Suzan Tanriyar, Board Member, CFO and CRO of Erste Bank Serbia – We create new banking experience for our customers

We have made truly dedicated efforts in order to support and take care of our customers in times of crisis and uncertainty
Suzan Tanriyar, Board Member, CFO and CRO of Erste Bank Serbia

“We continued spending time with our customers, which, despite all protective measures we implemented, still raised the risk of infection for our employees; we enabled remote pension pay out, we opened thousands of accounts for one-off state assistance for existing and non-clients within a very short time. We disbursed money from the State Guarantee Fund to our SME and micro clients in a responsible manner, implemented moratoria 1, 2 and 3 for helping our troubled clients, issued the first real private corporate bond in record time… These and many other achievements make me very confident and optimistic. Our business model is proven to be crisis-resistant; our team is motivated and unbeatable. For two years in a row, Erste Bank Serbia is bank number 1 in terms of customer experience of private individuals. It seems to me that we are on a very good track” said Suzan Tanriyar, Board Member, CFO and CRO of Erste Bank Serbia.

You have finished the year of great challenges in the first place according to customer experience of individual clients. What does this mean for you and does it motivate you to constantly improve your services?

Since Erste Group Bank AG’s establishment in 1819 as the first Austrian savings bank, we have always aspired to be more than a bank to our customers. Unlike other commercial banks, our main shareholder is still the ERSTE Foundation (the biggest Austrian savings bank foundation), which allows us to be truly purpose-driven, with our customers’ financial health and sustainability at the heart of our strategy. I believe that our customers feel, understand and value our business model.

They are especially satisfied with the personal relationship and the advisory service we provide them, and they view very positively our offer, flexibility and response speed, when choosing one of the products and services that are available to help customers manage every aspect of their financial life.

In the coming years, our goal is to confirm this position, offering various innovations, especially in the field of digital products

For us, this means that we are succeeding in our intention to build prosperity of our customers. In the coming years, our goal is to confirm this position, offering various innovations, especially in the field of digital products, improved customer journeys and end-to-end digital lending. To give additional arguments to our customers to see us as the bank that provides the best experience, not only in the segment of private individuals but also legal entities and entrepreneurs.

How important are stability and preparedness in a crisis, as well as flexibility and customer support?

Please let me quote here the CEO of Erste Group, Mr. Bernd Spalt: “We’re in this together – and we’ll get through this together!”

In practice, this means we will support economic recovery with continued lending – this is our commitment as a systemically important bank, and we will retain our customers during this challenging period and offer tailor-made business restructuring models. Furthermore, we will continue offering innovative products and support legal entities in obtaining equity on capital markets by issuance of corporate bonds and promote the idea of channelling private money into SMEs. This will help SMEs to deleverage and, at the same time, to be an attractive investment.

 What do you think of the macroeconomic situation today, and what challenges will the financial market in Serbia face?

For sure, Serbia is moving on the right track. This is not only our opinion as bankers – it was also confirmed recently by the most significant rating agencies globally. GDP decrease of one percent in 2020 compared to 2019 is a significantly better result than in neighbouring economies. It is one of the smallest declines in economic activity in the world.

The fact that Moody’s has raised Serbia’s credit rating to Ba2 while assessing its outlook as stable, is a thumbs up and a great achievement in the year of the pandemic. We expect that the government authorities will certainly go for obtaining the investment-grade rating, which means that they will be on a par with the most advanced countries and have access to lower financing prices.

In all companies, talent is the foundation to building an ideal team capable of facing new challenges and ensuring growth

Further investments, both private and public, as well as a recovery of household consumption, should be the main growth drivers in the second half of this year. That is why our analysts have not revised their previous growth forecast, set at five percent for 2021. Nevertheless, all projections in the time of pandemic should come with a kind of small asterisk – we must be careful, because there is still an increased level of uncertainty when it comes to the duration of the pandemic.

For us, some of the biggest challenges are those related to attracting and retaining talent.

In all companies, talent is the foundation to building an ideal team capable of facing new challenges and ensuring growth. That is why it is essential to have the best employees possible. In order to do so, we continuously encourage creativity, invest in the development and education of our employees and foster an inclusive, inspiring and healthy working environment. We often like to say, ‘The Bank is the People’, so our people are in our focus in many aspects. Our wish is to be the employer of first choice, not only for those with years of experience, even more for those who are about to enter the workforce, young people who wish to learn and grow, who believe in themselves. We are constantly reminding ourselves that generating a good work environment, providing development opportunities, having a motivated, unified team and offering flexibility are conditions highly valued by the new generations.

Can we expect new moratoria on the repayment of corporate and retail loans in 2021?

We do not expect new moratoria. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government and National Bank of Serbia successfully employed various mechanisms and tools to facilitate and sustain economic activity, statutory moratoria just being one of them. In 2021, we expect a more focused and tailor-made approach to supporting distressed sectors and borrowers, with the State Guarantee Fund certainly being one of the most important pillars to weather the post-COVID-19 challenges.

Starting with the third quarter, when the grace period for the State Guarantee Scheme loans expires, banks will get a clearer picture of Covid-19 impact on our customers’ activities in different industries.

You are well acquainted with Belgrade and Serbia. What were your first impressions in 2008 as an Austrian in Serbia and what are your impressions now? How do you like to spend your time after work?

As a Turkish/German person, who has been living in Austria since the 80ies, Serbia is for sure the best fit for me. During my first assignment, I spent most of my leisure time exploring the country and its people. My first trip was a “monastery tour” in a cold November, followed by many hikes to Serbian mountain peaks. I learned fly-fishing at the Gradac river, visited hidden archaeological sites, did „pečenje paprika” (traditional pepper roasting) with locals and celebrated „Slava” (Patron Saint’s Days) with friends. Very often I wondered why Serbian people are not as aware of the natural beauty and cultural richness of their country as foreigners like me often are.

Travelling habits will for sure change after the pandemic. Travelers will seek quality over quantity and avoid mass tourism and large crowds, preferring road trips rather than long-distance flights. Therefore, Serbia has a great potential for outdoor activities and sustainable tourism.

At the same time, I wish Serbian people attached more importance to environment protection and sustainability. Waste separation and responsible prevention, recycling or energy efficiency projects are still in the early stages of development. Erste Bank Serbia offers sound knowledge and tailor-made financing in these areas. Happy to support both well-established businesses, but also start-ups with innovative ideas, let’s fight together for a better future!

Significant experience with EBS and with Serbia

You were a part of EBS Management Board from 2008 to 2014, then you had an important role in Erste Group’s data management and reporting, and now you are EBS’s CFO/CRO. What were the Bank’s major accomplishments during your first period here, and what kind of accomplishments are you looking forward to now?

During my first period in Serbia, I think the new Board laid the foundation of today’s Erste Bank Serbia with a healthy portfolio, innovative products and highly skilled and motivated team. It was a challenging but interesting journey with many achievements, but I am still the proudest of us being the first bank that successfully issued and placed a private bond on the Serbian capital market and that we were the forerunners in renewable energy project financing. The goal in my current period is clear: to become one of the top 3 banks in Serbia, not only in terms of asset size, customer satisfaction but also in terms of being the “employer of first choice”.


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