Opnun Kaupþings í Stokkhólmi 14.09.00


Valgerður Sverrisdóttir,
iðnaðar- og viðskiptaráðherra

Presentation at the Opening of Kaupthing Stockholm
September 14th 2000.

It is a privilege and a great pleasure to have the opportunity to honour Kaupthing at the opening day of the newest member of the Kaupthing family – the Stockholm branch. It is certainly a day for celebration for both Kaupthing and the Icelandic financial market in general. It shows courage and determination on behalf of Kaupthing and sets an example for other financial institutions in Iceland. Kaupthing has shown that it has adapted very well to the remarkably altered landscape in the Icelandic financial market for the past few years. The firm}s growth has been enormous with more than twenty-fold increase in trading volume in just five years. The number of employees has increased from twenty-five to more than two hundred over the same period. During this period Kaupthing has changed its structure from a securities firm to a full-scale investment bank with operation in five countries. This is an achievement which is an encouragement for the whole financial market.
Financial institutions in Iceland are increasingly outward looking. Their expansion into Europe and the United States is economically feasible for the Icelandic economy and it is absolutely necessary for the financial firms in order to stay in business in the increasingly competitive global financial market. This is a clear indication of how far the financial market in Iceland has come in a relatively short period of time. Such an expansion would have been impossible in the time of restrictions of the movement of capital. The last restrictions were abolished just six years ago.
The development of the financial market started later in Iceland than elsewhere in the Nordic region. The hyper-inflation through the seventies and eighties was the major obstacle in the formation of well-developed financial market. In the last ten years we have seen a stable high growth economy with huge economic potential. The securities market has developed at a rapid rate. The public has especially rushed into the equity market. Most of the participants have seen a high reward for the equity investment. The former state-banks were transformed into limited liability companies, listed on the exchange and partially privatised. This has enhanced the competition in the market.
One of the major influences on the financial market in Iceland in the last five to seven years has been our relationship with the EU through the European Economic Area. Our legislation in the financial market is based on EU}s directives. This has had a very positive effect on the market as market participants can be assured that our regulatory environment resembles that of other EEA countries. Our participation in the EEA also enables companies like Kaupthing to use their Icelandic banking license to open their branch in Sweden with as little effort as possible. Our relationship with EU has been good. We follow of course very closely the developments of the single market, the euro and the enlargement of the Union. We will, as probably everyone in the Nordic region, be very interested to see how the Danes will cast their votes on September 28th.

The Icelandic Stock Exchange was established by the Central Bank in 1986. The first few years it had limited operation. In 1991, for example, there were only two companies listed on the Exchange. Now they are close to 80 and many of them very actively traded. Our participation in NOREX is one of the most interesting and exciting opportunity for the securities market in Iceland since its formation. The NOREX co-operation will indeed broaden our horizon and increase the international competitiveness of the securities market.

Ladies and Gentlemen. I would like to stress again how enjoyable it is to be here today to celebrate the opening of Kaupthing Stockholm. I would like to congratulate Kaupthing with their achievement. Thank you.

Valgerður Sverrisdóttir