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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

ECB stays put but warns about surge in infections

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ECB stays put but warns about surge in infections 1

By Balazs Koranyi and Francesco Canepa

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – The European Central Bank warned on Thursday that a new surge in COVID-19 infections poses risks to the euro zone’s recovery and reaffirmed its pledge to keep borrowing costs low to help the economy through the pandemic.

Having extended stimulus well into next year with a massive support package in December, ECB policymakers kept policy unchanged on Thursday, keen to let governments take over the task of keeping the euro zone economy afloat until normal business activity can resume.

But they warned about a new rise in infections and the ensuing restrictions to economic activity, saying they were prepared to provide even more support to the economy if needed.

“The renewed surge in coronavirus (COVID-19) infections and the restrictive and prolonged containment measures imposed in many euro area countries are disrupting economic activity,” ECB President Christine Lagarde said in her opening statement.

Fresh lockdowns, a slow start to vaccinations across the 19 countries that use the euro, and the currency’s strength will increase headwinds for exporters, challenging the ECB’s forecasts of a robust recovery starting in the second quarter.

Lagarde saluted the start of vaccinations as “an important milestone” despite “some difficulty” and said the latest data was still in line with the ECB’s forecasts.

She conceded that the strong euro, which hit a 2-1/2 year high against the dollar earlier this month, was putting a dampener on inflation and reaffirmed that the ECB would continue to monitor the exchange rate.

The euro has dropped 1% on a trade-weighted basis since the start of the year, but is up nearly 7% over the last 12 months. Against the U.S. dollar, that number rises to over 10%.

MORE STIMULUS?

Opening the door for more stimulus if needed, Lagarde confirmed the ECB would continue buying bonds until “it judges that the coronavirus crisis phase is over”.

Lagarde also kept a closely watched reference to “downside” risks facing the euro zone economy, which has been a reliable indicator that the ECB saw policy easing as more likely than tightening.

But she signalled those risks were less acute, in part thanks to the recent Brexit deal.

“The news about the prospects for the global economy, the agreement on future EU-UK relations and the start of vaccination campaigns is encouraging,” Lagarde said. “But the ongoing pandemic and its implications for economic and financial conditions continue to be sources of downside risk.”

Lagarde conceded that the immediate future was challenging but argued that should not impact the longer term.

“Once the impact of the pandemic fades, a recovery in demand, supported by accommodative fiscal and monetary policies, will put upward pressure on inflation over the medium term,” Lagarde said.

Benign market indicators support Lagarde’s argument. Stocks are rising, interest rates are steady and government borrowing costs are trending lower, despite some political drama in Italy.

There is also around 1 trillion euros of untapped funds in the Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP) to back up her pledge to keep borrowing costs at record lows.

The ECB has indicated it may not even need it to use it all.

“If favourable financing conditions can be maintained with asset purchase flows that do not exhaust the envelope over the net purchase horizon of the PEPP, the envelope need not be used in full,” Lagarde said.

Recent economic history also favours the ECB. When most of the economy reopened last summer, activity rebounded more quickly than expected, indicating that firms were more resilient than had been feared.

Uncomfortably low inflation is set to remain a thorn in the ECB’s side for years to come, however, even if surging oil demand helps put upward pressure on prices in 2021.

With Thursday’s decision, the ECB’s benchmark deposit rate remained at minus 0.5% while the overall quota for bond purchases under PEPP was maintained at 1.85 trillion euros.

(Editing by Catherine Evans)

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Banking

Bank of Japan lifts next year’s growth forecast, saves ammunition as virus risks linger

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Bank of Japan lifts next year's growth forecast, saves ammunition as virus risks linger 2

By Leika Kihara and Tetsushi Kajimoto

TOKYO (Reuters) – The Bank of Japan kept monetary policy steady on Thursday and upgraded its economic forecast for next fiscal year, but warned of escalating risks to the outlook as new coronavirus emergency measures threatened to derail a fragile recovery.

BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said the board also discussed the bank’s review of its policy tools due in March, though dropped few hints on what the outcome could be.

“Our review won’t focus just on addressing the side-effects of our policy. We need to make it more effective and agile,” Kuroda told a news conference.

As widely expected, the BOJ maintained its targets under yield curve control (YCC) at -0.1% for short-term interest rates and around 0% for 10-year bond yields.

In fresh quarterly projections, the BOJ upgraded next fiscal year’s growth forecast to a 3.9% expansion from a 3.6% gain seen three months ago based on hopes the government’s huge spending package will soften the blow from the pandemic.

But it offered a bleaker view on consumption, warning that services spending will remain under “strong downward pressure” due to fresh state of emergency measures taken this month.

“Japan’s economy is picking up as a trend,” the BOJ said in the report, offering a slightly more nuanced view than last month when it said growth was “picking up.”

While Kuroda reiterated the BOJ’s readiness to ramp up stimulus further, he voiced hope robust exports and expected roll-outs of vaccines will brighten prospects for a recovery.

“I don’t think the risk of Japan sliding back into deflation is high,” he said, signalling the BOJ has offered sufficient stimulus for now to ease the blow from COVID-19.

NO EXIT EYED

Many analysts had expected the BOJ to hold fire ahead of a policy review in March, which aims to make its tools sustainable as Japan braces for a prolonged battle with COVID-19.

Sources have told Reuters the BOJ will discuss ways to scale back its massive purchases of exchange-traded funds (ETF) and loosen its grip on YCC to breathe life back into markets numbed by years of heavy-handed intervention.

Kuroda said the BOJ may look at such options at the review, but stressed a decision will depend on the findings of its scrutiny into the effects and costs of YCC.

He also made clear any steps the BOJ would take will not lead to a withdrawal of stimulus.

“It’s too early to exit from our massive monetary easing programme at this point,” Kuroda said. “Western economies have been deploying monetary easing steps for a decade, and none of them are mulling an exit now.”

(Reporting by Leika Kihara and Tetsushi Kajimoto; additional reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore & Shri Navaratnam)

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World Bank, IMF agree to hold April meetings online due to COVID-19 risks

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World Bank, IMF agree to hold April meetings online due to COVID-19 risks 3

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have agreed to hold their spring meetings, planned for April 5-11, online instead of in person due to continued concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, they said in joint statement.

The meetings usually bring some 10,000 government officials, journalists, business people and civil society representatives from across the world to a tightly-packed two-block area of Washington that houses their headquarters.

This will be the third of the institutions’ semiannual meetings to be held virtually due to the pandemic.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Chris Rees

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