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“The Best Bank in Albania”: Interview with Banka Kombëtare Tregtare Chairman Mehmet Usta and CEO & Board Member Seyhan Pencabligil

“The Best Bank in Albania”: Interview with Banka Kombëtare Tregtare Chairman Mehmet Usta and CEO & Board Member Seyhan Pencabligil

​In recent years, BKT’s excellent performance – including its successful financial management, sustainable growth in profitability and market share, and innovative banking services – has been recognised by prominent financial magazines. For 2012 EMEA Finance named Seyhan Pencabligil “CEO of the Year in Europe” and bestowed on BKT a second consecutive “Best Local Bank in Albania” award. For 2013 BKT was named “Best Bank in Albania” by both The Banker and Euromoney.


Mehmet Usta,
 Chairman ​

Seyhan Pencabligil,
CEO & Board Member​

Mr Pencabligil, BKT is the oldest bank in Albania. Can you introduce our readers to your institution and explain its place in the Albanian financial system?

Our first branch was established in Durres on 29 November 1925 and represents the oldest Albanian financial institution in the country.
Banka Kombëtare Tregtare Sh.a. (BKT), in its current status, was established on 1 January 1993 from the merger of Banka Kombëtare (National Bank) and Banka Tregtare (Commercial Bank). BKT accomplished its privatisation process in 2000 and is now 100% owned by the Turkish Calik Financial Services.

BKT is the second largest bank in the Albanian banking system in terms of assets, deposits and loans. In 2013, BKT’s assets reached $2.68 billion (December 2012: $2.34 billion); loans to customers increased slightly to $886 million (December 2012: $854 million); customer deposits went up to $2.15 billion (December 2012: $1.88 billion); total shareholders’ equity increased to $215 million (December 2012: $184 million); and the net profit reached $39.3 million (December 2012: $30.9 million). As of end-2013, BKT operates through a network of 59 branches in Albania and 24 branches in Kosovo.

Mr Usta, your major shareholder is Turkish. Can you explain your relationship and its benefits? Does it mean BKT is more oriented toward the Turkish market or are you interested in turning toward the EU?

Our bank is 100% owned by Calik Financial Services and our ultimate beneficial shareholder is Calik Holding, which is a conglomerate of companies engaged in textiles, energy, construction, financial services, trade, telecom media and mining. The group is an important actor in 17 countries including Turkey. This was achieved throughout the years that Calik has pursued region-focused growth. Moreover, Calik is the largest foreign investor in Albania, owning BKT and also the majority in the country’s largest landline telecom operator Albtelecom and GSM mobile operator, Eagle Mobile. BKT and Albtelecom cooperate, using cutting edge technology in order to create maximum synergy beneficial to both our shareholder and the region we reside in. 

Besides being a leading regional bank, BKT’s target is to be a well-known and esteemed international institution. Within this framework, in line with the attempts of Albania to become a member of the European Union, it is inevitable that BKT turns its face towards the EU.

Mr Pencabligil, despite an economic slowdown exacerbated by anxiety surrounding a change in government, and unlike its competitors, BKT posted an increase in profits in 2013. What are you doing that your competitors aren’t?

Unfortunately, during 2013, Albania witnessed slower economic expansion due to mid-year general Parliamentary elections, which created uncertainty in domestic business actors. Anyhow, despite the low economic growth, the foggy domestic political landscape and ups and downs in the world and European economy, BKT yet again authored new success in its story of sustainable profitability and growth. Our bank has charted a steadily rising course of uninterrupted growth over the last 13 years since its privatisation, during which time its assets increased approximately 15-fold.

These achievements are attributable to the bank’s steady leadership in the market for quality, management and service innovation, and the expertise to support and expand its clientele. These are qualities which have not gone unnoticed. The bank is continuously awarded internationally as a confirmation of the growth of its capacities and the role of the bank within the Albanian banking sector.

Mr Pencabligil, is increasing financial inclusion one of your priorities? For example, does BKT have specific products or services that target low-income persons?

If you ask the name of the institution which is most concerned about social uplifting and inclusion in Albania, the answer is BKT. Having the perspective of being the first bank in the country makes us more responsible, not only to maintain our leading position and achieve our bank’s goals in the coming years, but also to be more sensitive toward people in need, whether they are orphans, people with disabilities, or any other vulnerable individuals.

Recently, we have launched four new services. First, the bank supports people in need by providing them with accounts without a maintenance commission and without a minimum balance requirement. This initiative started as a collaboration with a non-governmental foundation, which supports orphans with regular donations through bank accounts, opened and treated preferentially by BKT.

Second, BKT offers the possibility to pensioners to take personal loans. BKT is the only bank that offers such a product in Albania, although the product is commonly and widely used in other regions.

The third ongoing project serves arguably the most isolated part of society, prisoners. We open bank accounts for inmates and provide them with debit cards. We also install POS machines at the grocery shops in prisons. Money sent by their families can then be safely used by inmates to purchase goods.

Last but not least, our most important product increases financial inclusion among first time home owners, by subsidising housing with affordable loans and interest rates. Through this project, BKT has made herculean efforts to address the shortage of housing throughout the country and ensure improved access to housing finance to more than 3,100 families by offering favourable loan terms and simplifying loan procedures.

Do remittances play any role in your business model?

Albania is a small country with many immigrants living in Europe, mostly in Italy and Greece, who contribute to their family’s financial well-being with small, but considerably important amounts compared to their total income. These remittances have decreased sharply in recent years, but still represent 5% of the country’s GDP. We have special corresponding banking agreements for those remittances, with many European banks minimising all the apparent and hidden costs of transferring money. In addition, we do not apply any internal commissions and/or fees for Albanian families receiving money from abroad into their own accounts. Moreover, we believe that remittances sent via other transfer methods could be channelled into the banking system through the creation of new innovative banking products and we are ready to take the initiative to create such products.

Mr Usta and Mr Pencabligil, what would you like to see happen within the framework of your membership in WSBI and ESBG? Are there areas for cooperation?

WSBI and ESBG are global representatives of savings and retail banking. They represent savings and socially committed retail banks or associations thereof in many countries, working closely with international financial institutions and representing its members’ interests at an international level.

Since BKT is an important actor serving the real economy in its region, its relationship with and membership in such organisations sharpens its expertise in the retail and savings banking field. Our bank is currently having a very satisfactory partnership in terms of networking and institutional relations by intensifying the dialogue with international retail banking decision-making institutions. Moreover, we are benefiting significantly from the various and very specialised trainings (especially in the retail banking field) organised by ESBG. On the other hand, we believe that business platforms might be shared on a more extensive basis.

Banka Kombetare Tregtare