By Doinita Dolapchieva
Romania’s Banca Comerciala Romana (BCR) learned some valuable lessons by going through the financial crisis and managed to keep its leading position on the local market by focusing on developing its human resource and meeting the needs of its clients, its CEO, Dominic Bruynseels, said.
Dominic Bruynseels was brought to the helm of BCR in July 2008 with the task of managing its growth, which had been strong in the previous years. But the financial crisis hit the Southeast European (SEE) country hard that year so he also had to steer one of Romania’s top banks through the financial turmoil.
And he did a good job. In 2010, BCR, majority owned by Austria’s Erste, rose to the no.1 spot in the SEE TOP 100 Banks ranking after being the runner-up in 2009.
“2010 was an especially difficult year. The economy was subjected to a significant austerity programme. The most difficult challenge was finding solutions for supporting clients in distress. It is in our very interest to support them, negotiate appropriate terms, restructure their loans,” Dominic Bruynseels told SeeNews.
He believes the main strength of the bank lies with its employees.
“Customers don’t bank with BCR, they bank with BCR’s people. So if we have the best people, if they are well motivated, well trained, well led and given the tools to do the job, they will serve our customers brilliantly, and if they do that then we will be very profitable, enabling us to share some of the rewards with them, some with our shareholders an some with the communities in which we live and work.
To be successful we need to communicate, to collaborate, to fill gaps left by others, to motivate, to rescue, to encourage, to be skilled and ensure our own skills and knowledge, to take collective responsibility for the outcome, successful or not, and not wait for someone else to make the first move.”
In order to achieve that, BCR made sure its organisational culture is well articulated by defining relevant mission, vision and values and that it is well promoted through extensive internal dialogue as well as intensive top-down and bottom-up feed-back.
“Additionally we implemented performance monitoring and employee recognition schemes for identifying and acknowledging the best-performing employees together with a development and a talent management programme.”
Bruynseels believes the crisis has taught bankers to be more sensitive to clients’ needs. “We need to know our customers better, to serve them better, to offer them simple and accessible products meeting their needs and possibilities, more suitable savings options and, also, affordable financing solutions. Banks have a responsibility to try to improve the way that customers trust them.”
There are also a number of lessons that have been learned, primarily about handling unsecured lending. “We’ve designed new risk standards and systems that we think would allow us to better pick and choose the risks that we want to take.
Generally, the crisis taught us that you need to have a very clear strategy of what you’re trying to do, the risks you’re prepared to take, and stick to it.”
He said BCR is trying to support customers who try to repay their debt but has a zero tolerance policy towards delinquent borrowers.
BCR is also making efforts to promote environmental sustainability. In 2009 it launched ECO BCR – a project meant to increase awareness of environmental issues and more efficient use of electricity, fuel and water. BCR is the only Romanian financial institution that has joined the United Nation Environmental Programme Financial Institution (UNEPFI).
Besides the parent bank, the BCR Group also includes BCR Banca Pentru Locuinte, BCR Securities, BCR Chisinau, BCR Asset Management, Anglo-Romanian Bank Limited, BCR Leasing IFN, BCR Pensii and mobile banking business good bee Service RO.
“We are the leading savings bank in the country, the leading corporate bank, the leading mortgage bank and a leader in the SME market as well.”