Interview with: Ceren Acer Kezik, Executive Vice President of Retail Banking, Garanti BBVA
July 15, 2022
Garanti BBVA has continued to enhance the outstanding range of products for its customers, even as the pandemic presented challenges. Personalised solutions and a rich product range have been instrumental in boosting Garanti BBVA’s cash and non-cash loan portfolio. Garanti BBVA constantly improves its business model and processes with operational excellence a priority. In order to accelerate and strengthen value creation, the bank continues to reach more customers by being present wherever customers are. As of March 31, 2022, Garanti BBVA has more than 21 million customers and 18,500 employees. It has a wide distribution network, with 861 domestic branches, eight foreign branches (seven in Cyprus and one in Malta), and one international representative office. The bank offers an uninterrupted experience and integrated channel convenience in all channels. It has 5,396 ATMs, the latest technological infrastructure, and an award-winning call centre. It also has internet, mobile and social banking platforms. For Garanti BBVA, data and technology are key elements in driving its strategy.
Since 2019, the bank has gained more than 3.1 million new customers and has reached more than 11.5 million digital and 11.1 million mobile customers. Digital sales have accounted for more than 80 percent of total sales. World Finance spoke with Ceren Acer Kezik, Executive Vice President of Retail Banking at Garanti BBVA, about constantly investing in technology, benefiting from advanced data analytics and artificial intelligence.
Garanti BBVA stresses financial health in its offering. What does it mean by this term and what is it doing for the financial health of its customers?
We define the concept of financial health as the ability to balance income and expenses by managing assets and debts correctly.
This creates the capacity to build some savings. This is the foundation enabling you to plan a free and secure lifestyle for the future. Financial health is very important in terms of realising life goals and taking appropriate action to achieve those goals. We think it is important to create a financial profile of each person, analyse their spending habits and raise awareness about their budget. We encourage customers to be prepared for unexpected expenditure and to build the capacity to save for future plans by better monitoring their financial positions.
In 2021, amid the pandemic and its uncertainties, challenges and the need for change continued. Individuals and businesses had to live with a new normal. For individuals, in addition to protecting their physical health, being able to manage their expenses and savings correctly became important focal points. Fortunately, the vaccine has curtailed the effects of the pandemic, and helped to restore and build optimism for the future.
One of the basic principles of Garanti BBVA is to offer easily realisable financial solutions to its customers anytime and anywhere with the best experience. The bank conducts monthly surveys to better monitor the needs of its users. This helps us address what is working for customers and to address any concerns they have. Armed with the findings of this research, we can enhance the experience for users and develop new products that will address customers’ needs.
As part of its policy of responsible banking, Garanti BBVA also communicates the advantages and possible risks of its products and services. In this context, it communicates transparently with its customers in sales and marketing activities and conveys all the information they need in a clear and easy-to-understand manner. It offers practical solutions and aims to establish long-term and sustainable relationships based on trust.
Can you share details of the progress on the digital onboarding process in Turkey? At Garanti BBVA, how did you prepare for this process and what did you do in the last year?
Compared with traditional methods, digital onboarding creates a fast, time- and location-independent experience for the customer. This process is also very valuable in helping banks to reach and serve more customers. It not only supports digitalisation to a great extent, but also facilitates the spread of digital banking services to more people.
While helping more people to access banking services, it also contributes to the growth of the sector and the economy. The most fundamental change for the banking sector in recent years has been the increase in the usage rates of active distribution channels and the number of digital customers. One effect of the pandemic was to encourage customers to use these channels more actively. The rate of transactions realised at the branch fell to between two and three percent, from the previous level of between five and six percent. Despite the increasing share of digital channels, branches are still an important part of our business. Garanti BBVA Customer Communication Centre aims to enhance the financial life of its customers by increasing the number of options.
Our innovation has led to a variety of alternative communication channel services for customers. With its customer-orientated approach, the bank aims to maintain its leading position in the sector in 2022. What we call ‘Contactless Onboarding Technology’ digitalises, end-to-end, key processes such as becoming a customer and applying for a credit card. It delivers a contact-free, easy and secure experience for customers. Completely digitalising the remote onboarding process, this step has been an important phase within the rapid transformation in banking triggered by the pandemic.
Increasing the individual services offered by the Customer Communication Centre, expanding the scope of the Smart Sales Management project and increasing the diversity and effectiveness of products regarding customer needs are among other goals. In addition, the end-to-end onboarding experience, the acquisition of more customers from digital channels and the dissemination and optimisation of our Live Support Service will be on the agenda in the upcoming period.
