SHARE
COPY LINK

BANKING

Danish bank Coop refuses to open accounts for non-Danish speakers

Coop Bank has refused customers purely on the basis that they cannot speak Danish, according to a media report in Denmark.

Danish bank Coop refuses to open accounts for non-Danish speakers
A file photo of a Coop supermarket in Denmark. Coop Bank reportedly turned away customers who do not speak Danish. Photo: Ida Marie Odgaard/Ritzau Scanpix

Coop Bank has been turning away customers who don’t speak Danish, the Politiken newspaper has reported, citing the case of a Malaysian man who was told that he could not have an account because he didn’t speak Danish. 

Mohamad Haizam, from Malaysia, was told by a customer services agent that he could not have an account because he didn’t speak Danish.

“It shocked me and I thought, what kind of racist bank is this? I din’t understand it because a had a CPR [personal registration, ed.] number address, everything,” he told Politiken.

But when Politiken itself rang customer services, they were told the same thing. 

“Because we are a Danish bank, we have all our documents in Danish, we only speak Danish (…) I have not been trained to be able to advise others in English,” the agent said. “And that is why we have decided that we will not change that now. And that it is best to go that way and say, we only take in Danish customers,” the advisor is quoted.

Haizam’s situation in not the only example found by Politiken of Coop refusing customers who do not speak Danish.

Claus Haagensen, a representative for distribution firm Post & Medier, told Politiken that 80 percent the company’s employees had a foreign background, and he had been told by Coop that non-Danish speakers cannot have a bank account.

Anyone with legal residence in Denmark or another EU country has the right to a bank account and banks are obliged to offer basic accounts within 10 days of application.

Those rules are, however, not always complied with according to Politiken.

The Danish Financial Supervisory Authority (Finanstilsynet) told the newspaper that banks cannot refuse to open a basic current account for customers if they do not speak Danish.

But neither are banks obliged to communicate with customers in a language they understand, it said.

As such, a customer who does not speak Danish may risk being unable to understand communications from a bank which chooses only to use Danish.

Coop Bank CEO Allan Nørholm admitted that the bank may have been hasty in rejecting customers, in comments to Politken.

“We should naturally not generally turn away a customer who cannot speak Danish if we can confirm that the customer has access to someone who can help with translation. We will correct this,” he told Politiken.

“But we are a little bank and do not have correspondence in English or German and we have found it most responsible to offer advice in the language which we know customers can understand,” he said.

The CEO also said that Coop would change its practice if it found it to be against the law.

Coop Bank has around 100,000 customers.

Business Minister Morten Bødskov called the policy of refusing accounts to non-Danish speakers “completely crazy”.

“It is very surprising and completely crazy that a bank says a member of the public does not have the right to a basic account because they don’t speak Danish,” Bødskov told Ritzau.

“There is no way of enforcing this demand under the law. What kind of a signal does a bank send to large parts of Danish society where we have lots of foreigners who are doing a great job? This won’t do,” the minister said.

Have you experienced a situation similar to the one described in this article? Or did you have the opposite experience with a bank that helped you when you couldn’t speak Danish? Let us know.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

FAMILY

‘Latte-far’? Taking a month off work on Danish parental leave

The Local Denmark editor Michael Barrett took four weeks off his regular job to look after his youngest child during the month leading up to her first birthday.

'Latte-far'? Taking a month off work on Danish parental leave

I sat sipping an Americano outside what you might describe as a ‘gourmet bakery’ in my local Danish town as my little daughter, age 11-and-a-half months, sat opposite me in one of the café’s wooden child seats, which I’d carried outside while waiting for the coffee.

She drank one of the child-friendly fruit smoothies (organic) that you can get in supermarkets for around 7 kroner, babbling away de-de-de-de as she usually does when she sees something new. The café staff couldn’t tell her off for consuming food not purchased on the premises, by the way, because I was also sharing my croissant with her.

