ProCredit Bank Macedonia
Macedonia is a small country with 2.1 million inhabitants, limited natural resources, and challenges inherited from its Yugoslav past (source: State Statistical Office of Macedonia, Population; 2012). It has a significant Albanian minority, which is being integrated into Macedonian society and the political and economic life of this young country. At present, attention is focused on fulfilling the criteria for EU and NATO accession, an ongoing process in which significant obstacles are still to be overcome.
The global economic downturn is still impacting on Macedonia’s macroeconomic indicators. GDP shrank by 0.3% in 2012, compared to an increase of 3% in 2011 (source: National Bank of the Republic of Macedonia, Annual Report 2012). The government's main priority is to achieve economic growth, and it has undertaken many significant reforms aimed at facilitating economic development. However, the unemployment rate is still very high, indicating that the reforms and investments undertaken have not yet created many new employment opportunities. Small and medium-sized enterprises account for more than 50% of the country's economic activity and for more than 75% of employment (source: Progress in the Implementation of the European Charter for Small Enterprises in the Western Balkans: 2009 SME Policy Index, Directorate for Financial and Enterprise Affairs, OECD).
As of 31 December 2012, the ratio of private sector lending to GDP was 47.4%, and deposits to GDP 53.0% (source: National Bank of the Republic of Macedonia). With 16 commercial banks, Macedonia might appear to be "overbanked". However, the sector is highly concentrated, with the three largest banks accounting for 62.7% of total assets (source: National Bank of the Republic of Macedonia as of 30 September 2012). Furthermore, most of these institutions do not serve small businesses at all, or serve them inadequately.
The financial sector remained stable during the worldwide financial crisis, pursuing a conservative financial policy in lending. However, the real sector was hit harder by the crisis, and this had an indirect impact on the financial sector, with non-performing loans increasing to 12.27% in June 2012 (source: National Bank of the Republic of Macedonia as of June 2012). Although some foreign-owned banks suffered from their parent company’s operating problems abroad, the banks in Macedonia operated independently under local regulations and were able to maintain their stability.
ProCredit Bank started its operations in 2003. In 10 years it succeeded in becoming a reliable banking partner to businesses and a trustworthy place for clients’ savings. Despite the adverse economic and financial circumstances, ProCredit Bank Macedonia continued to achieve solid performance, supporting its clients’ development and offering a wide range of services. The bank invests intensively in staff training and development to ensure that clients receive high quality service and advice. The introduction of the Young Bankers Programme in the first half of 2011 was a significant innovation, setting new standards of professional development in the Macedonian banking sector. As of September 2013, more than 80 Young Bankers had been hired by ProCredit Bank after the successful completion of the programme.
ProCredit Bank is a dynamic bank that actively seeks communication with its clients. The bank knows that Macedonian customers value transparency and are interested in learning more about financial matters. To satisfy this demand for financial education, the bank organises events with a special focus on topics such as savings, loans or energy efficiency, and staff are always ready to provide answers to questions that customers may have. Recent activities have included “savings caravans”, mobile information units touring the country, offering people advice on saving and on choosing the services that suit them best.
In 2011 the bank introduced “Eco Loans”, a new type of loan specifically designed for financing energy efficiency investments in business premises and private homes. Internal staff initiatives to raise awareness of the need for energy efficiency within the bank have also been implemented. For example, “Eco Wednesday” is a monthly reminder to every department to introduce practices that help to improve energy efficiency and protect the environment.
The bank has also upgraded its technology-based services: its e-banking platform is even faster, and clients can now use it to transfer funds to savings accounts; and the bank’s ATMs now additionally support withdrawals from savings accounts.