On his second day as head of Iceland’s third-largest bank, Arni Tomasson faced a crisis: The firm he had been asked by regulators to run was out of cash.
It was Oct. 8, 2008, at the height of the global financial meltdown, and Iceland’s bank assets in the U.K. had been frozen, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its March issue. Customers flocked to branches of Tomasson’s Glitnir Banki hf to withdraw money, even though the government had guaranteed their deposits. By the end of the day, the vaults were empty, says Tomasson, recalling the drama two years later.
The only way Glitnir and other lenders could avoid a panic the next morning was to get more cash, which they were having trouble doing. A container of crisp kronur sat on the tarmac at Reykjavik’s airport awaiting payment, Tomasson says. The British company that printed the bills, De La Rue Plc, was demanding sterling, and the central bank couldn’t access its U.K. account.