Efficiency 2015 Annual Report

I Have a Creative Job

How should a real banker look like? The answer is highly dependent on what kind of relationships the person asking this question has with the bank. In films, bankers are shown as rulers of the world, dull beggars, or villains and crooks. When thinking about bankers with whom we want to have business, other connotations spring to mind: they are reliable, honest, friendly, able to protect clients and their capital. If you look at banking from this point of view, it appears that Igors Šlivko, Deputy Head of ABLV Bank Corporate and Private Clients Service Division, is a classic representative of that kind of bankers. Tall and fit, with a firm handshake and a flawless smile. Usually people trust their money management to exactly that kind of personality.

What profession would you choose if decided not to become a banker?

A football coach.

Why not a player?

I believed that playing football is not a serious profession: players only follow the rules, but the coach is the one who really plays the game. Moreover, to become a coach one needs special education. Besides, I wanted to receive education. Generally speaking, I had a plan.

And what spoiled your game?

When I first thought of who I want to become, it was still the Soviet Union. I had been professionally playing football for ten years and even achieved some success, I had my superplan and joined the army being confident that after my return I would implement everything. However, when I came back... It was a completely different life: everyone was commuting with bags and suitcases, earning money.

In short, the 1990s came...

Yes. I returned from the army in 1991. I joined the armed forces and left the country with social guarantees and a transparent career ladder with obvious promotion: one step, another, then the third one. Education was free, and after the university, whatever it was, the system guaranteed you a workplace... I returned to a completely different country. Where no one cared about me.

So, you were forced to reject your thoughts about a football career...

All in all, yes.

But at those times normal banks did not even exist!

I did not think about banking! And I did not have any certain plans. I was obsessed with the only idea: it was necessary to do something to live, to continue existence. After all, everything I was used to, crashed right in front of my eyes: the Soviet Union collapsed, new borders appeared, and even money was new! It was totally different reality.

Did it scare you?

It might be difficult to believe, but the army experience helped me to pull together and spy out the land. Unlike many others, I do not think that the army was useless. I do not remember anything terrible from the military life, besides feeling homesick in the very beginning. The army has its own specifics: if you accept the rules, if you have a backbone, the service will improve your skills and make you better. People who served in the army know the value of words, acts and promises. And they know what discipline is.

These are the basic principles of work in a bank.

These are universal human rules. Clearly, they are valued in the bank as well.

What did you think of working at a bank at that time? As of something boring, like any common person?

I think that in 1980s, both in the Soviet Union and abroad, people did not dream about working at a bank. Many even now think that bankers are cold fish, and work at a bank is a pure routine. I can tell you as an insider: in today’s world, there are not a lot of places with such dynamics of development.

It is hard to believe that one can be so enthusiastic about working in the banking sector.

I was lucky in choosing the bank. Besides, I did it at the right moment. When I came here, our clients service department was being formed. You cannot even imagine how great it was to feel a pioneer. After all, what was in the very beginning? Our department mainly received calls from people who did not have a modem or the internet, not speaking about the internet bank, and computers were not so common. However, these clients had already accounts. Therefore, they called us to find out what happened to these accounts; they asked about inflow and outflow, balance, transactions and so on. We had a dial-up connection to the internet with an incredibly complicated access system and passwords. And a big computer.

Our history and reputation speak for us, as well as an ability to deal with difficulties during global financial crises without losses and nervous moments for our clients.

The age of dinosaurs. Just a little more than twenty years passed!

Believe it or not! Twenty years ago, all our duties were giant paperwork. We wrote the codes confirming that a client made such-and-such order. To confirm we put a stamp. After that we took this paper to the dealing department, where they checked whether we could carry out such an order (one more stamp), then — to the control department (a stamp), and finally, to the billing department (another stamp). Can you imagine?!

