Re|Bank Deputy Director of Retail Banking on Company’s Crisis Management & New Offers amid Pandemic

Over the past year, Re|Bank has managed to occupy a worthy and distinguished place in the Georgian market. In the field of retail banking services, PASHA Bank 's sub-brand offers its customers unique products and undoubtedly competitive conditions.

Re|Bank's idea to speak about the company through its products was successfully implemented. The bank's innovative products, including the Top|Card Installment Card and implemented projects, have helped the company establish its place.

COVID-19 has significantly impacted economies and businesses across the world, and of course Georgia is no exception. However, thanks to the high qualifications and experience of its management and employees, Re|Bank is successfully handling the current challenges caused by the global crisis.

GEORGIA TODAY spoke to Mikheil Gaprindashvili, Re|Bank’s Deputy Director of Retail Banking, to find out more about the company’s crisis management strategy, the impact of the pandemic on Re|Bank , and its new offers since the outbreak in order to make the lives of its customers easier.

The most pressing topic today is the pandemic and the resulting crisis. How prepared were you to meet this and what challenges did you have to face?

It was quite unexpected. However, we started preparing for changes when the first signs of the pandemic appeared and planning how to respond. At this time, we had two main tasks: first, to create a safe working environment for our employees. For this purpose, we allowed those who could to work remotely from home, and regarding those working in our branches, we divided them into two groups and let them work in two-week shifts.

The second important task was not to stop providing banking services to customers. Actually, the Bank initially planned on providing services through remote channels, as Re|Bank is represented only with 7 branches throughout Georgia. However, in this period in particular we were especially active in terms of switching to remote services. In about three months, we had a platform completely ready to serve not only existing but also new customers in a fully remote mode.

Re|Bank is a new bank, we celebrated our 1st anniversary in August, and naturally it has relatively few existing customers. Our main goal was not to stop serving the new customers. In May, we completed the pilot platform so that even new customers didn’t have to come to the bank to get banking services. On the contrary, they were able to benefit from our services remotely not only in terms of transactions, but even on loan products.

After achieving these two main tasks, the third aim during the pandemic was to adjust the banking products and services to customers’ requirements, as they now had different needs and challenges. We offered them a lot of novelties and concessions, including on an installment shopping card called Top|Card for existing customers to benefit from it quite actively. Since June, we have a lot of new clients using Top|Card.

Re|Bank had to enter a very competitive market. Yet one year in, and it already has its own niche and distinguished place. From your point of view, what are the reasons behind this?

When Re|Bank was founded, its main slogan was and still remains ‘For Changes!’, meaning that we needed to offer innovative products, different ways of delivering these products, different processes, and different communication. Overall, a customer should have a totally different banking experience in the existing environment. We are following that strategy, with installment card Top|Card, our flagship product, refinancing loans, auto loans, also distinguished from the other similar products just like other Re|Bank offers, Blitz|Loans, all these in terms of product. In terms of communication, there was digital communication from the start, while in terms of delivery, even before the pandemic, our products were mostly delivered to customers without direct visit to the branches, for instance in case of Top|Card, if it is approved, a card is handed over to customers by courier. All this worked and that is exactly why customers see us in the way as was planned: that Re|Bank is the bank for changes.

The installment card sounds really innovative. What distinguishes it from a credit card and what does it have in common?

The uniqueness of this product is that it has both installment and credit card functions . We all need to buy something, and no-one will refuse to redistribute an amount over several months really interest free, as an installment loan interest is paid by the partner where the item is purchased.

And we all need to have some free money to use as needed. This is already the credit part. So, Top|Card is a unique product as it combines both.

There are more than 1400 partners where customer can shop totally interest free, be it clothing, shoes, perfume, home appliances, construction materials, etc., in almost all directions.

Top|Card serves as an interest-free installment card with an interest-free period of 2 to 12 months at these 1400 partners.

So, Top|Card gives us two main priorities: firstly, why should we pay a certain amount at once, if there is an opportunity to redistribute it over several months? And especially when it is free money? And secondly, why shouldn’t we always have the necessary amount on our card to use as we wish?

With other products, you say you have competitive conditions. Why should a customer choose Re|Bank?

Not only products create this superiority. Everything is done together to provide customers a distinctive experience, including different ways of delivery, digital marketing… Of course, a product is still the main thing. As I’ve already mentioned, we had various offers on Top|Card during this whole pandemic period. Now, as it turns out, customers, in this period, due to decreased incomes, have two special needs: the first is to meet their current financial needs. For instance, a person had 1000 GEL as a saving, and used this amount for basic needs. Now, they don’t have it anymore. On the contrary, some people’s incomes have been reduced significantly and they need help from the banks. We’ve adjusted blitz loans to these needs exactly, which are fully remote, you don’t need to come to the bank. It takes maximum 10 minutes to get it. Through this, firstly, we’ve addressed these current financial needs.

The second special need is that everyone who had existing loans in other banks now want to pay less due to decreased incomes and even worse expectations. What we’ve done regarding refinancing loans: we allow our customers, if they transfer their loans to us from other banks, either to pay less each month through extending the loan term, or if they want to pay the same amount and add money, we also allow them to do it.

We see that the above fully meets both needs appeared during the pandemic: to get the necessary amount quickly and to save money and pay less if you have an existing loan. The first is met by a Blitz|Loan and the second by a refinancing loan.

Now, we’ve created a new product, Auto|Loan. Unlike all other banks, Re|Bank provides it without any down-payment, collateral, or mandatory car insurance in order to help our customers satisfy their needs in a much simpler way.

What are Re|Bank’s plans for the next half year, especially considering that there is another wave of crisis ahead.

We have short-term, medium-term and 3-year strategic plans. I very much hope that we won’t need to go beyond this 3-year strategic plan due to this pandemic.

Regarding near plans, unfortunately, we predict that the pandemic won’t be weakened in the next 6-9 months. In this period, we are going to fully digitalize all processes. As I’ve already mentioned, serving new customers and loan products have already been digitalized; however, now we’re working to digitalize other backside processes of the bank too.

We’re developing a new mobile bank, which will be presented soon, exactly during this period, to provide customers even more comfort and simplicity, and we’re also working to add more such functions to our existing products that will allow them to save their money and time even more, considering that as we have to live along with coronavirus and the New Year is coming, everyone will have expenses, and people will try to redistribute those expenses in the pre-New Year period.

How will your employees continue to work, and do you have any recommendations for other companies in this regard?

Before the pandemic, about 180 employees worked at our head office, boasting over 2000 sqm. Now, all of them are working remotely and one can see only managers here, who manage works from office and perform their duties here. Otherwise, you can imagine how difficult it is to wear a face mask at work the whole day through.

Most importantly, as soon as the pandemic started, our holding announced that it won’t fire even a single employee due to pandemic, despite the fact that we had less pressure at work in this period. And we are fulfilling this promise. All the employees work from home, with less pressure, but still work. However, we redistributed this pressure on future projects. For instance, we are the only company which tripled the number of its IT specialists during the pandemic. We hired up to 40 employees, and almost all the departments are working on future projects remotely. As I’ve said, our employees working in the branches of Re|Bank work in two-week shifts. Now we might change it to 10-day shifts, in accordance with safety recommendations. Still, direct communication with teammates is quite important and remote working has its difficulties, but the holding supported us in this period with recommendations of experienced managers on how to improve the effectiveness and manage our employees’ motivation, which is also crucial. Despite the current situation, we remain optimistic and hope that better days will come soon.

08 October 2020 17:46