Swedbank CEO Jens Henriksson announced Monday the financial institution is making some major organizational changes “to create simpler and clearer decision-making structures to facilitate the realization of the bank’s strategy.”
Announcement of the restructuring comes at a time when the bank is under investigation by financial supervisory authorities in both Sweden and Estonia, as well as the United States, for alleged money laundering violations. In March 2019, Swedbank’s board of directors dismissed then-Chief Executive Officer Birgitte Bonnesen amid allegations the bank laundered billions of dollars out of Russia under her watch.
Among the governance changes announced by Henriksson, Swedbank has reduced the number of its group management members from 17 down to 14. This new executive team is intended “to develop Swedbank and strengthen trust,” Henriksson said, adding that he is also initiating an assessment of Swedbank’s corporate culture.
Other organizational changes Swedbank announced include:
A new unit for managing investigations: Within the scope of the bank’s new Anti-Financial Crime unit, work has been ongoing since April to identify historical shortcomings and develop the bank’s ability to prevent all types of financial crime and other efforts in order to strengthen the ability to combat money laundering. “The responsibility for the ongoing internal investigation and various external investigations regarding historical shortcomings in the anti-money laundering work will be moved to the new Special Task Force unit,” Swedbank said. The bank’s former Head of Treasury Tomas Hedberg heads the unit and reports directly to the CEO.
Digital developments: Group IT and digital banking will become merged “in order to gather expertise within the development of digital services, customer experience, and infrastructure,” Swedbank said. The new unit will be called Digital Banking & IT.
New executive recruitments: Chief Risk Officer Helo Meigas and Head of Baltic Banking Charlotte Elsnitz will leave the bank. Gunilla Domeij Hallros has been appointed acting chief risk officer, and Jon Lidefelt will serve as acting head of Baltic banking. The bank is currently seeking new executives at each position.
As a result of the merger of the bank’s product units, the present head of group lending & payments, Leif Karlsson, will leave the bank in the first quarter of next year. In September, Swedbank appointed Ingrid Harbo as its permanent chief compliance officer.
AML compliance gaps
In a previous announcement, Swedbank admitted that, although it has continuously improved its compliance system, “the bank’s anti-money laundering work has had, and still has, certain shortcomings. In the past, the bank has not allocated sufficient resources and competence to adequately manage the risk of money laundering by clients and third parties.”
“The division of responsibilities within the bank has not been clear enough, and the bank has not always complied with internal policies,” Swedbank added. “Know-Your-Customer and risk assessment are areas where Swedbank has had, and still has, shortcomings. This applies both to the Swedish and Estonian operations.”
Based on these insights, Swedbank said it is currently working to ensure regulatory compliance going forward. In February 2019, it retained law firm Clifford Chance to conduct an internal investigation into historical shortcomings in the bank. This investigation is expected to conclude in early 2020.