homepage_name! > Editions > Number 132 > Interview - Feza Tan UNICREDIT

Feza Tan, the Chairwoman of the Management Board of UniCredit Banka Srbija

Team play is what counts

UniCredit Bank has always played as a team, we have nurtured a culture of togetherness, and we have supported each other, but now, perhaps more than ever before, that team spirit has enabled us to ensure our business continuity. After signing an agreement with the Ministry of Finance and the National Bank of Serbia for a state guarantee scheme for lending to the economy, we are approving loans for liquidity and working capital within the Program of Economic Measures of the Government of Serbia, in order to mitigate the negative consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

1. At this moment the entire world is fighting the coronavirus pandemic that has caused earthquakes in our private and professional lives as we are facing such a situation for the first time ever. How has UniCredit Bank adapted to this environment, which nobody was prepared for?

For UniCredit, the top priority is the health and safety of our employees and customers. We were closely monitoring the development of the situation and were ready to immediately implement precautionary measures when the state of emergency was declared. Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of our colleagues, we quickly and efficiently organized the majority of people to be able to work from home. Since we implemented the Smart Working concept five years ago, allowing us to work from different locations, it was not a challenge for us to get used to our different working environments. We referred clients from the very beginning to use remote digital banking channels, such as mBanking and eBanking. For those clients who had not previously used remote banking services, we enabled them to install mobile applications without having to visit a branch, by providing training online. Additionally, dedicated telephone lines were opened to support new users to switch to digital banking transactions as quickly as possible. What was also crucial was that we kept them informed the whole time. Information on the website has been constantly updated, and we have sent several hundred thousand e-mails, SMS messages, and Viber messages, depending on the channels that clients prefer in communicating with us. However, we have also managed an uncountable number of phone calls via our Contact center in order to keep clients informed of all the changes we have had to make in order to prevent the spread of the virus while staying open for business. We have all changed our habits during this period and adapted, as much as possible, to the new situation, both in our private, as well as in our business lives. UniCredit Bank has always operated as a team, and we have nurtured a culture of togetherness, and constantly supported each other. However now, perhaps more so than ever before, that team spirit has enabled us to ensure our business continuity.

2. The media reports that the number of mobile banking transactions has increased by 71 percent in March compared to the same period last year.

Yes, you are right. This pandemic has brought about a changed environment and opened an opportunity for clients to become more open towards the use of digital services in their everyday banking. What was crucial for this easy transformation was that in the past few years, we had invested a lot of effort and money with the purpose of improving our digital print. The aim of our digital transformation was, in fact, to enhance efficiency and, most importantly, to improve customer experiences. For example, mobile banking at our bank allows for fingerprint login or facial recognition, while a check of the current account balance is possible without logging into the application. At our branch offices, it is also possible to sign transaction orders on tablet devices with the option of obtaining the electronic document via e-mail, over the Internet, or via mobile banking. The increasing popularity of smartphones has changed the needs and habits of people, and accordingly, the way we bank. We introduced our first mobile application back in 2012, and the number of users is constantly growing. Mobile banking, also in this unpredicted scenario, has confirmed that it is on the way to fully assuming most of the bank's role in the future.

3. During this situation, UniCredit Bank has confirmed its position as one of the most responsible companies, as you donated money to the Serbian Health system, but you also supported your suppliers by executing payments within five days?

In times like these, it is important to stay together, taking care of things that really matter. We are facing a collective challenge, and the health of people is the top priority for all of us. We decided that the best way to address this urgent need is by supporting the National Health Insurance Fund with a donation of 50.000 EUR, enabling it to purchase at least part of the medical equipment and materials it urgently needed for hospitals.

Furthermore, we have also paid special attention to our suppliers by executing payments after they have been received, marked as credible, and forming complete documentation in an average of five working days, no matter the deadlines prescribed by related laws. By facilitating faster payments, we are adding liquidity to the economy at a time when it makes a real difference. As ever, we want to act as a reliable partner to our suppliers and would encourage them and other legal entities to act in a similar way to their own.

