Credins Bank was established in 2003 as the country’s first private bank with Albanian capital. Establishing a reputation of strong customer service and adaptability to the country’s dynamic market, it has grown into one of Albania’s top three banks and has its sights set on expanding into neighboring countries. A pioneer of digital services in the Albanian market, it has worked with international partners since its beginnings to bring key financial services to the growing nation.
How has Credins Bank grown and evolved since it entered the market 16 years ago?
Credins Bank was licensed in 2003 as the first bank with Albanian capital and the authentic slogan: ‘We speak your language.’ Since then, Credins Bank has gradually expanded its network of branches, ATMs and Points of sale (POSs), constantly developing its range of banking services and products. Today we can say with pride, that we provide and cover one hundred percent of the financial needs of every customer across the country. Credins Bank has been the main partner of many Albanian investments and entrepreneurs. It has also been one of the main contributors in terms of social responsibility, further establishing the bank’s image as the bank of all Albanians. Today, Credins Bank ranks among the top three banks in the market. It is the second largest bank in lending and the third in total deposits and assets. As of today, the bank has 870 employees, 59 branches and over 290,000 clients.
Over the years, Credins Bank has successfully completed a series of important projects such as the implementation of e-banking in 2016, which was an innovation to the Albanian market. It also now provides other innovative services to our clients and is investing in ongoing hardware and software projects to deliver what consumers are demanding.
Credins Bank has been given awards by various Institutions such as: “Most Innovative Bank of the Year,” “Bank of the Year for 2014,” and the National Price of Philanthropy for “Considerable and impactful social contribution in the community life.”
In 2014, you were appointed CEO of Credins Bank. What would you say are some of your greatest accomplishments and challenges in this role so far?
The constant and remarkable development and growth of the bank in all its financial indicators, our leadership position in the market, the strategic partnership with international institutions, our vision towards innovative and digital banking, the continuous transformation of our wide range of services and products and corporate culture can be considered as some of the main achievements during my role as CEO.
In terms of challenges, I would say the most important have been the ongoing transformation of the bank in line with the technological changes and consumer behaviour, the successful implementation of the bank’s strategic plan, the sustainable and ongoing development of financial indicators, the consolidation of our position as a top bank in the market, continuous staff development and a successful expansion in the region.
The year 2017 coincided with the end of the bank’s three-year development plan, and in 2018 you were launching the strategy for the next three years. What will you be targeting?
Credins Bank’s strategy from 2018 to 2020 aims to further strengthen its position as one of the key and most stable financial institutions in the country. This strategy has been founded on five main areas based on our competitive advantages. Part of this strategy includes having complete control of risks and costs. All these actions will allow us to generate a return on equity amounting to over nine percent in 2020. In addition to strengthening our position in Albania, we intend to expand our activity in the neighbouring countries and our next project will be the opening of the Credins Bank of Kosovo.
The five key areas of our strategy are sustainable growth, ensuring balanced growth and stability of the financial forecast; financial performance, increasing return on investment by further developing the business and managing more effectively the costs and risks; gaining more experience and the further development and improvement of organizational and managerial skills and establishment of processes that reflect the size of the Bank and the level of our ambitions. The continuous investment in technological modernization of the bank and the integration of advanced technologies and innovations in our business; and capacity building, or continuous investments in our people will be one of the main sources of our competitive advantage in the market.
Over the years, Credins Bank has worked with a range of international partners. How have those partnerships supported the bank’s growth?
Cooperation with international institutions has been very important. Since the first years of the bank’s activity, the partnerships have been considered strategic to strengthen the image of the bank, to support lending by means of facilitation schemes, as well as to gain the necessary expertise to manage these projects in relation to exposure to various risks. Credins Bank has signed cooperation agreements with many institutions, such as the European Fund for Southeast Europe (EFSE), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) (€10 million) on financing small and medium-sized enterprises; the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank on financing imports and exports of member countries with business interests in Albania; and the EBRD and International Finance Corporation (IFC) on supporting financing of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.
Credins Bank has been a partner in many projects, and with the help of these institutions, many small and medium-sized enterprises have been funded and supported with facilitation schemes to implement their projects and investments. Thanks to these programs, we gained the necessary expertise to draft, assess and manage the social and environmental risk in project financing. Moreover, these collaborations incentivized us to finance entrepreneurs investing in hydropower plant systems or individuals who aim at making their homes more energy efficient.
Credins Bank will continue to be a partner and build long-term relationships with international institutions by participating in other programs that support access to funds for small and medium enterprises, as well as in the agriculture sector, which has been set as one of our priorities. Such collaboration is expected to be finalized in April with the European Investment Fund for the €7.5 million guarantee scheme to support lending to small and medium-sized enterprises in Albania.
In terms of cooperation with international credit card institutions, it started with American Express and over the years expanded to Visa and Master Card. Today, Credins Bank provides a diversified card portfolio in Albanian and foreign currency denominations, such as debit, prepaid and credit cards, meeting the needs of various stakeholders including individuals, enterprises and institutions.
In 2018, Credins Bank signed an agreement with the Albanian Ministry of Finance and Economy on the rights and obligations of market developers regarding the issue of benchmark bonds of the Republic of Albania, and Credins Bank was one of five banks selected for the development of secondary government securities market. What did that mean for the bank?
