Wednesday's decision was not entirely unexpected, but still sparked debate in the Swedish business sector, although to Sweden the symbolic value of the loss is possibly greater than the practical effects.
“All operations in the Nordic home markets will remain unchanged and there will be no change in our day-to-day operations from a customer perspective. Only a limited number of employees are expected to be affected and Nordea will continue to be a major tax payer in all four home markets,” Nordea said.
Nordea has been in conflict with the Swedish government for the past six months over proposed tax increases and regulations for resolution and deposit guarantees. It has said it wants its headquarters to be based inside the eurozone's banking union, of which Sweden is not a member, but Finland is.
CEO Casper von Koskull admitted the extra regulations had contributed to the move, but sought to downplay the conflict with the government and said the banking union was the biggest factor.
“We see the move as an important strategic step in positioning Nordea on a par with its European peers. The level playing field and predictable regulatory environment offered by the banking union are, we believe, in the best interest of Nordea's customers, shareholders and employees,” Nordea's chairman of the board of directors, Björn Wahlroos, added in a statement.
Asked if the government could have done more to keep the bank in Sweden, Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson told a press conference on Wednesday: “Yes, if they mean we should have rushed into the banking union. But how the banking union is developing is not at all clear, or predictable. I'm hearing how the members there are having fairly heated discussions about it.”
Deputy Finance Minister and Financial Market Minister Per Bolund said he did not believe the move would affect Sweden's plan to turn Stockholm into a Nordic hub for finance, contrary to what experts at the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce among others have predicted.
“Sweden still has a large banking sector and Nordea will still have large parts of their operations here. I don't think it will affect the interest in Sweden as a centre of finance,” he commented.