Stephen Hester has spent his career focused on helping companies to win for customers and shareholders – and through doing so to offer great careers to staff and contribute strongly to society as a whole. He has deep experience from leadership positions within banking and the insurance industry, internationally and as well as in the Nordics. Stephen Hester was asked to comment on his new appointment.
What inspired you to accept the appointment as Chair for Nordea?
When I was approached for the Chair position at Nordea I was immediately attracted. Nordea is in great shape. This is a company that has the potential to be the best bank in the Nordics. I think the business plan that has been laid out – with disciplined Nordic strategic focus, a concentration on organic improvement, an excellent business balance across countries and customer segments – is a winning strategy. And the people at the heart of Nordea have done a fabulous job in recent years, capitalising on this position and making it stronger.
How do you feel about your new role?
I am excited! It is a privilege. Nordea plays a very important role for the Nordic societies. It is a bank that many people admire and I feel honoured to have been entrusted with the job. The bank, in my eyes, is the best positioned among Nordic banks to become a preferred partner for customers in need of a broad range of financial services. I’m fully supportive of the team and strategy led by our CEO Frank Vang-Jensen. I love the region and it feels good to be a part of the Board and to continue developing Nordea further.
I’ve had a fair amount of business experience in the Nordics. It is a place I love. I love the capitals and I love the people. The first deal I ever did as a banker, 40 years ago, was raising money for a Swedish company. I was also on the team advising the Swedish Ministry of Finance in recapitalising the banking system 30 years ago, and over the past 8 years, I have been running an international insurance company with major businesses in Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
I understand that while banking is a global industry, it has local roots and dynamics. It is vital that Nordea retains very strong cultural links with the Nordic societies. I will be dedicated to ensuring that the Board supports the Bank’s leadership to make sure that that remains the case.
How can Nordea benefit from you being the Chair?
I firmly believe that we exist to serve our customers and to create a winning experience for them. My 40 years of experience in financial services has given me extensive knowledge of both how to create the good things and the difficult challenges that can also arise. I hope that these combined experiences will be of use to Nordea’s development.
What do you believe Nordea needs to do to become the best bank in the Nordics?
We need to do more of the same. In some ways, the most difficult thing in business is to continuously improve. You can improve companies over a short period and then the risk is that you fall back. So, it will require a lot of work and many things to go well and better every year in order to create the vision of winning for our customers and shareholders.
It’s also about raising the bar on our financial performance and driving further value creation – for our customers, shareholders and the society in general.
Torbjörn Magnusson, my predecessor, has done a great job as Chair. I am truly pleased that he will continue as Vice Chair of the Board.
I am looking forward to working together with CEO Frank Vang-Jensen and the great leadership team at Nordea.