Today we are pleased to welcome Jelena Galić, CEO and chairwoman of the executive board at AIK Banka. Ms. Galić joined AIK in 2015, before which time she was Director of Business Advisory Services at Deloitte Belgrade. With many years of experience as a leader in the banking and finance industry, Ms. Galić is now helping to transform AIK Banka into a digital-banking powerhouse, both in Serbia and the wider European region.
Thank you for joining us today….
When one looks at AIK Banka’s business model at a glance, one of the most striking features is the significant effort directed towards maximising the bank’s efficiency. What are some of the specific measures involved in doing this?
AIK Banka is a local bank with a strong capital base, which in its business operations focuses on efficiency, our main advantage over the competition. We are continuously investing in improving processes directed at more efficient service to our clients through front-back activities optimisation, enhancing digital services that reduce operational cost and enabling our clients 24/7 online access to the bank’s products and advices, but also by developing a CRM system that supports more effective acquisition of targeted groups of clients. Also, bearing in mind the fact that we are operating as a stand-alone bank, all approval procedures are done by bodies within the bank, meaning that we are not burdened with long decision-making procedures within “head office”. These benefits are especially utilized in cross-border placements. Our biggest advantage is that we are the bank with a long tradition in the domestic market and are better familiarized with the local environment than foreign banks.
Yes, it seems as though “enhancing digital services” is one the bank’s biggest priorities at the moment. Which areas within the digital space is the bank particularly keen to develop?
Our main intention is to move AIK Banka from its current technology point toward the Banking 4.0 model (digital banking). Our plan is to achieve that goal within the next two to three years. We are focused on developing innovative mobile- and web-banking platforms, and offering traditional products through various digital channels (AIK web portal, social networks, contact centre, e/m banking applications, specific proprietary apps, etc.). Besides traditional products, we are very interested in new financial services, especially payments (P2P, direct payments, low-value payments). We see quite a big potential in cooperation with local governments in providing new and innovative financial services, such as transportation projects, and other projects that can make the lives of our fellow citizens easier and save them valuable time.
You mentioned cooperation. Has AIK Banka also considered potential collaborations with other fintech companies as a way for the bank to develop its own digital-banking capabilities?
We have considered collaboration with such enterprises, and there is a positive attitude among bank management for such initiatives. Fintech flexibility and technological advantages combined with AIK Banka’s tradition, security and client trust can represent a future win-win model of cooperation. The project with fintech that we are currently working on is about to be launched in Q1 2017.
We take a lot of care of AIK Banka’s social-media presence, because social media can significantly influence the adoption of financial products. Still, there is significant improvement potential, and we will give this area additional attention. Social media enables financial organizations to cut through online noise and connect with customers more efficiently and with greater precision. AIK Banka will develop new forms of digital content and leverage an effective social-media management tool to engage our target audience. When talking about social, the most important words for us are speed and data content!
One of AIK Banka’s stated aims is to position itself as a leader in the application of technological innovation in the domestic banking market. How far off would you say you are from achieving this goal?
We are currently implementing several innovative projects that will position AIK Banka among the most innovative ones in Serbia. Our new products will address Millennials, since this generation represents the biggest potential for banking’s further growth. Our focus is on client-centric, omnichannel products and apps, P2P real-time payments, self-service branches, digital lending and innovative personal mobile-banking platforms. Various products will be launched by the end of the year and in Q1 2017. All these projects are in accordance with the bank’s digital strategy.
Are there any additional innovations that AIK Banka has been working on, or introduced recently, that you would like to take this opportunity to mention?
Yes, there are. We are working intensely on the innovative digital wallet, with interesting loyalty functionalities behind it. Prepaid is the area where we would like to position AIK Banka as the country’s and region’s leader. Cooperation with transportation companies and local city governments on Urban Mobility and IoT projects is something we are eagerly awaiting by the end of 2016. Basic infrastructure, big data and CRM are behind all such projects.
One notable event during AIK Banka’s recent history was the regional expansion achieved through the acquisition of share capital at Slovenia`s Gorenjska Banka. What opportunities do you expect to open up for AIK as a result of this acquisition?
