Seconded by: Aoife Killeen and Stephen Smith
“I got to know Teresa when she was completing her Executive MBA at Henley Business School, in 2009, on an elective study trip to Hungary. First impressions are inevitable, of course, and we all leave one. The question is not whether an impression will last, but whether it is genuine, a true reflection of the person. Anyone who meets Teresa will know that she leaves a very particular first impression. It is one that embodies charm, grace and maturity, and the promise of a steely calm in a crisis. The important thing was that this impression was not staged. She really is this awesome.
At the time, Teresa was working in the senior management of the Finnish Red Cross and on something of a sabbatical from the family business. Her career since then has been one characterised by the application of strong values and beliefs in the guidance of the health and well-being of a whole range of organisations at senior management and board level. That sort of commitment and impact cannot be faked; you really need to know what you’re talking about, and you really need to have some deep self-awareness to do as well as she has in her chosen field. The lasting and true impression of Teresa is of someone fully balanced between the large and the small, between the proper and the innovative, and between the light and the shade that all of us must navigate in our stewardship of business excellence and sustainability. I cannot think of anyone who could have a more positive impression on the future of business and I congratulate her on her induction to the Excellence Hall of Fame.”
Chris Dalton Author of MBA Day-By-Day & Associate Professor, Henley Business School
Teresa was born in Göteborg, Sweden, and grew up in various cities in Sweden, where her father worked and studied. As a small child, she also spent a year in Bedford, England. When she was nine, her family moved back to Lahti, Finland. However, during her high school years, Teresa spent a year in Germany as an exchange student.
After graduating from high school, Teresa moved to Helsinki where she studied Social Psychology and Organizational Development, graduating from the University of Helsinki with a Master’s degree in 1996, having also studied for a year at Ludwig-Maximilian Universität in Munich, Germany. The same year also saw Teresa get married to her husband, Marko Vasama.
In 1949, Teresa’s grandfather, Martti Kemppi, had founded Kemppi, a Finnish company that has been one of the true pioneers in welding industry. The award winning company has a track record of innovation which includes such milestones as introducing the world’s first welding machine with an inverter power source, being the first to produce digital welding equipment, and – more recently – using software to create the world’s first universal welding management system. Its flagships today are true “IoT systems”. Despite this, rather than join the family business, Teresa joined Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) as a Change Management consultant as she wanted to get experience from working with other companies.
Teresa left Andersen Consulting in 1998 and joined the Finnish Red Cross to work on organizational development projects. While with the Red Cross, she grew her role taking on additional responsibilities for project management, human resource development, and strategy. In 2006, she was appointed to the Management Team of the Finnish Red Cross. As a management team member – with responsibility for crafting strategy, strategic development projects, youth and organizational activities, first aid training, and volunteer development – she helped guide the Finnish Red Cross for three years.
All the time, the family business was in the background and influenced her thinking but only from the viewpoint of a shareholder. To supplement this perspective, in 2000, while continuing to work for the Red Cross, Teresa took on the role of non-executive Vice Chairman of Kemppi Capital (Kemppi’s mother company). In 2004, feeling it was time to learn more about business and leadership, she started studying for an MBA at Henley Business School in the UK and graduated in 2009.
She founded her own investment company Auro Invest in 2007. Then, in 2009, the second generation in the family business felt it was time to transfer some of its responsibilities to the third generation. Teresa decided together with her brother and cousins that it was time to focus on the Kemppi business. She resigned from the Red Cross and joined Kemppi in an executive capacity as its Manager of Business Development & Market Intelligence. In that position, she learned about the welding business in detail and about the challenges of developing of welding equipment and software. She conducted many ethnographical customer studies with her team to learn more about customer’s needs and experiences and was also responsible for running the annual strategy process with the management team. This prepared her well for her next role in the company.
In 2014, it was time to finalise the generational handover. Teresa became the Executive chairman of Kemppi, with responsibility for the entire welding business, while her cousin, Antti, became Executive chairman of the renamed mother company, Kemppi Group. As one of their first tasks, the cousins had the honour of accepting The Finnish Family Company of the Year Award 2014 on behalf of the Kemppi Group. They were extremely happy with this acknowledgement of the work of the previous generations and set out in pursuit of the vision of making Kemppi a truly global player in the high-tech arc welding market.
The Kemppi family has also other companies that have kept Teresa busy over the years. In 2012, she was nominated as board member to the real-estate company, Kemppi-Kiinteistöt, and she also took the chairmanship its investment company, Kemppi-Yhtiöt. Nowadays, the Kemppi Group has another daughter company, Kempower, focusing on rapid charging solutions for electric vehicles and Teresa has been on its board since 2018.
In addition to the family business responsibilities, Teresa has been active in other organisations as well. In 2011, she became a Chairman of the local branch bank of Svenska Handelsbanken in Lahti. In 2015, she was appointed Chair of the board of The Association for Finnish Work, a non-profit organisation that works to improve the competitive position of Finnish products and to promote the reputation of Finnish work. In 2017, she was appointed as a non-executive director to the board of the publicly listed cargo handling manufacturer Cargotec. In 2018, she was elected to the board of directors of Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology (LUT University), where she serves as Vice Chairman of the Board. Locally she is active in the Industrial Society of Lahti and serves as its Vice Chairman. Environmental values are also important to her and she is a member of the Lake Vesijärvi Foundation’s representative assembly, a foundation of which Kemppi is a founding member.
In 2015, Teresa was honoured as a Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the Year and, in 2017, she was awarded with one of the ten first “Finland 100 Years Medals” by the Finnish Chamber of Commerce.
Despite all these roles, most of Teresa’s working time is devoted to the family business. Today, Kemppi employs over 800 people across 18 countries and has revenue in excess of 150 million euro. Kemppi welding solutions are sold in over 70 countries around the world. Teresa and her cousin Antti together with the rest of the family are working to build Kemppi Group into a truly global corporation, employing people and looking after customers around the world. As part of this, Kemppi has recently established production facilities in China and has acquired the Italian Trafimet Group. The sister company Kempower was founded in 2018 and it has now started to sell its first rapid charging solutions for electric vehicles. The demand for such solutions is very high. The future looks promising and the Kemppi family plan to use the competencies they have developed in Kemppi over the last 70 years to power the new charging business.
Teresa and Marko have two children, aged 16 and 19. The family has also two dogs and five horses. They live in Lahti and like to spend time in their summer cottage and at riding competitions. The animals make sure the whole family stays in motion!