Martin Leberle, CEO Of NLB Banka AD Podgorica

Continuing Trend Of Stable Operations

NLB Bank, as a member of the largest banking group based in the Southeast Europe region and the second largest bank operating on the Montenegrin market, has a special responsibility to use the knowledge and experience of its employees to further improve services, develop the bank’s offer and work on providing an even better customer experience

NLB recorded excellent business results at the end of Q3 2021, with net profits exceeding 10 million euros. It was with this success in mind that we spoke with NLB Banka AD Podgorica CEO Martin Leberle, to discuss the banking sector and banks’ operations in the post-COVID era.

“NLB Bank achieves good results. We continue the trend of stable operations and positive trends when it comes to the volume of lending and, consequently, the growth of the loan portfolio and interest income,” says Leberle.

“At the end of the third quarter, we had a net profit of €10.1 million, with a pre-tax and provisions result of €9.2 million. The higher amount of newly approved loans, compared to the same period of the previous year, just led to the growth of the portfolio and interest income. Moreover, the quality of the bank’s portfolio improved in 2021, as reflected in significantly lower costs of impairment and loan provisions,” explains the NLB Banka CEO.

According to him, banks awaited this crisis in a much-improved condition, with significant capital and liquidity reserves, which enabled them to continue providing services to clients even under the conditions of contracting economic activity.

“Although the costs of merging the two banks will be reflected in NLB Bank’s results for 2021, we are convinced that we will have an opportunity to present the already consolidated joint result at the end of the year.”

The merger of NLB and Komercijalna Banka was completed very successfully. What can Komercijalna Banka’s existing clients expect?

– Over the past nine months, a large number of colleagues have worked diligently on the Komercijalna Banka merger project, and this five-day operation was conducted in a very efficient manner. From the very beginning, our starting point was not only to securely connect the two information systems, but to achieve an exclusively humane and transparent aspect of the connection, both for clients and employees.

NLB Bank, as a member of the largest banking group based in the region of Southeast Europe and the second largest bank operating on the Montenegrin market, has a special responsibility to further improve services, with the knowledge and experience of its employees, to develop the offer and work on creating an even better customer experience, with the goal of reciprocating business to the community and contributing to improving the quality of life of citizens.

Our goal is for our new clients to use the services in a digital way as soon as possible, and for them to come to the bank when we need to discuss long-term plans, savings, insurance and investments.

This merger saw NLB Bank advance from fourth place to second in terms of market share in the Montenegrin banking sector. How are you planning to maintain this position in the long run?

– NLB Group shows a clear commitment to this market and our strategy of having an even stronger presence in Montenegro. Following the merger, NLB Bank’s total assets exceed 700 million euros, the loan portfolio has increased by 20%, and now amounts to over 500 million euros, and the Bank has gained 27,000 new clients, among both citizens and companies, and three new branches in Podgorica, Budva and Kotor, so that it now has a total of 22 branches. However, our focus isn’t only on size, but rather primarily on service and customer satisfaction. We continue to strive to be the best bank for the financial needs of our clients.

The takeover of Komercijalna Banka means not only a greater market share, but also the combining of our knowledge and resources, as well as the inclusion of new colleagues who have high professional potential and motivation.

We live in a time of digital transformation that also has a great impact on the banking sector. We were very ready to accept these changes and to continue the digitalisation process proactively during the pandemic, which accelerated the use of digital channels to do business with the bank significantly

NLB Group, of which we are a part, believes that it can provide added value to clients, employees and the entire company at the same time, which is why we’ve embarked on the path of intensively integrating sustainability into our business. One of the important steps on our path to sustainable development is the signing of the United Nations’ principles of responsible banking, which determine our role and responsibility in shaping a sustainable future. We are looking forward to contributing to raising the quality of life in this region.

Many banking sector officials have been announcing the consolidation of the banking sector for years. And it is evident, following the two major mergers that we’ve seen, that this is now happening. However, NLB Group President Blaz Brodnjak said in May that NLB could buy yet another bank in the region. Do you have any additional news on this topic?

– If we look at European standards and the market, we still have a large number of banks on the Montenegrin market. However, this doesn’t mean that other banks might not be interested in coming to the market, but I would expect this to happen through acquisitions rather than the establishment of new banks.

I believe it is important for this country to attract long-term foreign investment in various areas, in order to further stabilise macroeconomic opportunities in the future. The group to which we belong has a strategic interest in expanding its business in this region, and these plans certainly include Montenegro.

Are the banks operating in Montenegro aware that a huge part of the younger population in the world, but also in our country, already uses a significant percentage of crypto exchanges and transfers funds to each other every day through these transactions, absolutely not participating in national payment systems? How do you see the future of banking in the light of the development of fintech solutions, alternative online payment institutions, blockchain technology?

– We live in a time of digital transformation that also has a great impact on the banking sector. We were very ready to accept these changes and to continue the digitalisation process proactively during the pandemic, which accelerated the use of digital channels to do business with the bank significantly.

Citizens here accept new trends, but in Montenegro everything is still progressing at a certain pace. I believe that we will all be paying with smartphones or watches soon, but not everything is going so fast.

We introduced an NLB Pay mobile wallet recently and expected all clients to start using it quickly – that is definitely my warm recommendation. However, both here and throughout the region, cash is still used to a significant extent.

Blockchain is a promising technology that has applications in various fields, due to the obvious benefits it brings (cost reduction, faster transactions, security), so the possibilities of this technology contributing to overcoming certain barriers in banking are being carefully considered. Legislative amendments are certainly needed to make banking services even more accessible through digital channels, and this is also likely to be one of the topics addressed by the regulatory system in Montenegro.

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