Crisis Communication in the Danish Financial Sector: A Comparative Case Study of Nordea and Danske Bank’s Crisis Communication

Anne Cathrine Amtrup, Niels Hjorth-Larsen & Adam Kohl Svegaard

Student thesis: Master thesis


The purpose of the thesis is to conduct an in-depth analysis of the crisis communication surrounding Nordea and Danske Banks crisis' Panama Papers and Hvidvasksagen (The Money Laundering case) throughout a multiple comparative case study, which is the methodical foundation for this thesis and further draws upon System Theory and the SCCT-model. Furthermore, the thesis relies on a quantitative content analysis conducted on the base of 958 articles from nationwide newspapers, which allows us to gain an insight into how the respective banks' communication was represented in the media over time. The thesis finds that the two crises appears to be dynamic and are developing over time as new information and revelations appear in the media. Both Nordea and Danske Bank did not manage their communication in order to orchestrate their communication in relation to their surrounding communication systems. Furthermore, this thesis contributes with empirical and theoretical findings of what types of response strategies that have been effective and those that have not in the case of Danske Bank and Nordea. The thesis finds that Nordea was able to contain the crisis in a more effective way than Danske Bank. This is due to Nordea accepting responsibility and changing their response strategy according to SCCT-model much earlier on than Danske Bank. Nordea is also able to get their messages on the media's agenda to a much higher degree than Danske Bank. The research also suggests that the financial sector is struggling with legitimacy due to their comprehensive history of crisis and misconduct. This has led to a cognitive legitimacy crisis in the financial sector which further complicates the external crisis communication in both cases. The thesis shows that actors who are engaging in crisis communication on behalf of a financial institution need to consider the fundamental lack of trust in the final sector. Furthermore, modern organizations such as banks are connected to several aspects of society that all require a specific and appropriate communication strategy. The thesis contributes to an understanding of how crisis communication can be misinterpreted in the field between what the organizations communicate versus how the stakeholders perceive the case. Furthermore, organizations with a high degree of perceived responsibility for a crisis need to take responsibility for their actions and involvement in order to rebuild the relationship with their stakeholders. The thesis contributes to expanding Timothy Coombs SCCT-model by adding a new dimension focusing on the monitoring and assessing the organization’s crisis communication in the media. Furthermore, we revised the original model to a cyclic form in order to encapsulate the dynamic and constantly changing nature of crisis' that this thesis adopts.

EducationsMSc in Organisational Communication, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2019
Number of pages173