The level of digitalization of AccessBank's business clients is at an all-time high - Executive Director (Interview) (PHOTO/VIDEO)

Economy Materials 24 June 2023 11:24 (UTC +04:00)
The level of digitalization of AccessBank's business clients is at an all-time high - Executive Director (Interview) (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Kamran Gasimov
Kamran Gasimov
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BAKU, Azerbaijan, June 24. Approximately 96-97 percent of all payments of AccessBank’s business clients go via digital banking channels, Member of the Board, Executive Director on Corporate, SME and Retail Banking of AccessBank Ilkin Guliyev told Trend.

Guliyev noted that the dynamics of payments and the number of transactions through AccessBank cards are positive:

“The indicators of the last three years have shown positive dynamics. One of the main reasons for the positive dynamics is the situation in the market. Even for cash transactions, the numbers show big positive trend," he said. "The number of cashless transactions between 2015 and 2021 increased to 25 million. This trend is observed throughout the banking sector of Azerbaijan, and it's also reflected in the positive dynamics of the number of transactions with AccessBank cards."

According to him, in 2022 the number and volume of non-cash transactions - both card transactions of retail customers and non-cash payments for business customers - with AccessBank cards increased by 30 percent compared to 2021:

"Thus, we see an increase in the number of non-cash payments in both the retail and business segments”.

Speaking about the trends in online payment and the use of bankcards for payment through POS terminals, Guliyev also noted their positive dynamics:

“In this direction, there is also a positive trend - not only for AccessBank but throughout the market. According to the statistics of the Central Bank of Azerbaijan (CBA), from 2015 to 2021, the growth in the number of payments through POS terminals is quite high".

"For example, in 2015, the number of transactions varied from 706 million manats ($415.29 million) to 708 million manats ($416.4 million) within one year, and already in 2021 - about four billion manat ($2.35 billion)," Guliyev further said. "At the same time, the average amount of payment through a POS terminal in 2015 was up to 200 manats ($117.6), and in 2021 - 45 manats ($26.4). In this case, the dynamics is different, because the number of POS terminals in the country has increased."

In 2015, according to him, from 175 manat ($102.9) to 200 manat ($117.6) accounted for one POS-terminal, whilst currently, due to the increase in the number of POS-terminals, the trend is reversed, which is correct:

"This trend is also positive in AccessBank. From 2021 to 2022, we have seen a 20-percent increase in the number of transactions through the POS terminal network. State institutions are making every effort to grow the so-called 'cashless economy' by implementing various incentive campaigns such as VAT Refunds," Guliyev explained. "These actions of the government bring a great positive result and the number of non-cash payments will grow over the next three-five years, just like it happens in neighboring countries."

He added that AccessBank has been operating in the Azerbaijani market for more than 20 years, and the main goal of the bank is to support and lend to small and medium-sized businesses:

“We also serve corporate clients and their employees. We plan, first of all, to continue financing small and medium-sized entrepreneurs employed in various sectors of the economy, including agriculture," Guliyev said. "The plans for the development of services for the corporate segment include not only traditional lending and servicing of business operations but also joint with foreign financing by financial institutions."

Moreover, according to him, this also means further development of digital banking for corporate clients:

"The banking sector of the country is the main catalyst of the financial market and thus makes a significant contribution to the development of the country's economy; AccessBank continues to be the leading microfinance bank in this business,” he added.

Guliyev pointed out that currently, against the backdrop of global digitalization, cyber security issues play an important role:

“Cyber ​​security is now becoming an integral part of the banking business, given the increase in non-cash payments and the fact that the client-bank relationship is increasingly moving towards digital banking and mobile applications," he said.

Along with the banks themselves, the CBA has been very actively engaged in improving the level of cyber security for all market players over the past few years, Guliyev noted:

"AccessBank is no exception - in our work with private clients and entrepreneurs, we adhere to all measures to ensure the required level of cyber security. First, these are special systems, which constantly analyze the operation of both the mobile application and the digital banking platform, providing constant protection against interference and other cyber risks. Besides, readiness for the unexpected is ensured by ongoing stress tests of all digital platforms of the bank."

According to Guliyev, the second area of ​​activity is the constant training of clients in financial literacy and informing them about potential cyber risks, such as fraud:

"We constantly communicate with our clients, send them SMS messages, communicate with them through social networks to remind them about various threats to their finances, such as, for example, a call asking for confidential card information, and others".

Guliyev added that work with data science and big data has recently been actively gaining momentum in the Azerbaijani market:

“Working with big data, machine learning, and working with the help of artificial intelligence is what the banking sector around the world has adopted, and Azerbaijan is no exception. Of course, not all banks in the country are involved in this process, but it's just a matter of time".

According to him, working with data allows the bank to better understand who its client is:

"Analysis of the collected data on customer behavior leads to the development of new banking products and services designed to make life easier for customers by creating the right products. The Azerbaijani banking sector is already successfully using many of these tools,” he said.

Commenting on the issue of introducing a tax on income from funds placed on deposits, Guliyev noted that the population accepted this practice with understanding:

“AccessBank is one of the top banks in the country in terms of funds raised from the population, so this issue was very important for us. Depositors accepted this practice with understanding, and the main reason is that both banks and government agencies promptly informed them about all aspects of the innovation - including how the tax is calculated, how it is levied, and so on".

The introduction of this tax, according to him, will not greatly affect the dynamics of placement by the population of funds in banks, because the issue of protection, and insurance of deposits by the state is a priority, and depositors know that the State Fund for the Protection of Deposits of the Population insures deposits in both AZN and USD:

"The introduction of this tax won't lead to an increase in the interest rate. Thus, I do not see any negative consequences of introducing this tax,” he said.

Guliyev noted that AccessBank operates in the lending market for small and medium-sized businesses, and the regional branch network is important for the bank.

“Last year, AccessBank opened another branch in Nakhchivan, a region of the country which is the important strategic direction. At the moment, our bank has 30 branches, 14 of which are located in Baku, and 16 in the regions of the country," he reminded.

Guliyev also shared the bank's plans to open a number of branches in the regions this year.

"We aren't yet planning to open branches in the liberated territories of the country. However, AccessBank will sooner or later be presented in the liberated territories, since their further development is a priority not only for the state but also for the private sector,” he concluded.