Sometimes clients came to the bank. Their visit was also an adventure. At those times, the bank owned only the first and the second floors of the building at Elizabetes Street. I remember a huge elevator and a wide staircase, where our employees used to have smoking breaks. Other staff was running around and shouting something into the radiotelephones (then it was ultra-modern, because mobile radio telephone replaced the landline phones, but modern cellular phones were not yet available). And through this smoking and shouting crowd of employees our clients were coming to us. Now it is hard to imagine! It was fun.

So to say, a technological revolution took place right before your eyes.

The banking revolution as well! For example, I remember the times when entrepreneurial activities started to boom and a demand for borrowings appeared. New commercial banks had to develop loan programs from scratch. That was the time when I first learnt about overdrafts.

And what was the most impressing change?

Everything was impressive. However, if you need evidence, simply come to the bank. I just told how it was in the late 1990s. And what about now? Look, large open bright space without false conventions: on this side there is the bank, and on the other — the client. There is no Great Wall of China between the bank and the client. Moreover, transparent glass is everywhere. And here, on the ground floor, is a conference room, where the board often holds its meetings. It is located right in front of the Cash Department, so people, who come to the bank, see the management and shareholders, who are working with their money as well. Nothing happens in the secret room under lock and key. We are transparent in our work. This, in my opinion, is the most important difference between the second decade of the 21st century and the end of the 20th century.

The presentation of the winter product release for the team of private bankers

Do you need to explain to your clients that your bank is the best?

Our history and reputation speak for us, as well as an ability to deal with difficulties during global financial crises without losses and nervous moments for our clients. Therefore, there is no need to tell anything else about ourselves. All our cards are laid on the table.

We, as all major European colleagues, are put in the unified global banking system.

Your work is highly dependent on your clients. It certainly implies an emotional element. How do you deal with it?

A lot depends on the first interview that is held when a person comes to us willing to open an account. Perhaps, this is the most difficult moment. Because we, as the bank, want to learn more about the person who is about to become our client, and he / she, like any normal person, wants to tell as little about himself / herself as possible. It is a challenging situation. And our staff has to be really skilful, on the one hand, to do their job, and, on the other hand, not to get the client miffed. Questions need to be asked. Of course, you can just chat about weather, but it will not open you an account!

Our questionnaire is detailed; the questions are determined by increasingly repressive global banking rules. Sometimes people perceive these questions as an intrusion into their private life. However, we ask all these questions just to find out whether the person possesses all the necessary: income, business, and reputation. By opening an account, the bank acts as a guarantor to the global banking system for its client, proving: this is a reliable partner.

How would you comment on the saying, “your friend’s friend is my friend”?

In 1990s, opening an account based on the information provided in the documents sent by fax was possible. Not anymore. We might be glad to take people’s words, but the global financial security, especially after the terrorist attacks in America and other bleak events, has changed dramatically. No one takes the words for granted. Now banks implement “know your customer” policy, and it only increases the number of questions. In theory, one can ignore these rules, shake hands and open an account only because a nice smiling person came. And further make on it much more money, right?

Yes.

Actually, no. These earnings can lead the bank, the client, and all the other clients — what is very important — into big troubles. Therefore, we, on the one hand, are trying to create maximum comfort for the client, on the other hand, support the necessary sufficient level of bank security, which guarantees our embeddedness in the global banking system. There, our bank is under the supervision of the European Central Bank. We, as all major European colleagues, are put in the unified global banking system.

Among the professional responsibilities of a private banker is the necessity to know about his / her client as much as possible.

It is difficult to disagree, but any client wants to be the one and only for the bank: to be known by name, to stand out from the crowd, and to be of high priority when it comes to his or her problems... It seems that modern multinational banks cannot afford it. Do you think the requirement to individualise is an old-fashioned fad?

Do not say that! We aim at the long-term relationships, so we love every client. A special working group consisting of three private bankers services each of our clients. The group includes a senior private banker and two assistants. In fact, these are the only people a client should know.

Unbelievable! These people definitely know some stories worth the Golden Globe Award for the best scenario…

Surely! However, there is neither time nor moral or professional rights to put these stories down — and there are enough for a dozen of films. (Laughs) Nevertheless, I must say that I cannot share any! But, regarding the practical part of your question, it is very convenient when the same private bankers service the whole family.

