15 Aug

By this stage of the trip our group had spent a couple of days gaining a broad understanding of how the Estonian economy and in particular the vibrant e-economy was developing. Friday allowed more of a deep-dive into the banking sector and we were most fortunate to be hosted at LHV Bank by the UK CEO Erki Kilu. He treated the group to a lively and insightful look at how the LHV Bank was formed in 2008, highlighting its swift progress to become the 2nd largest bank in the country within only 12 years. He also focused on trying to bring the Estonian vision and values to banking in the UK.

The groups were then given another fascinating presentation, this time from the head of Hedman Law who picked up on a common thread from the week, namely Estonia’s strong start-up culture.  He pointed out that this had been easier to achieve in the UK prior to Brexit although the situation was slowly improving again, with Estonia seeing the UK as a friendly region for start-up activity. The speaker also touched on the value of blockchain technology before looking in more depth at some of the gains and losses that might accrue as AI technology is introduced across the business world.  The discussions surrounding synthetic voice applications triggered a lively debate, as the merits of such applications were examined.

Following an outstanding lunch at Restoran Platz, when we were able to digest the morning briefings, the afternoon programme resumed at a more leisurely pace as we collectively explored Tallinn Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There was much to see of the early settlement, including the city walls, where we learned about the town’s medieval heritage, the impact of the Danish crusades, (Tallinn means Danish castle) and then through the Hanseatic period before Russian control from the early 18th century.

The Old Town is one of the best-preserved medieval cities and walking through the narrow, cobbled streets gave a great sense of the historic past.  During this guided tour we learnt a little more about the ‘Brotherhood of Blackheads’, a former military organisation, whose role is now largely ceremonial but which has close link to the Guilds of Tallinn, similar to our own Livery companies.

The day completed with a tour of the Guildhall, a hugely impressive building in the centre of the Old Town and which dates back to 1410.

Our fascinating day concluded with a final gathering and meal for the entire travelling party, this time at a restaurant on the edge of the Old Town square. This was the last chance for party to be together and allowed us an opportunity to formally thank our Master Michael and Jill for the enormous work and meticulous planning that they had put in together, in order to make the visit such a resounding success.

After leaving the restaurant, people wandered around the old town – in the 10pm daylight, with a group going to the small Mundi Bar (and we could see wh  the Master and Consort had propped up the bar on their visit in April) followed by a lovely midnight walk back to the hotel to see the old town illuminated and the lively flower market, before a nightcap on the rooftop bar of the hotel.

Nicholas Chatwin