“I am quite sure that giving a hand to customers in this challenging time will pay off in the future”: interview with Dariusz Kacprzyk, Member of Supervisory Board of AccessBank Azerbaijan

“I am quite sure that giving a hand to customers in this challenging time will pay off in the future”: interview with Dariusz Kacprzyk, Member of Supervisory Board of AccessBank Azerbaijan

BAKU, Azerbaijan,. Nov. 26

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Dariusz Kacprzyk is member of the Supervisory Board of AccessBank since May 2019. He holds Bachelor Degree in Domestic Trade and Service from Warsaw School of Economics (SGH) and Master Degree in Management from Warsaw University. Mr. Kacprzyk also hold MBA degree from International School of Management and completed the Advanced Management Programme at IESE Business School. Dariusz Kacprzyk has almost 30 years of experience in banking industry.

It is always interesting to talk to the professional with such a long-term experience in banking. Could you please tell us why you have chosen your current profession?

In fact, I have started my banking “career” by a chance... It was back in 1989 when the transformation process in Poland only begun and ... I got unemployed. By then the banks were not necessarily yet recognised as very attractive employers; - the first 9 regional players just emerged from the Central Bank - no private institutions yet present. So I got the first assignment in the bank with some help of the Unemployment Office. I started my career as a Teller in the State Savings Bank during the time of the hyperinflation; by then the discount rate by Central Bank was 49% per quarter, i.e. 196% annually. Then I received scholarship in Banco Bilbao Vizcaya under the aid program, developed by European Community so I spent few months working in the bank in Spain. Once I realised that the banking is somewhat more than just cash operations, I could hardly imagine doing anything else but banking... Once I got back to Poland I was step by step gaining my experience - mainly in foreign operations, public finance and corporate banking. It took me 23 years to get promoted from the teller’s position to the CEO of the Polish Development Bank.

How did you become the Member of AccessBank Supervisory Board?

I became the Supervisory Board Member as a nominee of European Investment Bank - one of AccessBank major shareholders. For that many years I’ve been very actively cooperating with them under a number of projects so - as I assume - I proved myself to be a comfort giving counterparty for them. Despite that long term relationship, I have participated in the competition for that position. I’m so happy that I got it and now I can work with the fantastic international team and explore this particularly interesting market and the country.

AccessBank is the leader in financing micro and small businesses in Azerbaijan since 2002. What is your vision – should the bank extend its target group?

It is very challenging time not just for the banking industry and in my opinion the main focus should be on innovation, remote access to the services and not necessarily on considering the new areas for expansion. Safeguarding and strengthening of AccessBank’s position as the leader of the micro and small segments and bringing it to the next, modern stage would require lot of attention and allocation of substantial resources, so first things first - I would say.

What kind of similarities and differences do you see between European and Azerbaijani banking industries?

One may look at it from the different perspectives... I believe European Central Bank forced already a bit more conservative approach as far as regulatory frame - than in Azerbaijan yet, which makes bankers life more difficult. On the other hand, EU Payment services (PSD 2) Directive enabled the non-banking service providers to enter the typical banking markets, including payments. Even though all the players active in the common market within EU are subject to the same regulations there are some peculiarities. For example, Poland is by far more advanced with sophisticated mobile banking and card solutions than some other markets: cashless operations are pretty common and contactless cards represents over 90% of all cards issued while in Germany or Austria it may be difficult to survive without having cash even in the big cities. At the end of the day I think however that despite of some differences in the current market situation both in Azerbaijan and in Europe, we strive to deal with the same challenges: over competition, pressure on cost, need to introduce new products, constant demand for cybersecurity protection, and so on... Furthermore, COVID 19 put additional pressure on all of us: remote access to the services, increasing demand for self service by the customers, so these items needs to bypass the “regular cue” of the things to do!

By the way, how do you evaluate the state of the world economy in the time of coronavirus pandemic and afterwards? What is shifting in the banking industry nowadays and what kind of innovations will drive the changes in Azerbaijani banking industry?

Coronavirus has changed a lot already and we all can see it. In my opinion however some of these new things are not temporary and will stay with us for good, translating into the new habits. So called “home office” proved to be quite efficient form of the people’s professional activity so this will affect office rental market. Lockdown influenced the retail business so more and more of the trading is happening online. Then this would establish even stronger demand for courier services, including self-serviced parcel lockers. Some other traditionally strong services may not be needed that much anymore, so their perception from the risk perspective should be at least revisited. All in all, we need to adopt fast to the substantially new environment and new needs! Automation, self-service, mobile banking and cybersecurity are the main battlefields these days.

Can you advise priority activities which should be done to recover the Azerbaijani economy and avoid potential risks for the country banking industry in the post-quarantine period?

I am not sure I can advise responsibly on such complex issue. Not many of us believed in the black swan at all, even fewer expected this to happen... I personally believe that all possible and necessary should be done to keep as many as possible of the businesses alive and to support the development of these are particularly feasible these days. It is also important to take this approach on the bank’s level - help the entrepreneurs with the possibly flexible offer, promote the perspective businesses with the tailored financing, consider the new products to accommodate needs of particular branches. I am quite sure that giving a hand to customers in this challenging time will pay off in the future.

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