homepage_name! > Editions > Number 113 > Interview - Feza Tan

Feza Tan, CEO UniCredit Bank

Doing Business Responsibly

I believe that the country has already been well integrated into the Central-Eastern European environment, and therefore its market shows more similarities than differences. This is true for both corporate clients and private individuals. Growing client needs will force banks to stand out somehow, primarily in terms of the value they provide and the clients’ experiences. I expect that clients will not only consider the transaction price when making a decision, but also the relation with the bank, the personal experience, as well as all the other additional business opportunities the bank can offer. This transfer will be possible primarily as a result of the digital transformation in which most banks heavily invest, including UniCredit. As it is the case in technologically more developed countries in the region, such as Turkey, the critical issue will be how to put this development into a strategic context, i.e. how to point out the real problems, the burning business issues for which technology can offer a solution. For UniCredit, the focus is on consistently improving the customer experience of our clients.

Feza Tan was appointed asChairwoman of the Management Board of UniCredit Bank Serbia in April. She started her career in Turkish Yapi Kredi, a part of the UniCredit Group, in 1993 as a management trainee in Corporate Credit where after two years she became an analyst in Corporate Credits. In 1997, Feza was appointed Corporate and Project Finance Underwriting Manager where she established the first project finance team in Turkey. From 2001, she was Head of Corporate and Commercial Credit Underwriting, while in 2009 she took over the position of Head of Corporate and Commercial Credit which she lead until 2013 when she was named Head of Corporate and Investment Banking. Moreover, Feza was also a Credit Committee and Board Member in leasing and factoring companies, as well as in 3 foreign subsidiaries of Yapı Kredi. She comes from the position of Head of Corporate and Investment Banking in the Yapi Kredi Bank where she was also an Executive Committee member. Ms. Tan holds a Bachelor'sdegree in Economics from Boğaziçi University, İstanbul and a Risk Management Program Diploma from Manchester Business School.

When you were told that you are coming to Serbia, what were your first thoughts? And afterwards, first impressions.

The first thought was that it will be an amazing change in my life because I was happy to come to a country which is very strong in sports, in particular basketball and tennis… And that was very exciting for me. Of course, after my first visit I became aware that we have many common words and if I do not know an English word, I can simply try with a Turkish one and that there is a big possibility that you will understand me. As far as my colleagues are concerned, from the very first day, I realized that they are very well educated, ready to take over responsibilities and that they have created a very nice working environment. After six months, I can proudly say that I feel like I am at home. I started to live with this city, that by the way never sleeps, and with the citizens who are always ready to take you to different places and to show you the best of it. And I managed to watch many basketball matches and to see Novak Đoković at the tennis courts by the Danube.

Although you have not been in Serbia for a long time, you have had the chance to get to know the local market, the banks which conduct their business in the country, and the laws. In your opinion, what are the main differences between the Serbian banking market and the markets of neighbouring countries?

I believe that the country has already been well integrated into the Central-Eastern European environment, and therefore its market shows more similarities than differences. This is true for both corporate clients and private individuals. Growing client needs will force banks to stand out somehow, primarily in terms of the value they provide and the clients’ experiences. I expect that clients will not only consider the transaction price when making a decision, but also the relationwith the bank, the personal experience, as well as all the other additional business opportunities the bank can offer. This transfer will be possible primarily as a result of the digital transformation in which most banks heavily invest, including UniCredit. As it is the case in technologically more developed countries in the region, such as Turkey, the critical issue will be how to put this development into a strategic context, i.e. how to point out the real problems, the burning business issues for which technology can offer a solution. For UniCredit, the focus is on consistently improving the customer experience of our clients.

Last year was very successful for UniCredit Bank Serbia in terms of financial performance. Are you satisfied with the financial results so far?

