Albania’s economic momentum was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, and gross domestic product contracted by 4% in 2020, according to the World Bank. Mirroring developments across the region, an increase in unemployment and a fall in private consumption exacerbated problems for the country’s banks. But the winner of the Albania country award for 2021, Banka Kombëtare Tregtare (BKT), demonstrated a mix of resilience and customer service excellence to ensure it beat the competition.
Over the 2020 review period, the bank registered an increase in net profits, as well as total assets and Tier 1 capital position. This strong performance was reflected in a rising return on equity, which reached 20.1% from 19.7% in the previous year, along with an impressive cost-to-income ratio of 35.8%.
“Covid-19 has validated our investments in technology in general and mobile banking in particular over the past couple of years. Similarly, our very liquid balance sheet offered us opportunities when the crisis hit, resulting in our most profitable year ever,” says Seyhan Pencablıgil, chief executive of BKT.
BKT’s core banking system is in the process of being upgraded to a module-based system. As part of this process, the payment module – one of the most important components – has been removed from the original Oracle Flexcube and migrated to Oracle Business Payments (OBP). This change has permitted an increase in the straight-through processing rate, as well as a reduction in processing time and associated errors.
Indeed, this marks a notable moment in the evolution of the bank’s capabilities given that OBP is a modern platform constructed on the ISO 20022 standard messaging framework. As a result, BKT will be able to comply with local and global payment standards while facilitating real-time payments. This upgrade will also permit the first use of Swift gpi in Albania.
Meanwhile, BKT has worked hard to develop new products and services for the Albanian market. This includes the launch of a mortgage loan product in which the bank will provide 100% financing for the purchase of a second home, either as an investment or as a holiday home.
Banka Kombëtare Tregtare (BKT) Kosova’s growth trajectory has been firmly on the up in recent years and 2020 was no exception. The lender’s net profits increased by 80.8%, after expanding by 39.8% in 2019, while its total assets and Tier 1 capital grew by 25.1% and 32.4%, respectively.
These figures were accompanied by improvements to the lender’s cost-to-income ratio, which improved to 41.4% from 56.3% over the same period. Its ratio of non-performing loans, meanwhile, registered a small decrease to 2% from 2.04%. This success stems from BKT Kosova’s ability to constantly innovate and provide the highest levels of customer service to its clients.
“The bank pursued the strategy of supporting Kosovo’s economy, with an acceleration of a full range of digital banking solutions, both for businesses and individuals. BKT Kosova has been a pioneer in implementing numerous products and services in the Kosovo market. All these efforts are aligned to be close to customers in every mode they choose, be it physically or digitally, offering all sorts of banking services and solutions,” says Suat Bakkal, chief executive and board member.
Over the course of 2020, the bank updated the user interface for both its internet banking and mobile offerings, on iOS and Android. The aim was to make the customer experience easier and more intuitive, and BKT Kosova achieved this by including interactive banking dashboards for enhanced user information viewing and management. The lender also improved two-factor authentication security components, ensuring that customers felt secure when using these channels.
In a first for the Kosovar banking sector, BKT Kosova also launched a digital loan product through its mobile banking app. “Continuing with efforts to bring innovation and opportunities to the customer, the bank aims to focus on disruptive technologies which provide banking needs, such as e-commerce platforms which will bring innovation in terms of purchasing options, product variety and payment methods. The platform will provide e-commerce investments to a wide network of business partners in the field of real estate, vehicles, home appliances, furniture and technology,” says Mr Bakkal.