by Kristel Kivinurm-Priisalm were the management of funds and portfolios, administration services and private banking, in which Estonia could be highly competitive.

In the case of education and labour, the need for consistent cooperation between universities and companies was highlighted, as was the importance of English-language education. The involvement of foreign teachers and lecturers will help make the financial education provided by our universities internationally competitive.

The security, flexibility and speed of IT systems and innovative services are our strengths in the IT field. Looking to the future, developing IT products in Estonia and selling them via licences will prove profitable, not developing products on a one-off basis outside of Estonia.

"We have an interesting time and a lot of work ahead of us," said Gert Stahl, Director of the Internationalisation Division of Enterprise Estonia. But he remained optimistic of success: "Turning those dreams into reality by 2012 is worth the effort!"