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Vlastimir Vuković, President Of The Executive Board Of Komercijalna Banka, A Member Of The NLB Group

Bank Of The Future

The process of integrating Komercijalna Banka and NLB Banka Beograd is proceeding according to plan. Teams have been formed at both banks and all employees are engaged maximally, while the whole process is expected to be completed by the end of April next year

At NLB Group the region is viewed as an opportunity that’s provided to Serbian businessmen, based on the example of the Scandinavian model of open economic zones, where there are no borders for goods, capital and ideas

Slovenia’s NLB Group took over the ownership of Serbia’s Komercijalna Banka at the end of December last year, and you were appointed president of the Komercijalna Banka Executive Board in the first days of January 2021. What has been happening over the past four months? Are you satisfied with the dynamics of joining the NLB group?

– Over the past few months I’ve become convinced that Komercijalna Banka is a big system that’s trusted by clients; it’s a bank that’s synonymous with security and reliability. I’ve also seen that the potential of Komercijalna Banka is much higher than what the Bank has achieved in recent years, that it employs a large number of excellent experts, who are devoted and ready to support our clients, and this really convinced me of the success of our mission – to become the best bank in Serbia in the next few years, following integration. I’m certain that we will further realise the potential and that our bank will be one of the most important links in the chain of NLB Group.

Alongside numerous business activities and the process of adjusting to the standards of NLB Group, the process of integrating Komercijalna Banka and NLB Banka Beograd has been initiated. The integration process is proceeding according to plan. We’ve formed teams at both banks and all employees are engaged maximally, and I expect that we’ll successfully implement all planned activities by the end of April next year, which is when we plan to complete this process.

What do citizens/clients gain from the creating of a synergy between two strong brands like NLB and Komercijalna Banka?

– In the period ahead we will focus, among other things, on accelerated digitalisation and identifying new and more efficient ways to reach clients. This means investing in digital communication channels, primarily mobile channels, but also investing in a highquality contact centre that will be accessible through all channels.

We will strive for paperless transactions and train employees to provide clients with more complex financial services. As a universal financial group, we will not neglect corporate clients, to whom we will offer a regional platform for financing trade, factoring, but also connecting and financing supply and demand for their products and services in our region. We want to offer our clients the best solutions whenever and wherever they need them.

We’ve so far offered new and existing clients a number of benefits through the Welcome package, which is yielding nice results. It includes, among other things, free use of the more than 1,400 joint ATMs in the entire NLB Group, while for corporate clients we’ve secured a unique fee of only five euros for foreign currency payment operations performed within the member banks of NLB Group.

Considering that clients are increasingly demanding and that their expectations are ever higher, all companies, including banks, must deal with improving operations and improving their service. What else are you focused on?

– We are planning to introduce an entire set of new banking services based on digital technologies. The classic bank, with counters for handling cash, is slowly being consigned to history.

Of course, our employees remain at the banks, but in the role of financial advisors who will provide clients with swift and timely advice and information on more serious investments in the future, for example, on housing loans, savings, investments, etc. We will make it possible for citizens not to have to come to a branch because of standard services, such as paying bills or ordering a new card, but to be able to complete those jobs via a computer or mobile phone. I’m sure that, in the next few years, half of all cash loans will be approved and paid out over the phone. And it will be the same for housing loans, with most of the steps in the loan approval process able to be agreed online.

We will focus on accelerated digitalisation and identifying new and more efficient ways to reach clients

In all of this, we will be careful when introducing new services, because every new service should be accompanied by education and adequate support, as has been the case to date, because digital transformation can only contribute to create a vision of a better reality if it is inclusive and brings benefits to all clients. Apart from all of that, we also strive to launch broader social change through participation in the financing of major infrastructure projects, as well as assisting institutions and organisations that care for the most vulnerable groups in society. We’re extremely interested in projects for improving energy efficiency and the production of “green” energy from renewable sources, as well as investment in agriculture, especially organic. It is also clear that a great need exists to upgrade infrastructure, highways and railways, gasification, electrification, but to do so through the creation of an ambience conducive to the opening of scientific research parks, IT hubs and business zones. We see all of the aforementioned as an opportunity and way for our strong engagement, which will undoubtedly contribute to the economic growth of Serbia and the region.

