Jelena Galić, President Of The Executive Board Of AIK Bank

Economic Support, A State Partner

Further positioning of AIK Bank as a financially stable and credible bank group in this part of Europe is a strategic commitment. AIK Bank was the first Serbian bank to enter the EU market, and its presence there is proof of its stable foundation and sustainable development, which forms the basis of its business operations.

We have implemented numerous projects intending to further our digital transformation strategy, strengthen our digital brand and expand the base of satisfied clients – Ms Jelena Galić proudly stated for the Cord Magazine.

Banks were ready to face the crisis thanks to a high level of liquidity and a low level of bad assets. What is the situation like nowadays?

– The challenges we all faced last year forced us to modify our everyday activities and lifestyle in general. It’s important to point out that the prepandemic macroeconomic stability, as well as the measures the state introduced and continues to implement to this day, have contributed to reducing the negative effects of the pandemic on the economy. The banks took part in all the support programmes responsibly to help maintain the financial stability and mitigate the negative consequences.

Considering the strong capital and liquidity position of the entire banking sector, there is no doubt that banks will continue to be the mainstay of the economy and state partners in the task of maintaining the achieved stability and overcoming further challenges that may arise. In that regard, I can say that prudent actions of the banks are helping minimise future potential risks, and the achieved results in the area of microeconomic and financial stability represent a stable foundation upon which further growth and development can continue.

The global crisis caused by the pandemic has been going on for a year now. How is it reflecting on the banking sector and your bank specifically?

– Even before the pandemic broke out, banks had been working on developing mechanisms to tackle potential crises. Those mechanisms, which helped banks overcome challenges in this specific situation, include significant liquidity reserves, adequate risk management and responsible credit policies. In addition, banks were able to adapt to the specific characteristics of this particular crisis quickly by encouraging clients to rely on online and digital services. Since the state introduced adequate support measures, including the provision of direct aid to businesses and incentives of the National Bank of Serbia, the banks were able to respond to all the business challenges brought about by the pandemic very well.

According to the data of the National Bank of Serbia, in the previous year, the total placement of the available bank deposit potential increased by 10.7% thanks to the investment of banks into RSD corporate bonds, in addition to a growth in credit activity. It should also be pointed out that the share of non-performing loans in the last (pandemic) year was 0.4 per cent lower compared to 2019. All of this speaks in favour of the stability and strength of the banking sector in Serbia.

For the third year in a row, domestic credit activity in Serbia has achieved two-figure growth, which places it among the highest in the region

Our banking group, with AIK Bank as the lead member, is stable, with total assets exceeding 4 billion euros. The stability of our bank has been further proven by the activities carried out successfully in the specific circumstances we were faced with in 2020 – the year which has strengthened our teamwork and business operations in general, as we have managed to ensure troublefree implementation of all the activities and services offered to the clients. The achieved business indicators, i.e. a high level of the balance sheet total, strengthening of the deposit base and maintaining high profitability, testify to this.

When the three-month moratorium on all types of loans was introduced, you welcomed it as a good move. Do you still think so a year later?

– Having in mind the complexity of the circumstances arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, the undertaken set of measures to facilitate the settlement of obligations of the economy, as well as the citizens, and responsible credit risk management by financial institutions have directly contributed to mitigating the negative consequences of the pandemic to the economy. In that regard, the announced new set of measures taken by the Government of the Republic of Serbia, the total value of which is RSD 249.4 billion, entailing the provision of direct support to sensitive and vulnerable sectors and citizens and the extension of the Guarantee Scheme for the purpose of maintaining the liquidity of the economy, will undoubtedly not only enable us to further mitigate the negative consequences but also to continue providing support to the entire economy and the citizens’ regular activities.

How would you rate the economic measures the state has introduced and continues to enforce to aid the economy?

– Mitigation of the monetary policy, approval of loans from the Guarantee Scheme on favourable terms, primarily RSD loans due to to the preferential policy of the National Bank of Serbia reserve obligation, along with good cooperation with the banking sector, have ensured good financing conditions on the domestic credit market. For the third year in a row, the domestic credit activity in Serbia has achieved a twofigure growth, which places it among the highest in the region.

Our products and processes are fully end-to-end automated, which means that requests can be approved very quickly

Since the sector of small and medium enterprises was hit the hardest by the pandemic crisis, I believe that focusing on direct measures to this area of the economy was crucial for overcoming the difficulties caused by the pandemic and maintaining the business operations of this sector. As one of the banks who took part in all the measures, we have remained a strong supporter of small and medium enterprises in Serbia by offering a complete set of products necessary for such businesses, including online services for all kinds of financial transactions and all kinds of loans for current assets, investments, agriculture, as well as loans within government programs to support the economy and agriculture.

AIK Bank is the first domestic bank to enter the EU market. What are the benefits of the expanded cooperation through the regional approach?

– The acquisition of Gorenjska Bank in Slovenia, completed in 2019, made AIK Bank the first domestic bank to expand its business operations to the EU market. By strengthening our regional position along with the Gorenjska Bank, we have ensured quality services for our clients within the EU. The expansion to the EU market is a confirmation of the bank’s stable foundation and sustainable development, which is the basis of its business operations. Our strategy entails further positioning as a financially strong and credible banking group in this part of Europe, and the previous experience is another confirmation of the said strategy.

In that regard, we are following the market trends related to potential further acquisitions, and we have a clear vision of our banking group and the direction of its further expansion in Serbia and the region.

Our clients can also sign digital documents electronically via a smartphone, tablet or computer with a twostage authentication, which is a step toward quicker and paperless business operations

You frequently introduce innovative services and offers to meet the increasing expectations of the clients. Do you intend to keep the focus on creating new products and services in the forthcoming period?

– This year, we are continuing with our projects as per the adopted digital transformation strategy. This includes a high range of products available to the clients 24/7 through our network of branch offices as well as online – at digital communication channels. We are dedicated to creating new and improving existing products and services to boost the client experience.

Our clients who use the mobile app can use QR codes and digital Mastercard payment cards available on their smartphones for payments at sales points that enable this option. Also, the clients can access their accounts instantaneously via the web or mobile app, where they can transfer their funds, make fixed-term deposits or apply for a loan, overdraft or credit card. These products and processes are fully end-toend automatized, which means that the requests are approved very quickly. For instance, approved cash loans are available within 10 minutes upon request.

The mobile banking app enables the users to access mobile banking using biometric authentication. Besides, they can also sign digital documents electronically via a smartphone, tablet or computer with a two-stage authentication, which is a step toward quicker and paperless business operations.

Those are only some examples of the projects implemented so far, and we will continue working hard on further implementation of our digital transformation strategy, digital brand empowerment and expansion of our base of satisfied clients.

Jelena Bojović, Director Of The Centre For The Fourth Industrial Revolution; NALED Programme Development Strategist

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