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Banking Ikea Style Puts Billionaire’s Model to Test

July 1 (Bloomberg) -- Julie Hyman reports on retailers Ikea and Gap raise U.S workers minimum wages. Hyman speaks on “In The Loop.” (Source: Bloomberg)

Ikea billionaire Ingvar Kamprad made his fortune helping the world stay frugal with cheap home furnishings. The same model is now being peddled at his bank, where customers get rewards for resisting luxury.

Ikano Bank is trying to lure savers by offering a 100,000 krona ($14,625) prize in the form of deposits to the winner of a computer game that punishes players who waste money on pricey goods. In “Flappy Saver,” a knock-off of the popular mobile game Flappy Bird, the player best able to navigate hurdles such as jewelery stores and shoe shops wins the highest score by protecting savings stored in a flying piggy bank.

Ikano’s savings campaign comes as competition for household deposits is intensifying amid stricter stable funding rules for banks. Closely held Ikano is taking on competitors by offering higher deposit rates. That was underscored this month after the central bank lowered its main rate by half a percentage point to 0.25 percent, putting pressure on deposit rates at Nordea Bank AB (NDA) and Sweden’s three other big lenders.

“We want to get new customers to discover Ikano and do something for small savers, in whom most major banks aren’t that interested,” Emma Roslund Johansson, a sales manager at Ikano’s Swedish operations, said in a telephone interview.

Source: Bloomberg

Ikano Bank's Flappy Saver game. Close

Ikano Bank's Flappy Saver game.

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Source: Bloomberg

Ikano Bank's Flappy Saver game.

Testing Zero

Ikano’s rates range from 0.70 percent on regular savings accounts to 2.65 percent on fixed deposits. It’s not alone in taking on Sweden’s biggest banks. Nordnet AB, which offers online banking services, offers 0.55 percent, while the banking arm of supermarket chain Ica Gruppen AB (ICA) offers 0.75 percent. State-owned lender SBAB has a 1.40 percent rate on its savings account.

“The major banks’ low deposit rates make an increasing number choose savings accounts outside the four big banks,” Tor Borg, chief economist at SBAB, said in an e-mailed response to questions. “The closer to zero the major banks’ interest rates go, the clearer the difference, and probably also the tendency among households to move.”

Nordea, the Nordic region’s largest bank, and Swedbank AB (SWEDA), Sweden’s biggest mortgage lender, lowered the rates they pay on some savings accounts to zero after the Riksbank’s rate cut. SEB AB cut the rate on its general savings account by 10 basis points to 0.20 percent and Svenska Handelsbanken AB (SHBA) reduced rates on a number of its accounts.

Valuable Deposits

Handelsbanken, Nordea, SEB and Swedbank’s combined share of total Swedish deposits from the public, which includes both household and corporate deposits, declined to 68.6 percent in 2013 from 69.9 percent a year earlier and 75.3 percent in 2008, according to data from the Swedish Bankers’ Association.

Household deposits at Nordea’s Swedish retail operations fell 1.4 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier, according to its second-quarter report. Still, some major banks are going the opposite way, with Handelsbanken reporting an annual 8.8 percent jump in household deposits last quarter.

Meanwhile, Swedes are saving more in total. Household deposits at Swedish banks rose to 1.36 trillion kronor in May, from 1.34 trillion kronor in April and 1.27 trillion kronor at the end of 2012, according to the country’s statistics agency.

Ikano’s “Flappy Saver” competition, which ran from June 27 until July 18, was played 1.52 million times, Matilda Lenner Payne, Ikano’s head of marketing, said.

“Competition has increased, partly because new regulation is making deposits more valuable for banks,” Roslund Johansson said. “New players need savings to create financing for their lending and we have also in recent years seen more competition from bigger banks that want to secure their financing.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Katarina Gustafsson in Stockholm at kgustafsson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Daniel Tilles at dtilles@bloomberg.net Tasneem Hanfi Brogger, Niklas Magnusson

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