March 19, 2013
Shareholders queued up to have their say at this year’s general meeting.
There were plenty of opinions, and Ole Andersen, Chairman of the Board of the Directors, had to reclaim the floor several times to answer the questions from shareholders, professional investors and political activists.
There was an abundance of questions and the topics were diverse. The reoccurring topics, however, were a demand for dividends, dissatisfaction with the customer programme, board remuneration and the closure of teller functions.
Backing from ATP
The first speaker was Claus Wiinblad, head of equities at ATP, and in contrast to many of the speakers who succeeded him, he focused on the positives.
“The share capital increase in connection with the launch of the new strategy was a wise move,” said Claus Wiinblad. “Funding costs have been higher than those at the other Nordic banks, and the share capital increase has reduced these costs and made the bank more competitive.” But he did emphasise that the strategy had got off to a bad start.
Dissatisfaction with the lack of dividend payments
The fact that it is five years ago Danske Bank last paid out dividends did not escape the shareholders’ attention, and the criticism of the lack of dividend payments flooded out from the rostrum.
But Ole Andersen promised that the lack of dividend payments would soon be a thing of the past.
“In light of the planned earnings initiatives, the Board of Directors hopes to resume paying dividends this year,” said Ole Andersen. He continued: “But this also depends, of course, on the macroeconomic situation and the kind of capital requirements the authorities decide on.”
The customer programme also received its share of criticism, and the closure of teller functions did not get off scot-free either. Ole Andersen emphasised many times that Danske Bank is a bank for all customers, but as the day progressed, this position was not well received everywhere in the hall.
On the other hand, there was support for the Board of Director’s wish for more female managers and for no pay rises for the Board of Directors in 2013.
New Board of Directors in place
An important part of yesterday’s general meeting was the election of the Board of Directors. In advance, the Board had proposed that the Board be reduced from nine to eight members. This proposal received a clear majority of 99.98% of the votes. The next item on the agenda was the election of new Board members. The Board had three new candidates ready (see box below), and the shareholder, Egon Geertsen, had also put himself up as a candidate. Egon Geertsen was not elected.
More proposals from the shareholders
When the general meeting entered its fourth hour, the audience started to thin out. But there were still a lot of opinions and questions.
Gry Möger Poulsen, chairman of SF Ungdom, also took the floor with a number of proposals. Together with other members of SF Ungdom, she represented the organisation Danske Banks Samvittighed (Danske Bank’s conscience) that had many proposals to put to the vote. The majority of shareholders did not sympathise with the proposals, and they were all rejected with a majority of more than 99% of the votes.
Frank Aaen from the Red-Green Alliance party (Enhedslisten) also took the floor, criticising Danske Bank’s role in Bank Package 2 and not least the customer programme, which he was definitely not a fan of.
Ole Andersen replied willingly to Frank Aaen’s questions, and didn’t seem to be exhausted by the many different types of questions.
“Regarding the government’s support, we are very grateful for that, but the loans are not free of charge,” explained Ole Andersen. He continued: “We have paid a high amount of interest, and I would like to remind you that the government’s total profit on the bank packages is about DKK 11 billion. We are also perfectly aware that there are some people in society who are less fortunate than others, which is why we are working together with many groups that will ensure that we can help blind people or senior citizens, for example, use our self-service options.” Four hours after the general meeting began, Ole Andersen took stock and stated that all the Board of Directors’ proposals had been adopted.
Find documents from the AGM on danskebank.com/general-meeting.