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Interview with Andrii Stepanenko, board member in charge of retail banking at Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI).

Andrii Stepanenko Portrait

Andrii Stepanenko, board member, Raiffeisen Bank International

What were your main takeaways in the first six months of the Covid-crisis?

First of all: remote working works! Overall, the switch to remote operations went much smoother than the clients or the colleagues in our banks ever thought. In just a few days, we were able to provide all the technical support for all private bankers to work from home full-valued, and private banking clients continued to meet their private bankers through the Microsoft Teams or RaiConnect (Moxtra) platforms. The usage of recorded lines and the standard banking mobile banking apps (mainly electronic signatures) were crucial in order to have closed advisory sessions. Our policy also included splitting key personnel (trading, portfolio managers) in different locations. Basically, at any given time we had personnel on standby at all levels, management, investment related staff, sales, transactions and back-office.

Second: remote working works particularly well at Raiffeisen. The results of the first half clearly exceeded our expectations: Our Private Banking network generated the highest ever investment-related revenue and turnover so far in 2020 without any churn in clientele or outflow from Assets under Management. We made a huge step in this hard environment by launching the first dedicated Private Banking service in Serbia this June with a special investment and card offering. The clients accepted this brave step very well.

How did your recently launched advisory setup perform during those days?

The product selection is done at group level, and every new product line must be verified by head office before launching it in the various countries. Since the local Private Banking operations use global, multi-currency portfolios now, this is the only way to ensure the proper quality of the offering. The introduction of the three-tier investment service (managed solutions, advisory and trading) offering and the usage of our award-winning financial advisory tool let us introduce a service model based on a flat advisory fee in 2019. This offers a more transparent pricing structure for our clients.

There are different affluent customer segments at RBI’s retail business division, and all follow the strategy of “growing with the customer”. So, every customer gets their optimal service in just the right segment. As a customer’s wealth grows and financial needs develop, he or she may enter the next segment to optimise the product-mix and receive tailor-made banking services according to the growing demands. The services of Kathrein Privatbank in Vienna, our standalone boutique-like subsidiary, rank at the top of this structure.

Even during the stock market downturn in spring, we succeeded to move numerous clients in CEE to the equity asset class with the help of our model portfolios. We did so even though they were too risk-averse to set up at least a balanced portfolio previously. Ultimately, we can say that we perfectly managed to utilise the market opportunities arising from this unpredictable period.

What was the most important investment offering recently?

For some time now, the sustainability topic has considerably influenced, if not dominated, our Austrian home market. And Raiffeisen Capital Management (RCM) and RBI are one of the strongest players in the Austrian (in case of RCM also in the Italian) sustainable market.

As one of the strongest CEE Private Banking providers, we have a huge responsibility of moving our clients towards investments which can shape a better future for their successors. RCM – our fund management company, the RBI Fixed Income team, Raiffeisen Centrobank – our structured products hub – and Kathrein Privatbank have a long experience with sustainable investments in the field of fund management, fixed income and structured product solutions.

Recently, we introduced a basic ESG product range in all CEE countries – sustainable balanced/equity funds, green bonds and certificates (structured notes) with sustainable investment underlyings. Via our Private Banking clients, we try to convince other opinion leaders and corporates to act responsibly. In the past couple of years, our CEE clientele has become much more open to accept advice regarding sustainable investment, and the Covid-crisis reinforced this trend. This knowledge derives from our sales activities, and it was verified by a representative client survey conducted in six CEE countries in August. The survey also verified that customers expect clear guidance from their banks regarding the topic of sustainability in general. The results strongly exceed our expectations, and it seems that sustainable products will drive the major part of our investment sales activities in the region in the second half of 2020. As part of these efforts, our Czech subsidiary will launch the first ESG discretionary mandates within our CEE network very soon. This will be an important milestone on the way to completing our goal, namely spreading the sustainability topic throughout our region and customer segments.

It is RBI’s vision to become the most recommended financial services group. Being close to our clients, offering a solid diversification for their portfolios as well as making them benefit from innovations in product development and technology allowed RBI’s Private Banking division to take another step towards this goal

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Raiffeisen Bank International, global corporate headquarters, Vienna, photo by Sabine Klimpt

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