In line with our Group’s strategic focus on developing strong roots in local markets, UniCredit has continued to demonstrate its strong commitment to Serbia, as well as to all CEE countries, which continue to be the Group’s core growth engine.
Last year’s operations of UniCredit Group showed growth of profits, indicating the stability of the bank and the security of your clients around the world. How satisfied are you with UniCredit Bank’s operations in Serbia?
Last year was one that marked significant growth in all important parameters. Thanks to improved processes, and placements of additional products and services – each designed according to the needs of our clients – we managed to further strengthen our position as one of the market leaders in terms of profitability, efficiency and productivity. We have also retained the third position when it comes to market share in total assets. UniCredit Bank’s net profit reached 6.782 million dinars on a consolidated basis.
An unrelenting focus on the client contributed to us increasing our customer base by 11%, both in retail and corporate. Even though the local market was showing narrowed creditworthy demand, our bank managed to attract new clients and continued to show its commitment to support the country’s future development. The volume of net loans in 2017 reached almost 241 billion dinars, marking an increase of 15.5%.
I am particularly proud of our CSR initiatives conducted in 2017. Namely, we exerted extraordinary efforts to position ourselves as one of the leaders in this field. We have continued to involve employees in different volunteering activities throughout Serbia. As a result, almost half of our colleagues participated in mentoring programmes, charity initiatives and the arranging of the environment.
The fact that we increased the number of employees by 3.7%, reaching 1,286 by year’s end, proves that we are constantly investing in this market, and I am very proud of that
The dynamism of your operations is reflected in new technologies. How are citizens responding to these changes in the banking sector?
For everything we do, we need to stay close to our customers, to anticipate their needs and increase the customer experience level. As such, focusing on the client is one of the main pillars of our business.
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 reaching an ever-increasing number of clients. Proof that we are on the right track is provided by the fact that the number of users of our digital services is growing day by day.
You recently began offering loans to farmers, thereby joining the Ministry of Agriculture’s programme of subsidised loans. What are the expectations of this project?
Agriculture is an industry with huge potential in Serbia. It already represents the largest foreign trade surplus at current, while it is obvious, on the basis of various studies, that a very small number of agricultural holdings use credit products. Namely, the state subsidised loans programme enables them to restore agricultural mechanisation and the application of advanced agro-technical measures under very favourable conditions. This will enable them to harvest higher yields, and thus generate higher income. As always, UniCredit Bank, through the support of various Government programmes, continues to support the expected development of Serbia’s economy.
Our goal is to support farmers in taking advantage of opportunities to further improve their production and to continue supporting the expected development of Serbia’s economy
There have been clear oscillations on the Serbian banking sector in previous months. How do you see the immediate future for banking in Serbia?
We have already witnessed certain consolidation movements on the Serbian banking market, but we cannot exclude additional mergers in the future. On the other hand, as the Serbian economy continues to grow, and investment projects continue to rise, we can also expect the entrance of new players in the banking market that will certainly lead to an increase in the level of competition when it comes to certain client segments.
To conclude, consolidation will represent an opportunity for some banks, while for others it will represent a threat. Those banks that manage to better anticipate the needs of clients, to provide proper services and products – ones that they really need – will certainly have a competitive advantage.