‘Light at the end of tunnel’ for Europe: SEB CEO
Europe may be exiting its economic crisis but a recovery still remains "fragile", the CEO of Sweden's leading corporate bank told CNBC.
Annika Falkengren, CEO of SEB, said she was hoping for "a little bit of growth" next year after 2013 did not see the recovery that she expected.
"I think we are looking a little bit more optimistic regarding next year, hoping for a little bit of growth. So from that perspective, we hope that we will see some more light in the tunnel that we are slowly but steadily leaving the crisis behind us, albeit rather fragile."
Growth in Europe's gross domestic product dropped to 0.1 percent in the third quarter compared to the previous three months. Although the level of growth is set to increase next year, the euro area is a long way from regaining the pre-crisis level of jobs and output.
Falkengren, who won the European Banker of the Year award on Monday, successfully steered her bank through the financial crisis after taking a prudent management approach for which she was criticized. She built up capital reserves managing to lend more than her competitors during the crisis.
The SEB CEO also expressed concern for low interest rates, after the European Central Bank slashed rates by half to 0.25 percent, and the excess liquidity being pumped into the economy by other central banks.
"I think the challenge is, of course, if interest rates are close to zero, the money is very cheap and at the same time we can't really find the right demand…It is a very fragile moment because it also needs sometime be paid back because there is a lot of liquidity today in the market," she told CNBC.
"It is challenging times and this is new territory for all of us. We have not really been into this before."
—By CNBC's Arjun Kharpal: Follow him on Twitter @ArjunKharpal