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The growth and development of Stopanska banka a.d. Bitola is a result of the implementing of innovative products and services created to satisfy clients’ needs

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MSc Natasha Nestorovska

Stopanska banka a.d. Bitola has been in the Macedonian banking for more than 65 years. Initially, the bank had dominant presence in the region of Bitola and Pelagonija, and today it has developed network of 20 branches with 11 towns in the Republic of Macedonia. Although in the past the bank’s activities were mainly oriented toward corporate banking, nowadays Stopanska banka a.d. Bitola is a recognizable brand, mostly through its products and services for individuals. Those products and services are created by applying the highest bank standards in order to fit the wishes and needs of the clients. Another indicator showing the qualitative changes in the strategy of the Bank and the dispersion of the risk is the participance of loans for individuals in the total loan portfolio, which in 2015 amounted 28,68% of the total loans, unlike in 2013 and 2014 when this coefficient amounted 20.37% and 25,78% respectively.

MSc Natasha Nestorovska

MSc Natasha Nestorovska

On the other side, the deposit side of the Bank, which continually grows year after year illustrates the confidence that households and companies indicate toward the Bank. Namely, at the end of 2015 the dominant participance of 61, 78% in the total deposit potential of the Bank have the individuals. The trend in these deposits shows positive growth each year compared with the previous as follows: 9, 09% in 2013, 6, 95% in 2014 and 2, 39% in 2015. In this context, the deposits of legal entities have grown for 8, 81% во 2013, 38, 99% in 2014 and 13, 60% in 2015.

One of the main preconditions for achieving greater growth and development of the client base, and particularly the orientation to households is the creation of innovative products and services, as well as the investments in the development of the information technology and electronic services, which enabled achieving greater speed, efficiency and security of the information system. The growth of new opened current accounts for individuals and legal entities is evident in 2015 compared with the previous year, where the dominant participation of 89, 37% in the total new opened current accounts have the individuals.

Stopanska banka a.d. Bitola is a principal member of VISA International, and issues four types of cards such as: VISA Electron, VISA Classic, VISA Gold I VISA Business card, whose number increases through the years. Thus, in 2015 compared with 2014, the number of issued cards has increased for 16, 96%, and 39, 46% compared with 2013. The greatest registered growth is among VISA Classic cards with a percent of 69, 42% growth compared with 2014 and a percent of 143, 53% compared with 2013.

The Bank is a member of the EMV Liability Shift Programme and consequently follows all the rules regulated by EMV technical standard. It means that all the cards issued by the Bank are EMV smart cards i.e. cards with own chip where all information related to the card owner are enrolled. This way the security of the data about cardholders is increased and their transactions on ATMs, POS terminals or e-commerce are ensured.

In order to offer complete service for its clients, the bank simultaneously with the increase of the number of clients, the number of cards, increase the network of ATM’s in all the towns in the republic where the bank has its branches. The number of new ATM’s increased for 54% compared with 2014, and for 118% compared with 2013.

In accordance with the submitted application for obtaining Principal membership in MasterCard, Stopanska banka a.d. Bitola officially became member of MasterCard in 2015. After obtaining the membership and the successful application, the Bank at the beginning of 2016 officially started the process of implementation of MasterCard products. According to the plan for implementation of new brand cards the Bank plans to implement two types of MasterCard cards as follows:

MDS – Debit MasterCard – international debit card which the client uses in accordance with his account available funds in the county and abroad

MCS – Master Card Standard – credit card which the client uses in accordance with the approved credit limit in the county and abroad

The difference between the cards of this brand in comparison with the issued cards of the brand VISA, is in the functionality for   a contactless payment. The cards will be Contactless Smart Chip cards and will have the logo of MasterCard Contactless payment, Pay Pass. Contactless Smart Chip technology is based on secured micro- processor intelligence, internal memory and small built in antenna inside the card which establishes NFC (Near Field Communication) with contactless reader vie radio interface. The embedded chip and antenna enable payment by simply swiping the card in front of the POS terminal which has appropriate reader for contactless payment. This way of payment is simplier and faster for the clients; hence the product is widespread accepted.

Similarly as with the conventional payment cards, the contact less payment cards of Stopanska banka a.d. Bitola will have incorporated many security mechanisms. The contactless payment follows the same chip and PIN procedure as standard contact cards. In addition, the contactless credit and debit transactions are secured with the same guaranties, regulations and rules in the case of fraud as transaction made with standard cards.

