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Swedbank CEO: Deep clean underway in group management

Swedbank CEO Jens Henriksson being interviewed by ERR's Johannes Tralla in Tallinn.
Swedbank CEO Jens Henriksson being interviewed by ERR's Johannes Tralla in Tallinn. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Swedbank has not lost its trust in Estonians, and a deep clean is underway in all of the bank's management structures, Swedbank CEO Jens Henriksson told ERR in an interview in Tallinn on Friday, admitting that the bank had seen poor management.

Henriksson met with representatives of the Bank of Estonia and the Financial Supervision Authority (FSA) as well as Swedbank Estonia board chairman Olavi Lepp in Tallinn on Friday.

According to the Swedish CEO, he told representatives of Estonia's central bank and the FSA that he had been tasked by the group's supervisory board with conducting a deep clean at the bank as well as developing the bank itself.

"We've had problems with money laundering," he said. "We have not had good enough governance and internal controls. And we have suspected money launderers ⁠— we have allowed them to use Swedbank, and that's not good."

Swedbank, he confirmed, has four home markets ⁠— Sweden, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Asked why it was necessary to fire Estonian employees, Henriksson said that the deep clean was underway right up to the highest levels at the bank, where great changes were being made to its entire management system. "I would say this is in many ways a fresh start for Swedbank," he added.

He stressed that it was not a matter of losing trust in the Baltics. "I trust all three countries; they are our home markets," he said. "There are very good people here."

Asked whether people's firings were connected to serious breaches or whether they were necessary in order to save its reputation, Henriksson responded that he considered it necessary to update the group's management structures.

The CEO said that an internal investigation is currently being conducted at the bank with the help of an international law firm, in the course of which billions of transactions across four states and from 2007-2019 are being reviewed. He stressed that the entire Swedbank Group was by and large responsible for the situation to arise, which is why Swedbank has a new board chairman, a new deputy chairman, a new CEO and so on.

Swedbank terminated its employment contracts with Swedbank Estonia board chairman Robert Kitt and CFO Vaiko Tammevägi in late September. It likewise opted to fire Kaie Metsla, head of the private customer division.

This Monday, Swedbank announced that it had terminated its employment contracts with Chief Risk Officer (CRO) Helo Meigas as well as Charlotte Elsnitz, head of Baltic banking.

Swedish public broadcaster SVT announced in February that a total of at least 40 billion Swedish kronas, or some €3.8 billion, in suspicious funds moved between accounts at Swedbank and Danske Bank's Estonian branch. Since then, investigations into the Swedbank money laundering scandal have been launched by authorities in Sweden Estonia, the U.S. and the EU.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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