In the era of modern information technologies in which temporal and physical limitations are kept to a minimum, business expansion outside territorial borders represents not only a possibility and an opportunity, but today more than ever, it is an imperative imposed as a logical precondition for further growth and development. In addition, in light of global and regional economic trends, it is realistic to expect a consolidation of national, but also regional, banking markets in the coming period. In light of these processes, AIK Banka, having a strong capital base, has the potential to take an active and responsible role in these processes with the aim to further enhance its market position and business performances. Activities of AIK Banka, like this one, will not only lead to expansion of cooperation between local and EU markets in the field of banking, but also create conditions for the expansion of cooperation in various other areas of the economy, strengthening the economic competitiveness of the entire region.
I’d like to now focus on your own contribution to AIK Banka if I may, Ms. Galić. As I understand, you joined AIK Banka in 2015. How would you describe your time in the role of CEO so far?
I always set ambitious goals for myself and try to achieve them. AIK Banka is currently among the top five banks according to asset size, leading in cost-to-income, and among the top three in profitability in the domestic banking sector, with total capital of about 450 million euros and capital adequacy of 36.5 percent. My goal is for this trend to continue, in order to be positioned among the three leading banks in the market in a relatively short period of time, not only in key financial parameters but also the overall quality of business activities. In my opinion, the key generator of our future growth will be innovation, whether we will try to be the first in introducing some new products to the market or provide existing products and services in a different way, which will be more advantageous for our customers. My personal opinion, supported by years of experience in working with people, is that you must have a predisposition for leadership, but that you also have to continuously work on your own progress. The main difference between leadership and “bossiness” is in your conviction and belief in the vision, your own motivation and the motivation of others towards achieving the objectives. I believe that a leader leads and creates, a “boss” follows and implements. Both are needed in a good and successful organization. The key fact is whether within the organization these persons are in the right positions according to their profiles.
Yes, I imagine that having good leadership traits is essential for guiding the bank towards accomplishing its objectives. How would you describe your own style of leadership at AIK Banka? And what are some of the traits from previous roles, or indeed other aspects of your life, that you have brought to leading AIK Banka?
I have occupied leading positions for the last 15 years of my professional work experience. I would say that my professional style is “lead by example”, but I’m also supportive in promoting innovation, since I believe that only by following new ideas is business prosperity achieved on a sustainable basis. I’m also glad to see progress and that more and more women are involved in economic, political and social life and being in leading managerial positions. I think that female managers are more rational and pragmatic as managers in making business decisions, but generally I would not make a big difference between “female” and “male” style of leadership, because I think that this is primarily a reflection of the character and the personal and professional experience. From my past experience in leadership, I can for certain say that it is vital to have a good and well-coordinated team. From a personal point of view, what I would like to emphasize is that you have a vision you believe in, energy and persistence, that you are well-organized and that you have the support and understanding of your family and loved ones.
During your time with AIK Banka, which one achievement of the bank have you been most pleased with, and which one area do you think needs the most improvement?
The path from the internal bank of the Agroindustrijski kombinat Niš (Agro-industrial Combine Niš) to one of the leaders of the Serbian banking market was not easy, but thanks to sound business policy that over the years has secured stable growth, AIK Banka has achieved it. During my leadership of the bank, we have won a number of prestigious European awards for best commercial bank in Serbia and the most innovative bank in the retail sector. In addition, the European Business Council, a renowned independent corporation of economic, social and humanitarian cooperation, as part of their prizes of the International Socrates Awards Ceremony awarded AIK Banka for being the best regional institution. I would like to emphasize that it is a great pleasure that a prestigious corporation such as the European Business Council has recognized AIK Banka as a regional leader. These renowned awards are a confirmation of the application of our business strategy, performance and regional recognition.
Also in the future, I will endeavour, with the help of AIK Banka’s team, to justify this great recognition. I am proud of the fact that by following the trends of modern banking, we have adapted our traditionally economic-oriented strategy to the market and to clients, to whose needs we have carefully listened for years and worked on gaining their trust. The scope of services has expanded from year to year, especially in retail and agriculture, as well as to the sector of small and medium-sized enterprises. Today, with about 1 billon euro in savings and a strong capital base of about 450 million euro, the bank has been recognized as a strong and reliable partner.
Well, let me take this opportunity to congratulate you on winning those awards. I imagine that more will follow as you continue to expand your scope of services and your presence in the region. Thank you for your time today, Ms. Galić, and we wish AIK Banka all the best for the future.