Scandinavian bank sees S'pore as springboard

Scandinavian bank sees S'pore as springboard

A SCANDINAVIAN banker dubbed one of the world's 100 most powerful women said yesterday that Singapore is at the heart of her bank's expansion in Asia.

Ms Annika Falkengren, president and chief executive of Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB), told a business lunch at the Conrad Centennial Singapore: "For Nordic countries, Asia is growing in importance. Asia today accounts for 15 per cent of Swedish exports which makes up 60 per cent of GDP."

She noted that SEB employs about 200 people in Asia, with about 100 in Singapore focusing on trade finance, foreign exchange, cash management and private banking.

"We follow our clients out in the world," Ms Falkengren told The Straits Times after the lunch organised by the Singaporean-German Chamber of Industry and Commerce.

"We have a lot of Nordic or German clients in Asia and they need help and support, which is what we do."

This is amid "challenging times", she said, with the Russian, Middle East and euro zone crises as well as stricter Swedish regulations on banks. These present "uncharted economic territory" and the bank intends to "tread carefully".

"A lot of banks have closed down in the region," noted Ms Falkengren, who was included in Forbes Magazine's list of most powerful women in 2010.

But she remains optimistic. "Where we go, we stay. For us, it's extremely important to grow slowly and grow with the clients," she said.

The bank's plans also include digitisation and big data, which Ms Falkengren feels could be used to offer more to customers. But, she insisted, "you can never digitise personal relationships".

This article was first published on Mar 28, 2015.
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