Danske Bank: Good luck, or good business?
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Danske Bank: Good luck, or good business?

After barely a year in the job Danske’s CEO Thomas Borgen is overseeing a revival in its fortunes. He clearly has the skills to make a difference, but can he outsmart the legacy challenges as well as inevitable changes coming to Danish banking?

Thomas Borgen-envelope

Thomas Borgen may be one of the most brilliant bankers in Europe; or he may simply be one of the luckiest.

The truth almost certainly lies somewhere in between. But if you measure these things by share-price performance alone, the new CEO of Danske Bank certainly appears to have exercised a Midas touch so far. On the day of his appointment, in September 2013, Danske’s shares opened at DKr117.9 ($20.98). By late July 2014, they had rallied by close to 40%.

There are several compelling reasons for the performance of Danske’s share price over the last 12 months. Asset quality has improved. Costs and provisions have continued to fall. Return on equity has risen. The dividend has been restored for the first time since 2007. Net income in the second quarter was up 88% year-on-year. Standard & Poor’s has upgraded Danske’s credit ratings, and funding costs have fallen. So far, Borgen has made the business of leading the Danske recovery look remarkably easy.

How much credit he can directly take for any of this is open to question. “Much of the improvement in Danske’s bottom line was being initiated before the CEO change last September,” says Christian Hede, analyst at Nordea in Copenhagen.

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