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Slavica Pavlović, President Of The Executive Board, Eurobank Direktna

Every Challenge Provides A Valuable Lesson

Eurobank in Serbia has merged and joined forces with Direktna banka, thereby strengthening its position on the Serbian market when it comes to achieving its most important strategic goals, which include, among other things, the further growth and development of operations, the expansion and improvement of its range of products and services, and increasing its client base

Great kudos for the success of one of our country’s most reputable financial institutions belongs to one woman, Slavica Pavlović, who spoke to our magazine about banking sector trends, her own recipe for success, gender equality, and the balancing of private and professional obligations.

Before we’d even defeated covid, we were confronted by the war in Ukraine, inflation, economic crisis and instability of financial markets. How do you view this juncture and the year ahead?

The global geopolitical situation is indeed extremely uncertain and it’s difficult to offer clear foresight in the sense of long-term developments, the reactions of individual countries and the results of those reactions.

We see this precisely in the example of the Ukraine crisis and its macroeconomic consequences, which will certainly also mark the next year and represent a major challenge on the geopolitical front, especially in terms of the maintaining of energy stability and further economic development.

It should be considered that our country’s economy is relatively small and under the significant influence of economic trends in Western countries, i.e., it is subjected to spill-overs of both positive and negative effects.

Can traditional banking survive in the form in which it’s existed to date and is it time for the entry of new “players”?

This is a topic that’s gaining ever-more importance. Fintech companies are extremely agile and technologically advanced “new players” who are able to easily recognise business opportunities by, for instance, targeting a specific product or service for which a need exists and thus “diving” into the banking market and achieving exceptional results. On the flip side, traditional banking is a highly regulated industry that has a long tradition and which forms the backbone of the financial system of every country. However, banking is also a very dynamic sector that’s characterised by flexibility and a readiness to transform business models that adhere to the changes and demands of the new era and clients.

Judging on the basis of the experiences of developed countries, banks are facing a kind of watershed moment, because they have insight into the limitations of the digitisation of their products and services, i.e., they can see that it’s no longer sufficient to be a digital version of themselves, among other things, thanks precisely to the results being achieved by fintech companies. A clear movement towards the further transformation of banks is already emerging, for example via the segmentation of products and services, or through offering part of their services or information to other participants, who in turn create their own product. It will be interesting to see the direction in which the transformation of banking will unfold, but that can be expected without a doubt.

The formal merging of Direktna banka with Eurobank was realised last year. What are your plans for the period ahead?

The new entity, Eurobank Direktna a.d. (jsc), is a financial institution with much greater vitality, increased assets and a strong deposit base, and a larger number of clients. And numerous synergies were realised thanks to this merger, the full potential of which we are planning to direct towards our further dynamic growth and development. The aim of Eurobank Direktna is to be a reliable partner to all of its clients, partners and associates, and a strong pillar of support to them in their business ventures. Some of our strategic goals include the further growth and development of operations, the expansion and improvement of our range of products and services, and increasing the client base. Likewise, we will continue providing strong support to the local community through various CSR projects and initiatives, investing in education, healthcare, culture, the environment and social inclusion.

Our goal is to be a reliable partner to all of our clients, partners and associates, and a strong pillar of support

We are certain that, as a successful woman, you also see room to improve gender equality…

Statistics at the level of Europe as a whole show that women are still paid less for the same jobs, that they don’t have equal access to positions of power and that they have limited opportunities for employment and advancement, which is unfortunately often related to their plans to start or expand their family. Also particularly concerning is the prevalence of various forms of violence and discrimination against women, such as domestic violence.

Although progress has been achieved when it comes to legislation, cultural patterns of behaviour and the traditional understanding of gender roles are slower to change, which is why, for example, it is still commonplace to resort to the division between the “stronger” or “weaker” sex, or for women to be expected to be “the pillar of the home”, i.e., to take care of the housework and childcare by themselves.

That’s why promoting gender equality is an important issue that must be addressed systemically and that we must all participate in actively, starting from the state and state bodies that adopt the legal framework, via companies that must formulate and implement their own strategies to advance gender equality, to all individuals responsible for actively encouraging the implementation of these principles, both in the family and society as a whole.

What would you advise your young female colleagues and women just embarking on their career journeys?

I hesitate when it comes to sharing advice, because everyone needs to lay and follow their own path to success and happiness. I would rather share the experiences that shaped me in a professional sense, but also as a person. I am deeply convinced that hard work forms the basis of every success in life. This doesn’t only imply dedication to work or achieving some personal plans and goals, because those are also important steps in one’s career and life, but rather I’m referring first and foremost to investing in yourself, constantly improving your knowledge and skills, and accepting new challenges.

Everyone responds to the challenges of life and work in accordance with their own character and temperament, but regardless of all individual differences and peculiarities, hard work, primarily on oneself, forms the foundation of everything that follows. I also think we need to be ready to accept new challenges and not fear change. Every challenge that I’ve got to grips with proved to be a valuable lesson and taught me to look ahead. And when we look ahead, then we simultaneously set a goal that we strive towards and motivate ourselves on that journey.

Achieving business goals demands commitment, time and effort, as is also the case with family, especially children. Do you have a recipe for harmonising these two important areas of life?

There is neither an existing recipe nor a universal solution that will work every time. I accepted the harmonising of my professional and personal obligations as one more challenge, and a daily one at that. Understanding, patience, a good relationship with colleagues and in the family – all of that can help, but frankly, an ideal balance doesn’t exist. Family commitments will sometimes require more time and dedication, while under other circumstances the same will apply to business obligations. I think this daily weighing up of commitments is totally normal and that it’s not something we should fear, or that we should be too harsh and critical of ourselves. On the contrary, I consider it better to accept and strive towards finding a balance that enables us to be happy and fulfilled in both a professional and private sense.

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