Today, I will be featuring a bank I’m pretty sure you have heard of before: Danske Bank. The reason I chose this bank, is that it’s one of the most prominent ones in my country, and I’ve always been fascinated by its far-reaching ambitions. As I was fortunate enough to be allowed a visit and a few interviews with several of the HQ staff members, I now want to share the most important things you need to know about Danske Bank’s history.
Danske Bank is a Danish bank, and one of the largest in the world. Its core markets centers around the four Scandinavian countries Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden, but it also branches out to Ireland, Poland, the UK, the US, and more. It was founded in 1871 following the merger of the savings banks Aarhus and Kjøbenhavn. Danske Bank has a strong heritage of being a global financial company with over 22,000 employees worldwide and serving over 3,3 million customers.
Now that you know some basic facts about this bank, I have chosen to start off by summarizing the scandal that most of us are familiar with, so that we may “get over it” and focus on the bank’s good points. Several of my interviewees confirmed that they wouldn’t want to hide the situation in any way, but instead be open and transparent about what happened.
The Danske Bank Scandal
The Danske Bank scandal is perhaps the biggest banking scandal Denmark has ever seen. It was one of the largest money laundering cases in history, and the bank’s role in the scam has frankly been described as “intentional, negligent, or reckless.”
The central allegation is that Danske Bank failed to stop $230 billion from being laundered through its Estonian branch between 2007 and 2015, and that they had allowed this to happen. This was revealed in 2018. Although I do not commend this event in any way, I must say that it is quite remarkable that the bank managed to survive this scandal and maintain a strong position in the market.
Major Milestones of Danske Bank
One of the things that struck me about Danske Bank, is that they have been able to provide digital solutions to its customers from the very beginning. They keep up with the developments in the field, and have made strides in innovation by introducing new products that are designed for the digital era, such as virtual banking assistants for smartphone banking.
The bank is also the first commercial bank in Denmark to become publicly traded, with its shares traded on Euronext Copenhagen. Since 1990, Danske Bank has navigated successfully through 10 mergers and acquisitions, featuring Fokus Bank, National Irish Bank, and Handelsbanken, among others. The bank is still strong in 2021.
Financial Crisis 2008-2009
During 2008–2009, Danske Bank became one of the worst affected banks within Europe as a result of problems originating from its business activities in non-European countries and its exposure to mortgage loans that ultimately resulted in a loss of 8 billion Danish Kroner (about $1,2 billion).
Danske Bank was able to stay afloat and thrive by implementing agile and adaptive business models. In hindsight, this saved them from bankruptcy and allowed them to become one of the top banks in Europe. The innovative strategy helped Danske Bank grow internationally as they were involved in many European countries.
One of the most interesting things I learned from my interviews with the Danske Bank staff members at HQ, is that they don’t appear to be ashamed of the scandal that their corporation made a decade ago. They have accepted the situation and the judgments that follow, with a resolution to do business with integrity and reliability, now and in the future.