There’s one more bridge to cross
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There’s one more bridge to cross

A piece of Hans Dalborg’s Nordic jigsaw is missing: the Norwegian one. His bid for Norway’s Christiania Bank is taking time to process. But MeritaNordbanken, the region’s biggest bank, is on a roll. It already has 9 million customers and 1.5 million of them are online. No wonder the big banks down south are eyeing his operation greedily.

Author: Christina White “There is a new bridge between Denmark and Sweden. The homogeneity is increasing,” says Hans Dalborg, CEO of MeritaNordbanken. “That doesn’t mean that we are the same – we are different.” The Øresund Bridge, spanning the 16 kilometre strait, opened on July 1. That is one symbol of a growing pan-Nordic identity. MeritaNordbanken, the largest bank in the region, and still expanding aggressively, is another.

But there are persistent cultural differences, starting with language. Different languages dominate Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland, although Finland has many Swedish speakers. Dalborg, who is Swedish, hits language barriers even with other directors in his own bank. “Language has been a problem. I have tried to learn Finnish and I understand Danish. But for many people in Sweden and Finland, Danish is still difficult to understand. So very often we all speak English together,” says Dalborg.

The Nordic countries “have similar cultures, similar values and similar political systems,” says Paal Weberg, head of McKinsey in Sweden. But there are still differences between jurisdictions that can delay business that would otherwise proceed smoothly. MeritaNordbanken’s expansion into Norway has been held up by bureaucratic wrangling for almost a year now.

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