The FINANCIAL — Bank Republic, Societe Generale Group, one of the leading banks in Georgia is planning to drop prices of all its products especially in retail banking for micro and SME businesses, offer individual new packages and offer a wider range of products including a currency hedging product in the year 2010.
“Bank Republic has been concentrating on managing its portfolio and is waiting for the recovery of the economy,” said Gilbert Hie, Chief Executive Officer of Bank Republic.
“In fact we are concentrating much of our efforts and energy on quality matters, knowing that it would be very difficult at this time to increase volumes and quantity.”
“We managed to adopt a stable policy even in during the difficult times. Neither in 2008 nor in 2009 did BR dismiss a large number of staff,” said Mr. Hie.
Bank Republic was named the Socially Responsible Golden Brand for the second time. The company’s total spending on CSR was 1 million GEL in the year 2009.
Gilbert Hie in his interview with The FINANCIAL spoke about the future plans of Bank Republic and the importance of CSR.
“The challenge will be to solve the equation of developing business in credit distribution and at the same time retain the good quality of the portfolio in a profitable way.”
Q. What will be the dynamics and capacity of loan giving in 2010?
A. The dynamics will always be the same following the three main rules of Bank Republic: the first being close to the customer, with an efficient network of branches.
The second is to have wide range and good quality of products to offer and to this end we have developed a completely new range of products for micro and SME business this year as it is important to have competitive prices and to this extent BR has dropped the interest rates on credit distribution in order to help boosting volumes.
The third is a higher quality of service in order to make BR customers the happiest ones.
Q. In your opinion how should the Bank increase motivation of crediting and increase statistics in loan giving?
A. We should have both cheap prices and high quality of service, but it is not enough because in a market you have both sides: offer and demand. A higher demand is needed from the customer base, individuals need to have enough revenues, and the companies need to have business.
It is absolutely necessary that all economic agents have trust and confidence in the system in order to take the initiative to make positive decisions for business, investment and even consumption.
Q. Golden Brand is a symbol of creativity and recognition in society. In your opinion, how does your brand attract consumers?
A. Societe Generale and Band Republic are well-known brands in Georgia with a long history and interesting track record in Georgia. We belong to a group which has close to 150 years of experience and history in the banking industry.
Q. What were the activities conducted by Bank Republic within the framework of CSR? What was the total budget for the projects?
A. In total BR spends annually from 500,000-1,000,000 GEL every year on CSR projects. This amount was even more in 2008 during the crisis.
However, CSR is not only a question of budget or question of money, this is something BR is practicing in day-to-day business in credit-distribution, in deposit capture and also out of business in the behaviour towards our staff and stakeholders, so this is in fact a global approach on sustainability and social responsibility.
Q. Golden Brand brings added responsibility to the winning companies. To be named the best means more attention on you from the customers. Is your company ready for this?
A. Absolutely, BR always tends to improve under the attention of the customer and the quality of the service being awarded and recognised is always a very positive thing.
Q. What is the potential of the banking sector’s development in the post-crisis environment?
A. Georgia is a transition country and the potential of banking sector development is quite high.
A very important is that financial distribution should go hand in hand with economic growth and stability, without developing inflation. Finance goes together with the economy, there should be a good balance between the two in terms of making a system of financing the economy.
Q. In your opinion, what circumstances should govern the development of the Bank?
A. Globally financial development should go in harmony with economic development. In Georgia, it is very important to have a stable environment, to have a positive and supportive government of business, which is exactly what we have had over the last two years in Georgia, despite the Russian conflict, and internal social problems. So now is the time for a positive business environment in the country, for higher distribution of revenues and for development of entrepreneurship and business initiatives from the companies.
Q. Has what you offer, as well as consumer attitude, changed over the past 2 years?
A. Consumer attitude has changed tremendously over the past two years, because we were coming out from the time rapid growth and then fell into a crisis period.
Consumers are now more careful and hesitant to borrow, as many people are suffering on financial side, and this is probably why credit demand is decreasing and their leverages are higher, a lot of people have lost revenues. Now we are in a recovery period and definitely to this extent customer attitude has globally changed not only in Georgia but in other countries as well.
Q. Innovation, environment protection and corporate sustainability are recognized as new values of European business. What are your attitudes towards these values?
A. Societe Generale Group values are professionalism, innovation and team spirit. Team spirit with all stakeholders including staff and customers. To this extent innovation is also very important in CSR.
Environment protection is crucial and this is part of BR and SG policy. We are paying great attention to this concept in credit distribution and in our daily business approach. We are also sharing business values with EBRD and with other international financial institutions we are working with.
Regarding CSR, our motto to Care, to Share and to Respect, is usually mentioned. BR is a member of the Global Compact in Georgia of the United Nations Organization. We created Global Compact Georgia in 2007 with Robert Watkins, UN representative.
It has been a tradition of SG group that many subsidiaries belong to the Global Compact in their country. In Georgia we work actively with the most CSR committed partners like Wissol, BP, American University, United Nations, here team work and innovation also very important. We are also partners with AMCHAM, the secretary of Global Compact Group.
Bank Republic is actively working in the CSR field with ICC, in the “Business in Society Commission” and with FBC, French Business Council.
FBC and Caucasus School of Business held a Junior Enterprise Project and gave students the opportunity to set up their own company.
In ICC, we participated in the One Young World programme whereby we had the opportunity to send a young Georgian man to London for the One Young World Conference.
From our side, all opportunities are studded for improving sustainable development in Georgia.