1. About the Group
  2. /
  3. Our story

Our story

We are our relationships. Get to know us, from our birth as a local bank to our unique approach today.
Ballonger i guld och blått

Handelsbanken celebrates 150 years

A lively 150-year-old

HIP HIP HURRAH! 150 years ago, in 1871, Handelsbanken was granted its first banking charter by royal decree. This meant that the then King granted us permission to begin operating a bank. At that time, His Majesty Carl XV, King of Sweden and Norway, was on the throne. The King’s decision to grant us a charter was a monumental one, the effects of which we still feel today. During the 150 years that have passed since then, Handelsbanken has been an important part of Swedish business life.

You can read about Handelsbanken’s history and evolution here:

Handelsbanken today

A decentralised approach

Handelsbanken's trust-based way of working has been widely studied. Our decentralised approach has resulted in more satisfied customers, better cost efficiency and higher profitability than our competitors. We consistently hold among the highest credit ratings of any commercial bank.  

A local, personal touch

Throughout the six countries we call home markets, we have built extensive branch networks. Each branch is fully empowered to serve customers, build relationships and take all the important decisions locally. The team determines how to develop the Bank's business, playing an active role in local life. We know just how much customers of all kinds value having access to a dedicated team who understand their needs. By combining new technologies with this local, personal touch, we are making more of these relationships. 

An international network

In our six home markets of Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the UK we have extensive branch networks. In addition, we are present in other markets to support customers from our home markets. Our scale, strength and reputation also make us a natural partner for large corporates and other financial institutions.

Our journey

A local bank from the start

As the oldest listed share on the Swedish stock exchange, we have a long-term perspective. The bank was formed in 1871 to pursue "true banking activities" with customers in the Stockholm area. This established the bedrock of local banking we continue to build on.

Trust and customer focus 

Following a series of issues in the late-1960s, a new managing director was recruited. Jan Wallander's conviction was that people naturally want and are able to do good things well. 

This formed the basis of Handelsbanken's trust-based, customer-focused approach. He removed layers of middle management, giving business responsibility to local branch managers. Budgets and targets were scrapped in favour of a single goal: to be more profitable than the average of our banking competitors. 

We aim to achieve this by having more satisfied customers and better cost-efficiency than our peers. For those years we reach our corporate goal, and other prerequisites are met, all employees receive an equal amount of the profits. 

International presence

Since the late-1980s, Handelsbanken has become an international bank. During the 1990s, we established our local, relationship banking offering across Norway, Finland and Denmark. And since 2000, we have expanded branch networks throughout the UK and the Netherlands. In addition, we are present in other markets to support customers from our home markets.  

Handelsbanken through history

In 2021, Handelsbanken will be 150 years old. Here you can read about our history divided into five different eras.

Our role in society

 crowd in the city

How we run our bank

Before anything else, we are a bank. We know that our first priority is to be a dependable financial partner to our customers and to support economic development – by providing finance, protecting savings, employing people and paying taxes. But we have a choice of how to run our bank.

Building on trust

We choose to trust colleagues throughout the Bank to take better decisions than any hierarchy could hope for. We cooperate openly and respect each other's diverse contributions towards a common goal and culture. By being a dependable and responsible bank, we aim to develop relationships with all stakeholders based on mutual trust. 

A sustainable business

We choose to take a long-term view, with the interests of our customers and communities in focus. Being decentralised means we can get involved without having to ask permission first. 

Our sustainable products help customers make choices in line with their principles. And at local, national and international level, we support initiatives aimed at improving the world for current and future generations.


Putting the customer first

We know we will only succeed in the long run by having highly satisfied customers. Our role is to support them financially, helping their families and businesses to thrive.

We do this by being close to our customers, by seeing them as individuals, and by focusing on their needs rather than our own. Having sales campaigns, product targets or bonus incentives wouldn't help us put our customers' needs first, so we don't have them. 

Over time, this approach leads to a high level of customer satisfaction, loyalty and recommendation. This is how we build our business.