Another important point is that every contactless card PayPass, functions as the conventional standard card and as such can be used at all ATM and POS terminals that have readers for contactless payment in the country and abroad. From all the above considering the contactless payment cards, the Bank expects that they will be attractive among existence clients and the potential new ones. The Bank believes that they will be accepted and will increase the use of credit cards, the number of transactions and the turnover with credit cards, which will consequently increase the revenues.

In 2015, there was a significant growth in the number of users of electronic banking, such as increase of 32, 73% by legal entities compared with 2014 and 35, 86% by individuals.  Thus, at the end of 2015 the total turnover realized through the electronic banking grew for 7, 97% compared with the turnover realized in 2014. The increased number of users of the electronic banking service and the increased turnover contributed for increase in the revenues of commissions of electronic banking of 21, 71%, compared with 2014.

In order to improve the services and follow the modern bank trends in 2015, The Bank introduced the SMS banking service, and it was initiated the project Mobipay- payment by using mobile phone, whose realization is expected to be finished in 2016. Furthermore, there were initiatives for activities for implementing of the new system of electronic banking (e-bank), which besides the basic services will offer greater multifunctionality in terms of monitoring, executing and planning the personal finance of clients. The new e-bank service will have upgraded functionality for SMS notification, and upgrades with security information system foe electronic signing of payment instruments ONE TIME PASSWORD (OTP).  These innovations with the new system for electronic banking will create conditions for increasing the base of clients who will use these services, but also will increase the security of the information system as safe and reliable ways for secured signing of payment instruments.

In 2016 Stopanska banka a.d. Bitola started with implementation of the new functionality for payment with mobile phone as issuer of the card that supports the service, and holder of a network of devices which enable that way of payment by mobile phone. (Issuing and acquiring).

The Mobipay service of Stopanska banka a.d. Bitola will enable:

  • Technology for realization of secure transactions by using mobile phone and access to a customer base accounting over 1 Million users.
  • Access to small segments for payment which previously have not been covered with payment cards (taxi, public transport, payment on wending machines etc.).
  • Permanent development and advancement of the canals of distribution and the possibilities for making payments.
  • The introducement of new products and services was impossible to perform, if the Bank did not invest in modern and upgradable IT solutions, which will adequately follow the needs and modern trends, which to this point has proved to be justified. There are numerous key changes in the IT infrastructure at hardware, software, system, and communication and application level. There was implemented an application which electronically records operational risks. This made the way for statistic analysis, central data storage and reporting this kind of events much simplier than before.
  • There was introduced a new intranet solution for sharing useful information within the bank
  • Module for complaints which enables simplier electronic reporting and recording clients complaints and their analysis in order to improve the quality of the Bank service
  • Internal help desk portal
  • An electronic archive system for electronic archiving and review of archived documents, application solutions for human resources with functionalities for managing, recording, statistical analyzing planning and calculating in the field of human resources.

In order to build a recognizable brand at the Macedonian banking market, the new premises of the branches of Stopanska banka a.d. Bitola are organized according to the highest standards for ergonomics, cost efficiency, and client friendly working environment.

MSc Natasha Nestorovska

Member of The Board of directors

Banking

Local authorities and business networks play a key role in small business success, and must be protected during COVID rebuild

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Local authorities and business networks play a key role in small business success, and must be protected during COVID rebuild 1
  • 23% of UK’s top performing businesses have been supported by local enterprise partnerships and growth hubs
  • Similarly, 30% of Britain’s strongest businesses have obtained external finance in the last 3 years
  • New findings come as part of an independent, holistic study into small business success, commissioned by Allica Bank to support British businesses

A new study, commissioned by business bank, Allica Bank, shows that a high level of engagement and interaction with external institutions and resources, is central to SMEs’ prospects of success.

The study analysed data from over 1,000 companies and ranked their success on a scale that evaluated factors including productivity, growth, consistency and outlook. To measure SMEs’ external engagement, survey respondents were asked whether or not they had engaged with local enterprise partnerships, growth hubs, or external financial advisers, as well as whether they had obtained credit or sought re-financing advice, in the last three years.

The benefit to small businesses in making the most of external resources are clear to see, with a quarter (23%) of the UK’s top performing SMEs – those in the top tenth percentile – actively engaging their local enterprise partnership or growth hub in the last three years. This compares to just 16% of all other small businesses. With such a clear benefit to businesses, these external networks must not only be protected but prioritised by any Government plans to rebuild the economy post-COVID.

Similarly, of the top performing SMEs in the country, 30% have obtained external credit in the past three years, compared to less than a quarter (24%) of all other businesses. This figure drops even further for the weakest performing businesses – those in the ninetieth percentile – where just 12% of businesses have obtained external financial support in recent years.

