Danske Bank fires CEO

Eivind Kolding, who oversaw a failed marketing campaign and a significant loss of customers, is shown the door by Denmark’s largest bank

Denmark's largest bank, Danske Bank, has fired its top executive, Eivind Kolding, and replaced him with Thomas Borgen. 


The bank announced the change in leadership this morning. 


"We are now in a phase in which it is about transforming the bank so that it becomes even more customer-orientated," the bank's chairman, Ole Andersen, said in a release. "The board has determined that – despite Eivind Kolding's many professional and human qualities – that in this phase it is necessary to have a CEO with more banking competencies. Therefore we have selected Thomas Borgen as the new CEO."


Borgen, 49, has been with Danske Bank since 1997. 


New Standards
Kolding became Danske Bank's CEO in February 2012. His time at the top may perhaps be best remembered for the bank's failed 'New Standards' campaign and for imposing fees and cutting services that led to serious damage to the bank's image and a significant loss of customers. 


The widely-mocked 'New Normal, New Standards' campaign landed the bank in hot water when it used imagery from the Occupy Wall Street movement. The Occupy movement, which is heavily critical of the finance industry's role in the financial crisis, was incensed that Denmark's largest bank co-opted its brand and imagery. Kolding was forced to apologise and the 'New Standards' campaign became a social media meme, with users uploading false Danske Bank ads with the 'New Standards' tagline on photos depicting child labour, riot police and repressive regimes. 


“That must go down as one of the worst campaigns in history in regards to their target group,” John Norden, the CEO of banking price comparison website, Mybanker, told Politiken earlier this year.


READ MORE: Danske Bank pulls #Occupy image from ad campaign


Thomas Borgen will be tasked with bringing Danske Bank back into the good graces of its customers (Photo: Scanpix)Customers left in droves
But it wasn't just the campaign that led to Danske Bank's popularity taking a hit. The bank also alienated many of its customers by discontinuing face-to-face transactions at 131 of its branches. It also announced that it would charge customers up to 480 kroner a year just to have a standard account with the bank. 


According to a Jyllands-Posten newspaper report in May, the bank lost 117,000 customers in less than a year. 


But while customers may have been unhappy, the bank ended 2012 with a nearly five billion kroner profit, which was its best performance in years. 


Nevertheless, with the bank's announcement this morning, with its focus on being more "customer-orientated" and the remark that Borgen has more "banking competencies", the move seems to be in direct response to Kolding's blunders. 


"Danske Bank's board basically just admitted signing an incompetent CEO and firing him a year and a half later," Mads Kolby, a Berlingske Business journalist, wrote on Twitter. 


READ MORE: Danske Bank riding high despite poor image


Borgen said he was ready to take over the reins.


"I'm very happy for this opportunity," he said in the bank's statement. "Danske Bank has all the makings to continue to be a great success with satisfied customers who will receive the market's best solutions and advice."

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