Yes, in July 2018, Credins Bank supported the initiative of the World Bank, the Ministry of Finance and the Bank of Albania on the development of the secondary market for Albanian government bonds. The pilot project on such benchmark securities was successfully completed and then we moved to the next phase which introduced even more benchmark securities.
During this period, Credins Bank, as one of the five market developers, has provided its best contribution to increasing the volume of trading in the secondary market with an aim of increasing its investor base. To meet its objectives, Credins Bank has developed training sessions with its staff and clients on introducing innovations in the securities market. The client can, at any time, find Benchmark Bonds Quotations at the official website of Credins Bank and in case of uncertainty they may refer to the assistance provided by the securities trading experts. The establishment of a more liquid market, in addition to the macroeconomic conditions, is the basis for diversifying the investor base and attracting foreign investors. The latter can see the investment in Albanian government securities as an alternative to their investments.
You have said that optimizing technological solutions opens up great possibilities for increasing customer service. What are your plans for going into the future in terms of technology?
Credins Bank will continue to invest in growing its digital services base with the aim of approaching our customers anytime and anywhere. We are developing ambitious projects to make Credins Online accessible everywhere, so that every client has the bank with them, in their homes, workplace, wherever they are. The constant efforts to improve and make digital service fast and secure in terms of confidentiality and real-time information processing, represent our main challenges and ambitions for this year. Every customer will enjoy the experience of using banking services with Credins Online.
The complete transformation of our current branches into digital branches, where the client has the possibility to carry out any transaction fast and with simple steps, will also be a tangible reality in Credins Bank. Our “mobile” branch represents an innovation in the Albanian market, providing banking service remotely in every corner of the country in 2019, supporting agro clients even in rural areas where the presence of banks is relatively low. The mobile wallet will also be an ambitious project of the bank, representing the next challenge for a more digital bank.
What impact has Credins Bank had on the overall Albanian economy?
The country’s economic development and growth are interrelated with the bank’s financial development. During these 16 years, Credins Bank has significantly supported the development of the strategic sectors in the country such as services, trade, manufacturing, energy and infrastructure. Our loan portfolio has increased year after year and today we rank second in the banking system for lending. The bank has expanded its network of branches and ATMs across the country, getting closer to every individual, business, and institution client. The portfolio of banking products and services has grown considerably as well, raising awareness and bringing customers closer to the bank. This has had an impact on the reduction of informality and cash transactions, which have dominated the Albanian economy for years.
Credins Bank has also directly provided a positive impact on the employment rate of the country. Today, Credins has 870 employees and is constantly investing in their professional training and development. Furthermore, the introduction of cards, POSs and other payment instruments, has significantly contributed to the reduction of informality and the informal market in itself, as well as the increase in the quality of payments.
Albania’s negotiations with the EU could begin as early as this June. How could that affect the bank?
The opening of negotiations for Albania’s accession to the EU will positively impact important projects that will support the integration process through funds expected to be allocated. There will be an increase in FDI, which will undoubtedly contribute to the overall development of the country’s economy, helping the further development of Albanian enterprises that will lead towards higher employment rate, stability and increased banking transactions, thus reducing informality.
Such projects are expected to pave the way to various investments in many sectors including the improvement of the infrastructure that will affect the growth of tourism or other sectors that hold high potential in this country. Credins Bank will undoubtedly be part of these projects, supporting foreign enterprises and investments that will enter in Albania or engage in joint ventures with local businesses. Channeling investments through Credins Bank means more transactions and growth for the bank. Taking into consideration our expansion in the region through Credins Bank in Kosovo, that will also create a bigger market and more opportunities for our customers and investors.
What gives Credins Bank a competitive edge in the Albanian banking sector?
The most competitive advantage that Credins brings on the market is the professional and high-quality customer service. The commitment and friendly approach of our staff towards clients is what makes Credins the family bank. The bank’s slogan encourages every client to feel comfortable and to establish a personalized and long-term relationship. We also have a diversified portfolio of services and products that meets customer needs by generating loyal clients over the years. Credins Bank will evaluate every loyal customer of the bank by providing additional benefits through a credibility scheme that is expected to be finalized during 2019.
Fast decision making is also a key element for Credins Bank. It has been one of the most competitive elements in a market where most of the banks, as part of large groups, have operated within a tighter procedural framework. Credins has successfully adapted to a dynamic market with efficient and simple procedures, totally in line with customer developments.
Do you have a final message to send to our German and global audience?
Invest in Albania, a country of great opportunities, especially in the sector of tourism, energy and agribusinesses. Albania offers fiscal facilities such as an eight percent tax on dividends. Albania offers a labor market full of talented, enthusiastic and educated young people who speak various foreign languages, at an employment cost which is relatively low compared to any other country in the region. It is a place where the sun shines almost 300 days per year. Albania has a great geographical position and is a place with a wonderful and diverse landscape where the sea, mountains and rivers are genuinely mixed together. It is a country with harbours and airports, with a delicious culinary tradition, a place where technology is advancing quite rapidly, and where establishing a business entity can be completed within a day. And above all, Albania is a country with a sophisticated banking system to support an investor’s every financial need wherever they are.