Chris Weller, Chief Commercial Officer, Allica Bank, said:

“At Allica Bank we understand that no two businesses are the same. We also know that no-one knows a business as well as its owners and managers. But they can’t be expected to be experts on everything.

“In the UK there is a wealth of external advice and support for small businesses and we urge each and every business out there to tap in to the external resources around them. Third-parties, such as business clubs, chambers of commerce, local enterprise partnerships and trade bodies, can be invaluable sources of advice and further resources. And although they have excelled in their given field, business owners may still lack knowledge in many other areas of running and growing a business. Therefore, engaging with third parties can give business owners the kinds of insight – and fresh perspectives – they need to succeed.

“As the economy and the country comes to terms with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important these vital SME resources are protected and given the funding they need to continue providing invaluable insight and support to small businesses up and down the country.”

Allica Bank’s SME Guide to Success identified six ‘rules to success’ that were more likely to be displayed by top-performing SMEs compared to their counterparts. The full report contains a wealth of additional data and insight into each of these topics.

As part of its mission to empower small businesses, Allica Bank is making the findings freely available and running a series of free online workshops with relevant partner organisations for businesses to attend.

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Banking

Do we really need banks? Yes, but digital transformation industry-wide is vital

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Do we really need banks? Yes, but digital transformation industry-wide is vital 2

By Charley Cooper is Managing Director at enterprise blockchain firm, R3

The Coronavirus crisis has taught us that we are capable of going digital quickly when we need to. As the banking sector faces a second wave, the ability for individual firms to grow and succeed will be reliant on better connectivity and efficiency at the industry-level, writes R3’s Charley Cooper.

The sudden and dramatic pace of change has been seen globally over the last six months. Decades of paper-based practices are being updated, digitised and overhauled as the whole word adapts to working online. As of today, countries are accepting “alternative arrangements” for original paper export certificates, New York is allowing notary services by video, and global banks are accepting “original” documents and acceptances by email.

Over the coming months, we will see this digital transformation extend from individual use cases and firm-level deployment to entire industries. And perhaps in no other industry is this more critical than in financial services, where the role of banks continues to be challenged because of the inefficiencies they face as a result of decades of siloed technology deployment.

While unquestionably an improvement over reliance on manual processes, regular “digital transformation” as implemented by a single bank has limited benefits. These typically include greater automation of business processes, acceleration in adoption of electronic channels, elimination of manual processes, standardisation of non-value-adding business practices and a focus on driving up data quality and speed of information flows.

Now consider achieving digital transformation at the level of the entire market, rather than on a bank-by-bank basis. Whilst a digital transformation project for a single bank might automate a business process between a front and back office, a digital industry transformation project might optimise the trading and settlement of the asset between buyer and seller and their custodians too.

Of course, such things have been attempted before. But there have been many failures and the successes are notable by how they have resulted in new dominant centralised providers – for example for market data, messaging or settlement. The advent of blockchain architectures showed us there was a new way to tackle the problem, one that worked with the grain of existing markets.

Done right, the prize is a huge “productivity dividend” as entire markets are unshackled from their analogue histories.

Tackling interbank reconciliation at the industry level

The Italian financial services industry provides a pertinent use case of digital industry transformation. 32 banks in Italy went live in March with one of the first real-world deployments of enterprise blockchain technology in interbank financial markets. 23 more banks went live in May, with further institutions scheduled to go live this autumn. Built by the Italian Banking Association, ABI, the Spunta Banca DLT app on R3’s Corda Enterprise platform tackles the market-wide issue of interbank reconciliation.

The traditional reconciliation process for interbank transactions in Italy—formerly governed by the “spunta” process— is notoriously complex. Resolving mismatches in transactions is a labour-intensive process, hampered by a lack of standardisation, fragmented communication and no “single version of the truth.” The Spunta Banca DLT app automates the reconciliation process and enables banks to pinpoint mismatches in interbank transactions quickly by sharing common data in a secure way.

Connecting such a large and diverse group of banks in a live environment to tackle a shared problem is a major milestone for digital transformation in the Italian banking sector, providing a glimpse into a brighter, more efficient and interconnected future for all financial markets.

Changing mindset

The current crisis has accelerated the launch of digital technology for many use cases across a diverse range of sectors, but those that stand the test of time will be developed with an industry-level mindset, not firm-level.

It is now clear that the age of inter-bank optimisation is over – the path forward from this crisis will be paved by software that focuses on adding real value for entire markets, connecting banks to overcome the biggest challenges they share as an industry.

Banks must adapt and start thinking about technology in new and innovative ways if they are to retain their critical role in the global economy.

