ESBG members gather in Vienna on 11-12 June for Annual meetings​

​​​​​​​​​​​ESBG members gathered in Vienna for the European savings and retail banking trade body's Board of Directors and General Assembly meetings to appoint Isidro Fainé, Chairman of CaixaBank and President of CECA  Spanish Confederation of Savings Banks  as new ESBG president to serve from 2015-2018. They also elected a new  President’s Committee ​and Board of Directors 

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To kick off his three-year term, the new President Mr. Fainé stressed that ESBG and its members will continue to promote the retail banking model in the new European Banking Union era and thus strengthen the "3R" approach – ​Retail, Regional and Responsible.  This goal should be accomplished by building on the extensive network of branches and points of sale, using the most advanced banking technology and the latest digital and mobile channels, and by offering the widest range of products and services to customers. 

At the dinner reception on 11 June, hosts Dr. Gerhard Fabisch, President of the Austrian Savings Banks Association (Österreichischer Sparkassenverband), and Andreas Treichl, chairman and chief executive officer of Erste Group Bank, called on savings and retail banks to “reactivate” the dialogue with customers and build on their core tradition of proximity to individuals and families, SMEs and institutions.

Mr. Fainé highlighted: “Savings and retail banks have to continue to live up to their tradition of social commitment – They need to contribute to tackling social problems which public services fail to cover and offer a wide range of innovative financial services and support to the citizens in the middle to lowest income groups with the aim of reducing financial exclusion and servicing the real economy. “

However, in order for savings and retail banks to be able to do so and return a dividend to society, policymakers should review and structure new legislative work so as to avoid hampering local retail banking models – a bedrock of financial and economy stability in Europe. ESBG members agreed that an important way to do so is proportionality, meaning regulation that is adapted to the size, scope and specificities of various business models. Another important feature is ensuring that reforming and strengthening capital markets will complement local banking structures but not replace them. This especially holds true for savings and retail banks that provide important loans to people and small- and medium-sized enterprises. A third policy area is the European Commission Better Regulation initiative, an opportunity to simplify regulations, prevent overlaps and unnecessary costs, and eschew highly complex legislation.

These ideas and concerns were shared with the guest speaker representing the Austrian government – Dr. Harald Mahrer, State Secretary at the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy. Dr. Mahrer gave some interesting insights into his ideas on “Financing of Innovation” and stressed that now is the time to foster innovative and entrepreneurial thinking and perhaps consider the possibility of leaner regulatory regimes. He added that new entrants and fintechs should be approached with a combination of cooperation and competition.

Innovation was also at the core of the presentation by Mr. Boris Marte, Head of the innovation centre “Erste Hub”. Mr. Marte gave an overview of how the Austrian savings banks are developing a comprehensive, uniform experience for all channels in order to provide banking clients with an attractive and holistic brand experience. 

Mr. Marte gave some food for thought by saying: “The question we all have to answer about our institutions is: Do we exist to maintain the status quo, or are we here to do the work that the radical founders of the savings banks had in mind when they started? All of us are part of organisations that were started by outliers, by radical thinkers, by people who cared more about making a difference than about fitting in.”

The two days in Vienna thus provided various opportunities for members to exchange ideas with peers and policy makers about the current and upcoming challenges of the sector – the next meeting of the ESBG Board of Directors will take place in Brussels in November 2015.