Bankers Put `Annoying' Know-Your-Customer Rules to a Nordic Test

(Bloomberg) -- Bank clients in the Nordic region may be about to get a simpler, more local framework to help tackle frustrations over existing know-your-customer requirements.

John Turesson, who manages the Norwegian operations of SEB AB, says there’s need for change because the current set of processes is “extremely time-consuming and even annoying for our clients.”

The biggest Nordic banks -- Nordea Bank AB, Danske Bank A/S and DNB AB, as well as SEB and Svenska Handelsbanken AB -- are all behind the project, which they say represents a more streamlined and modernized approach to a rule set that has its roots in the U.S. Patriot Act following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The Nordic banks behind the joint venture hope to win European approval for their KYC model in the second half of the year.

Knowing your customer has taken on particular relevance in the Nordics after Danske Bank became the center of a money laundering scandal. The financial regulator in May publicly reprimanded Denmark’s biggest bank for its failure to stop illegal funds allegedly from Russia, Moldova and Azerbaijan from flowing through its Estonian unit over several years. The Danish government called Danske’s laundering breaches “unforgivable.”

Satisfaction Project

But the banks behind the Nordic KYC joint venture say that efforts to force them to know who’s using their operations could be made more efficient. Turesson says clients get disgruntled when they have to provide multiple versions of the same information to different banks.

“It’s a pure client satisfaction project,” he said. “The frustration is rather big and some customers think that they spend too much time on this. It would be very good if we could accomplish this.”

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