How do you position artificial intelligence in areas such as technology, customer service and digital banking? What are you prioritising in the use of artificial intelligence?
Technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning are tools that help us create more value for our customers and provide them with a better experience. These technologies change and develop over the years. However, we never lose sight of the fact that people are at the centre of everything we do. Therefore, it is important to use these technologies to accurately identify customer-based needs and to offer smart, personalised experiences and solutions. Today, while we offer almost all of our products and services through our mobile application with an easy experience, we observe that it is also important to be able to provide the human touch when required.
For example, while we enable our customers to find answers to their questions with our artificial intelligence supported smart assistant UGI, we also enable them to reach our customer representative directly from the mobile application.
By providing the balance between the digital ecosystem and the human factor, we focus on creating the relationship model of the future and establishing a trust-based relationship with our customers. Artificial intelligence helps to make the data collected with different algorithms more meaningful.
How does Garanti BBVA create value for its customers, employees and stakeholders? What are you doing to add value to society? What are the main company values that determine the way the bank conducts its activities?
Garanti BBVA shapes its products and services in a customer-centred manner acting with the guiding principle that ‘the customer is our priority.’ This principle underlines the banks’ customer-orientated approach. Everyone who works at Garanti BBVA knows the importance of understanding their customers. As part of a strong commitment to responsible banking, we comprehensively share information with our customers. We also respond to customer needs with a results-orientated approach.
Garanti BBVA’s corporate culture includes innovation by valuing the opinions of its employees, who are encouraged to put forward ideas that will improve the customer experience. In every area, staff inspire their colleagues with the work they do. Garanti BBVA staff focus strongly on meeting customers’ needs. But they go the extra mile to find solutions to exceed customers’ expectations. Fostering Garanti BBVA’s work culture, our ‘One Team’ value encompasses employee collaboration, the importance of commitment to work, and the sense of responsibility that needs to exist in order to achieve the ‘common purpose.’
Garanti BBVA communicates with its stakeholders regularly, and attaches great importance to listening to their ideas. Garanti BBVA is an inclusive, forward-looking bank for all its stakeholders, in all areas.
Can you share your perspective and your goals for sustainability? What kind of products and services does Garanti BBVA offer to its retail banking customers as part of its sustainability efforts?
Garanti BBVA is taking a lead in sustainability to positively influence customers, decision makers and the sector. The bank strives to raise awareness of sustainability among stakeholders and the wider community. The bank has been working on sustainable development and the fight against climate change for 15 years. This is one of the bank’s strategic priorities. Garanti BBVA draws on its sector-leading know-how and experience to drive sustainable development in the market. Its business model embraces the opportunities stemming from sustainable development as well as climate change-related risk management. In 2020, together with the BBVA Group, we have made sustainability a strategic priority. While contributing more than $810m to the sustainable finance market, we increased the number of our products and services in the field of sustainable finance to 50.
We have achieved a major transformation in our business from both an environmental and social point of view. By expanding our sustainable range, we have also contributed to our country’s economy. We have invested more than $3.8bn in sustainable development. In March 2021, Garanti BBVA became the first bank in Turkey to announce that it will not finance coal and coal-related activities. The bank said that it will not finance new investments in coal-fired power plants and coal mines. It will eliminate its exposure to any investment in coal in its portfolio by 2040 at the latest. The bank has been the first and only Turkish signatory to the net-zero banking alliance. It is committed to align its portfolio with the net-zero emissions target by 2050.
In addition to green loan and gender loan, the bank offers its customers the rooftop solar power system (SPS) shopping loan for using solar power in their buildings and the environmentally-friendly building insulation loan for supporting efficient energy consumption in buildings and promote insulation investment. It also offers the corporate green auto loan, the first of its kind in Turkey.
The bank intends to lead the transition to more efficient hybrid and electric vehicles at advantageous low rates on the one hand, while contributing to the world’s future by encouraging replenishment of fleets with environmentally-friendly vehicles on the other. Based on its contribution to the environment and the quality of human life, we have offered a new shopping loan opportunity to encourage the use of electric bicycles.
Three Garanti BBVA Asset Management mutual funds with a sustainable theme raised money in 2021: Garanti AM Clean Energy Variable Fund, Garanti AM Sustainability Equity Fund and Garanti AM ESG Sustainability Fund Basket Fund.
We regularly organise events to communicate our sustainability strategy and we also run programmes to boost our staff’s knowledge of developments in sustainability.