By Gela Megeneishvili
While representing the Georgian banking sector and attracting investors across the globe, TBC has been at user’s service for 30 years. The Georgian startup turned into a global success story, the three decades of growth was a journey full of challenges and obstacles that the company managed to overcome. Today TBC represents the finest quality of financial services across the globe and has been transformed into an international fintech provider. The FINANCIAL reached out to Vakhtang Butskhrikidze, the CEO of TBC who spoke about the journey since day one.
Q. What does it mean to be operating for 30 years in the Georgian market? What were the greatest achievements of TBC?
A. What fascinates me the most was the growth TBC went through alongside the economy of Georgia for the past 30 years. The company has been developing with our country and I believe the success of TBC is a bold statement from a Georgian company conducting business within and outside of our borders. Today TBC stands out as a company traded on the London Stock Exchange, is part of the FTSE 250 index, and has attracted investments across the world from counties such as the USA, UK, and Europe. Our endeavor has led us to become one of the 3 Georgian companies enlisted on the London Stock Exchange and introduced our economy to the world. These feats act as an outstanding example for other Georgian companies to follow our success.
Q. What managing TBC was like at its early stages and how did the responsibility and challenges change throughout the years? What are the core values that the company has maintained since day one?
A. TBC was founded as a small startup with flexible solutions. Time by time our challenges grew with our scale. Today we serve over 5 million users across 3 countries, and our ambition is to expand even more in other countries. We understand the scale of our goals, however, despite it, we try to maintain the philosophy of a startup company, its simplicity in management and have clear goals in mind. We live in the 21st century and TBC aims to keep implementing cutting-edge technology. Following the technological transformation over the past few years, we have emerged as a tech company that offers financial services. The core value that has been maintained since day one is being user-oriented. TBC exists to simplify lives for our users and processes for businesses and while the scale and services change dynamically the mission remains the same. This is the philosophy that transformed TBC into a household brand over the years and our customers appreciate our efforts.
Q. How does the technology by TBC simplify our lives? What are the primary objectives while creating any product?
A. Modern technology has enabled us to witness a completely new reality. Nowadays only 1% of the transactions are made through physical subsidiaries while 99% are made digitally. The statistics were drastically different a decade ago. Transactions required physical presence in the bank, and customers were forced to allocate precious time. Now the same processes can be completed with a click of a button and we have saved our users a couple of hours which they can spend to their liking. The new reality is an accomplished mission only possible through our strive towards simplifying lives.
Q. What would be the years of breakthroughs in fintech for TBC Bank? When did online products first gain relevance for Georgian users when did they become mainstream?
A. I believe TBC and the Georgian banking sector are quite advanced and rival global players in the transactional business, even exceeding them in some aspects. The digital service quality is outstanding and we see the potential to transform our sales to digital as well. Most of the sales today are made through subsidiaries and much like in the transactional business, we will shift it towards digital in a few years. We will maintain physical offices, however, sales made digitally will be made much more convenient for our customers. I believe the past 10 years have been revolutionary for transactional business and similar changes will arrive in sales in the following 5 years.
Q. How did TBC transform into a tech company and when/how did raising technology change your vision?
A. The journey has been quite challenging as the transformation not only intends to recruit IT specialists but to change the fundamentals of management philosophy. Today TBC is represented by the largest IT department and all of the programs are created within. In the past, we outsourced 80% of such tasks. This was a drastic change for us which rose business and technological challenges.
The tech transformation is an endless process and we keep developing it to new heights. While the majority of change was initiated 3-4 years ago, we are ready to take new steps and challenges. Technology is moving rapidly and we release several small changes per week. If our development continues smoothly we aim to reach the state where we release 100s of daily updates.
Q. What are the plans for the future? What would be the long-term (10 years) goals, important projects, and challenges the bank is likely to face?
A. It is hard to predict the future 10 years forward, but we will keep going with our mission in mind to simplify lives. What I can predict is the growth of our scale and we will keep developing relevant technology to adapt to our market and users. While the picture 10 years forward is uncertain, TBC is aiming high and we are planning to reach the milestone of 10 million users within the next 3 years.
Q. What is the importance of expansion? How would you estimate the Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan markets? What would be the short-term/long-term goals and risks?
A. Historically TBC mostly grew within Georgia, however, in the last 3 years we have decided to expand to the international market and the technology enables us to do so. We are represented in Uzbekistan, where we have been operating for a year and amassed almost half of the userbase we were able to gain in Georgia through 30 years. Operating in a larger significantly increases our scale and international penetration will enable us to achieve the milestone of 10 million users. Currently, we are only presented with the mobile banking app in Uzbekistan and we are planning to keep penetrating new markets with our technology only. International users are able to use the mobile banking app to save a deposit and receive loans and this is the model which we will continue to push.