ANTWERP, Belgium, 3 June 2016 – ESBG members look to remain at the forefront of providing access to finance for households and SMEs, ESBG President Isidro Fainé declared Thursday during his address to a gathering of ESBG members gathering for the association's board meeting and general Assembly in Antwerp.
"Tackling the SME challenge and embracing digitisation will require help from EU policymakers to help unleash financing for real economy firms and boost banking innovation," Fainé said. He added that savings and retail banks face a "New Normal" in an increasingly competitive financial services sector: "New entrants without the our experience, who are benefitting from a not-so-level playing field, are looking to provide financial services, which have traditionally been part of our core business."
Mr Fainé's comments, which were picked up by leading organisations in Spain including El Economista , ABC, Cinco Dias and La Vanguardia, echoed ESBG members' sentiment at the two-day event that they are remain keen to adapt, and fast, to avoid as he put it, a "Kodak mistake". To do this, Fainé said that it means "building a strong, multi-channel distribution system, leveraging our physical branch networks and, at the same time, becoming champions of the online and mobile banking." It requires staff – a most precious asset– be prepared to thrive in the digital era.
Connected to people at local level
The social commitment of retail and savings banks is deeply embedded in the roots of ESBG. Close to the customer, either in person, mobile or online, "families, micro enterprises, SMEs and institutions that we serve in our local communities and regions, are the cornerstone of our business, our social commitment to society" and added that they should always be an integral part of ESBG's and its members' mission. Therefore, developing social welfare programmes is one of our fundamental priorities. In fact, we get involved in the real problems of society. In this connection, and in addition to our substantial tax contribution, our members provide more than €1.2 billion per year to help people through pioneering foundation work such as social and welfare programmes."
Fainé concluded: "To continue to make all this possible, regulators need to realise that the 'one size fits all' approach does not work, and we need proportionate regulation and a level playing field for all actors within the financial and banking system."