The year and the new decade started with an upbeat mood. Strong growth from 2019 was carried into the new year, the global economy was humming along with good GDP growth, equity markets were up, and debt was cheap. What could go wrong? Yes, we heard about this mysterious flu in Wuhan, but we thought it would be contained, just like Swine flu, Bird flu, Ebola, etc. And then, just 11 weeks into the new year, we sent all our employees home and our societies went into an almost complete lockdown.
Taking over as Visma’s CEO in April 2020 became different from what I expected. Rather than travelling around meeting the major businesses in Visma all over Europe, rather than celebrating the long-term, outgoing CEO, and rather than meeting important customers face to face, I ended up managing, inspiring and engaging with a 12 000-people organisation from my kitchen using the phone, email and video conferencing.
We sent our people to their home offices early in March following the government's recommendations. From a technical point of view the transition went smoothly and without a hitch, as Visma for several years already had cloud-based internal computing, and we were already experienced users of video conferencing. Our cyber security systems were adapted to employees working from many locations including homes, and there have hardly been any incidents or losses of productivity with the tech infrastructure.
The human and social strain on the other hand has been considerable, as employees have to perform their work from bedrooms and kitchen tables, maybe with kids doing homeschooling at the same time. The Visma management team recognised this challenge early on. We have prioritised communication with our leaders and employees and done our utmost to keep up the motivation. Leaders in middle management in particular have been challenged to engage with their people, also many newly employed and newly educated. While many seasoned employees may have enjoyed the ability to avoid commuting and the peace and quiet of working from home, young talents may suffer from lack of ability to learn in a social setting. And yet, I believe our management teams rose to the occasion, putting in long hours and engaging with everyone. We see that our employee engagement remains
extraordinarily high through the lockdowns.
It is important to have engaged employees, but the proof of the quality of the leadership is in the productivity of the organisation. As such, 2020 ended better than we expected and productivity remained record high.
For the full year, revenue was NOK 18 675m constituting a growth of 25,7% over 2019. While Visma was able to keep up the productivity and revenue growth, the Covid-19 situation reduced our operational expenses considerably, especially anything associated with travel. We were able to sell customer contracts on video, hold massive customer seminars and marketing events online, and negotiate and close acquisitions of companies without meeting in person. Thus our profitability remained strong during 2020 and exceeded our expectations. EBITDA showed strong development, ending at NOK 5 367m, a growth of 35,0%.
The last decade was both challenging and rewarding as a software company. The major challenge was moving from Windows-based, on-premise client server technology to true cloud computing with Software as a Service. Fortunately this transition had already progressed quite far by the beginning of 2020, with about 75% of our revenue coming from cloud. Covid-19, home offices and the need to control expenses have led most organisations to accelerate their transition to cloud computing, and Visma has benefited from that. The cloud stars of Visma, such as Yuki, Tripletex, e-conomic, PowerOffice, Dinero, Netvisor, Számlázz, SmartDok etc., have enjoyed over
20% growth and we see that both demand and growth are continuing in 2021 as well.
The transition to the cloud will continue in the coming years and will most likely be completed during the next three. We do not believe much on-premise software will be in use after 2025, and the mounting cybercrime threat means that most organisations with applications on their own servers do not have the resources to protect themselves. Moving to well-protected cloud solutions seems to be the answer to many needs: fewer cybercrime risks, fewer upfront investments, predictable monthly rent and accessibility from anywhere, from any device.
Expansion and growth
With 37 acquisitions in 2020, Visma continued its growth in the core Nordic and Dutch markets. In addition, Visma set foot in Belgium for the first time, and continued expansion and growth in Eastern Europe and Latin America. In recent years, Visma has focused on acquiring fast-growing, born-in-the-cloud companies, and we no longer acquire companies with Windows-based software as their core products.
The expansion in Benelux and Eastern Europe has been well supported by the
Team Jumbo-Visma sponsorship, and the team finished 2020 as the #1 road cycling team in the world.