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World Congress opening address by Heinrich Haasis

World Congress opening address by Heinrich Haasis

​​A look back at his achievements as WSBI President

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Remarks by Heinrich Haasis

Outgoing WSBI President

WSBI World Congress

New Delhi, India

15 November 2018

Dear WSBI members,

Ladies and Gentlemen,


I am honored to have the occasion to open this 25th World Congress of Savings and Retail Banks here in the Indian capital New Delhi.

Before I do so, I need to present a person who could not be here with us today, but who wishes us the best with our conference.

This person is Her Majesty Queen Maxima of the Netherlands.

Queen Maxima is the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development. It is my honor to convey to you all Her Majesty's wishes for a productive and thought-provoking discussion that will help advance the goal of full financial inclusion.

As you all surely know, the slogan that the Indian Government uses to promote this fascinating country is “Incredible India" and I am sure that you are going to be amazed.

You will be amazed by the country, by its architectural and cultural treasures that you might have the pleasure to discover.

But its financial institutions and the impressive work that they have done over the last few years will also amaze you.

Among these financial institutions, let me mention three of them:

  • The State Bank of India

  • The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development

  • And the National Savings Institute

These three institutions are the WSBI members in India and without their help, this congress in India would have been impossible.

A sincere thank you to

  • To Mr  Kumar, Chairman of the State Bank of India;

  • To Dr Bhanwala, Chairman of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development

  • And to Mr Ashok Chauhan, Director of the National Savings Institute


Why are these financial institutions so impressive?

Because they have made enormous progress in financial inclusion in a very short timeframe.

Hundreds of millions of Indians are now part of the formal financial sector, thanks to an efficient use of technology and a clever leveraging of the outreach of these and other financial institutions.

We will talk on different occasions about this, because what has been done here, can be replicated in other WSBI member countries.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I took the presidency of WSBI in 2012. We were still in full crisis mode at that moment. I will not add to everything that has already been said about the crisis.

Let me just say this: if this global financial crisis has proven something, it is that savings and retail banks are very strong and that they never lost the trust of their clients.

Our strength comes from our business model. We collect deposits and we re-inject these deposits in the real economy in the form of productive loans for individuals, SMEs and local authorities. These loans are used for real, tangible ends: To build a house. To finance the growth of a company. To build roads, schools and hospitals.

Moreover, the crisis has not prevented us from getting things done at WSBI.

Let me take you on a short overview of our main achievements:

A first achievement is that we stabilized and increased membership. An international organization like WSBI depends on its members. Without you, our members, nothing is possible.

I am happy to see so many of the longstanding members of our institute, from Europe, from Africa, Asia, and the Americas. As there are 108 members, you will forgive me that I do not give any names. We also increased membership over these six years. As you can see on the slides, we welcomed new members from

  • Japan: Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation

  • Belgium: the association of Belgian network and savings banks

  • the Philippines: ASKI and the Chamber of Thrift Banks

  • Denmark: the Association of Local Banks

  • Lebanon: Fransabank

  • India: State Bank of India,

  • Bulgaria: DSK Bank

  • Zimbabwe:  Agribank

  • Italy: Pri.Banks - the association of private banks

  • Argentina: Banco de la Nación

  • Bangladesh: Bank Asia and IFIC Bank

  • Romania: BancPost Romania

  • Jamaica: JN Bank


All these dynamic institutions and associations joined WSBI over the last six years and we are delighted to have them. 

A second achievement is that we increased the international lobbying power of WSBI.

One of the most striking consequences of the global financial crisis was the fact that policymaking and advocacy have become increasingly global. All I need to say is Basel III and all of you know what I mean. For this reason, WSBI has increased its lobbying efforts towards the Basel institutions.

We published position papers, we had high-level meetings with the Basel Committee headquarters in Switzerland and we organised conferences in the G20 host countries.

Let me just mention the conference we organized in Berlin during the German presidency and the one we organized in Buenos Aires, during the Argentine presidency. We intend to maintain this effort in the future.

