Comparing 2019 against 2020, our retail business jumped by almost 12%, with our housing loans portfolio increasing by more than 17% and our cash loans portfolio by close to 9%
Banka Intesa has a leading position in the Serbian market for ten years, where it has gained the precious trust of 1.34 million clients. Through a network of 155 branches in almost 100 cities in Serbia, that employs over 3,000 people, Bank Intesa encourages companies and entrepreneurs in development projects, helps families and young generations to protect and increase savings and realize their plans. In addition, Bank Intesa has won numerous world awards. We talked about the successful operation of Bank Intesa with Draginja Đurić, who has been the head of the Bank since 2001, first as the General Manager, and since 2005 as the President of the Executive Board.
This March, you won your sixth award as Serbia’s best bank. How important is this to you?
Ever since Banca Intesa established its presence in the local market, the driving force leading us to head the banking market has been our ambition to become our clients’ and partners’ first-choice bank. All the recognitions we had the pleasure of being awarded we perceive as a crown of our success, confirmation for the years of dedication and commitment to our goals, but also as a motivation that is paving our way towards further achievements. Throughout the last 15 years, Banca Intesa has been recognized by leading international financial magazines such as Global Finance, Euromoney, The Banker, Finance Central Europe, and the like.
The prestigious Global Finance magazine award – „The Best Bank in Serbia 2021“, which we have received for the sixth time additionally confirms our leading position across all key indicators of success. We are extremely proud of this award especially under the circumstances of overall changed conditions in the global economy, while constantly improving our business model through digitalization in order to adequately respond to the growing demands of all customer segments and maintain a high level of their satisfaction. This year our achievement was even more complete, taking into account that our Parent Company, Intesa Sanpaolo, also received the award for „Bank of the Year in Italy” in 2021.
What results have you entered 2021 with and what do you believe are your biggest challenges this year?
Banca Intesa stepped firmly in the lead into 2021 in the Serbian banking market with high liquidity and a strong capital base, best shown by its loan-to-deposit ratio of 78.5% and capital adequacy of almost 20% at last year’s end. We managed to achieve growth in placements, which contributed to — on the one hand — recovery in economic activity and — on the other — to further improving the quality of life of citizens in these times of crisis. Comparing 2019 to 2020, our retail business jumped by almost 12%, with our housing loans portfolio increasing by more than 17% and our cash loans portfolio by close to 9%. When it comes to corporate banking, Banca Intesa once again maintained its leading position in the Serbian market, with our loan portfolio growing by 8.3%, while our offering expanded to include new loan products.
“Banca Intesas’s ambition is to become the bank of first choice for our clients and partners”
Banks will most certainly remain the main support for companies and private individuals in the coming period, as well as strong partners to the government in preserving economic stability and overcoming potential challenges. In an environment of low interest rates, the main challenges for the banks will be to focus on customer needs while increasing operational efficiency and organizational resilience through risk management, capital base strengthening, and technological innovations.
How has Covid-19 affected the banking sector?
Despite all the challenges, the Serbian banking sector entered the pandemic era much stronger than it had been at the start of the global financial crisis over ten years ago, with adequate capital and liquidity buffers. Since the onset of the pandemic, our absolute priority was to protect our customers’ and employees’ health — we offered remote work options for our employees and made products and services available to citizens and the economy. The situation seriously affected change in customer behaviour, as well as their preferences when it comes to interaction channels with the bank. This highlighted the importance of digitalization of the banking operations, bearing in mind the fact that the recommended measures of reduced social interaction have led to a significant increase in the use of digital channels. In that sense, I expect that the pandemic will encourage banks to make additional efforts towards further transformation of their business models in order to remain relevant in the new banking ecosystem.
Furthermore, the Serbian Government has extended the support for entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises as a priority step at the very onset of the pandemic. I believe those measures were very important in maintaining economic activity under the new business conditions, especially for small businesses and SMEs, which have been exposed the most to the blows of the crisis, but which should be the main drivers of economic recovery in the post-pandemic period. As the country’s largest bank and leading creditor, Banca Intesa actively implemented a loan programme with a state guarantee and allocated more than 300 million euros for the support.
What new trends await us in the banking sector and Banca Intesa in particular? What are your plans for the coming period?
I am convinced that the most important trends in the local finance sector will certainly remain the consolidation of the banking market started in the previous period and further growth of digital services and innovation. Banks will strive for a personalized approach that will lead towards the best possible user experience, in order to meet the expectations of their customers and provide them with financial stability in the ongoing uncertainty.
“Banca Intesa implemented a loan programme with a state guarantee and allocated more than 300 million euros for the support”
As for Banca Intesa, the main focus will be the implementation of the digital platform, which envisages an extensive path towards the introduction of a complete digital customer journey. The digital transformation program provides a new Omni-channel approach: new online and mobile applications for individuals and legal entities, a new application for branches and the introduction of a paperless concept, a new Bank website and a new, improved CRM solution and integration with direct channels.
You have been the head of the bank since 2001, first as its general manager, and since 2005, as the chairman of the executive board. Given that you have the opportunity to cooperate with Italian businesspeople, how would you rate the Italian–Serbian relations?
Traditionally, Serbia has a very intensive and strong relationship with Italy. Recently, we celebrated 140 years of diplomatic relations between Rome and Belgrade, as well as ten years since the establishment of the strategic partnership of the two counties. According to the data of the Serbian Development Agency, Italy is a leading investor in Serbia, the biggest investor in terms of FDI investments and the second biggest investor in terms of the number of implemented FDI projects. Almost 600 Italian companies operate in Serbia, employing 39,000 people mostly in finance, insurance, and the manufacturing industry: automotive, textile, leather, wood processing, etc… In addition to the decades-long successful cooperation with Serbia and significant subsidies offered by our state, Italian investors are often drawn by the geographic vicinity of our market and logistics advantages, as well. Banca Intesa is a proud member of the Intesa Sanpaolo Group, one of the largest banking groups in Italy, with a long-standing presence in Serbia as a top-of-mind bank for the last 15 years.