Nordea will move its headquarters from Sweden to Finland to enable the Nordic region’s biggest bank to base itself inside the eurozone’s banking union.
The lender has been in conflict with the Swedish centre-left government over proposed tax increases and extra regulation, and has debated for the past six months whether to move its headquarters to either Helsinki or Copenhagen.
Helsinki won out because Finland is already part of the banking union, meaning its biggest banks are directly supervised by the European Central Bank rather than national regulators. Denmark and Sweden have only said they would consider joining the arrangement at some point.
“We see the move as an important strategic step in positioning Nordea on a par with its European peers. The level playing field and predictable regulatory environment offered by the banking union are, we believe, in the best interest of Nordea’s customers, shareholders and employees,” said Björn Wahlroos, Nordea’s chairman.
Nordea said the move — which is likely to take place in the second half of next year — would save it about €1bn in resolution fees and deposit guarantees that it would no longer have to pay. It estimated that had it stayed in Sweden, the resolution fees next year would be up to €200m higher than this year while those in 2019 would be up to €150m more.
The bank, which is in the top 10 largest lenders in Europe by market capitalisation, played down the impact on customers of the move, which would only involve shifting a limited number of headquarters staff.
Casper von Koskull, Nordea’s chief executive, said: “We will continue to deliver value for all customers, as we will keep on working with the Nordic operating model in the same way as we do today.”
In the internal debate over the move, officials had balanced Helsinki’s advantage of being in the banking union with what they saw as Copenhagen’s better living standards and higher international profile. Some senior Nordea directors had pinned their hopes on Denmark joining the banking union.
Ministers in Copenhagen have said they would look at joining banking union in late 2019. But some officials had been pushing to sign up earlier as a sign of commitment to the EU.
“Welcome to Finland . . . Finland's membership in the banking union provides a stable business environment,” Petteri Orpo, the Finnish finance minister, wrote on Twitter.
Analysts at Berenberg have estimated that moving Nordea’s headquarters could boost its profits by up to €330m and free up as much as €6bn of capital.
Nordea said on Wednesday that it was too early to judge what the affect of moving would have on its capital requirements. Sweden’s regulators have the reputation of being among the toughest in Europe but other countries have raised questions about whether the way its banks calculate the riskiness of their loans helps cut their capital needs.
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