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Swedish bank replaces CEO

Swedish bank replaces CEO

(17 August 2016 – Sweden) Swedish lender Handelsbanken has announced that its recently appointed CEO, Frank Vang-Jensen, has been replaced.

Directors at the bank said that Vang-Jensen, who started the role last year, did not fit the bill. His replacement, Anders Bouvin is a 30 year veteran at the firm who will take over the role immediately.

“This decision is purely related to the individual. Handelsbanken remains strong and our long-term goals stand firm,” said group chairman Pär Boman.

Vang-Jensen had only been appointed in February 2015 and the move to a third chief executive in 18 months represents a period of instability for a bank that prides itself on steady management and cool-headed growth.

The group has a very limited marketing budget, seeking to expand by word of mouth and typically only opening a new branch when an existing unit is deemed to have reached its saturation point.

“All managers at Handelsbanken – particularly the branch managers – must have a very high degree of autonomy. Being the most senior manager at the Bank, therefore requires a special type of leadership – considerably more complex than traditional management. Thus, it is possible to be an excellent leader and manager – as Frank Vang-Jensen has been – but not fulfil the requirements of CEO of Handelsbanken,” said Boman.

The focus on local managers also means those branches are responsible for their own profits and losses, holding the staff directly accountable for their performance, and giving the group a reputation for caution.

The bank has more than 200 branches in the UK. The group made profits of £937 million (A$1.6 billion) in the first six months of this year with its UK arm contributing operating profits of £103 million.

In 2015, Bouvin warned that some British banks risked returning to the reckless lending of the pre-crash years.

He said that the system of local accountability meant Handelsbanken was involved in neither the boom nor the bust of the financial crisis – and should also keep it safe in any new cycle.

“It was like a buffalo herd galloping, in 2006, 2007. Nobody looked for direction, nobody looked where they were going, they were just following the one in front - and nobody saw the cliff coming," Bouvin told reporters last year.

“Our managers stood on the sides, with no target from head office. And they knew they would have to take responsibility for any bad credits.”

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