Interview with UFUK TANDOGAN, CEO Garanti Group Romania.
In spite of last year’s turbulent economic environment, you reported good results in 2013. What was the bank’s strategy?
Last year was an important one for Garanti Group Romania, because we celebrated 15 years of successful activity on the local market. Despite of the challenging economic environment, we had a very good year. We managed to register growth on all business lines and high profitability, succeeding to remain one of the healthiest and strongest financial groups in Romania.
In 2013 we launched new innovative products and services for our clients, focused on improving our customers’ satisfaction, were more active in the areas of both lending and deposits for all market segments (retail, SME and corporate) and managed to increase the total number of clients by 15%. As a result of our efforts, we registered performances above the market average in all segments.
To conclude, I believe the key to our success in the current complex economic environment is the fact that we chose to be pro-active and constantly tried to come up with useful products and services and, most importantly, we are always taking our time to understand the market and the clients, so we can better meet their needs. As a consequence of our sustainable efforts and determination, we have managed to thrive as a business during both challenging and booming economic periods.
What can you tell us about 2014’s assets and net revenues? In your opinion, what are the tendencies in this respect, compared to 2013?
Our objective for this year is to continue our steady development and successful strategy, to become one of the leading players in the local banking sector. We aim to grow both in loans and deposits more than 10% and to continue increasing our lending activity in all segments and sectors, having a strong capital base and offering high quality services.
Furthermore, we are expecting a better year for the Romanian banking sector in 2014. There are fewer non-performing loans in terms of newly granted loans and structural changes were implemented in the sector towards more efficiency and higher service quality. The recovery of the banking sector positively influences us as well, giving us the opportunity to further increase our revenues.
What can you tell us about this year’s client portfolio? What about the level of non-performing loans?
The quality of our credit portfolio is very strong, ensuring an NPL ratio far below the national banking sector’s average by several percentage points. Due to the challenging economic environment, there are companies which face some financial difficulties, thus affecting this ratio, but we have a very supportive approach in regards to the problems our clients are confronted with. Furthermore, we have high tech evaluation systems with very qualified credit managers that help us manage this type of situations. We will continue to apply efficient ways of consolidating a healthy and sustainable portfolio.
How did Garanti Bank meet customer needs in 2013? What are Garanti Bank’s future projects for Romania? What new elements will you bring this year and what projects do you wish to develop?
We have a very client-oriented approach and constantly invest in our customer relationship management, placing them at the center of our business and building our strategy on their real needs. Everything we do is meant to continuously improve the level of customer satisfaction, retain clients, as well as attract new ones, and build trustworthy, long-lasting relationships with them.
In regards to our future projects, we will continue offering short and long-term lending for retail, SMEs and corporate, as well as deposit products, keeping these segments balanced, in order to secure a healthy overall portfolio. I want to underline also the fact that we are always keen on supporting projects that contribute to the sustainable development of the local economic environment.
In 2014, we will bring new innovative products and services on the local market, but we will provide further details at the right time. We are also planning to increase the number of smart ATMs by 60, expanding the already widest network of smart ATMs in Romania, reaching 340 by the end of the year, which can be utilized by anyone, not only the bank’s clients, for transactions with or without card.
Is the Romanian banking market in the restructuring phase? Are there rumors going around about investors being “very interested” in taking over Romanian banks? What is your view on the issue?
These last years have been very challenging for the entire Romanian banking system, but the sector has proven its maturity over the years and we are currently witnessing its re-shaping and restructuring. It is also very important that The National Bank of Romania took the necessary measures in time to ensure that banks remain healthy, thus giving a big support to the sector.
In 2014, we might see more portfolio sales or bank mergers news, as well as new strategies and products related to technological advancements made available for the Romanian market, such as internet banking, mobile banking and no-cash platforms.