The latest News & Views features an interview with ESBG President Isidro Fainé.
Mr Fainé, who serves a three-year term from 2015-2018, is chairman of CaixaBank and "la Caixa" Banking Foundation as well as president of the Spanish Confederation of Savings Banks. He holds a series of mandates in the financial, industrial and academic sectors, in Spain as well as abroad.
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Mr. Fainé, what are your objectives as ESBG President?
First of all, I am honoured with my election as ESBG President. I think it is a real challenge in these times where banks emerge from one of the worst financial crisis and where retail banks face an entirely new environment. We need to be aware of the fact that consumer behavior and requirements have changed dramatically. Regulation has strongly impacted our relationship with our customers and we have never experienced such low interest rates for such a long period. Furthermore, new technology has radically changed the way in which business is done and new players are emerging to compete with us in our traditional markets.
The customer is more demanding and more critical of financial institutions. He is also used to compare products among different providers and let us not forget either that non-banking service providers are competing with us to offer services in the field of payments or other specific segments. We have, however, one big asset and that is the trust, confidence and knowledge of our customers.We absolutely need to strengthen this trust and the confidence of our customers. In our business, we thrive on our customers' trust. Without trust, there is no business and trust is built on professionalism, empathy, dialogue, and honesty. We need to enable our employees to take decisions in the presence of the customer and we should in all cases try to give the customer more than what he expects.
And what is the importance and the influence of regulation in this field?
Regulation should help us to achieve our mission. This mission is to achieve close, interactive relationships with our private customers, with independent business professionals, with SMEs and our other clients. Regulators and supervisors need to be aware of our specific activities. Indeed, one should not forget that savings and retail banks bring stability to the financial system and that we are a major supplier of financing to the real economy.
How do you see the future of ESBG member financial institutions?
The products and services that we bring to the market need to be truly useful to our customers, thus providing us with recurrent income and profits. There are several lines of business that we can further develop with the aim of increasing our revenue. I am thinking of import-export operations, money transfers, insurance services and consumer finance. In order to achieve this, we need to have a permanent dialogue with our customers. We have to be very close to them in order to be in a position to understand their needs. Better customer understanding enables better service, which generates a better customer experience and thus, eventually, greater customer loyalty and income.
How can the workforce play a role in this ambition?
In any modern retail bank, human capital management needs to be the leading edge of change. We need competent and well-trained professionals with a clear commercial sense and a high motivation. Our employees are our greatest asset and bringing out the best in them must be one of our highest goals.
Many people say the traditional bank branch will soon belong to the past. What is your vision on this?
I really don't think so. We rather need to combine a brick and mortar presence with full capability in internet and mobile banking. The customer requires 24/7 access to our services, at his home but also in any other spot of the world. Digitisation and innovation are key areas that will deeply affect us. The digital revolution offers us a range of opportunities to be even closer to our customers, to know them much better by using the capabilities of Big Data and to be able to offer them a better, faster and more targeted personal service. We absolutely need to push forward strategies and approaches that embrace the necessary innovation in the field of processes, delivery channels, digital products and services. We also need to provide simple, personalized and real-time IT platforms, big data applications and 5G communications that can provide us with better knowledge of our customers and with instantaneous connections. In this way, we will really be at the forefront of retail banking and we will be ready to compete with the new entrants that offer payments and other financial services.
How about the commitment to society that is characteristic for all the ESBG members?
I think this is a key issue for us, so I am happy that you ask this question, because I would not want to finish this interview without mentioning our commitment to society. Social commitment is not only about bringing value to customers, shareholders and employees. It is, above all, a commitment to contribute to the development of a more equitable society. Retail banks are active members of the community and as such we need to be sensitive, supportive and never indifferent to others. We need to get involved in the real problems of society which public institutions do not take care of. One of my priorities in this field is to eliminate financial exclusion.
With what kind of message would you like to close this interview?
I think that irrespective of the nature of the challenges, we need to remain true to our "3R" principle of being retail banks with a regional presence and a responsible attitude towards business and towards society. These three "Rs" will help us to strengthen the trust of our customers and will increase our profitability. The third "R", responsibility, will also help us and remind us to look beyond profitability, towards contributing to the society we all live in.
>> See the latest edition of News & Views
>> Learn more about WSBI-ESBG values: The Three "Rs"
>> Learn more about WSBI-ESBG position on digitalisaion