Focus on Diversification
Sberbank SB JSC has invested in Kazakhstan's economy 2.2 trillion tenge
As the largest foreign institutional investorin Kazakhstan, Sberbank intends to diversify its loan portfolio in 2016 by focusing its lending activities on projects in the energy, manufacturing, transportation, and communications. Alexander Kamalov, Chairman of the Management Board of Sberbank SB JSC told about this during an interview with our magazine.
Alexander Ilyassovich, what goals were set at the time of foundation of Sberbank subsidiary in Kazakhstan?
Initially, in 2007, our goal was to enter the market. Then, we decided to increase our share in the assets of the banking system, and it was growing annually by 30–50%. In 2014, we approved a new strategy until the year of 2018. At the present time, we are focused on improving the efficiency of our work: increase in operating income, optimization of costs per employee and reduction in the cost of payment requests. We are striving to ensure that operating income per employee overlaps operating expenses, and we have positive results in this field.
Today, the management of any company requires the use of new technologies. Last year, we updated the Internet platform, launched mobile banking, and already at the end of the year during the international conference "Mobile Services and Payments – MobiEvent'15" the application "Sberbank Online Kazakhstan" was recognized as the best one in the "Design and Usability" category.
Our global objective remains unchanged: we give people confidence and reliability and make their lives better through the provision of assistance in achievement of their aspirations and dreams. In pursuing its mission, Sberbank pays great attention to the formation of corporate culture. In 2015, we received the "Assyl Alma" award in the contest "The best employer who creates healthy conditions at the enterprise" and left behind more than 300 competitors.
Partnership with public authorities has always been and remains another key development areas for us. Sberbank is a constant participant of the state programs aimed to support entrepreneurship in Kazakhstan. In 2015, DAMU Fund awarded repeatedly our business activities. Such awards include: a winner in the nomination "The best bank providing subsidies under the program "Business Road Map-2020", a winner in the nomination "The best guaranteed product" as well as one of the leaders of the campaign "Success is guaranteed!".
How do you assess the business climate in Kazakhstan? What problems do institutional investors face?
It is no secret that the financial market continues operating in conditions of high volatility, and the country's economy is still dependent on prices for raw materials. At the same time, the key problem of the past year was the situation with the national currency liquidity.
On the other hand, emotions are going down and the situation is improving. We have launched a single anti-crisis program, which should affect the expansion of consumer demand, first of all, for housing. An additional business incentive will be subsidizing of interest rates on loans. The Government has been instructed to attract investment more actively. In general, all these measures and the current price level provide a basis for further sustainable development of the economy of Kazakhstan.
What Kazakhstan projects does your bank invest in its funds?
Today, we are the largest foreign institutional investor in Kazakhstan and hold firmly the first position among foreign second-tier banks in terms of the amount of financing. At the same time, over the last seven years the total tax payments to the budget increased 13 times and amounted to 44.3 billion tenge. On the whole, support of the parent bank and synergy with the Sberbank Group allow us to suggest that we will remain a leading foreign financial institution during the next 5 years.
The total amount invested by Sberbank SB JSC jointly with Sberbank of Russia OJSC in economy of Kazakhstan equals to 2.2 trillion tenge. We have financed projects of the largest companies such as ERG, KazMunaiGas, Aktobe Rail and Structural Steel Mill, Kazakhmys Corporation.
The sectoral structure of the bank's loan portfolio corresponds to the structure of GDP of Kazakhstan. Of course, the quality of the selected projects allows us to constrain industry-specific risks. Sberbank diversifies the loan portfolio by reducing the volumes in trade, construction and agricultural sectors. This year, we are planning to focus on the processing industry, transport, communications and energy.
How many projects did the bank approve within the framework of the "2020 Business Road Map" in the past year?
Sberbank is a leading participant in this program. We rank the first among Kazakhstan banks in terms of subsidizing and the volume of guarantees of DAMU Fund. Last year, the Fund approved 224 projects totalling more than 13 billion tenge.
As I said before, Sberbank is actively funding key sectors of our economy. The loan portfolio structure has been formed on the basis of general market trends with the emphasis on granting the loans to sectors that generate the highest surplus product: industry, construction, transport and communications.
What credit funds have been allocated to support and develop the agro-industrial complex?
Investments made by Sberbank in agriculture have amounted to $500 million. This is quite a serious amount, even though we are not a bank specialized in the agricultural sector. We finance all areas of activities – cultivation of crops, livestock breeding and food industry. We continue investing in this economy sector with due account for the current macroeconomic situation and related risks.
What is the level of justification of the active credit policy given the difficult economic situation?
Due to the tenge liquidity deficit, banks have increased rates on new credits granted in the national currency. Of course, maintaining the active credit policy in such circumstances inevitably leads to the formation of a potentially problematic portfolio, as companies – borrowers would not be able to service debts in conditions of decreasing consumer demand. Today, it is important for us to work with the existing credit base and avoid deterioration of borrowers' status through rigorous monitoring and timely response. It is also important to search a solution to difficult situations, if they arise, in conjunction with clients. On the other hand, the pressure of external factors, namely, decline in oil prices cease playing a fundamental role due to the fact that in 2015 they were already at a low level. On the whole, we conduct a moderate credit policy and apply a conservative approach to risk assessment.
How do you evaluate the idea of creating the International Financial Center in Astana? Is Sberbank planning to participate in this project?
Of course, we are interested in this idea because it is right. Unique opportunities are created for market participants: own regulator, English case law, tax preferences. Currently, this project is at the stage of detailed elaboration, and we are in active dialogue with the IFCA regarding a number of promising areas.
What are the goals of the bank for 2016?
We intend to remain the largest foreign bank in the Kazakhstan market, which offers its customers only the best products and services. Sberbank is developing as a universal bank – we equally appreciate our relationships with both our corporate and private clients and we see a certain synergy in this logic. Digital also remains one of priorities in terms of improvement of usability and expansion of the list of proposed options. Today, we carry out about 80% online banking transactions. This year, we have launched such unique options like cash withdrawals without a card, crowd-gifting and, of course, we will develop this area. However, such technologies are not enough; some of clients still prefer to come directly to the bank. Here, the work is performed in two directions: reducing the duration of operations and increase in the comfort level. In the banking sector, many products are similar, but customers always prefer one bank to another. And our task is to ensure that our clients will stay with us forever.