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ABN Amro CEO-elect Robert Swaak faces AML, M&A test

Former PwC executive Robert Swaak is a 'safe pair of hands', but a money laundering investigation and negative rates heighten existential doubt at ABN Amro.


ABN Amro names Robert Swaak as CEO

Robert Swaak is largely unknown, even in the relatively close-knit banking community of the Netherlands, but after a career at the Dutch branch of PwC, he is assuming one of the most influential roles in banking in the country, if not in Europe.

As chief executive of ABN Amro from this April, Swaak will determine the future of what was once a global investment bank. It is still one of three firms that dominate banking in the Netherlands.

Industry insiders, however, say that leading a big European bank these days is such a thankless task – especially in the Netherlands and at ABN Amro – that chairman Tom de Swaan may have had few candidates for the role.

In an era of low growth and lower rates in Europe, being a popular and financially successful bank CEO is getting tougher all the time. Public sympathy for banks remains particularly low in the Netherlands. Its politicians show little care for Amsterdam’s status as an international financial centre.

While ABN Amro is still majority owned by the government, despite its 2015 listing, its CEO’s pay is low compared with global and regional peers, and it would be hard to raise it by more than a percentage point or two every year.

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