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Balkans.com: You are the CEO of Societe Generale Montenegro. Could you introduce your company to our readers?
Branka Pavlovic: Societe Generale Montenegro (ex Podgoricka Banka) is for already seven years subsidiary of Societe Generale Paris. Our new modern recently purchased HQ building is situated in business part of Podgorica while our 20 branches are positioned in all 14 major towns in Montenegro. The bank has tradition of more then 100 years and with market share of 12% represents one of the leading banks in the market. We successfully combine standards of Societe Generale Group with extensive knowledge of the local market. We are known for client orientations, professional and efficient services, contemporary product portfolio, sound risk policy and transparent decision making process.
Balkans.com: Could you tell us about the challenges that banks in Montenegro face?
Branka Pavlovic: As small and open economy, Montenegro is affected by financial crises in EU countries as well as in the region. Overall lower level of business activities, lack of liquidity, constant increase of NPL, and expensive funding caused by low level of country rating are the main ones. However, with conservative approach and pure business based financing Societe Generale Montenegro is one of the banks with the lowest level of NPL in the market.
Balkans.com: You have been recognized by the EBRD "as a woman that helped to transform a non-profitable bank with decreasing market share into a client-oriented and most profitable bank in Montenegro". For that, you have received EBRD's 2012 Woman in Business Award in banking category. What changes did you make when you took over the CEO position?
Branka Pavlovic: Three years ago, when I was appointed by SG Group as C.E.O., I found myself facing serious issues head-to-head, with limited space for manoeuvres. The bank was generating net losses, facing over employed with under performance, inefficient network, and unfavourable market image.
My answers to difficult situation were very simple. By optimizing network and recourses we come to more efficient system. With introducing new products and new approach putting clients in the centre of all our activities we gained their trust and confidence. All this, combined with sound risk policy, brought us to the zone of high profitability and sustainable growth. Our market share is duplicated in three years from 6% to 12% and we climed from 7th to 4th position on the market.
But even more important is that public perception of our bank changed a lot and we are today synonim of modern, relevant and both client and profit oriented bank.
Balkans.com: Societe Generale Montenegro has been nominated the Best bank in Montenegro by international financial magazine Euromoney. What separates you from all the other banks in your country?
Branka Pavlovic: There are few business principles which we follow and which separate Societe Generale Montenegro from other banks in the country.
The first is client satisfaction. The creation of a stable base of clients is the foundation of a bank’s development and it can be achieved not only by kindness and favorable conditions but also by understanding the needs. Fair and open professional conduct will, eventually always bring tangible result.
The second, equally important principle is the satisfaction of our employees. If they do not share the same values and vision of the Bank, if they do not participate completely in the basic mission of the Bank, if they do not understand it and do not see it as their own, if they are not motivated or loyal, then no plan and program can succeed, at least not in the long term. That is why I try hard to ensure that the principles I personally insist on are recognized and adopted in the everyday work of all managers in the Bank: to be an example through their behavior (exemplarity), that decision making process is visible to everybody (transparency), to give equal opportunities to everybody, to constantly keep the employees informed and to coach them rather than simply lead them...
The third important issue is the optimization of all processes and operations – it is the only way to provide proper, high quality services to our clients with minimum costs.
And last, but not the least, is the prudent risk policy. This has been a basic banking rule for hundreds of years and it has turned out to be resistant to all the crises and challenges. It may not be popular in a period of high economic growth, but certainly, it is a guarantee of sound long-term business, which is our goal. We take much to these principles. Not only that they separate us from other banks - they contribute to our good results and image.
Balkans.com: How do awards like that affect you as a leader and a business person?
Branka Pavlovic: Certainly, these awards are great encouragement for the future.
The fact that this year we won both The Banker’s “Bank of the Year in Montenegro award” and Euromoney “Award for the Best bank in Montenegro” confirmed me that our hard work is seen even beyond the borders of Montenegro. Our values, standards of work and banking behaviors are justified as right direction.
Surely, these awards are also a confirmation that my personal business conduct and values that I nourish during my whole carrier are correct. I can’t be more proud, really.
Balkans.com: For three years in a row, Societe Generale Montenegro has been overcoming the expected and adopted planned annual growth. Could you tell us about your plans for the coming years?
Branka Pavlovic: Coming years will not be easy, especially 2013. but our model has been already approved as resilient one. We are planning to continue with good trend of the growth which is sustainable. That means – we will try to position ourselves on the market as the bank of the first choice and at that way to grow both on the growing activities of our existing client base but also to gain new ones. So, our plans are related to systematic growth of loans as well as deposit portfolio in all three segments of clients – big corporate, SME ad retail. We’ll offer them not only efficient service but also products that will build on the long run close relationship with our clients which should remain as our main competitive advantage.
Balkans.com: Our readers are companies, investors, and business people, who have invested or are interested in doing business in the region. As an awarded business person and a leader, what advice could you give them?
Branka Pavlovic: This region is dynamic and prospective. In almost each field of economies and life there is a room for implementation of new offers, technology, services. Market is hungry for novelties and the space for grow in various segments is huge. If we approach to the market on right way, the opportunities are there. Even in crises time as this. Societe Generale Montenegro is living proof for that.