The UK arm of Swedish banking group Handelsbanken is continuing business “as usual” in the wake of the country’s referendum vote to leave the EU, according to a locally based spokesperson.
Partly this reflects the lack of certain facts about exactly how a ‘Brexit’ will take place, but also because the local business is run according to a decentralised model.
Handelsbanking in the UK has been growing its retail banking and wealth management operations in recent years, but this has been done predominantly through organic growth and “word of mouth”, the spokesperson said.
“We are here for the long term for our customers and businesses,” the spokesperson said.
The bank started its local presence in 1982, and has built up a network of some 200 branches across England, Wales and Scotland, forming a significant part of the overall Handelsbanken presence of some 800 branches across 25 countries. The Swedish banking group’s roots go back to the 1870s.
In 2013 it acquired local wealth and asset management firm Heartwood. Handelsbanken Wealth Management offers services across the UK, while its investment specialist Heartwood Investment Management, claimed some £2.5bn under management and administration as of 31 March 2016.
Despite the relatively benign picture painted by the UK operations of Handelsbanken, the broader group’s own analysts have highlighted the sensitivity of the Brexit issue to Swedish investors.
The UK was the third largest export destination for Swedish goods in 2015, while the UK accounted for the sixth highes share of imports to Sweden that year.
“In 2015, Swedish foreign trade with Britain rendered a substantial surplus (the third highest vs any country) adding to the steady trend of a Swedish current account surplus,” economist Anders Brunstedt wrote.
Sweden is unlikely to seek to leave the EU itself, according to the findings of a poll conducted through June by polling organisation Ipsos. It found that two-thirds of Swedes would vote to remain in the EU should there be a referendum in that country.
On the morning of 27 June, shares in Handelsbanken trading in Stockholm fell more than 9.5%, reflecting broader concerns over the stability of Europe’s banking sector in the wake of the Brexit vote.