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Banking

How open banking can drive innovation and growth in a post-COVID world

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How open banking can drive innovation and growth in a post-COVID world 3

By Billel Ridelle, CEO at Sweep

Times are pretty tough for businesses right now. For SMEs in particular, a global financial and health crisis of the sort we’re currently witnessing represents a truly existential risk. Yet there is hope of a brighter future. Digital transformation is already helping organisations in countless sectors, with everything from building supply chain resilience to rolling out potentially life-saving contact-tracing schemes. Yet it’s not just delivering transformative benefits in grand projects like this.

Thanks to open banking rules, a new wave of fintech innovation is sweeping the globe, offering business leaders a new launchpad for success. Even something as simple as corporate expenses can be transformed by the power of open data — to help firms cut costs, reduce fraud risk and become more productive.

Opening up data to innovation

It’s easy to get bogged down in the technical details of open banking, and the slew of new acronyms it has ushered in: Third Party Providers (TPPs), Account Information Service Providers (AISPs), Payment Initiation Service Providers (PISPs), and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). Yet at the heart of the open banking revolution is a simple concept: the idea that forcing banks to open up their customers’ financial data will create more competition, and fresh opportunities for market entrants to create innovative new services.

This was at the heart of the UK government’s world-leading strategy when it was introduced back in 2016. A revised EU payment services directive (PSD2) gave it legal teeth, mandating that all payment account providers in the region provide third-party access for customers that want it. The push is also about reducing banking fees and enhancing financial inclusion, of course, but it’s in competition and innovation that the benefits really shine for businesses.

Access to real-time financial data via open APIs has already resulted in a range of new services which are helping businesses ride out the current economic storm. Whether it’s capabilities that can help freelancers prove loss of income to receive targeted loans, or services designed to streamline business processes to reduce costs and fraud — examples of innovation are endless.

What’s more, it’s already global. Aside from the PSD2, open banking rules are taking shape in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Mexico and elsewhere. According to frequently cited Gartner predictions, regulators in around half of the G20 countries will create an open banking API regime over the coming year.

In the UK alone this is set to create a £7.2 billion revenue opportunity by 2022, with 71% of SMBs and 64% of adults expected to adopt it by then, according to PwC.

Making expenses pay

Corporate expenses and travel management might not be an area one immediately associates with high levels of innovation. But here too, open banking is having a profound impact. By combining automation, in-app approvals, integration with corporate policy and secure open banking APIs, companies like Sweep are offering new ways to solve old problems.

Part of the legacy challenge relates to productivity. Managing corporate travel costs and expenses was cited last year as the biggest concern of the UK’s small and mid-sized firms. Separate research claimed that SMBs are estimated to lose over £8.7 billion annually due to the time it takes employees and managers to complete these menial tasks. By automatically integrating real-time corporate bank account information into an easy-to-use app, we can save up to 15 hours a month on data input and travel administration per employee. That’s all time they could be spending on growing the business.

Another key area of concern is fraud. According to some estimates, fraudulent expenses claims could be costing UK firms £1.9 billion each year. In the US, the figure could be approaching $3 billion annually. Whether it’s the result of submitting expense claims for personal purchases, claiming for additional mileage on work trips, or over-claiming for other items, it all adds up. What’s more, fraud tends to spike particularly during times of recession, when normally diligent employees look for ways to supplement their income.

In this use case too, there are benefits to be had from open banking-powered solutions. Traditional manual processes offer too many gaps that can be exploited by fraudsters. Submitting paper receipts to finance departments — which must then input the information into spreadsheets or accounting software — is slow, error-prone and lacks accountability. However, with modern digital systems, transactions are automatically fed through from bank account to expense management platform. Here they are seamlessly checked according to policy and automatically approved, rejected or flagged for further investigation.

The future’s open

Thanks to the power of open banking, innovative fintech use cases like this are transforming operational challenges into opportunities to cut costs and fraud risks, improve employee productivity and become more strategic. With real-time data fed through from corporate bank accounts, finance directors can better understand spending patterns, react with greater agility and gain the insight they need to run their businesses more efficiently.

So what of the future? The good news is that open banking is only just getting started. As more sophisticated machine learning algorithms are developed, it has the potential for even greater disruption by empowering SMEs with predictive analytics and forecasting tools, or more accurate fraud checks, for example. Those in Europe may benefit most as PSD2 allows businesses to use tools that work seamlessly and securely across markets, without requiring any duplication of work.

In fact, open banking is not just good for individual SMEs, it’s important for Europe as a whole if we are ever to nurture successful digital unicorns to compete with those coming out of the US and China.

Open banking been described in the past as a quiet revolution. With the right buy-in from business and the continued innovation of digital platforms, it may soon become a full-throated roar.

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