A giant Northern European bank, Nordea, has allegedly enacted a company policy which forbids its employees from owning or trading in bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. The bank’s current executive team have a long history of on-the-record skepticism toward bitcoin.
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Nordea Bank Allegedly Forbids Employees from Owning Crypto
The once Swedish bank Nordea Bank AB, now headquartered in Finland (home of its largest shareholder) has reportedly forbade all of its employees from owning or trading in bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. The alleged move might not be a surprise to long-term watchers of the bank and its executive team.
Chairman Björn Wahlroos’ opinions on bitcoin go back to at least 2014, and he lamented then the decentralized currency’s supposed anonymous properties and its lack of inflation — two aspects most enthusiasts cherish. More recently, Nordea’s President and CEO Casper von Koskull dismissed bitcoin altogether, calling it “a joke.”
Mr. von Koskull explained, “If you somehow allow that to live without controls, then, given the billions we spend on financial regulation as a financial system, I mean, I think it’s actually a joke that you then just let something like bitcoin live. I don’t get it – it’s absurd.”
Joke or not, it’s evidently too hot for the bank’s employees. Nordea is listed on three exchanges and has over a thousand brick and mortar branches serving more than a dozen countries. It boasts nearly twenty million customers, retail and corporate, and has another over five million online users. Its market capitalization is nearing half a trillion dollars.
In a tweet, @samisin wrote, “Nordea Bank forbids all their employees (at least in Sweden) to stop owning and trading $btc and other crypto currency. This applies to secretaries, IT personal, cleaners and any bank staff employed by the company. Is it legal even?” Commenters railed against the notion, citing violations of basic rights.
In some professional circles, such as journalism, it’s often assumed a conflict of interest to own or have financial stake in that which a company or employee is presumed to have objective contact. New York Times writer Nathaniel Popper has outright refused to own bitcoin so as to not appear tainted in his coverage. Famously, JP Morgan Chase through its CEO Jamie Dimon threatened to “fire” anyone even suspected of dabbling in bitcoin. For bitcoiners, however, there is a glaring double standard.
Does Mr. Popper not use fiat currency? And if so, using his ethical logic, wouldn’t that make him biased toward government paper and against bitcoin? It’s easy to get caught in traps like these, especially when it is just a pretense or only perverse virtue signalling. Banks have long fretted about cryptocurrency and its “risky” and “speculative” nature. But even those concerns fall rather flat when one considers deals these same banks are engaged.
For example, Nordea was just involved in what’s known as a “capital relief deal,” which ironically pushes risk on investors (in this case to almost 10 billion USD) in loans. This is also known as “synthetic securitizations,” and they function to lessen the amount of reserves banks must have on hand against losses. Nordea was headlong in the deal until it abruptly pulled out altogether.
“Nordea dropped those plans as it embarks on an overhaul to eliminate 6,000 jobs,” Bloomberg reported. Clearly shredding thousands of jobs goes to the bank’s concern about employee wellbeing.
On the brighter side, those former Nordea employees might now be able to own bitcoin.
What is your experience with banks and crypto? Let us know in the comments below.
Images: Pixabay,Twitter, Nordea.