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The Return of the Glass Cliff - Has Swedbank CEO Birgitte Bonnesen been set up to fail?

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Swedbank newly appointed CEO Birgitte Bonnesen Swedbank, Sweden’s largest bank, announced the departure of its CEO, Michael Wolf this morning. In a public statement, chairman Anders Sundstrom said how Wolf has been ‘successful and inspiring’ in leading Swedbank but stated that ‘new leadership’ was needed to take the bank ‘to the next level’.  Sundstrom credited Wolf in leading the bank to its current position as ‘one of Europe’s strongest banks with lowest risks and sustaining earning capacity’. It was reported that Wolf had left the bank with immediate effect and a pay-off of $2.7m

Birgitte Bonnesen was announced as the acting CEO of Swedbank, moving from her role as a member of the Head of Swedish Banking Group Executive Committee. Wolf maintained a great reputation at Swedbank, once declared one of the 25 best performing CEOs in the world. His departure is ‘bad news’ for Swedbank, according to Karl Morris, an analyst at Feef, Bruyette & Woods, who claimed that ‘Wolf was highly regarded so this will not be taken well.’  Swedbank shares opened at almost 5% lower in Stockholm and traded 4.5% down at 159.70 kronor as of 9:03am

With rising speculation in the Swedish media about the reasoning behind Wolf’s dismissal, Bonnesen’s instatement begs the question; is this the return of the Glass Cliff? Wolf was popular and well liked within Swedbank. Not only does Bonnesen have big shoes to fill with short notice, she may be another female figure given a position of power in a losing scenario, then blamed for failure and replaced by a white male.

Bonnesen’s new role could make a difference in finance – in making the most of her new role, she can contribute to pushing the idea that having female executives actually improves a companies’ performance. As is the case with Marissa Mayer, with her recent plans to make cuts at Yahoo, this is a capable, experienced woman who has been giving a fantastic opportunity with strings attached. As we wait to see how Mayer untangles herself from her own situation, Bonnesen is now at the beginning of her own puzzle. If she finds a way to make her role work, it could be a step in the right direction, away from the cliff edge. 

Read our article published last week on the Glass Cliff and Marissa Mayer here

 

 

Business & Career

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