During the early 20th century, the savings banks did not compete on the same conditions as the business banks. By law, the
principle task of the savings banks was to hold private individuals’ savings. The law also set an upper limit for savers’
deposits. The role of the business banks was to take care of contacts with industry and to meet its needs for banking
With the establishment of the Savings Bank Association in 1900, the savings banks began to collaborate and to agree on a
uniform course of action externally. An important part of this collaboration involved savings propaganda, the origins of
which can be found in the international savings bank conference in Milan of 1924.
The highest priority was to get as many people as possible to save on a regular basis – to make saving a good habit.
However, propaganda, or marketing, was not enough – products were also needed, that is, various organized forms of saving.
School saving was one such product and household savings boxes another. Organized saving made its greatest impact through
savings clubs, which, with time, became very widespread, but which ceased when salaries began being paid through the banks.
The first issue of the “Lyckoslanten” (Lucky Penny) magazine was published in 1926. Since that time, it has been
distributed to schoolchildren between 10 and 12 years old throughout Sweden.
Another important part of the collaboration was the establishment of Sparbankernas Bank (the Savings Banks’ Bank), which
increased competition with the business banks by providing bank guarantees, carrying out international transactions and
accepting larger deposits.
A period of control and expansion
The end of World War II saw the beginning of a period characterized by substantial governmental control of banking
operations. At the same time, the modernization of the savings banks began, to culminate during the 1960s. Several
subsidiaries were established: Sparbankernas Datacentraler (the Savings Banks Data’ Centres) in 1962, Sparbankernas
Revisionsbyrå (the Savings Banks’ Auditing Bureau) in 1966 and Svenska sparbankernas Fastighetsbyrå (the Swedish Savings
Banks’ Real Estate Agency) in 1966, to name the most important.
In 1956, a new law regarding agricultural banking operations came into effect. The members’ personal responsibility for the
banks’ business operations was removed, membership was widened and the limiting of credit provision to property holdings was
eased. At the same time, the national organization was transformed and a central bank was established, Föreningsbankernas
Bank (the Union Banks’ Bank) with a corporate structure similar to that of Sparbankernas Bank.
The 1970s were characterized by legislation adopted in 1968 that granted the agricultural banks and the savings banks the
same rights to conduct banking operations as the business banks. The formal boundaries between the credit institutions
In 1974, the agricultural banks changed name to Föreningsbanken (Union Bank). Both their membership and banking operations
expanded during the 1970s.
During this period, the banks introduced automation and new products for the general public and small companies were
introduced. Competition in the corporate sector intensified.
Like the savings banks, the union banks took advantage of the opportunities offered by the 1968 legislation and began to
enter markets that had traditionally been the territory of the business banks. This was particularly important given that
the credit needs of the agricultural sector were diminishing in relative terms.
Both the savings and the union banks were highly active in relation to the companies that grew during the 1980s, primarily
within the property, management and financial sectors and therefore became established as commercial banks. While the
business banks’ share of lending to traditional industries declined, the savings and union banks’ share rose from 6 percent
to 20 percent and from slightly more than 2 percent to more than 8 percent respectively during the 1980s.
When credit institution operations were deregulated in the latter half of the 1980s, the process mentioned above
With expansion being achieved at the cost of weaker securities, greater risk exposure and more complicated organization,
the foundations for the financial crisis of the 1990s were laid.
During the final two decades of the 20th century, the savings banks underwent a new transformation – unity and partnership
were put to the test. The idea of incorporating the savings banks was put forward, allowing them to be reorganized as
A parallel process also characterized the development of the union banks.
Crisis and rebuilding in the 1990s
1990 was a dramatic year for the entire banking industry. Inflation and an economic slump brought weakened competitiveness
and increased unemployment. The credit losses incurred by both the union and savings banks gave rise to discussions on
issues such as profitability, re-financing and types of corporate structure.
The credit losses grew and the Swedish banks were forced to establish special companies to deal with credit undertakings
that had run into difficulties.
While the savings banks established Tornet to deal with these tasks, the union banks decided
to handle them through Mandamus. It was also deemed likely that the banking system, with the exception of Handelsbanken,
would need to apply for some form of government support. However, through various loans and guarantees from the government,
most banks were able to get through the crisis without large-scale government involvement.
In 1992, the union and savings banks relinquished their traditional forms of ownership and Sparbanken Sverige AB and
Föreningsbanken AB were created.
The crisis and the conversion to limited companies necessitated rationalization and reduced costs. The number of employees
decreased and lending was carefully controlled. By 1994, the Swedish banks were already showing considerably improved
earnings, primarily as a result of reduced credit losses.
The transition to limited companies provided the foundation for survival.
The ownership of Sparbanken Sverige consisted of 11 savings bank foundations, 90 independent savings banks and a number of
Swedish and international investors. In 1994, Sparbanken Sverige comprised 130 local branches.
With the 1997 merger of Sparbanken Sverige and Föreningsbanken, the broad customer base of close to five million people and
the extensive branch network provided the basis for a strong and efficient bank. The name given to the bank was
The bank expanded in the Baltic region through the acquisition of shares in Hansabank. In 2004, Hansabank became part of
Swedbank and the expansion in the east continues.
FöreningsSparbanken and the former Sparbanken Sverige used the name Swedbank in international contexts. In 2006,
FöreningsSparbanken AB changed name to Swedbank AB. Swedbank has its historical roots in the savings bank movement and acts
in many respects in accordance with the fundamental savings bank ideology, being a bank for everyone and with strong links
within the local community. In addition, the bank’s largest owners are the savings bank foundations, whose principle task is
to advance the savings bank concept and to conduct operations that promote saving.
The collaboration between Swedbank and the savings banks is a central component of the Swedish operations and is founded
upon their shared history and values.
Through operations established in Norway, Denmark and Finland, Swedbank is able to offer extensive banking services
throughout the Nordic region.
Swedbank has established operations in Moscow, St Petersburg, Kaliningrad and Kiev. Swedbank also has offices in Shanghai,
New York, London and Luxemburg.