Latvian euro switch may make banks balk

Mikk Salu
, reporter
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Photo: Reuters

At midnight to January 1st Latvia leaps into use of euro, possibly disrupting Swedbank and Nordea Bank internet payments in Estonia. Also, ATMs may not work.

Both banks explain possible problems by parts of their banking systems being pan-Baltic.

For the exact same reasons, though in reverse – not having joint systems – Danske Bank and SEB say they will have no sputters. «All systems, including cash dispensing machines, bank cards, and Internet bank will work as usual,» says the Danske Bank marketing director Anneli Rõuk. The same is echoed by SEB communications chief Silver Vohu.

Swedbank and Nordea differ in sharing some IT-systems with the Southern neighbour Latvia. Of possible problems, Postimees learned by inside information makings rounds within Swedbank advising employees to withdraw cash for the New Year’s Eve – just in case, as glitches might occur.

And, as indeed confirmed by the Swedbank press representative Mart Siilivask, the night the New Year dawns may mean disruptions with bank cards and electronic channels. «The systems are common and though, according to analysis, there should not be major disturbances or disruptions, technology is technology and it won’t ever hurt to be too careful,» says Mr Siilivask.

Nordea is more definite, saying point blank that today, on December 31st, from 11 pm to 12 pm, no cash can be withdrawn from their ATMs; from 11 pm to 3 am, Nordea’s Internet bank cannot be used. «Even so, card payments can be made during the said periods of time,» adds Nordea’s communications manager Jane-Liina Liiv.

To sum it up: not much to be afraid of; nevertheless, Swedbank and Nordea customers might be wise to set some cash aside in case, for a couple of hours, all bank services should not work a hundred per cent.

By the way: as Estonia switched to euro on January 1st 2011, the Latvian banking system did encounter problems. Back then, the trouble resulted from these very reasons – parts of the banks systems are central and go cross-border. So: time for the Latvians to «get even».