Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders
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.”
Reuters Central European Investment Summit, September 28-30, 2009
The former Communist countries of central Europe have been the last to be hit by the global economic crisis, but th e hit they took was among the hardest. Only big neighbour Russia’s deep plunge into recession is rivaling the sharp fall from record economic growth that’s in store this year for the economies between the former Soviet Union and Western Europe.
Global risk aversion and deleveraging exposed the weaknesses that the countries had been able to gloss over during the boom years – which in retrospect appeared to have been, in some countries, a colossal binge bankrolled by cheap foreign credit extended by Western European banks that had to come to an end when funding dried up.