Landsbankinn Shelves Controversial HQ Move Skip to content

Landsbankinn Shelves Controversial HQ Move

Icelandic bank Landsbankinn has decided to freeze the design competition for its new headquarters, planned for later this month. The bank says in a statement on its website that the decision was made so that it can consider the various points-of-view that have come forth in the last few weeks.

The bank’s planned move to a brand new headquarters has prompted public outcry in Iceland; as the cost is projected to be between ISK 7 and 8 billion (EUR 47.5-54.3 million/USD 52-59.4 million). Spokespeople for the bank have defended the proposed move, saying it could save ISK 700 million (EUR 4.75 million/USD 5.2 million) per year over the bank’s current premises.

Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson is among the many critics of the plan, telling RÚV that a state-owned bank like Landsbankinn should be a leader in improving living conditions for bank customers, and opining that the existing Tollhúsið building could be a good future home for Landsbankinn. Meanwhile, the Vestmannaeyjar municipality has formally requested to see documents and data from the bank connected to its hoped-for new offices, and has requested an extraordinary general meeting of shareholders.

Government MPs Vigdís Hauksdóttir, Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, Frosti Sigurjónsson and Elín Hirst have all added their voices to the chorus of dissent. Elín says the bank should be concentrating on improving services, Guðlaugur Þór accused the bank of abuse of state assets—lamenting the fact that “no one can do anything about it”; while Frosti recommends the bank take up residence in empty office buildings on Urðarhvarf in Kópavogur—potentially saving itself ISK 5 billion.

Director of Landsbankinn Steinþór Pálsson told RÚV that there is still plenty of time to take a balanced and informed decision on the bank’s future base and that people might change their minds if better reasoning comes to light.

The original plan from the bank was to break ground on its luxurious new headquarters near Harpa in central Reykjavík late next year or in early 2017. That now looks less likely.

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