Partnership between people

In 2021, OP Financial Group further strengthened their design expertise through a strategic partnership with Nitor and DK&A. Built on a clear framework, mutual trust, and a shared culture of self-improvement, this long-term partnership strengthens the development of OP’s digital financial services.


  • Design leadership
  • Bespoke digital products


  • Financial services
  • Banking
  • Insurance

As an ambassador of design, OP is constantly reimagining how design can best serve people. Ever committed to improving the quality and efficiency of their design pool, OP has always valued the outside perspective and flexibility external designers bring to their table. Reflecting this, nearly half of OP’s over 100 designers are external.

However, OP has learned over the years that hiring competent external designers is not without its challenges:

  1. The availability of skilled external designers is unreliable.

  2. Forecasting the cost of external designers is difficult.

  3. Vendors’ cultures and ways of working can vastly differ from OP’s.

OP addressed these challenges by turning to Nitor and DK&A, two premium digital design agencies, for a deeper partnership. The goal of this long-term partnership was to further improve the quality and efficiency of design work at OP by incorporating external designers from a reliable, culturally compatible source.

To this end, Nitor and DK&A committed a number of their experienced, growth-driven designers to join OP’s designer pool. The two design agencies have worked in tight coordination to ensure OP feels like they are working with only one company instead of two distinct providers.

The partnership began in early 2021. With weekly meetings and daily interactions, the partnership quickly grew into something more than just a business transaction. Individuals on each side noticed they were smiling more in meetings. The design work was being done better and more efficiently than ever. What prompted this growth?

Let’s dive into what makes this unique partnership work so well: mutual trust, a shared culture, and accountability.

Externals and internals? Only designers here

“The most important thing to get right in a partnership like this is to cement the framework early on – meaning a target allocation and agreed price, for example,” Pia Hannukainen, Head of Design, OP Financial Group, says.

With the framework in place, Nitor and DK&A’s designers can focus all their energy on solving customers’ problems through design. These clear expectations further enable a natural merging of talent, leading to a stronger unified purpose.

For the purposes of their daily work in OP, internal and external designers are treated with the same respect. “Both internals and externals work on exactly the same kinds of things in different teams and tribes,” Pia Hannukainen explains. “Whatever design demos, design monthlies, or chapter meetings are happening, external designers are there just the same as internals. We see all designers primarily as OP designers, not as internals and externals.”

OP Financial Group’s agile business model provides Nitor and DK&A’s designers with many exciting opportunities to apply and develop their skills. From UX work to service design, no two days are the same for the designers as they augment different teams or tribes with their expertise. This deeply interwoven daily work has naturally drawn all sides of the partnership into one close-knit team.

“We engage on a weekly basis even on the management level of the partnership – we have gotten to know each other as people, not just professionals,” Pia Hannukainen says. “It makes working together easier and more efficient. Above all else, I value that this has truly become a partnership between people.”

From a shared passion to a common goal

The unyielding drive to learn is ingrained in the DNA of both Nitor and DK&A, just as it is in OP’s.

“An important criterion for choosing our strategic partners in design was culture match,” Pia Hannukainen recalls. “Our designers are committed to improving their skills through a 70/20/10 time allocation, in which 10% of their working time is spent on learning. Every day an individual does not subscribe to our culture, they develop a learning debt that quickly ramps up into an unbridgeable skill gap.”

At Nitor and DK&A, individuals are encouraged to grow and are allocated time in which they can learn new skills and hone their trades. This culture match is the glue that binds the partnership together and has enabled Nitor and DK&A’s designers to easily meld into OP’s ways of working.

To ensure the growth and quality of the cooperation, all sides of the partnership are regularly given feedback using clear, predefined metrics. The latest survey on the quality of Nitor and DK&A’s work at OP showed an impressive NPS of 73, speaking to the continued quality of the partnership.

Nitor and DK&A’s designers in turn give feedback on OP as a workplace and a provider of growth opportunities. These clear expectations and the subsequent accountability have built a foundation of trust from which the partnership can flourish.

The outcomes of a good partnership are measured in customer experience

With this partnership, OP Financial Group has secured knowledgeable and skilled designers from a reliable, culturally compatible source. The agreed-upon availability and allocation of skilled designers at a known price has made costs easy to predict and has even served to lower these costs. OP’s resources have been further freed with Nitor and DK&A handling their designers’ onboarding themselves.

With Nitor and DK&A’s design experience and perspective, the partnership has also helped OP to deploy their design resources even more efficiently. The growth mindset has invited meaningful sparring and resulted in an even higher level of design proficiency at OP.

For OP’s customers, this cooperation brings a new level of coherence and smoothness to their everyday digital experience. Advancements in accessible design have enabled even more people to use OP’s financial services.

The careful planning and groundwork around this partnership have resulted in a sum that is truly more than its parts. It has created a partnership, not only between businesses but between passionate, skilled people. OP Financial Group, Nitor, and DK&A continue to push and prod each other towards their shared, ambitious goal: to create the most human-centric and empowering design for everyone to enjoy.

Only with trust, accountability, and a shared culture can there be a true partnership between people.

Pia Hannukainen Avatar

Pia Hannukainen

Head of Design, OP Financial Group

OP in brief

OP has the largest in-house design organization in Finland. However,
they have learned over the years that hiring competent external
designers is challenging due to unmatching cultures, working methods,
and cost and availability uncertainties.

OP turned to Nitor and DK&A for a deeper partnership to address
the challenges. The long-term partnership is based on mutual trust, a
shared culture, and accountability.

For OP’s customers, this cooperation brings a new level of coherence
and smoothness to their everyday digital experience. The partnership has
also helped OP to deploy their design resources even more efficiently
and resulted in an even higher level of design proficiency at OP.