NIKLAS STEENBERG, MD
Klarahill AB was founded in 2014 with the business concept of consolidating the highly fragmented funeral director segment. The intention is for the group to be the serious premium option for people in mourning. This is achieved by retaining the commitment of individual entrepreneurs through participation and joint ownership in an “ICA model”. The subsidiary Verahill was founded in 2016/2017 and deals with aspects of family law that arise when someone dies, including estate inventory and inheritance issues, but also the legal matters of life for the family.
Klarahill has been a part of Mellby Gård since 2015. Mellby Gård’s representatives on the Board of Directors: Sven Knutsson (Chairman) and Johan Andersson.
- Headquarters: Stockholm
- Sales 2018/2019: SEK 144.6 million
- Number of employees: 96
- Chairman: Sven Knutsson
– A YEAR OF INVESTMENT
Klarahill is a fast-growing player among Sweden’s funeral directors. The sector is pervaded by tradition and includes numerous independent family companies with limited resources to tackle new, online competition. The MD of Klarahill is Niklas Steenberg. His objective is to modernize Sweden’s independent funeral directors by investing in digital accessibility, quality and a considerate reception for people in mourning.
Klarahill was founded in 2014 by Niklas Steenberg alongside a group of family entrepreneurs in SBF, the Swedish funeral directors’ association, when they saw the need for cooperation to facilitate future investment, not least in a shared digital platform. Today, relatives of the deceased find a funeral director online and many family-owned firms find it hard to reach out because they lack the resources for web development and keyword optimization. Accordingly, it is a great advantage for a small firm to be part of the Klarahill brand and network.
While Klarahill realizes the need for consolidation of the market, it also understands that a firm of funeral directors is a business requiring wholehearted entrepreneurship. It is therefore important that the incumbent owner remains in the business as a partner.
“We usually compare it with the model of major Swedish supermarket chain ICA. Entrepreneurs join forces in a group in which participation can vary somewhat depending on circumstances, but where everyone shares the central functions while maintaining their independent entrepreneurship”, says Niklas Steenberg.
Mellby Gård initially invested SEK 50 million in Klarahill in 2015. Today, the company has 27 wholly owned funeral director offices in the regions of Skåne, Småland, Western Sweden and Stockholm.
“In our efforts to consolidate and modernize the funeral directors segment, we have three areas of focus: acquiring funeral directors, investing in digital tools and developing the customer experience. Over the past financial year, we have focused on the latter two of these, digital investment and the customer experience”, says Niklas Steenberg.
He has also conducted a branding process emphasizing Klarahill as the brand that customers encounter. To date, the name Klarahill has not been foregrounded publicly, but has instead been the name of the holding company acting as the umbrella organization for the individual funeral directors in the network. The simple reason for the change is that marketing efforts, such as keyword optimization, become significantly more effective and cheaper with a single brand than with a hundred different ones.
“Competition increasingly occurs on the Internet as this is where relatives search for a funeral director. There are players who are skilled in coming near the top in online searches and, in such an environment, it is not possible to market a large number of different brands. The agencies in our network will henceforth be called Klarahill in combination with their original names”, says Niklas Steenberg.
At the same time, Klarahill is investing in a physical upgrade of the funeral directors’ offices and employees are being trained to further improve the encounter with the relatives of the deceased. For people in mourning, a dignified encounter in a secure environment is critical and that is what Klarahill represents. With a high-quality offer, Klarahill was able to increase its market share during a year in which slightly fewer deaths were registered compared with the preceding year.
During the year, the company relocated its headquarters to new, larger premises, not least to accommodate the growing subsidiary Verahill, which provides consulting in family law. Verahill was formed as recently as in 2016 and is expanding fast. Recruitment is in progress to bring the company up to having some 50 lawyers and advisers on staff within the next financial year.
“A death raises numerous different issues of family law with which we assist the relatives. However, the expansion is also a consequence of our focusing our consulting on general family law, including cohabitation agreements, prenuptial agreements and division of estate”, says Niklas Steenberg.
Family law is also undergoing rapid digitization, involving elements of artificial intelligence, AI. Agreements and forms can be generated quickly and easily using digital tools. One example is the Until app, with which you can put together a cohabitation agreement on your mobile phone. Another trend increasing the need for Verahill’s services is that players such as banks, insurance companies and real estate agents increasingly demand legal assistance for their clients.
“It is Mellby Gård that has made Klarahill and Verahill possible. As the principal shareholder, Mellby Gård combines a long-term view, financial strength, credibility and an understanding and sympathy for all of the individual business owners we have brought aboard”, says Niklas Steenberg.
SIGNIFICANT EVENTS 2018/2019
Relocation of the headquarters to new premises in Sickla, in Stockholm.
Investment in a digital platform, a web platform and business systems.
At the annual meeting on 14-15 September, more than 100 employees from around the country met to exchange experiences.
A decision was made to invest in upgrading the offices.
Continued strong expansion of the subsidiary Verahill, which deals with family law.