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Ufuk Tandogan, CEO of Garanti Bank Romania: Garanti Bank is a bridge between Romania and Turkey, two increasing linked trading partners

Romania and Turkey are important trading partners to each other. How is Garanti involved in the economic relationship between the two countries?

 

We have been present in Romania since late 90`, so we know very well the local market. We are also accustomed with the Turkish companies that are expanding here and on the European Union`s market. We are the perfect partner for both Romanian and Turkish players. And we must say that Turkey is one of the main trading players outside EU.  Romanian companies exported products and services to Turkey valuing roughly EUR 2 billion in 2017 and again, in 2018. This is more than the level of Romanian exports to Netherlands, for example, but is still less than 5% of the total of the Romanian exports. In 2017, Romania imported from Turkey products and serviced worth of EUR 3 billion and last year, and the amount increased to EUR 3,6 billion in 2018. Both numbers mean less than 5% in total imports. So, there is great potential to increase our commercial relationships. We have to mention the active role of Turkish companies in modernizing the public transportation in Romania. There are Romanian companies that are using auto parts and Turkish know-how and Turkish companies that are modernizing the urban fleets across Romania. We are referring here not only to buses, but also to trams. The Romanian entrepreneurs are also we accustomed with the Turkish lorries and autocars that are moving freight and tourists across the country.

When talking about commercial ties, we have to take into account the Turkish companies that are producing here and are exporting in the EU. When a fridge made in Găiești, for example, is sold in Germany, this means Romanian exports and good wages paid here, by a Turkish global player. We also have to consider other kind of relations – Turkey is a top destination for the hundreds of thousands Romanian tourists seeking great holidays with their family, Turkish businesspeople are coming here in search of new business opportunities and have great holidays here.  I have to confess that I am a guide for my Turkish friends and business partners, seeking unforgettable holidays here, from the Danube Delta to Saxon villages in Transylvania and from the old charm of ”little Paris” to the monasteries of Northern Moldova. We love here the hospitality and the rich heritage that are making this country a great place to visit. So, beyond trade and business, Turkey and Romania are developing ties that are enriching our history, we are now writing a new page of mutual understanding and friendship.

 

What would you say to a Turkish businessman that is looking for business partners here in Romania?

 

I often have the chance to talk with Turkish businessmen about Romania, and I always tell them that here it is a very good place to do business: close to home, but in the EU. Friendly business environment and great work force and a lot of useful resources. And, let’s not forget about the market size. Romania is the second most populated country in the CEE, after Poland. When starting a business in the EU, Romania is one of the obvious partners for Turkish business people.

 

Garanti Bank is active here for a long time. What are the milestones of your presence here?

 

As I mentioned before, we have been here since late `90, more exactly since 1998. At the beginning, we had a license to do business as a foreign branch of Garanti Bank International. In 2010, we transformed our business into a fully pledged Romanian bank and we established 3 business lines: Retail, SMEs, and Corporate. Some of the milestones to mention during our presence here in Romania are the launch of Bonus Card, in 2007, one of the most successful credit cards on the Romanian market, the launch of our internet solution Garanti Online the same year and Mobile Me, our mobile app, in 2016. We are also proud to mention that we were the first bank to sign loan agreements with international organizations such as IFC for financing the women entrepreneurs back in 2011 and we were to first in Romania to launch a eco-affinity card WWF Bonus Card. In the past 21 years, Garanti Bank has managed to grow year-to-year above the market average, and it is currently a bank of systemic importance, one of the top ten largest local banks. Back in 2008, we were the 23rd bank in Romania.

 

 What are your strengths on the Romanian market?

 

Generally, in Romania the competition is price driven, there is no secret about this. Our prices are, of course, aligned to the market level, but our competitive advantages come from our brand, our technology, our human capital and our innovative products. Being a customer-oriented bank, at Garanti we position the customers as a building block of our strategy, which means that we put great focus on the ability to empathize with them. More exactly, for us, empathy means understanding the customers’ constantly evolving needs and expectations, offering them timesaving solutions to improve their lives, delivering a swift and smooth experience. It means helping them make the right financial decisions, supporting them to grow their businesses sustainably, and providing the best experience at all digital and physical touch points.

We are part of a great financial family, an advantage in this very dynamic banking environment. We have strong shareholder support and a strong reputation locally, but also globally. Garanti Group Romania is held by Garanti BBVA, the second largest private bank in Turkey. Garanti BBVA serves over 17 million customers in corporate, commercial, SME and consumer segments, offering fully integrated financial services. Spanish financial group Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA) is the majority shareholder of Garanti BBVA. In the first half of 2019, BBVA registered a net attributable profit of EUR 2.44 billion. BBVA is one of the largest international banking groups in the world.

Also, we have highly centralized operations, which bring efficient processes and best customer experience. We also take pride in our technology and our state-of-the-art digital products – Garanti Online and Mobile Me. In addition, Garanti Bank is one of the first and still few banks in Romania with a complete smart ATM network. We are constantly increasing the operational efficiency of the bank, significantly over the sector average. We have been focused on improving the asset quality of the bank. Currently our NPL ratio fell under 4%, and it is significantly under the sector average. Moreover, in 2018, Garanti Bank has been selected and validated as a Superbrand. The bank’s performance was evaluated taking into account criteria such as quality, trust, and market differentiation and then voted by the Romanian consumers, emerging from a list of over 1,500 brands analyzed by Superbrands Romania.

 

 What are you doing to keep up with the new technologies?

 

We are one of the pioneers of the digital banking in Romania. Currently, we are the 6th bank in Romania in terms of digital banking penetration. In 2018, the value of the transactions performed through our internet banking platform – Garanti Online, increased by 60%, compared to 2014. In the same year, we registered an increased volume by 60% of mobile banking transactions that were operated through our mobile banking application Mobile ME, compared to the previous year. About 47% of Garanti Bank’s deposits are being opened through Garanti Online. We know that in the digital era, consumer banking habits continue to evolve and to diversify at a speed we have never seen before. The types of financial products and services have multiplied considerably in the past years, as customers’ needs for efficiency and excellence have amplified at a very high speed. Digital banking products gain more and more ground, as customers have shown an increasing preference in this direction.

We, at Garanti Bank, try to permanently adapt to this technology driven changes. Also, we try to customize our products and services to best fit the needs of our customers, because we strive to be a bank with a client centric approach. This is the reason why we always design new products and launch new campaigns. We want to make sure that our clients know they have in us a partner for the long run. As a recognition of our constant efforts in this area, also in 2019,

Garanti Bank was awarded by the worldwide-recognized Global Finance magazine as “Best Consumer Digital Bank in Romania”. The distinction was granted within the “The World’s Best Consumer Digital Banks In Central & Eastern Europe 2019 Competition”, this being the 12th award that Garanti Bank receives from this prestigious magazine in the past 11 years.

In developing our digital services, we benefit from the support and know-how of our shareholders. Garanti BBVA has over 7.5 million digital customers (67% penetration), while Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA) reached 29 million digital clients. BBVA was recognized last year by Forrester Research as having the best mobile banking app in the world, in the top of mobile service offerings from 53 banks across the world.

 

As a conclusion, how do you see the role of Garanti Bank in the context of Romanian – Turkish relations?

 

We have a long-term commitment on the Romanian market and we will continue to develop our lines of products for all business segments – Retail, SMEs and Corporate. We are strong and reliable partners for the Turkish companies doing business here and we advise and guide them to increase their presence in Romania. I would say that our bank will further grow together with Turkey and Romania.

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