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Supporting Regional Growth Through Innovations And Green Finance

As a remarkably strong and stable financial institution, 2023 has seen AIK Banka continue to strengthen its image and recognizability on the markets of the region. It has continued to develop and improve its business by following the latest trends in banking

Here we discuss with AIK Banka CEO Jelena Galić how large banks and banking groups across the region have adapted to the challenges of recent times, the resilience of the banking system, flexibility and key market trends, AI applications and runaway inflation.

Research and analyses suggest that the region’s banking sector has no reason for concern. How are current trends developing and what do you expect in the period ahead when it comes to banking activity?

― Since the start of 2023, similar financial and banking market trends have been recorded in the region of the Western Balkans and in Central and Southern Europe. There have certainly been local differences and specificities in individual countries, but the fact remains that large banks and banking groups around the region have adapted successfully and in a timely manner to all the challenges that existed in the previous period. This best testifies to the great readiness and resilience of the banking system, its flexibility and, of course, the stability that all national economies and key market trends primarily depend on.

The first half of 2023, but also the subsequent period, have been marked by further inflationary fluctuations around the region, but also by central banks making moves aimed at curbing inflation and maintaining it at a desired level. It is today a certainty that our region will end the current year with an average inflation rate of 9.5%. Inflation in Serbia will also remain within the controlled parameters planned by the NBS, which will enable all domestic banks to continue their regular operations and will ensure a sufficient level of demand for dinar loans on the domestic market.

Turning to the issue of GDP trends in the region, but also with us here in Serbia, which is always an extremely important catalyst that dictates and influences banks’ credit activities, an encouraging fact is that economic growth in this part of Europe will total approximately two per cent, while in Serbia it will most certainly stand between two and three per cent, meaning that domestic companies and enterprises will expand and develop, and in so doing will rely on the credit support of banks.

Green transition and energy efficiency are no longer mere options, but rather vital prerequisites for further economic development

Such a disposition can already be felt strongly among AIK Banka’s clients. We discuss new plans and investments with numerous companies on a daily basis, and we are extremely glad that they all recognise and view AIK Banka as their reliable partner and bank of first choice when it comes to financing major business projects.

Our direct presence on the EU banking market enables us to improve all our services and products continuously, and to do so in accordance with the highest business standards, as well as enabling us to provide all our clients with services and support that bring special benefits for those clients that operate in Slovenia and Serbia.

We intend to develop our operations in the coming period through an even more active and greater presence in the country and the region, which will make it possible for us to position ourselves as one of the leading banking groups in this part of Europe.

Banks must constantly offer new products and services, a new approach, higher quality, improved availability… Do you dictate trends, as opposed to following them?

― Our dedication to innovation allowed us to very quickly become a pioneer in the development and provision of exceptionally high-quality banking services – services that are primarily adapted to the needs and expectations of our clients, but that also – with their modern performances – enable clients to further advance their cooperation with the bank.

AIK Banka has increased its presence on the domestic financial market over the previous period, bringing its services closer and more available to Serbian citizens. Here we are certainly referring to our direct physical presence in almost 40 cities and municipalities, but also to the constant availability of our services via modern digital channels that today enable citizens based anywhere to open an account at AIK Banka, apply for a loan and start using any of our banking services Moreover, in recent times there has been ever more talk about the role and applications of artificial intelligence in various segments of life and business, and thus also in banking. AIK Banka is already doing considerable work on the implementation and integration of many advanced technologies, with an appreciation for all the advantages of artificial intelligence, because we want to continuously automate and optimise our processes. Our goal is to ensure our clients feel increasing levels of satisfaction in their work with the Bank, by monitoring their lifestyle habits, as well as their need to have a stable and reliable financial partner that provides understanding, advice and support that they can always rely on.

Green transition, an orientation towards energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources are particularly important today. Does this imply that a green economy is now a necessity?

― Green transition and energy efficiency are no longer mere options, but rather vital prerequisites for further economic development. Experience has shown that such approaches yield great economic benefits extremely quickly by generating savings on energy and resource costs, creating new business opportunities and growing the green industry. Likewise, modern and energy- efficient technologies bring with them not only savings and a more responsible approach to the environment, but also far more productive working models and the greater profitability of those models.

That’s why AIK Banka considers the ecological and social initiatives of companies and industries very carefully, supporting clients that are striving for sustainable business practices. The bank recently signed a credit line agreement worth 50 million euros with the International Finance Corporation (IFC). This credit line is intended to finance green projects of SMEs in Serbia, with plans for at least 20 per cent of these funds to be directed towards loans for investments that have a positive impact on mitigating the negative effects of climate change.

AIK Banka actively stimulates investments in energy-efficient projects with its credit and risk policies, and this is an approach that we will continue to nurture in the period ahead. Sustainable development is our only route to a sustainable and more productive future, and AIK Banka is where the future is at. Our desire is to support, encourage and, of course, educate our clients in such thinking and investments.

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