Monday, 18 February, 2019

Nordea Chairman Björn Wahlroos to step down in March

07 Feb 2019, 21:42 ( 10 days ago) | updated: 07 Feb 2019, 21:45 ( 10 days ago)

DF-Xinhua Report
Björn Wahlroos. Photo Source Nordea.

Finnish banker Björn Wahlroos will step down as the chairman of Nordea Bank Abp in the annual meeting in March, the bank announced on Thursday.

The news came a day after Nordea published a worse than expected annual result.

Nordea's profits have declined for three years on succession and were now 3.953 billion euros, down from 3.998 billion euros in 2017.

The bank is the largest in the Nordic area. It moved its headquarters from Sweden to Finland last year.  

Since 2016 Nordea has attracted international interest for pioneering in the use of robots and artificial intelligence (AI) in banking.

Casper von Koskull, CEO of Nordea, assured on Wednesday that the cost cuttings in Nordea will be bringing results. "The capacity of our robots already matches 1,500 years of manpower work", he said.

The CEO admitted that Nordea has encountered challenges in competition with other banks. The profit margins in Nordea housing loans had declined in Sweden and Norway, while in Finland and Denmark the situation had remained better.

Sauli Vilen of Inderes analysis company in Helsinki saw the stepping down of Wahlroos as an internal arrangement of the largest Nordea owner, the Finnish Sampo Insurance.

The nominated successor of Wahlroos is the incoming CEO of Sampo, Torbjorn Magnusson.

"The future of Sampo depends totally on the way Nordea develops and Sampo can influence Nordea best from the chairman's post", Vilen told newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet on Thursday.

Sampo owns 21 percent of Nordea. Wahlroos remains as chairman of Sampo.

In Sweden though, Ulf Pettersson, an analyst for newspaper Dagens Industri, wrote that since Wahlroos became chairman years ago, Nordea stock has developed worse than the bank index of the Stockholm stock exchange.

"It is positive for the share value that he goes," Pettersson said.

Wahlroos himself said in a release on Thursday that he is proud of having guided Nordea through its reforms, but now "he is fetching new forces to carry out the reforms".   

Swedish investor Christer Gardell told Dagens Industri on Thursday he has not tried to oust Wahlroos. Gardell's investment company Cevian became a 2.3 percent owner in December.

On Wednesday Gardell had said though that "the time of apologies in Nordea must be over and the management must deliver".

The yield of Nordea's own capital has remained under ten percent. 

Wahlroos is a household name particularly in Finland. He has been a sharp societal commentator and promoted business friendly societal climate.