As the money laundering scandal engulfing Danske Bank A/S threatens to taint other Nordic lenders, Nordea Bank Abp says it has spent years getting rid of suspicious customers in a move designed to dramatically reduce its exposure to such risks.
Julie Galbo, chief risk officer at the Helsinki-based bank, said in a phone interview that she can’t rule out the possibility that Nordea might have been used by money launderers. But she also says the bank has invested heavily in measures to fight such financial crime and has exited risky portfolios since being fined by Swedish authorities three years ago.
“We have never said that everything is fine now. We have said that we have made substantial improvements over the last couple of years,” Galbo said. “We got a large fine from the Swedish FSA in 2015 and we have been cleaning ever since.”
Danske’s laundering case has raised concerns about other banks in the Nordic region. Denmark’s biggest lender is under investigation by authorities in at least five countries, including the US Danske has removed its chief executive officer, Thomas Borgen, and reported several employees to the police. But the prospect of hefty fines has driven investors away and the bank’s share price has plunged about 40 percent this year.
The scandal has raised doubts about the ability of Nordic banks and their regulators to tackle money laundering. It’s also fueled debate over whether Europe can fight such crime.
Danske is just the latest firm in a list of European giants that includes ING Groep N.V., Deutsche Bank AG, HSBC Holdings plc and BNP Paribas SA, all of which are global systemically important banks.