Debt collecting gets…er, sexy?

September 28, 2009

Bank employees working in call centers and reminding clients of their overdue loans used to be as far to the bottom of the banking food chain as you could be. Not any more.

Raiffeisen International, the second-biggest lender in eastern Europe, has ramped up staff in its collections and risk management departments.

Active in 17 countries between the Czech Republic and Kazakhstan, it is exposed to a region that is among the hardest hit by the global financial crisis. Rampant loan growth of the last few years has turned into an equally rapid rise of bad debt.

“We substantially increased resources in our call centres, started new ones,“ Martin Gruell, Raiffeisen’s CFO, said ahead of the Reuters Central European Investment Summit in Vienna. “There are 40 percent more employees working in Collections than before the crisis.”

As it is struggling with the rising tide of non-performing loans – they more than doubled in the first half of the year – it has also shifted part of its pool for bonuses to those who are working on saving as much as possible of loans that have become overdue.

“Employees have targets and are getting bonuses depending on how much they are able to collect,” he said. Do they come at someone else’s expense? “Obviously, if there is not such a high demand on our salespeople, bonuses will be lower there.”

And Raiffeisen is feeling that its competitors are doing the same.

“You wouldn’t believe how hard it is these days to find good risk managers and to keep those that you have,” Gruell said. “This is now one of the most sexy jobs in banking.”

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