The largest Nordic bank, which last year shocked the public twice, first by stating that it was moving its headquarters from Sweden to Finland and then by announcing mass layoffs amid digitalization and automation, said the cryptocurrencies posed too high a risk for employees, placing them in unethical or even illegal situations.
The ban on employee ownership of crypto will come into effect on February 28. Employees who have already bought cryptocurrencies will be allowed to keep them, although they are being encouraged to sell.
"It is our assessment that the risks are too high, and that the protection is insufficient, both for the employees and for the bank," Afroditi Kellberg, Nordea Sweden's press officer, said, as quoted by the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper.
Nordea also raised concern that trade in various cryptocurrencies remains unregulated.
"As an investor you lack protection against illicit business practices and money laundering," Kellberg explained.
"It is general practice in the banking industry to limit employees' own trade in order to prevent them from engaging in speculative investments that can expose them to the risk of financial loss and thus affect their financial situation. Therefore, like all banks, Nordea has the right to provide guidelines in this area that apply to employees," Nordea Norway communications chief Synne Ekrem told the Norwegian news outlet E24, defending its decision.
"Sweden is noticeably further ahead than the UK, mainland Europe and the US, which is a long way behind in this trend. Because of how technologically developed it is, you see a lot of new interesting things in economics quite a while before you see it elsewhere," Pomeroy told The Local.
One reason for Sweden's prowess is that the residents of the card-friendly Nordic country are particularly comfortable with non-physical financial transactions. In Sweden, the use of cash for payments has dwindled from about 40 percent in 2010 to only 15 percent in 2016, and is predicted to fall further.
Formed in 1995 through the merger of four major Nordic banks, Nordea currently operates in 19 countries around the world, serving 11 million private and 700,000 corporate customers. Earlier this year, it caused an uproar across Scandinavia with its much-debated decision to move its headquarters from Stockholm to Helsinki, followed by a declaration of mass layoffs, as it planned to reduce its staff of 31,000 by 6,000.