Over the course of the previous 97 years, we have gone through various stages of business development and technological transformation, striving to nurture long-term relationships and links, as well as mutual loyalty with our clients. We are ready for the new digital era, but we will preserve our traditional values,” explains Postal Savings Bank Executive Board Member Zoran Popović.
Postal Savings Bank will soon commemorate 100 years of its existence as a bank. What were the key stages of its development?
– Postal Savings Bank was established way back in 1921 and is one of the oldest financial institutions in this region. Thanks to a tradition that has endured for 97 years, one of the slogans for which we are recognisable is “We know each other the longest”. Throughout all these years, Postal Savings Bank has gone through various stages of business development and technological transformation. As such, for example, it was the first bank on the market of the former Yugoslavia to issue a payment card, the POST card. Postal Savings Bank became a commercial bank in 2002 thus creating the preconditions required to expand its business and develop a more significant market share.
As of April 2015, the Ministry of Finance began actively participating in the work of the governing bodies of the bank, which is 100% owned by the Republic of Serbia. The revision of the stand-by arrangement with the IMF envisages a reorientation of the bank’s business model towards operations with retail and small business clients, which was formally implemented in August 2016 as the bank’s official business model.
The global financial crisis, coupled with Serbia’s market size and the concentration of its banking sector, have certainly limited the scope for banks’ operations to grow, so the consolidation that is currently underway was inevitable
You are a leader in doing business with retail clients. Every second citizen of Serbia is still your client. To what do you owe this fact?
– It is part of our tradition to nurture longterm relationships and links, and mutual loyalty with our clients. Through constant innovations and the adapting of our offer to meet the needs of users, we have succeeded in preserving the trust of our existing clients and attracting new ones. In the campaign “Even closer to you” we intensified the development of our business network with the opening of new branches throughout Serbia, thereby increasing our accessibility to clients. They currently have available 166 branches and around 2,100 employees.
Simultaneously, through the introduction of electronic and mobile banking, we have made communication with our clients more efficient and operational. We are expanding our base of loyal clients, which include pensioners and employees of public companies, to new clients seeking efficiency, speed and security.
Do you pay great attention to strict risk controls?
– The events that have occurred since the onset of the global financial crisis and that have exposed the banking sector to significant risks, primarily credit risks, had a negative impact on the operations of our bank, which is why we’ve been paying considerable attention to the risk management system for years already. All of the bank’s management levels – primarily its board of directors and executive board – are today significantly engaged in ensuring such risks are placed completely under control, ensuring the bank can continue along its path of stable development and successfully expanding a healthy portfolio and balance sheet.
We are witnessing the process of bank consolidation on the market, which has long been anticipated. How would you assess the situation in the banking sector today?
– Considering that the expansion of the banking sector was very intense during previous years and that it then became evident that it was unsustainable over the long term, consolidation was inevitable. It represents one of the most important strategic decisions and enables the longterm profitability of banks and the further growth of their operations. The consolidation of the banking sector leads to market stabilisation and healthier competition, or a correct distribution of power.
Systemic solutions, which emerged via amendments to the regulations of the National Bank of Serbia and the Government of the Republic of Serbia, contributed to a significant reduction of bad loans in the total placements of banks. This made it possible for larger banks to acquire banks with a lower market share, to more easily increase capital, to create a sound basis for operating more effectively, achieving faster growth and higher profitability.
The digital transformation is inevitable for us, because banks today must exert significant efforts and invest significant resources in order to enable the development of innovative services that meet the needs of clients and thereby expand their operations
What are your immediate plans for the further development of card systems and new digital technologies?
– One important project that’s being developed by Postal Savings Bank – on the initiative of, and in cooperation with, the National Bank of Serbia – is the possibility of paying in instalments, without fees and interest charged, using the debit and identification card – POSTCARD Dina card. At the end of last year, Postal Savings Bank was granted the status of principal for the acceptance and issuance in Serbia of the international (originally Chinese) card payment brand Union Pay.
Users of these payment cards will soon be able to withdraw cash from our ATMs and pay at the bank’s POS terminals in the retail network. The digital transformation is inevitable for us because banks today must exert significant efforts and invest significant resources in order to enable the development of innovative services that meet the needs of clients and thereby expand their operations. The convenience of digital services represents an essential need, so I expect that we have a very exciting era of banking operations ahead of us.
You are among the country’s most socially responsible companies. What would you specifically single out from your CSR activities?
– We have from the very beginning nurtured and developed the principle of mutual trust and respect, both with our clients and the community in which we operate. Listening to and understanding the needs of our environment is at the forefront of what we do, and operating responsibly is our strategy, and that’s why we strive to support projects that promote and encourage cultural, educational, scientific and sporting values.