2017 was very good for us and what makes me particularly satisfied is that we are continuing in the same direction this year as well. For example, even though the local market was showing narrowed credit worthy demand in 2017, our bank managed to attract new clients and consequently increased the volume of net loans by 15.5%. If we compare market share in net customer loans in 1Q 2017 and 1Q 2018, we can see growth from 12.1% to 12.4%. Maybe the best proof of our excellent result lies in that at the end of 1Q we managed to become no. 2 in terms of total assets with a market share of 11.5%, which in comparison to the year-end 2017, grew by almost 1%. What also makes us confident in this good performance is 10% growth in the number of clients in the first 6 months, in comparison to the same period in 2017.

Which industries marked the growth of credit demand?

The construction sector marked significant growth in 2018 due to both, increased public investment and private sector investment, and in this way made the most significant contribution to economic growth in Serbia this year. Modernization and the construction of road infrastructure and railways initiated by the Government of Serbia in the last few years has stimulated the new investment cycle and spread to other industries, including the real estate sector, the cement industry, the timber industry, etc. In UniCredit as well, we see increased activity, especially in the segment of small and medium-sized enterprises. What we are witnessing is that domestic companies are connecting with foreign companies and applying for tenders for the implementation of large, but also small infrastructural projects, which require funding for their implementation. Additionally, we have noticed an increase in demand for funds by companies that invest in private housing and business buildings.

Credit demand in the agricultural sector is also growing in 2018 due to the recovery of agricultural activity in relation to 2017 and consequently other companies in the chain of agricultural production and processing.

Which industries in our country do you see as the most prospective?

If we look back, industries that have attracted the most foreign direct investments so far (EUR 27 billion since 2000) are traditional sectors such as finance and insurance, manufacturing, trade, real estate and telecommunications. In the last few years, interest has been spreading to the energy sector, food production, tourism, logistics, etc. At the moment, the IT sector is one of the most dynamic and profitable in Serbia that recorded a 12% growth in 2017. It is one of the priorities in Serbia's development strategy and it is expected that the modernization of public administration and digitization of services for citizens and businesses will further stimulate it. One of my roles is to promote Serbia as a perspective market for direct foreign investments. Turkey is one of Serbia’s partners on the path of economic development. We are witnessing that many companies are already present in Serbia; I see lots of potential for further cooperation and I will continue to work on deepening the economic cooperation between our two countries.

As member of one of the leading European financial groups, what are the main advantages you provide to clients in Serbia?

UniCredit is a simple, successful pan-European commercial bank with a fully plugged in Corporate and Investment Banking Department. We are present in 14 countries, having the largest network in the CEE region. Being a part of the pan-European banking group gives us the privilege to serve our customers with a wide range of tailor-made products, to manage and execute complex transactions, offer sophisticated solutions unique to the local market and provide the highest standard of service. That is why we are recognized in the local market as the Bank of Choice for significant number of subsidiaries of international companies, domestic export-oriented companies and entities with significant international presence and ties. On the other hand, our group-strong international know-how and extensive experience from different regions provide us with the expertise to adequately serve them in all markets they operate. Our international team acts as a single point of entry for all clients, assuring 360° support in the selection of tailor-made banking products and services. Whether we are talking about simple cross border account opening, providing flash payments or more complex structured financial solutions, UniCredit Bank stands by its clients, step by step during this journey.

How important is digitalization to your bank, and what can clients expect in the upcoming period in this respect?

The aim of our digital transformation is to enhance efficiency and, most importantly, to improve the experience of our customers, meeting their changing needs. We are further improving our integrated distribution offering with new, multi-country online and mobile banking platforms and corporate portals. Our digital journey is ongoing; it will continue to develop and cover more initiatives in more countries aiming to reach increased number of clients. A further strengthening of our analytical capabilities will support relationship managers in their day-to-day activities with the aim of increasing market penetration and cross selling. As a group, we are investing a total of 2.4 bn EUR in the digital transformation through the Transform 2019 plan period, including 1.7 bn EUR for business projects and 0.7 bn EUR for regulatory activities.

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We are well aware that one company is made of people and that successful business very much depends on their satisfaction. UniCredit was among the first banks that adopted a declaration on a work and life balance. Besides that, you have implemented different activities with the aim to create a working environment which suits employees the best?