Being on parental leave in the twelfth month since birth feels like a cushy job compared to the tough early stages when she slept restlessly at night, had mild colic when awake and was tricky to put down for a nap.

Those fragile days – and the rest of the first eleven months of her life – were all spent in the near-constant company of her mother, who has gone back to work after almost a year off, every last day of her parental and maternity leave now used up.

Danish laws ensure parents can take 48 weeks of leave after their child is born, but because the rules “earmark” a certain amount of parental leave to each parent, the father or co-mother will often take on some of the baby’s primary care in the first year.

A law which was introduced in 2022 guarantees each parent 11 weeks of “earmarked” or non-transferable leave with their newborn child. For fathers and co-mothers, this is 9 weeks more than the earmarked leave under earlier rules (there are also different rules for varying personal circumstances, such as single parents or students).

READ ALSO:

I don’t know whether we’d have chosen to do things this way if we’d had the option of just giving all the parental leave to Mum. Critics of the added parental leave earmarking say it takes choice away from families. Supporters say it promotes equality and more involvement from fathers.

From a personal perspective, we were in a good position because our daughter was ready to switch – she was eating solids and sleeping well enough for me to take over relatively smoothly from her mum. It might not be like this for everyone.

So what did I do during this month ‘off’ work? Did it really transform me into an artisan coffee-sipping man of leisure? Did it change anything about me at all and more importantly, did it benefit the little one?

In Sweden, the term lattepappa is used to describe certain types of dad on parental leave.

While this can be an expression used to describe men who spend their parental leave walking about town with their stroller and a cup of coffee, there can be further connotations.

In an article from 2005, around the time the phenomenon first appeared, Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet’s Terri Herrera Eriksson, wrote “A lattepappa is not a term for a parent who prefers a certain kind of coffee, but a term to describe a whole lifestyle. He is often on parental leave for a long time, but spends a good portion of that time developing his style and himself.”

Aware that parental leave provisions in Denmark are among the world’s best, giving me a paid-up month off my regular job with The Local, I did see some potential for this kind of thing at the beginning of the month. I set my sights on the interval during the middle of the day when the baby takes her nap.

I could start writing some fiction again, I thought, a pre-children hobby that has long since fallen by the wayside.

READ ALSO: What parental benefits are you entitled to as a freelancer in Denmark?

Reality hit and these lofty ambitions weren’t fulfilled but I did discover that I could keep up my training for an upcoming half-marathon by taking my daughter out in the baby jogger just ahead of nap time. As soon as the three-wheeler started swaying gently, she’d drift off and usually sleep for at least an hour, by which time I had finished running.

This had a couple of obvious benefits: it gave her a stable nap routine while freeing up time to spend with the rest of the family in the mornings or evenings.

My newfound efficiency was also at the back of my mind when, after finishing a shop at a local Føtex supermarket, I found myself drawn into the adjoining Starbucks where I bought a coffee and handed one of the smoothies I’d just bought to my daughter. She looked around the template Starbucks interior as if it had all the mesmerising wonder of the Chocolate Room from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the Gene Wilder version).

The following day I upped my game by heading to the café described at the start of this article, but these were in fact the only two occasions I visited a café during my month’s leave (and I had black coffee for the record, not latte).

The rest of the time was spent washing clothes, emptying the dishwasher, picking up our older child from kindergarten and other stuff that is both unsurprising and uninteresting to read about.

Danish doesn’t really have a term that mirrors Sweden’s lattepappa but most Danes would probably recognise it, given the comparable parental leave provisions the two countries have. In the Danish language it would be the more mundane-sounding lattefar or “latte-father”.

This non-existent word makes some sense to me because it feels like the last month has revolved around practical jobs and everyday tasks but has also given me time to do things I enjoy (with a bit of creativity) and, best of all, form a closer bond with my daughter, who makes me laugh and smile constantly.

If the above counts as a latte-dad “developing his style and himself”, we can probably say the Danish parental leave rules worked well in my personal case.

SHOW COMMENTS