Swedbank revamps management after money laundering probe

TOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Swedbank (SWEDa.ST) said on Monday its chief risk officer was leaving as the Swedish bank’s new CEO revamps its structure to regain customer trust after a money laundering scandal sent its shares down 40% in the past year.

Helo Meigas will leave the bank along with head of Baltic Banking Charlotte Elsnitz, Sweden’s biggest lender said in a statement. It will also merge some business units and reduce the top management team to 14 people, from 17.

Gunilla Hallros and Jon Lidefelt will take over the risk management and Baltic banking roles, respectively, in an interim capacity. The search for permanent replacements has already started, the bank said.

The departures are part of an organizational revamp aimed at boosting confidence in the bank and simplifying its structure, Chief Executive Jens Henriksson said.

He was appointed in August after the bank fired his predecessor Birgitte Bonnesen over her handling of allegations that the bank’s Estonian branch processed suspect gross transactions of up to 20 billion euros a year from mostly Russian non-residents between 2010 and 2016. The scandal started with Danske Bank, Denmark’s biggest bank.

“Today I introduce a new executive team to develop Swedbank and strengthen trust. Consequently, some executives (will) leave the bank,” Henriksson said in the company’s statement.

He told Reuters he had appointed “a well-reputed external financial consultancy to do a cultural assessment of Swedbank.”

“When I read our steering documents everything looks good and when I meet people in the bank I see dedicated staff with good moral compasses, but then I have to ask myself why in the last 30 years has Swedbank been in several existential crises?” he said in a phone interview.

“The idea is to see if we’re fully aligned with our culture and if we live our values,” he added.

The bank also said it would merge several business units, including its IT and digital banking divisions, while Swedbank Pay and payment infrastructure functions will be integrated within the Large Corporates & Institutions department.

As a result of the merger of the bank’s product units, the head of Group Lending & Payments Leif Karlsson will leave the bank in early 2020, it said.

Swedbank is currently under investigation in Sweden, Estonia and the United States. In October, the Estonian financial watchdog handed its probe over to the state prosecutor which had opened a criminal investigation.
The bank said on Monday that responsibility for the ongoing internal and external investigations into “historical shortcomings in anti-money laundering work” would be moved to a new Special Task Force unit, reporting directly to Henriksson.

Shares in Swedbank were up 0.93% by 1034 GMT.



Italy ‘most likely to quit eurozone’ – Rome looks for revenge over huge fine

ITALY is the nation most likely to leave the eurozone as debt-ridden Rome continues to grapple with European Union finance chiefs over its spending, according to three analysts who spoke to Express.co.uk.

Rome has been locked in a bitter battle with Brussels over its controversial budget plans, with the latest action seeing the European Commission threaten disciplinary proceedings unless Italian debt can be reigned in. The Commission has urged Rome to make its debt more sustainable by cutting its structural deficit. Debt in Italy now stands at 132 percent and is the second largest in the eurozone after Greece. The Commission forecast this figure will rise further to 135 percent next year

fiscal rules are instead projected to worsen by 0.2 percentage points.

Speaking to Express.co.uk, three analysts chose Italy when asked which country was most likely to ditch the euro.

Michael Brown, a senior markets analyst at Caxton FX, described the country’s heavily eurosceptic coalition government – made up of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and right-wing Lega – as appearing to be “on a collision course” with the EU.

As well as the ongoing budget dispute, he said Italy appeared more likely to leave the euro area than anyone else after a proposal to create mini-BOTs, a parallel currency to run alongside the euro and be used by the government to finance its debt obligations.

Mr Brown said: “Rumours abound that this ‘currency’ could be used to facilitate the country’s departure from the euro at a later date.”

Critics have echoed similar concerns for the small-denomination bills, with no expiry date, while economy Minister Giovanni Tria, said creating mini-BOTS would be either illegal or useless.

However, both the League and its government partner the 5-Star Movement accused Tria’s ministry of doing nothing to resolve the problem of unpaid state arrears.

Ricardo Evangelista, the senior analyst at brokerage ActivTrades, said southern European nations have “suffered the impact of the euro-imposed budget restrictions” more than others, highlighting Italy as well as Greece as examples.

Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, who heads up the League party, this week went as far as saying: “We don’t need to ask Germans, Spanish and Luxembourgish for money.


“We want to use Italians’ money for Italians.”

But Mr. Evangelista argued Italy is a eurozone country who stands to lose the most, at least in the short term, should they leave the euro.

He said: “They rely heavily on other Euro nations for their trade and a change in currency would be extremely disruptive.”

Touching on the anti-euro sentiment expressed by Mr. Salvini, Neil Wilson, chief analyst at Markets.com, said: “Italy is probably the most likely [to leave first] – you see from Salvini and co there is no love for Europe.”

Speaking last October, Claudio Borghi, the economic head of the ruling League party, suggested Italy could have a brighter financial future outside the eurozone as he deemed the common currency “not sufficient”.

Mr. Borghi, who chairs the budget committee of the lower house of parliament, said in a radio interview: “I’m truly convinced that Italy would solve most of its problems if it had its own currency.”

The comments from Mr. Borghi sent stocks plummeting worldwide as Italian assets came under pressure.

His quotes were then downplayed by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who said there are no plans for Italy to have their own currency.

He said in a Facebook post: ”The euro is our currency and for us it is unpronounceable.”

Credit: Express Co.uk   image : getty

To do our part to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus [COVID-19] and ensure the health & safety of the community and our employees, we have closed our office until further notice. As a result, there may be some temporary limitations and delays in support. Contact us