Building a cashless society and promoting digital payments remain our priorities, with their benefits gaining on importance since 16th March 2020.
We spoke with Ms Jelena Ristić, Country Manager for Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina at Mastercard, about how the company organized its operations during the state of emergency and how she spends her private time during the pandemic. “The quarantine will help us all to revise our past values and lifestyles, to stop taking many things for granted and to respect and value them in the future,” says Ms Ristić.
How do you spend your private time during the pandemic?
My life has changed completely since the pandemic began. I spent the first few days learning about the measures that had been introduced in the countries I cover, while simultaneously monitoring the development of the situation in the most vulnerable countries and exchanging messages with colleagues and partners regarding the new situation. It was also important for me to provide my parents with the necessary supplies and medicines since they are not allowed to leave home, given that they are over 65 years of age.
Once the state of emergency has been introduced, all business trips, which were my routine ever since I started working for Mastercard, were cancelled. In the last three years, I took a business trip almost every week, going to the countries I cover or for management meetings. Now, the current situation has forced me to spend more time at home and do those things that I didn’t have time to do earlier due to my work, like exercising every day, meditating, reading books, trying out different cooking recipes and spending time with my family and plants.
I am lucky enough to live in a house with a yard which, during the curfew, is an exceptional privilege that very few people who live in our capital city have. Thanks to that, I can lead a relatively normal life and abide by the curfew, which starts at 5 pm, while balancing between watching the news about the pandemic and the best-rated series to properly dose the quantity of information that is circulating in the media.
Looking at the brighter side of things, once the pandemic is over, I am going to have new skills and hobbies and for the first time, have a proper rest at my home. The quarantine will help us all to revise our past values and lifestyles, to stop taking many things for granted and to respect and value them in the future
How did you organize your business activities?
Mastercard is one of those international companies that offer flexible working hours as well as work from home, even under normal circumstances, so it wasn’t challenging for us to adjust to the new work regime. After the pandemic was declared, our employees were given the choice to go to work or work from home. Although most have chosen “a home office”, those who have decided otherwise are divided into groups that change weekly. We also disinfect our offices daily, to reduce the risk of infection.
All internal and external meetings are now taking place online, and F2F meetings have been replaced by Skype calls. Many projects have lost meaning due to social distancing, and are therefore cancelled or postponed for later, when the situation normalizes. In order to safeguard the health of our clients and employees, our partners from the banking, retail and public sector are forced to minimize physical contact and divert customers to digital channels, promoting online and mobile banking, online shopping and contactless payment. An online operating model is the only way for many retailers to sustain their business during the state of emergency. Hence, there is a great interest among both small and large retailers for introducing online sales of their goods and ensuring that they are delivered to their customers as quickly as possible. Isolation has greatly contributed to changing consumer habits and highlighted the benefits of online shopping, above all, the safety, security and convenience of buying from the comfort of your home.
One of the measures that will be implemented as of 15th April, which gives users additional support in the day-to-day challenges they are currently facing, is the decision to increase the limit for contactless payments from 3,000 to 4,000 dinars for which you don’t need to enter your PIN, with the goal of improving the shopping experience. Building a cashless society and promoting digital payments remain our priorities, with their benefits gaining on importance since 16th March 2020.
What will you do first after the state of emergency is abolished?
I think I will gather friends and family and throw a party in honour of health, life and re-socialization if that is possible. Before I do that, like most women, I will run to my hairdresser and beautician to eliminate traces of isolation and instead of wearing my jogging suit, I will put on a blazer so I can return to work refreshed. I’m sure I’ll walk a lot because we all miss movement the most.