Staff at Danske Bank A/S face a serious erosion of morale that could hit the lender’s business amid a string of scandals and the prospect of deep job cuts.
“The average employee is just tired of all this,” said Kirsten Ebbe Brich, Danske employees’ representative on the bank’s supervisory board. It’s “affecting employee engagement and pride, their sense of connectedness to their employer.”
Danske became the target of a new investigation this month, after it overcharged thousands of clients struggling to repay their debt. That’s on top of ongoing international probes into alleged money laundering, with more unsavory details revealed this week tying Danske to drug lords and mafia bosses. There are also two separate cases in which Danske misled clients about their investment options.
Against that backdrop, Chief Executive Officer Chris Vogelzang has warned of “significant” job cuts, which he says are needed to make the bank more efficient.
“It doesn’t make it easier to be engaged and proud of where you are,” Brich said.
Danske’s head of human resources, Karsten Breum, said the bank is aware of the concerns. He also says employees are doing a “great job” and management is working hard to address the issues.
“We are committed to cleaning up past mistakes and to ensuring that we are becoming a better bank for all our stakeholders,” Breum said by email. “I think our colleagues are also pleased to see that this is taken seriously and that we are dealing with these matters in a decisive and proactive manner.”
Some bankers have taken to social media to reflect on the situation. Henrik Hagstrom, the manager of a branch north of Copenhagen, offered a glimpse of the kind of environment Danske bankers face when they’re out and about. According to his LinkedIn page, Hagstrom was invited to speak at a local Rotary club; the session was titled, “The Looting of the Weak Customers.” He accepted the offer, because he wanted the chance to show the other side of the story, he said.
Hagstrom said the debt scandal “unfortunately isn’t doing anything to improve the bank’s already not excellent image.”
So far the scandals have hurt the bank’s reputation more than its business, S&P Ratings said on Monday. But it also warned that a ratings downgrade may yet come if management doesn’t turn things around.
Brich says there are “a lot of employees who are wondering whether they can still see themselves in Danske.”
People will stay because they like their jobs, their co-workers and their customers, she said. But she wants the bank to take more responsibility in ensuring Danske employees hit by cuts are properly looked after.
The bank “can’t afford not to,” she said.
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