Apparently, the degree of understanding client’s problems sometimes is so high that, in theory, you should become the closest friends.

Our communication is fairly tight. When a client calls the bank, he / she knows exactly whom he / she will speak to. Among the professional responsibilities of a private banker is the necessity to know about his / her client as much as possible. We often organise closed events for our clients. It allows establishing friendly relations. Besides, our private bankers often visit their clients, sometimes up to five or six times a year. For example, when an issue cannot be resolved by phone, as people are afraid of the data leakage, our private bankers pay visits to clients.

The moment when you come to meet your client is very important in building the relationships. Firstly, the client appreciates that the bank’s representative made a special visit. Secondly, the private banker can see the situation on spot, is able to evaluate the production and business. Thirdly, during the time spent together it is easier to focus on issues and find the best business solutions.

Such trips are quite expensive, aren’t they?

You know, there are things on which it would be strange to save expenditures. Our policy is “know your customer”. And if a client cannot come to Riga, it means that we must go to him / her. One of the bank’s tasks is to understand what the client does for a living.

In other words, compared to the football coach career, banking sphere is not so boring.

Definitely. Although if someone had told me about it twenty years ago, I would not have believed it. Of course, there are moments when you have to focus only on dry figures and work with papers. The global trend gives less freedom, makes any activity more regulated, and puts everything into new frameworks... However, if you can follow the rules and deal with them, you can relax and enjoy creativity. Yes, exactly creativity! It appeared that I have a creative job.

What were your thoughts at the turn of the year?

I saw that the next year would not be an easy one. Business would not develop fast. Nevertheless, we have already experienced it before, we just need to ride out. And we can do that. This is exactly what I say to our clients if they ask about this year.

Do they ask?

Of course. Each day springs surprises. In Russia, for example, every day banks are being closed, and it indirectly affects Latvia. There are new regulations and statutes, but it is not clear yet how to apply them. We need to understand how to do what we are accustomed to alongside with all these new laws. However, we gradually sort it out. In this sense, I am confident both in myself and in the bank in which I work. Moreover, when people come and ask me about the future, I calmly reply: “We will live under the new rules. And that is it.”

Table of Contents

Creative team: Arnis Artemovičs, Ernests Bernis, Jānis Bunte, Anna Celma, Ilmārs Jargans, Jekaterina Koļesina, Sergejs Mazurs, Samanta Priedīte, Jūlija Surikova, Romans Surnačovs
Project managers: Anna Celma, Jūlija Surikova
Interviews: Jānis Bunte, Ingrīda Drazdovska, Konstantīns Gaivoronskis, Katrina Gordejeva, Ilmārs Jargans, Jekaterina Koļesina, Sergejs Mazurs, Romāns Meļņiks, Sergejs Pavlovs, Romans Surnačovs, Jānis Šķupelis
Text authors: Leonīds Aļšanskis, Jānis Bunte, Anna Celma, Vladislavs Hveckovičs, Jānis Grīnbergs, Māris Kannenieks, Ļubova Kazačenoka, Jekaterina Koļesina, Zane Kurzemniece, Aleksandrs Pāže, Gints Pumpurs, Dmitrijs Semjonovs, Jūlija Surikova, Kaspars Vanags, Benoit Wtterwulghe
Photography: Arnis Artemovičs, Uldis Bertāns, Mārtiņš Cīrulis, Ieva Čīka, Krišjānis Eihmanis, Andrejs Hroneloks, Alise Jastremska, Valdis Kauliņš, Valts Kleins, Marks Litvjakovs, Sergejs Mazurs, Reinis Oliņš, Samanta Priedīte, Gatis Rozenfelds, Polina Viljun, LETA foto, Marka.photo, Studija F64
Proofreader: Jānis Frišvalds
Translators: Jekaterina Koļesina, Nataļja Malašonoka, Lidija Marsova, Jūlija Surikova
Design: Aivis Lizums, Valters Horsts

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