Human resources

By creating a positive working environment we can retain and attract the best employees. Together we aspire to understand and meet the needs and expectations of our customers because their experience is the heart of Arion Bank.

Our Human Resources Policy

The right people. We ensure that the hiring process is professional and that every position is occupied by the right person. We are careful to ensure that people have the best experience when joining or leaving the Bank.

A clear vision for equality. We maximize our human resources by having a diverse team of employees and guaranteeing equal opportunities and terms.

Work-life balance. We aspire to create a motivating working environment where employees are comfortable and satisfied in their jobs and take responsibility. It is important that people have a healthy work-life balance and we encourage a healthy lifestyle.

Continuous development and training. We encourage employees to maintain and add to their knowledge and skills, and we provide opportunities for professional development.

Strong leadership. We have a dedicated management team with a clear vision for the future and we strive hard to develop our leadership skills. Constructive feedback to employees is important.

Efficient working environment. Lean management is applied to enhance efficiency and there is a culture of constant improvement throughout the Bank.

Performance management. We work together to achieve results by setting goals and measuring performance. We give positive feedback when someone has done a good job.

Good service. We aspire to provide good quality service and to carry out our work attentively. We seek to inspire confidence and act professionally in all our dealings, while exceeding the expectations of our colleagues and customers.

Further on our Human Resources Policy

An instructive year

The COVID-19 pandemic left its mark on the workplace just as it did on every other area of society in 2020. However, a number of positive changes were brought about and accelerated due to these new challenges.

The year 2020 was a challenging but instructive year and gave us the opportunity to make various positive changes quicker than we would have done otherwise. Our employees have responded superbly and shown great flexibility in such unprecedented circumstances. From the very outset we prioritized the health and safety of our employees and customers and sought to provide clear information on the developing situation.

We offered a whole range of smart solutions for our customers, applying technology to maximum effect. We were well prepared which meant that our employees were able to work from home very effectively. Surveys show that our employees want to be able to have the option to work from home occasionally and this is something we will offer in the future. Working from home has brought areas outside Reykjavík closer to the capital since everyone takes part in meetings and courses via Teams.

We applied new employee training methods and ensured that the management provided regular updates and kept in touch with their people. Daily meetings continued at the start of the day, where teams discuss the main tasks and challenges they are currently engaged with. These meetings have been key to maintaining a positive atmosphere. We have arranged a wide range of training and entertainment events for employees. Company days, themed meetings, cocktail parties, concerts, workout sessions, digital entertainment and training sessions have lifted the mood and boosted team spirit. Surveys have shown that our employees are generally very happy at work and recommend Arion Bank as a place to work.

We have also used this year to make extensive refurbishments to the Bank’s headquarters, the goal being to create a more flexible and friendlier work space to make people feel more comfortable at work. The canteen and sport facilities at the Bank have been renovated and the acoustics and air quality in the workspaces have been greatly improved.

At the end of the year we launched a revised bonus scheme for employees and a stock option scheme has also been set up. We set clear objectives which will inspire our employees to become even more performance driven and to work together as a committed team.

Helga Halldórsdóttir, Head of Human Resources

Diversity and equal opportunities

Arion Bank employs a dedicated team of employees from a diverse range of backgrounds. The average age of employees is 42.6 and the average length of employment at Arion Bank is approximately 11 years. However, many people have worked at the Bank and its predecessor for much longer, some up to 45 years. At the end of 2020 there were 648 full-time equivalent positions, and the average number over the year was 661. At the end of 2019 there were 687 full-time equivalent positions, and they thus decreased by 39 in 2020.

Employees are free to choose whether to join a trade union and which union they wish to join and most are members of the Confederation of Icelandic Bank and Finance Employees (SSF). The vast majority are also members of the Bank’s employees’ association, Skjöldur.

Gender ratio
Age of employees


Arion Bank has adopted a clear policy on equality and the CEO is responsible for implementing equal opportunities at the Bank. He is represented by an equal opportunities committee comprising Bank employees who set out a 3-year equal opportunities action plan. The objective of the action plan is to ensure equality and equal opportunities for employees irrespective of their gender, sexuality, origin, nationality, race, age, disability or religion, or other factor.

For many years the Bank has placed great importance on equality and ensuring that people receive equal pay for equally important jobs. Arion Bank was awarded equal pay certification by the labour union VR in 2015, and awarded the Ministry of Welfare’s equal pay symbol in 2018, on both occasions the first Icelandic bank to be recognized in this way. In 2020 the Bank passed the audit required to reissue the equal pay certification from the certification body. The results of the audit demonstrate that the procedures and controls relating to the equal wage management system (ÍST 85:2012) support the goal of minimizing the gender pay gap.

In 2020 Arion Bank joined the Equality Balance which is an initiative founded by the Association of Icelandic Businesswomen (FKA). Arion Bank and our subsidiaries Vörður and Valitor were recognized by the Equality Balance for attaining outstanding results in terms of equality. The aim of the Equality Balance is to achieve 40/60 gender ratio at the executive level of management in Iceland.