Did we understand the announcements well … You will work on making Komercijalna Banka the leading bank in Serbia and NLB becoming the leading banking group in the region. These are ambitious plans, but do you think they are achievable?

– Very ambitious and very achievable. According to the latest research, the member banks of NLB Group are already among the top three banks in all countries in which we operate, and that will also be the case in Serbia once the integration has been completed. We want the future integrated bank to be a leader in the domestic financial sector, to be the leading banking institution in Serbia. We will achieve this if, among other things, we are competitive, but also if we offer our clients high quality services. I can already say now that we will be a distributor of universal financial services, in addition to classic banking services, and insurance sales and asset management.

Our comparative advantage over the competition lies in the fact is that we are part of the NLB Group and that, thanks to the group’s network and its presence in the region, we can offer clients a strategic partnership. We view the region as an opportunity that’s provided to Serbian businessmen, based on the example of the Scandinavian model of open economic zones, where there are no borders for goods, capital and ideas.

Viewed from the perspective of doing business under the conditions of a pandemic, are things returning to old ways or have we already grown used to the changes and accepted them as the new normal? Are you now adapting the development of services to the different needs and habits of clients?

– The COVID-19 pandemic that we are witnessing is an unprecedented global health, economic and social crisis. However, history has confirmed numerous times that every great crisis hides within it an equally great opportunity.

One of the key opportunities now is the opportunity to transform energy. It isn’t only a sure path to economic recovery and the creation of new jobs, but also the only relevant investment in the sustainable future of humankind.

The coronavirus epidemic brought great changes and compelled us to quickly adapt to the situation. The most important change in banks’ operations over the previous years has been the digitalisation of operations, which has become a new norm for both banks and clients. I’m glad that we have double-digit growth in the users of digital banking at our banks, but also across the entire market. Companies are also changing the way they work – a large number of them, including Komercijalna Banka, have transferred large parts of their business to work from home.

Given the exceptional motivation within the Group for continuing to expand the portfolio of financing green projects in the region that is our home, I believe we have yet to witness very dynamic and exponential growth in this area – both through subsidised government loans and through the creation of our own products for financing and supporting sustainable transport, clean and renewable energy, and the management of waste and wastewater.

One concrete example of the initiating of broader social changes is the support of Komercijalna Banka and NLB Banka for organic food producers and small and medium-sized businesses through two projects that we organise: NLB Organic and the Support Framework.

Half of all cash loans will be approved and paid out over the phone, while a client will be able to agree on most steps in the process for approving housing loans online

Kombank NLB Organic is a competition through which we’ve been awarding the best producers and processors of organic food in Serbia for the last ten years consecutively. When it was launched, interest in organic foods was at a low level. That’s why the goal of the competition was initially twofold – to support organic producers directly, but also through investment in the promotion of organically grown food and groceries. Ten years later, we are witnessing completely different market conditions and dynamic growth in demand for organic products, which gives full meaning to every award we’ve given to date.

Apart from NLB Organic, another project was set up on foundations of sustainability and has this year been adopted by all members of the Group. Small and medium-sized enterprises are the backbone and pillar of all national economies in the region, and almost all relevant research indicates unequivocally that they are being hit the hardest by the pandemic that we are witnessing. This is the reason we launched the project #OkvirPodrške [FrameworkofSupport], which has been implemented on all markets where NLB Group is present and in which we’ve secured advertising space for almost 300 local entrepreneurs. The goal was to provide them with greater visibility and connectivity, to help them create new business opportunities, more easily reach their customers and thus more quickly overcome the consequences of the pandemic. We had a great response and an excellent experience at the level of the Group, and a new cycle has just begun in Serbia – which is this time being jointly organised by Komercijalna and NLB banks.

We stand for equal opportunities, but also for independent and professional corporate governance. We strive every day to do something better and bigger than yesterday, and to strengthen our footprint in a region that we consider not only a business environment, but also the home of us and all our employees. The end goal is to become a beacon of sustainable business and one of the most responsible companies in the region.

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