The new CEO of Íslandsbanki, Jón Guðni Ómarsson, has stated that his priority is to restore trust in the bank. In an interview with RÚV yesterday, he admitted that the mood among the bank’s employees, following recent events, and in light of the public discourse, has been fraught.
On Wednesday morning, Birna Einarsdóttir, CEO of Íslandsbanki, announced her decision to step down. Birna’s resignation came on the heels of Íslandsbanki agreeing to pay a fine of ISK 1.2 billion [$8.8 million, €8.1 million] due to “serious and systematic violations” during the sale of the state’s 22.5% stake in the bank in March of last year.
At the same time, Íslandsbanki announced that Jón Guðni Ómarsson would be replacing Birna as CEO. “Naturally, these are very challenging times,” Jón Guðni told RÚV yesterday. “We need to throw ourselves back into our daily work and focus on taking care of our customers as well as we can.”
As noted by RÚV, Jón Guðni has been with Íslandsbanki for nearly two decades and served as the finance manager since 2011. Jón Guðni told RÚV that he did not participate in the sale of the government’s share in the bank. “I was introducing the bank to investors. Regarding the sale itself and the bank’s involvement in it, I did not take part.”
Jón admitted that the mood among employees, following recent events, and in light of the public discourse, has been fraught. “It has, of course, been a big shock for the employees and some customers, as well. It’s something we take very seriously and will take time to address; that’s the task that lies ahead.”
Rebuilding trust a priority
Jón Guðni admitted that he had not expected Birna Einarsdóttir to step down following the bank’s settlement with the Financial Supervisory Authority of the Central Bank (FME). This having been the case, however, it was now necessary to start repairing the bank’s reputation.
“First of all, we need to throw ourselves into implementing these changes that are requested in the agreement with the Central Bank.” One of the first issues under consideration is whether further personnel changes need to be made, although “no decisions have been made,” according to Jón Guðni. Other changes are yet to be revealed.
According to Jón Guðni, the priority is to restore customers’ trust in the bank. “First of all, it will take some time. We just need to dedicate ourselves to the project and implement these requirements requested by the Central Bank. All in all, we must show humility and roll up our sleeves,” Jón Guðni observed.
As noted by RÚV, FME’s report concluded that many of the things that went wrong at Íslandsbanki during the sale were to be ascribed to the bank’s corporate culture. Jón Guðni believes that a lot can be learned from the report while maintaining that the bank’s corporate culture is strong: “The risk and corporate culture in the bank is very strong in many respects. We simply need to ensure that this culture extends fully to all of the bank’s activities.”