The declaration promotes a set of specific, concrete actions to support a work-life balance across the UniCredit group. New technologies are implemented in order to support all our people to optimize their work and, at the same time, focus on improving their life balance. The document calls for a general approach to setting target standards in all countries where the group is present, with five macro-areas of focus: digitalization, space and time flexibility, time management at work, well-being and cultural change. At UniCredit, we believe in the importance of respect. Both personal and professional interests must be at the heart of everything we do. This helps us create a culture that enhances the value that each and every one of us can contribute. Few years back we implemented that our employeesin Serbia have the day off for their birthday and, moreover, in September all parents whose children are starting primary school can spend that important day with them instead of coming to work. We have already enabled employees to work from home, to have flexible working hours; every Wednesday for us is healthy, since we provide fruit for all employees. On top of all this, as of last year, all our employees have private health insurance.

Social responsibility is a fairly broad concept. UniCredit Bank has decided to invest in local communities where it operates, support youth, vulnerable categories of the population, culture and the youngest in sports. Based on which criteria do you choose priorities in this area?

We want to be a good corporate citizen assuming social responsibility to support strong relationships with our clients and the wider community.

Two years ago we changed our CSR strategy from only philanthropic to predominantly employee engagement. Why did we do that? First of all, because human capital is the main asset of UniCredit Bank. In accordance with that, we have realized that we can provide to the society an added value in the long term – knowledge and expertise of our employees. Moreover, we wanted to involve employees in everything we do for local communities in order to raise awareness about the importance of being a responsible citizen. We have to say that the results of changing the bank’s orientation are fantastic. Last year, we managed to engage almost 50% of employees in different activities and, at the moment, we are on the right path of surpassing this excellent result in this year.

The bank joined in on the activities implemented by the Junior Achievement in Serbia organization. In the last two years, over 60 employees have participated as mentors and jurors in more than 10 "Business Challenge” competitions and have helped nearly 300 high school students in the development of business plans. In addition, we have organized volunteering activities aimed at at improving hospitals, schools, city squares, etc. in four regions of our branch network. With these initiatives, we did not only show our commitment to local communities, but we also additionaly strengthend team spirit, which for sure improved the relationship among us and influenced a better business performance. In 2018, almost 400 employees joined these volunteering initiatives.

There is also another initiative which we are very proud of and which we have been conducting for over 10 years, and that is a charity initiative „Old doll for a new smile“. During December, we invite our employees and their kids to pack their used toys and clothes and send them to kids with disabilities who live in foster homes. In this way, we engage entire families to share the joy of giving. Moreover, we also included families in our CSR activities this spring – we invited them to participate in the Humanitarian Run of Joy during Belgrade’s Marathon. Thanks to almost 200 people who joined, bank donated significant funds to BelHospice and their noble cause.

We are also proud of 10 years of continous support that the bank has provided to the traditional cultural events that are important to local communities, such as Days of Bora Stankovic, Days of Zoran Radmilovic and Days of Mokranjac.

Banking, as an industry that changes quickly, can be stressful. How do you relieve yourself of stress?

If you like what you do, nothing can be stressful.But to be honest, banking is stressful and you really have to love your job. I believe that you need to keep your body healthy in order to keep your brain healthy. I had a personal trainer in Turkey. I was practically preparing my body to resist the stress. The second stress relief for me is traveling. I always try to find some places for vacation where nobody can reach me. For example, the mountains in Mexico, or in different time zones. You simply need to be relaxed for a certain period. And as you get older, you need to have more avenues for stress relief.

What is your life motto?

Thank you for that question. When I think of it, what comes to my mind is to stay inspired all the time. Sometimes I feel like a battery. If I am not inspired, I do not have energy. I have to recharge myself and my plug is inspiration. And thus, I always find at least one thing which inspires me and keeps me motivated. Because, if I do not have the energy, I cannot give it to others. That is why I need to be inspired.


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