Copenhagen — Staff at Danske Bank 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 in September, after it overcharged thousands of clients struggling to repay their debt. That is on top of international probes into alleged money laundering, with more unsavoury 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, CEO 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 said 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 we are becoming a better bank for all our stakeholders,” Breum said by e-mail. “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.”

‘The looting’

Some bankers have taken to social media to reflect on the situation. Henrik Hagström, 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, Hagström was invited to speak at a local Rotary club; the session was titled, “The Looting of Weak Customers”. He accepted the offer because he wanted the chance to show the other side of the story, he said.

Hagström 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.

Danske ranked at the bottom in a recent survey by Voxmeter that looked at public perceptions of trustworthiness at 20 Danish banks. And the poll was conducted before the debt scandal hit, said Jyllands-Posten, which reported the survey results last week.

Brich said there are “a lot of employees 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, saying that the bank “can’t afford not to”. 



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