Dr Una Sikimić, Alta Banka a.d. CEO

Prepared And Committed

The fact that Alta banka – as one of the country’s few domestic banks – does not belong to the group of large banks, is something that it uses as its greatest advantage. Its staff know each client well, structures transactions to suit their specific needs and make decisions efficiently

In a climate of low interest rates and profitability that’s not so high, it is essential for banks to strengthen their activities when it comes to increasing the efficiency of processes and fortifying the resilience of their organisation through the active management of risk, while simultaneously adapting to clients’ individual needs.

Digitalisation is one of the words that has marked the period of the pandemic over the past year and a half. What has digitalisation brought to your bank?

Increasing the participation of digital channels in operations reduces crowds and queues, while at the same time eliminating operational activities in branches to a large extent, which changes the role of bank staff from administrative to advisory. Clients received additional benefits, such as, for example, the ability to pay bills from their home via IPS QR technology, in just a few seconds, without the need to visit a branch.

The number of users of digital services at Alta banka has increased by more than 60 per cent since the beginning of 2020, which shows us that we are on the right track to providing our “digitally” ever-more demanding clients with the best user experience. Almost all age categories of clients are now opting for digital services, which is a direct consequence of the “new reality” prompted by the pandemic.

For us, the implementation of digital solutions means full readiness and commitment to adapting the process and organisation of our work, in order for us to provide clients with a competitive service and adapt to their needs. This requires an infinitely agile approach.

How are the current market needs? What do citizens and businesses expect from banks?

The Republic of Serbia has, thanks to a comprehensive strategy and measures taken, managed to increase economic activity while maintaining the stability of the monetary system. According to the statistics of the National Bank of Serbia, total bank placements increased by 11% last year, while the share of nonperforming loans in total loans fell below the level it was at prior to the pandemic, reaching a level of 3.5% in July this year. These stats indicate a stable and strong banking sector that responded excellently to the crisis, as well as maintaining a high level of capitalisation, measured by the indicator of a capital adequacy ratio that’s significantly above the minimum prescribed by the regulator, along with additional strengthening of the deposit base.

Our bank’s mission is to provide our clients with the kind of quality of products and services that we would like to receive ourselves

For the economy’s further growth and recovery, alongside the stabilising of the health situation, the support of the banking sector will also be required. Clients expect improved communication with their banks, combinations of digital and traditional channels, and banks must be ready to fulfil this need promptly in order to remain competitive on the market. When it comes to citizens, they expect security, speed, transparency and simplicity in the use of products and services from banks, i.e., a good user experience. Our clients and their positive experience of doing business with us are our best advertisements, and we grow and develop together with them.

You recently announced the introduction of completely new e-banking platforms. Can we hint at what your clients can expect?

Alta’s new e-banking and m-banking applications, which have been available to our clients since September, bring numerous improvements for users of both Android and iOS platforms. We will offer all the standard functionalities that are provided by the largest banks on the market, but with a personalised design and advanced user experience that I would highlight in particular. The Alta banka team is proud of the successful implementation of innovative applications that provide users with new functionalities and a pleasant, user-friendly interface, along with a higher level of security.

Following the implementation of the aforementioned solutions, in the subsequent phases of the digitalisation project we expect the development of additional functionalities, such as biometric authentication, PMF tools and digital card products linked to m-banking.

How would you assess the consolidating of the banking sector? Will the process continue?

The consolidating of the Serbian banking market is following world trends, i.e., it is in no way specific to our country. This process has been unfolding continuously for 20 years and has additionally accelerated on our market over the past three years. We can already highlight the dominance of foreign banks and the huge competition between them, which gives us – as one of the few remaining domestic banks – an additional motive to distinguish ourselves.

Banks around the world have recognised fintech companies as their biggest competitor in the retail sector and are turning to procuring or cooperating with them. When it comes to clients themselves, consolidation can only bring positive developments, through the race among banks to provide better and cheaper services. This process is expected to continue, and Alta banka certainly wants to find itself there, as a strong, domestic bank, close to its customers, with a tendency to expand its operations further.

Alta’s new e-banking and m-banking applications bring numerous improvements for users of both Android and iOS platforms

When you were appointed CEO, you noted that you want to distinguish Alta as a bank that provides its clients with a good. What is actually implied by a good service?

We don’t want to be a bank that provides our clients with only a good service, but rather an exceptional one. Our bank’s mission is to provide our clients with the kind of quality of products and services that we would like to receive ourselves.

The fact that we are not among the largest banks on the market ensures that we have exceptional agility and flexibility to make responsible decisions at the headquarters of our bank. Through the introduction of the latest generation of m-banking and e-banking applications, we have launched the first phase of our digital transformation. Our development plans are extremely ambitious and we see ourselves as drivers of market innovation in the near future, in synergy with other members of the Alta Group. In the domain of traditional banking, our desire is for clients to continue to see us as their good neighbour, to whom they can turn for all of their needs and in all stages of life.

Could you tell us more about the Alta Pay payment institution and the potential synergic effect of the Alta Group?

The fact that Alta Bank is part of the Alta Group is its exceptional strength. Alta Group has existed for more than ten years and, thanks to the vision and strategy of the top man, Davor Macura, it has succeeded in becoming the dominant leader in Serbia in the domain of payment services. For example, Alta Pay, with over 2,300 of its own and representative locations, as well as the range of products and services it provides, is an exceptional pillar of support for Alta banka in its further plans. The Alta Payment Institution is the first institution of its kind to receive a permit to execute payment transactions in which the funds are secured by loans, the first to enable tax refunds at its locations, the first to develop its own product, “Alta Quick Cash”, and numerous other services. We are certain that, together with such a leader in the domain of payment services, we will further develop and operate as a modern financial institution, recognised for its innovations.

Comment by Zoran Panović

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