4. You were also among the first banks that started approving state guarantee scheme loans?

After signing the Agreement with the Ministry of Finance and the National Bank of Serbia for the state guarantee scheme for lending to the economy, we have been approving loans for liquidity and working capital within the Program of Economic Measures of the Government of Serbia, in order to mitigate the negative consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. From the very beginning, UniCredit Bank has been actively involved in creating measures to support the economy, because it is crucial that we all contribute to continuing the path of development of the local economy on which we stood firmly before the declaration of the pandemic. I am especially pleased with the fact that the vast majority of our clients opt for dinar loans because in the past few years, we have been actively promoting borrowing in the local currency. This is our additional commitment to dinarization that presents the long-term strategic direction of the National Bank of Serbia and the Government, with the aim of encouraging the use of dinars, and decreasing risk in maintaining a stable and liquid financial system in the country.

5. Let us get back to business before the pandemic. Last year UniCredit Bank received two awards for The Bank of the Year – by Euromoney and The Banker. What do they mean to you – recognition for hard work or greater responsibility and higher expectations for the future?

When you receive an award, first you feel very proud because someone has recognized your hard work and commitment. The day after, you become aware that the expectations of stakeholders are much higher than two days previously, and you feel obliged to continue delivering innovation and excellent service. Then you ask yourself if it is possible since we all know that it is much easier to make your way to the top than it is to stay there. Knowing my team and our mindset, I am convinced that we are all always ready to be one step ahead.As first, the most important thing is customer focus, which is deeply rooted in everything we do. We are fully committed to better understanding the needs of our clients and providing the proper services and products they really need.

6. You also received a certificate for being the Best employer, international recognition for everything you do for your employees. What makes your company a good place to work at?

We were certified by the Top Employers Institute from The Netherlands as one of the best employers in Serbia, reaffirming our status as a great place to work. The annual, international research undertaken by the Top Employers Institute recognizes leading employers around the world: those that provide excellent employee conditions that nurture and develop talent throughout all levels of an organization and strive to continuously optimize employment practices. We are very proud because we are investing a lot of effort into building an inclusive culture. A culture where diversity is respected and promoted, where we encourage different opinions and attitudes, foster dialogue and equality in the autonomy of our employees’ work, avoid strict hierarchies, and continuously empower our people to learn and explore new solutions. The culture of listening to each other really matters at our bank, and it is a tool for improvement, both professionally and personally. Every month, I organize a breakfast and invite a certain number of colleagues from each and any organizational structure to hear what we can do better to improve their and our customers' satisfaction. For a few years now, all UniCredit people in Serbia have had a day off on their birthdays, and all parents whose children start primary school can spend that important day with them instead of coming to work. We have already enabled employees to work from home, and to have flexible working hours; every Wednesday for us is healthy since we provide fruit for all employees. In addition, already for some years now, our employees have had private health insurance. I deeply believe that the requirement to become a top employer is to have top employees because employees make UniCredit the best place to work.

7. In the end, I would like you to share with us your key takeaways from the past three months because we all can learn a lot from such situations?

I believe that we have learned a lot from this situation and, at the same time, it has made us much stronger because we all look at life and business differently. Firstly, we have learned that all stakeholders need to act as one, a team in which every player knows their responsibilities, where everyone respects each other, and where everyone has to be a part of the solution. We need to listen to each other more and to be more focused on the real needs of our employees, customers, partners, and stakeholders, in order to be capable of adapting to unforseen scenarios. Nobody knows what the future will look like, but that should not stop us in our efforts to improve ourselves, our business and society, in order to cope with all the challenges that we may have to face. In doing so, I believe, as we have done many times before, that we will show ourselves to be responsible citizens and reliable partners. We need to remember that the world belongs to all of us, and it is not meant just for you. We all have our own roles; let us all play those roles as best we can.