Those efforts are necessary because when regulators design rules, they have too often the big international banks in mind. Just read the Basel III agreement. In the paragraph on the scope of the regulation, it literally says “This Framework will be applied on a consolidated basis to internationally active banks.

We are locally-focused banks, we are an essential part of the financial ecosystem of our regions. Our business model is based on the financing of the local real economy.

This business model is totally different and less risky. We need regulation based on our business model.  We should not be treated in the same way as the internationally active banks. This is the message that we have been bringing across to the international regulatory organisations and we will keep insisting on this essential point.

A third achievement is our increased focus on innovation.

How could one not pay attention to innovation, you will say.

Indeed: technology and its applications are all around us and if we as banks or associations of banks want to remain the preferred service providers of our clients, we need to embrace technology.

That does not mean that we should forget about our branches, about our physical presence. We need to find the right mix between bricks and clicks and we need to be there where and when our clients need us.

And last but absolutely not least: we committed to financial inclusion.

Increasing financial inclusion is one of the main missions of all of us, at the WSBI secretariat, and in the WSBI member countries.

From the start, in Marrakech in 2012, we pledged to open an account for everyone.

Since then we – and I should rather say : YOU,  have worked hard to get there:

  • We committed to the Universal Financial Access goals established by the World Bank.
    Since our commitment in 2015, our members added 340 million accounts for 234 million clients. Yes indeed: 234 million people have been included in the formal financial system thanks to the efforts of our members, thanks to your efforts!

  • We managed various projects in the field.
    I will only mention two of these: the Bill and Melinda Gates funded “Doubling Savings Accounts" project and the Mastercard funded “Scale2Save" project.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I want to bring to your attention that the theme of this congress is Sustainable Retail Banking – Making globalization inclusive for all.

Globalisation is not just a matter of global investment banks that want to make as much profit as possible.

It is a matter of linking as many citizens as possible, in all the countries of the world to the benefits of a global economy.

Our world is dominated by a small number of global conglomerates that determine the economy and the division of labour. This leads to an alienation of people that no longer feel as if they were in control of their own lives.

Savings and retail banks can be a stabilizing force in this respect by contributing to a strong and stable local infrastructure. By financing individuals, SMEs and local authorities, we make sure our local communities are equipped to actively participate in a globalized world – as autonomous actors with their own identity.

That is what savings and retail banking is about. This is what this congress is about.

You have two intensive days ahead of you.

You will hear from speakers and panelists from all the continents.

You will have the opportunity to network with colleagues from 40 different countries.

And this evening, after a first day of discussions and sessions, you will be treated to a Gala Dinner that will give you another impression of that Amazing India that I mentioned in the beginning of this speech. I would like to thank the host of this dinner, the State Bank of India, for the kind invitation and for making this possible.

After two mandates, I will step down as President of WSBI. Yesterday, at our General Assembly, we elected a new WSBI president, who will take up the WSBI leadership

This new WSBI President is Isidro Fainé, someone most of you know. Isidro Fainé is the President of the Spanish Confederation of Savings Banks CECA. He is highly respected as a banker, philanthropist and person, not only in Spain but all over the world.

He brings with him many years of experience in the financial sector. With him, our institute is in good hands and will continue thriving.

I would like to thank the members of the WSBI Board, the members of the WSBI President's Committee, all the WSBI members as well as the WSBI secretariat for their collaboration over the past years. 

Isidro, a warm welcome to you, from myself and from all the WSBI members. Please join me here on the stage for a short welcome to the audience.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the meantime, let me end my speech by saying how happy I am to see that so many of you have made the effort to come to New Delhi. I hope to have the opportunity to talk to all of you and wish you two interesting days here in New Delhi.

I would also like to take the opportunity to say thank you to all of you. During my presidency, I met wonderful people from many countries of the world.

All of them are passionate about the idea that our savings and retail banks stand for: providing people with security for their investments, offering fair conditions for loans, and fostering the local economy by servicing all layers of society.

A sincere thank you to all of you for this fantastic experience.

Financial inclusion