«100 the best TOP-managers» («Economics» publishing house). July 2018
Board Member of Credit Agricole Bank, Larysa Bondarieva, about the philosophy of partnership, strategic plans and banking of the future
Credit Agricole has been present in Ukraine for 25 years already. This is quite a bit for a bank. What 5 qualities would you mention to describe the evolutionary process it has been going through over these years?
For me, the bank is always ambitious, dynamic, positive, ready to change, customers- and employees-oriented. I started working for the bank in 2003. All along, I have been witnessing high rates and dynamics of development. After all, the bank started with a small team and served exclusively international clients, but today, Credit Agricole is a universal bank with more than 2300 employees, the highest possible Fitch ratings in Ukraine, European standards of work and responsible way of running business. We are the oldest foreign bank established in Ukraine and today we are in the TOP-10 largest financial institutions in terms of assets. It's a bank that I'm sincerely proud of.
In what does Credit Agricole differ from other banks?
The first important feature is the philosophy of relationships with our customers, where the emphasis is on the partnership and trust model. Quality classic banking is a must have. But we want to do more for our customers, be real partners, thereby creating added value for them. That is why we strive to know and understand the customers’ businesses, study their needs, help them implement their projects and create more opportunities for the development of their business.
The philosophy of partnership is also embodied in the co-creation formula. We are increasingly creating together with our customers. For us, they are the main experts regarding banking of the future, they share their vision with us, evaluate products and services. We in turn help them to see the areas of growth and improvement of their businesses and develop joint projects, including with the involvement of the Group. This approach underlies the positioning of the Credit Agricole Group, “A whole bank just for you!”, and we successfully implement it here in Ukraine. We are pleased to see how the businesses of many of our customers grow with us.
Another characteristic is our experience and expertise which we share with our customers. On the one hand, this is the tremendous knowledge and practices of the Credit Agricole Group, which have been developed for more than 130 years of operation in 50 countries. On the other hand, it is the expertise of local experts. We spend a lot of time studying the specifics of customer business, for example, our agro specialists spend up to 70% of their time “in the fields”. We are opinion leaders in many spheres: for international companies and investors, for agrarian companies, for Ukrainian businesses entering foreign markets. Now, for example, there are many requests for opening accounts and services in Poland, as this market is promising for Ukraine.
What are the bank’s plans for the nearest future?
Credit Agricole in Ukraine will continue to implement its long-term strategy based on organic growth and business synergy with the Credit Agricole Group. It is focused on active support of the agri-agro sector, international companies and large local businesses interested in entering foreign markets. We will develop as a universal bank working with retail customers, Ukrainian businesses, and international companies. We will reinforce the support of foreign investors, help them in entering the Ukrainian market and developing their commercial ties with Ukrainian companies.
We will continue to invest in the local economy by financing, among othes, SME customers. As for individuals, we will focus on affluent customers paying special attention to the premium segment. Of course, we will continue to hold our leadership positions in car lending field, where we occupy more than 40% of the market. The strategy also comprises investments in digital transformation, network restructuring, products and efficiency gains.
We will continue to open new model branches in Kyiv and other major cities. Last year, we successfully launched MNC Desk in Western Ukraine. This is an office for servicing international companies making it possible to be closer to our customers.Ми продовжуватимемовідкривати
As for the new directions, we concentrate on the IT segment and energy efficiency projects. This year, together with the EBRD, we launched the IQ Energy lending program and have already issued loans for several million hryvnia. We will continue to support green initiatives which are an important part of our “We Care!” global CSR program. In addition, we plan to expand our charity initiatives by supporting orphanages and medical institutions, and we will continue to commit ourselves to caring for and developing our employees.
What are your most popular products, and how has the product portfolio changed over the past few years?
All customer segments demonstrate interest in investment financing. Due to the crisis, medium- and long-term projects were frozen. There was a pent-up demand. Now we are closing this gap.
What is the specificity of lending to a big business? Are there any peculiarities or problems when working with this category?
A feature typical of Ukrainian big business now is interest in entering new export markets and searching for new partners, including banks, which can support this process both in terms of consulting and in terms of financing. Speaking of problems, Ukrainian business often is a complex structure of groups with dozens of legal entities in their structure, with unconsolidated and unaudited financial statements. This complicates their dialogue with banks.
Do you think that fintech is a competitor to the traditional banking sector?
I believe they will complement each other.
Which sectors are the most promising now?
We believe the future lies with IT, infrastructure, and agro. We are looking closely at start-ups. Not so long ago, we held a meeting with representatives of French start-ups that presented their ideas for the agricultural sector. Some projects caught the interest of our customers who are now ready to buy a product or invest in it. By the way, at the level of Credit Agricole Group, the direction of start-ups has been actively developed for some time already.
Please elaborate on that.
A couple of years ago, Credit Agricole Group in Paris created the first business incubator, Le Village, which is a system that allows start-ups to find investment solutions and opportunities to enter the market. In general, in France there are already 22 Le Village business incubators. There are a total of more than 400 start-ups, which attracted mEUR 23.5 of investments from 2014 to 2017. In Le Village, a startup can get premises, coaching, but most importantly, access to market participants, in particular to more than 300 partners, including large corporate businesses and SMEs. And this is the biggest value that the Group can give to start-ups. In Le Village, there is already a Ukrainian start-up as well.