Nordic banks set competition aside to fight cybercrime

Last updated: 28 April 2017

To illustrate the importance of multi-layered banking security and collaboration in the Nordic region, read our story about a bitter rivalry between executives at two fictional banks…


Banking collaboration

As Oliver Jepsen drove to his luxury flat on the outskirts of Copenhagen, a smile crept over his lips. He’d had a very successful day. The open banking and digitization presentation he’d been preparing for weeks had gone very well. The CEO of V-Bank, not often inclined to reveal her emotions, had applauded enthusiastically at the end. That’s how good it was. Why had he ever doubted himself?

Well, Christian Frandsen had something to do with it.

Frandsen had graduated with him from Aarhus University. A decade on, the man still got to him. Arrogant, manipulative, and smart, he’d been Oliver’s main rival on campus. While Oliver captained the debating society and was involved in student politics, Christian was the sports star who claimed to have been scouted for Brondby FC.

At first, they’d got on well; going on nights out together, debating politics, even talking about sharing a flat after University. That relationship was quickly destroyed when he’d discovered his girlfriend, who he’d thought was the woman of his dreams, was seeing Christian behind his back.

Devastated, Oliver turned to his friends, but found Christian has turned them against him too. These days, Oliver barely kept in touch with anyone from university.

He’d almost forgotten about everything – until three months ago, when he saw Christian announce his new position on LinkedIn. “I’m so looking forward to becoming Director of Strategy at KobenBank”. KobenBank was one of V-Bank’s major competitors; Frandsen was his rival once again.

This time, Oliver was going to triumph. He’d make sure of it. He’d encourage the Board to invest in slick digital solutions and sophisticated mobile marketing initiatives to capture market share from KobenBank. And from the reception his presentation received today, it looked like he was going to be successful.

Christian, on the other hand, seemed to be prioritizing security. Oliver had noticed him sharing a story on LinkedIn about KobenBank joining a shared banking initiative called the Nordic Financial CERT. This brought together leading institutions such as Danske Bank, Nordea, DNB, Sparebank 1 and Eika Group to share data and expertise to combat cybercrime.

Oliver dismissed this approach. In the ferocious competition between traditional banks, fintech startups and tech giants, you couldn’t afford to waste time on industry-wide initiatives that were all talk and no action. Plus, thought Oliver, that type of collaboration would surely destroy any competitive advantage a bank had built up. You need to be looking purely at providing quick and easy mobile solutions, delivering extra revenue streams.

Chuckling to himself, he pulled into his driveway. He’d picked up a nice bottle of wine on the way home, and pulled out his phone to post a celebratory update that he was sure would grab Christian’s attention.

Suddenly, the phone buzzed in his hand. It was the CEO!

“Oliver, we’ve had a breach. We’re not sure how they’ve got in, but it’s happened. I’m going to need you to come back into the office.”

Oliver knew this could be a disaster. Cybercrime could result in lost funds, whole services being shut off, and a huge fall in the share price if customer detail had been leaked. He knew Christian was going to love this.


Banking collaboration

Sipping his sixth cup of coffee, Oliver looked down at the newspaper in front of him, barely awake after a whole night attempting to manage the crisis. “V-BANK BREACH MAY AFFECTS MILLIONS OF CUSTOMERS”. The CEO sat opposite him, head in her hands.

Oliver felt miserable and guilty. “I’m so sorry. It’s clear we can’t embrace digitization without getting the security right in the first place”.

The CEO stared back at him, weary-eyed.

“Why was it just us? No other bank was affected.”

Somehow Oliver knew this would lead back to the Nordic Financial CERT.

As he got up to return to his desk, he felt his mobile phone buzz again. It was a message from Christian.

“Hey, man, I’m so sorry to hear about the breach. That must be difficult for you. It’s a tough old world, right? All the best, mate”.


Banking collaboration

A few months later, Oliver was sitting in a coffee shop on his lunch break. V-Bank still hadn’t fully recovered from the reputational damage inflicted by the breach. His job had been difficult over the last few months. He’d accepted the need to make cyber security a priority and was actively working with other banks to build knowledge-sharing initiatives.

So far, he’d managed to avoid Christian, thank goodness. He’d been rubbing it in on LinkedIn, making a series of posts about the need for cyber security and finishing with something like “isn’t it a pity that V-Bank didn’t take this into account?”. Eventually, though, they were bound to come into contact, a prospect he was dreading.

As he sat staring out of the window, a woman asked for a seat at the table.

“Sorry, it’s so busy here at this time of the day”, she said. “How do you do? My name’s Erika.”

After exchanging pleasantries, they got into a conversation about work. After explaining he worked for V-Bank, Erika gasped. “Goodness, I bet you’ve had quite the few months, haven’t you?”.

Oliver laughed. “You bet! I guess the positive to take is we’ll never make the same mistake again. We’re not going to overlook security, you can be sure about that. Trouble is finding the right security solutions, I guess?”.

Erika smiled. “Well, believe it or not, I might be able to help you. Look, I don’t want to make this into a sales pitch or anything, but my company, Gemalto, can help you build multi-layered banking security solutions and collaborate with other banks. We don’t think the level of dialogue between Nordic banks is anywhere near extensive enough, and we’re concerned that security is at risk”.

“To be honest, I could do with a sales pitch on cyber security”, Oliver smiled. “Sounds interesting, do you have a business card?”.

Erika passed one over, as well as a document on eBanking layered security.

Oliver promised to look and get back to her. It was becoming clear to him that collaboration would be more important than competition.

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