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Pär Boman, Chairman of Handelsbanken, did not pull his punches when announcing that CEO Frank Vang-Jensen was being fired with immediate effect. According to TT, Boman said that “the task became too big and too difficult for Vang-Jensen to handle. He failed to measure up to the requirements that the CEO of Handelsbanken must meet, so one may reasonably conclude that it was mistake to recruit him to the position in the first place.” However, Boman was careful to emphasise that the former CEO has committed no formal errors. “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 fulfill the requirements of CEO of Handelsbanken,” said Boman in a press release.
His replacement, Anders Bouvin, has been employed at Handelsbanken for over 30 years and has extensive experience. Anders Bouvin’s background includes positions as Branch Manager in New York and General Manager of Handelsbanken Denmark. He most recently worked as Head of Handelsbanken in the UK. Even so, the sudden change comes as a surprise to many analysts. Matti Ahokas, analyst at Danske Bank, says that Handelsbanken is still performing fine, so there are no obvious explanations as to why Vang-Jensen is being thrown out. He had also only occupied the position for 1.5 years, which is much shorter than most other Handelsbanken CEOs before him. The bank typically prefers to keep its CEOs for extended periods of time in order to achieve stability, but an exception was obviously made in this case.
The Financial Times write that Handelsbanken stands out among European banks for its conservative approach and its highly decentralised model in which branch managers take loan decisions. According to FT, bank insiders said that Vang-Jensen had started to centralise power to the bank’s HQ in Stockholm, ruffling feathers lower down the organisation and forcing the board to act before the problems became public