Swedbank’s new CEO says that while transparency is a goal after his predecessor misled the public about money laundering, he still has to protect clients’ privacy.
Sweden’s oldest bank has been linked to the money laundering scandal at Danske Bank, which said its Estonia branch was used to move 200 billion euros ($221 billion) of suspicious funds between 2007 and 2015. Swedbank then admitted in April that it had failed to prevent the laundering and announced an internal investigation.
Jens Henriksson, will start as CEO “as soon as possible,” the bank announced last week. He said in an interview that he is all for transparency “within the existing restrictions.”
“The situation is such that Swedbank operates in a number of jurisdictions, and there exist very strict rules on what you can and can’t say,” said Henriksson, according to Bloomberg.
While he acknowledged that the restrictions on transparency might cause “irritation” in some quarters, he added that “at the same time, as a bank, you have such a unique insight into people’s most private financial affairs. Customers and companies need to be able to trust that we won’t share that.”
Swedbank fired Henriksson’s predecessor, Birgitte Bonnesen, after the money laundering investigation expanded.
“The developments during the past days have created an enormous pressure for the bank,” Swedbank Chairman Lars Idermark said at the time. “Therefore, the board has decided to dismiss Birgitte Bonnesen from her position.”
Current Chief Financial Officer Anders Karlsson has been filling in as acting CEO.
The reaction from stakeholders about the hiring of Henriksson has been mixed. Joakim Bornold, a savings adviser at Soderberg & Partners, said the new CEO has both “skill, experience and a strong moral compass, which is exactly what the bank needs right now.”
But Joacim Olsson, the CEO of the Swedish Shareholders’ Association, said Henriksson has a “long and impressive CV, but the wrong profile.”