NextGen Nordics: Who are the women leading Nordic banks?

NextGen Nordics: Who are the women leading Nordic banks?

Ahead of NextGen Nordics, which will return to Stockholm on 25 April 2023, Finextra will be publishing a series of ‘sneak peeks’, covering the topics and interviewing the panellists speaking at the event.

Marking International Women’s Day 2023, we take a look at female leadership across banks in the Nordic region and highlight those women that are embracing and endorsing equity. Although this article includes just a small number of women in executive positions across Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and Norway, it is evident that these countries promote financial inclusion and financial wellbeing.

Paula da Silva, CEO of P27 and renowned leader within the Nordic financial services industry, will take to the stage at NextGen Nordics 2023 to give a keynote and participate in a panel, sharing her expertise on payments transformation and 30 years of experience. But how are other women forging ahead with payments transformation in this region?

According to a 2022 study by DBRS Morningstar, Nordic banks fare better than financial institutions in the rest of Europe when it comes to gender equality. At board level, Denmark has the highest rate of representation at 55%, followed by Norway at 50% and Sweden at 48%. Here are some highlights of who those women are in each Nordic country.


Denmark is one of the few countries in the world to have a Gender Equality Act. Despite this, they haven’t reached equality in employment and pay. On average, the men in Denmark still earn 12.7% more than Danish women. Although in the financial sector, there is roughly equal employment of men and women, only 26% of management are women.

Vicky Davies

Vicky Davies is CEO of Danske Bank. Davies is from the UK and joined the Danske Bank board in 2016 and was appointed Deputy CEO in 2019. She became CEO in September 2021, the first woman to do so in the bank’s 200 years.

Karen Frøsig

Karen Frøsig is CEO of Sydbank and has been a member of group executive management since 2008. She is also a board member of Finance Denmark, Total Credit, Bluegarden Group, and the Danish-German board of commerce.


Finland does not have a singular gender equality act, but Finnish constitution states that no one shall be treated differently to others on the grounds of gender or any other personal attributes. Currently the gender pay gap in Finland is 16% across the whole labour market, according to the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

Sara Mella

Sara Mella is head of personal banking at Nordea, and has over 30 years of industry experience. Mella joined Nordea as a branch manager in 2005. She also holds the position of chair of the banking executive committee at Finance Finland, and is a member of the delegation and the nomination board at Helsinki Chamber of Commerce.

Nina Arkilahti

Another Finnish woman in the Nordea executive team is Nina Arkilahti, head of business banking. Arkilahti has nearly 20 years of banking experience and joined the Nordea executive committee in 2020.


Iceland is also one of the countries in the world with a specific Gender Equality Act. Additionally, in 2010, the Icelandic government passed a law requiring companies to have a minimum of 40% men or women.

Ida Brá Benediktsdóttir

Ida Brá Benediktsdóttir is deputy CEO and managing director of retail banking at Arion Bank. Benediktsdóttir has been part of Arion Bank since 1999 across various departments. She was made managing director in 2017 and gained the title of deputy CEO in April 2022.

Birna Einarsdóttir

Birna Einarsdóttir has held the position of CEO at Íslandsbanki since 2008. She was previously senior product manager at RBS from 1998 – 2004, and became CEO during the financial crisis of 2008 which hit Iceland hard.

Lilja Björk Einarsdóttir

Lilja Björk Einarsdóttir is CEO of Landsbankinn. Einarsdóttir directed the operation, asset management and recovery of the assets of old Landsbanki Ísland in London between 2008 and 2016.


Norway has the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act which includes protections against discrimination on the grounds of gender. Norway’s sovereign wealth fund has found that women in the country are still being paid less than their male colleagues at the same level.

Kjerstin Braathen

Norwegian bank DNB ASA also has a female CEO, Kjerstin Braathen. She was appointed in 2019 and has worked for DNA ASA since 1999. Braathen has been outspoken in her support of equality, arguing to the Financial Times in 2020: “It’s a result of those institutions working systematically. The more people realise this is linked to value creation and the success of your business, that is the driving force. That needs to be the driver.”

Arlin Opsahl Mæland

Arlin Opsahl Mæland is chief compliance officer Sbanken and has held the position since 2015. She previously worked as compliance manager at SpareBank, and held positions at Capital Bank, Statoil ASA, and Aeriton Aircraft AS.


Sweden has a strong history of gender equality legislation, and passed their Gender Equality Act in 1979. Statistic Sweden’s bi-annual report on gender equality 2022 found that 10% of the companies listed on the Stockholm Stock Exchange had women chairpersons, 36% of board members women, and 16% had female CEOs.

Carina Åkerström

Carina Åkerström is president and group chief executive officer of Handelsbanken. She was appointed to this position in 2019, but has worked with Handelsbanken since 1986. She is the first woman to hold the position of CEO since the bank’s founding in 1871.

Petra Ålund

Petra Ålund is head of technology and a member of group executive committee at SEB. Alund has a background of high-level IT positions for both Scania and Sandvik, but she joined SEB in 2017 and was appointed head of technology in 2019.

Despite the differences in men and women’s pay across each country, the women mentioned in this article show that it is possible to be a successful woman in financial services.

Have we missed anyone off this list? Get in touch and make your voice heard at NextGen Nordics 2023. Register here for NextGen Nordics 2023. If you would like to find out more about sponsoring the event, please email

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