When it outgrew its premises here in Linden the company, which has a European banking license, leased the Old Telegraph Office in Giessen and converted it. The results of the process are worth seeing: A building that combines old and new. And a bank that has graffiti on its walls. We spoke to Björn Rathjens, Engineering Manager, about the company’s Hessen location.
First of all: Can you tell us briefly what Klarna does?
Gladly. Klarna is a Swedish company that was founded in 2005 as an invoice payment provider. The idea was to enable online shops to offer a payment on invoice option, and to handle this for them. Both the company itself and its product range have developed substantially since then. Today we are one of the world's leading payment providers and a licensed bank. Our 4,000 or so staff develop online payment solutions and we are increasingly working towards offering an entire shopping ecosystem.
Instant transfers were what originally brought us to Central Hessen: Whereas Klarna had initially focused on Sweden and the Nordic countries as its main markets, Sofort GmbH invented and developed instant transfer technology in Butzbach in Central Hessen. Then, in 2014, Klarna acquired Sofort GmbH, which by then had moved to Linden near Giessen and which has been part of the Klarna Group ever since.
After five years in Linden in Central Hessen, you have now opened your new location 10 kilometers down the road in Giessen. To do this, you have converted the Old Telegraph Office into a striking modern office building. Can you tell us a bit more about your new premises?
That's right. We had outgrown our offices and needed a larger building. So a year ago, we opened our new location in central Giessen, directly next to the railway station. To do this, we converted two buildings with fascinating histories: the Old Post Office and the Old Telegraph Office. A large number of people worked here 80 years ago, connecting calls manually by switching cables. The black and white photos are reminders of this. And the former main hall is now our large meeting room. The basic approach that we adopted was to mix the old and the new, and to incorporate frequent reminders of the building’s history. In one place we have exposed the old brickwork, whereas visitors to our foyer and the canteen can admire graffiti by the well-known Giessen urban art collective, 3Steps. That's something we’re particularly proud of. Another real highlight is our roof terrace, which has a view of the entire region. Stand on it and on a clear day you can see as far as Marburg. What’s more, the former attic now offers a choice of table football, darts, or table tennis. At present the building is pretty empty because of the coronavirus, but we hope to move into it completely soon.
Which business units are based in Giessen and what are you working on here in Central Hessen?
In Giessen, we are working to enhance instant transfer technology, along with all the systems involved in this. In addition, we have teams dedicated to our Klarna app, the Klarna website, and our open banking platform. We use the platform to offer end user-authorized access to accounts at more than 6,000 banks in Europe. In addition, as at all our locations, there are a lot of vital staff working in the background. They are responsible for our internal infrastructure and for ensuring smooth operations. At present, we have roughly 120 employees in Giessen, but we can expand this to up to 300 workstations on a 3,000 square meter site. In other words, we have room to grow.
What advantages does Hessen offer you, as an international company?
One thing that really stands out is the innovative mindset here. This was already in evidence back in 2005, when instant transfers were invented in Central Hessen, and Klarna is still benefiting today from this excellent technology and engineering location and from the opportunities it offers for innovation.
Another massive advantage for us is the large number of very good universities in the immediate vicinity. More than 100 of our 120 staff in Hessen are software engineers. Most of them did IT degree courses at one or other of the local universities, such as the TH Mittelhessen University of Applied Sciences in Giessen and Friedberg, Marburg University, or Fulda University. This means we already have very well trained staff on our doorstep.
Where do you like to spend your free time in Hessen? Do you have an insider tip for our readers?
I find it difficult to narrow the list down to a single place, to be honest. For me, Giessen is particularly charming as it’s not a big city but still offers a wide range of options for going out. What’s more, it allows you to be in the country quickly, where you can go hiking, cycling, or rowing, or even try stand-up paddleboarding on the River Lahn. And it's only an hour to the Vogelsberg, the largest volcanic region in Central Europe.
Thank you for talking to us!
Discover more success stories about international companies in Hessen: Success Stories / Invest in Hessen (invest-in-hessen.com)