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Italian in Ukraine

04.11.2013

Graziano Cameli, new CEO of PJSC “Ukrsotsbank”, UniCredit Bank™, about the fate of foreign investors in Ukraine, influence of searches to investattractiveness and about the plans of Italian banking group to build its working strategy in Ukraine.

This June Graziano Cameli took the management of Ukrsotsbank from Borys Tymonkin. The last one – after 12 years of being a CEO of the bank unexpectedly accepted the position of Deputy Chariman of Sergey Kurchenko’s VETEK group Supervisory Board.

Graziano Cameli had been working under Tymonkin’s management since 2010, when he was appointed a general manager of Ukrsotsbank by the group. According to him, neither management nor strategy of the bank changed when Tymonkin left – the bank continues to work in retail and corporate sector and plans to improve its positions in Ukraine. Currently it holds 6th position in NBU rating and is terminating the process of merger with PJSC “UniCredit Bank” (another subsidiary of UniCredit). Graziano Cameli told about the views of a foreign banker to Ukrainian banking system, NBU work and prospects of Ukrainian economy to InvestGazeta.

The step-down of your predecessor was quite unexpected. How quickly did you manage to go into the matter?

Prior to this appointment, I had been the General Manager here for three years. We had had a full understanding with Boris Tymonkin. At first, it was difficult for me to make out, but eventually my predecessor and our team explained it well. In fact, every country has its features – everywhere one needs a period of adaptation to understand all the mechanisms and peculiarities.

As for the Ukrainian banking sector, here a big role is played by unpredictability which complicates the decision-making. However, in many areas it is easier to operate in Ukraine than in other countries. For example, one of the country’s strengths is the labor market. It is very flexible and not so overregulated than in European countries. There is much easier to organize activities here.

What has changed in the Bank’s strategy after your appointment as the Chairman of the Board?

If we talk about the management changes, we did not have them. We do the same things as before. The goal remains the same – to be the top bank in the country, meeting our customer interests to the best advantage.

What are the priorities of the Bank?

Our customers’ interests. Both of large corporates – local and international – and of retail clients with emphasis on car loans and mortgages. And the small and medium business is moving to the background. Now we are expanding the offer in consumer loans.

Do you follow the trends of shifting priorities from the corporate sector to retail?

No, our Bank does not follow this trend. We strive to equally develop both segments. Both the corporate and retail areas bring revenues to the Bank, and we see the potential for growth in both.

Which of them generate the most revenue for the Bank?

I think the most profitable direction is to take into account the full range of our customers’ interests (laughing). And if seriously, now the revenues are divided in the proportion of 33% to 67% - for the corporate and retail segments respectively.

What areas does UniCredit consider the most promising for investments in Ukraine?

Agricultural sector. Now we have formed a separate team that deals exclusively with this sector. The team develops special services for the customers in this segment. Moreover, these services are used in Ukraine and by our Group in other countries.

Does the Bank expect UniCredit investments in the next year?

We do not need a recapitalization. In the past year we have doubled the bank capital – it is 1.5 times exceeding NBU requirements. We have sufficient capital and liquidity for growth. As for the investments coming from UniCredit, then they will be supporting us in the next year as well. The Group has always invested in the country to improve the infrastructure and reputation of the Bank: in the customer service, rebranding, sponsorship.

Why, in your opinion, foreign capital is leaving the national markets? Is this a global trend or just a Ukrainian one?

Both statements are true. Capital and liquidity are becoming more expensive, as compared, for example, to what we had 5 years ago. Any banking group, any investor is in search of the markets which ensure a sufficient return on investment.

But Ukraine shows its own specificity. The business climate is not conducive to the international investment. And, unfortunately, we do not see effective reforms to encourage foreign investments.

Has the NBU policy changed after the departure of Sergey Arbuzov?

There have not been any radical changes, and I do not think we will have them in the nearer future. NBU works to strengthen the hryvnia and de-dollarize the economy. They are concerned about the recovery of economic growth. But the main problem is that the country still does not see such recovery.

How logical the NBU resolution to limit the value of cash payments between physical persons?

These decisions have been made in almost all countries in order to reduce the cash turnover. It is clear that the bank, as the main intermediary, only welcomes any form of electronic payments. Our job is to provide such payments. In addition, another advantage of such decision consists in improving the transparency of many financial transactions. So we are definitely for it.

In June many media published the piece of news on Ukrsotsbank technical default under EBRD loans. What happened to the EBRD loans?

The story of the technical default, as it was introduced by the media, is just incredible. We did discuss with EBRD the loan modifications agreed upon in times of crisis, we negotiated the restructure of payment terms for the benefit of the Bank (lower percentage, etc.). The agreements were achieved in March. Neither for us, nor for EBRD had this issue been a problem, which was repeatedly stated by EBRD. And what happened was like in a famous movie: much cry about nothing.

Will the Association Agreement with EU be able to improve the investment climate?

It will rather become a reference point. Just signing it is not enough. Investors and banks need a clear picture of reforms that will protect the rights of creditors, weaken the administrative burden, and completely change the judicial system. If the country signs the Agreement, it will finally declare the pitch it wants to play in. And the game itself will be interesting to watch.

What is, in your opinion, the biggest problem of the Ukrainian banking sector?

For me, the biggest surprise was the clients’ failure to fulfill the loan conditions. I had known about the problem but had not imagined such extent. For example, the case of one of our borrowers, even after 40 court decisions in our favor, has not been closed so far. European investors simply cannot understand this situation! The country does not protect the rights of either domestic or international creditors. So it is clear that foreign banks weigh whether they want to work in such a market.

Is UniCredit going to leave Ukrainian market?

Acquisition of such large bank as Ukrsotsbank means a long-term presence strategy. Merger with UniCredit Bank proved this vector once again. The Group always examines in detail what is going on in the country of its presence – both in Ukraine and other countries of presence. There has not been taken any decision to change the UniCredit presence strategy in Ukraine so far.

However, I would like to note that the recent incident in our HQ (search by Donetsk Directorate for combating economic crimes – editor’s note) did not improve the opinion on business management in the country.

Source: InvestGazeta №43
Date: 04.11.2013

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