Equal Opportunities Policy

Gender ratio – management

Since 2014 Arion Bank has been a signatory to the Women’s Empowerment Principles, established by UN Women and UN Global Compact. Companies and institutions can use the principles as guidelines when implementing responsible working practices, irrespective of geographic location or sector and primarily concern advancing gender equality. The Bank is also a signatory to the UN Global Compact initiative on corporate sustainability and is committed to working in accordance with the UN’s 10 principles on sustainability, including human rights. Arion Bank’s focus on equality supports the UN’s fifth sustainable development goal which concerns gender equality.

Employee welfare

Employees are regularly sent a survey called the Arion Index. The purpose of the Arion Index is threefold:

  • To measure how employees experience their own work, working environment and well-being at work
  • To serve as the voice of employees to communicate ideas quickly and easily
  • To identify opportunities for improvements and to respond to problems quickly and securely

The Arion Index comprises several key questions on topics such as how people feel at work, goal-setting and feedback and the average score was 4.39 in 2020, compared with 4.41 in 2019 (on a scale of 1-5, poor to excellent). The response rate is generally good and results are identifiable to each team which gives the management an excellent insight into the strengths and weaknesses of their teams. The survey is also used to gauge how employees experience what it is going on at the Bank at any particular time. In 2020 the survey asked how people were feeling with regard to COVID-19 and the shortening of the working week.

Mutual respect in the work place

Communication at the work place should be based on mutual respect and it should be ensured that employees feel comfortable. There is zero tolerance of bullying, gender-based and sexual harassment or other types of violence.

An anti-bullying team is responsible for overseeing the Bank’s policy and procedures for tackling bullying, harassment and violence and for raising employee awareness of this issue. During the year the Bank’s preventive and action plan to combat bullying, harassment and violence was revised and updated. In addition all of the management team attended a course on this issue and courses were also available to employees.

A healthy workplace

We care about the health and safety of our employees and a formal health and safety policy was introduced during the year. The aim of the policy is to improve the quality of life and working environment of our employees and to complement the Bank’s human resources policy. The policy is designed to promote better mental, social or physical health among our employees. 

Employees are encouraged to take good care of their well-being and to lead a healthy lifestyle and the Bank contributes by offering health checks, sports grants and by holding health-themed events.

At the beginning of 2020 employees were given the option of shortening the working week. An employee survey revealed that 85% of people had taken advantage of the shortened working week and 94.3% of those said that it had been a quite positive or very positive experience.

It has been an unusual year and the boundary between work and private life has at times been blurred as many people spent more days working from home than at their work place. This reality has been reflected in the results of the Arion Index when employees are asked about the work-life balance. Responses are measured on a scale from 1 to 5 and the average in 2020 was 4.13, compared with 4.29 in 2019.

Health & Safety Policy


Arion Bank
Health Index


of employees used
the transport allowance


of employees used
the sports grant


health-related events
held during the year


of people offered a health check took advantage

Training and professional development

The Bank offers a wide variety of training and development for our employees, with the aim being to ensure that everyone possesses the knowledge and skills they need to perform their work. We provide opportunities for professional development with new challenges, greater responsibilities and demanding projects. At the same time each employee is expected to be responsible for their own level of knowledge and we encourage employees to show ambition to improve and develop in their work.

In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, we met our objectives with regard to employee training during the year. We found new ways to ensure that employees could access the education and training they needed and naturally there was a focus this year on providing training through digital channels. Various courses at the Bank’s headquarters had to be cancelled unfortunately during the spring and autumn. However, many other courses could be adapted to new technology and were held via Teams, which worked out very well and was popular among employees.

A total of 91 educational events were held in 2020, while a further 80 had to be cancelled. At the same time many employees went on digital training courses outside the Bank at their own initiative.

Average number of hours of training and education 2018 - 2020

The average time of training and education available to Arion Bank employees includes the courses on the Bank’s regular program plus digital lectures. In addition there are weekly meetings to highlight key current events, presentations of the Bank’s financial results and company days. Employees are also encouraged to attended conferences, courses and lectures outside the Bank.

During the year the implementation of the Bank’s service strategy was completed when the final team underwent service training. The aim of the training program is to reinforce the Bank’s service culture and align it with our service strategy. We build upon the lean management techniques which have been implemented across the Bank. We aim to create a culture of learning and improvement, seeking to do better today than we did yesterday. We have also stepped up the level of training our employees receive on the products and services we offer.

Main tasks in 2020

  • New channels for providing training – how can me make optimal use of technology
  • Digital training
  • Training for new employees
  • Training on measures to counter bullying, harassment and violence
  • Health and safety
Average time of training and education by gender
Average time of training and education – management and employees


participants in
employee training and
educational events at the Bank


training and educational
event for employees
on offer during the year


digital lectures
in our
educational system


Each employee attended
an average of almost
3 educational and training events


Each employee listened
to an average of just under
11 digital lectures

Further information on human resources at Arion Bank can be found in the section on non-financial information for 2020 and in the GRI Index.