FOOT IN THE DOOR

Turkey 2013 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Hüseyin Özkaya, CEO of Odeabank, on Audi Saradar Group's entrance into Turkey, the strengths of the local banking sector, and plans for future expansion.

Hüseyin Özkaya
BIOGRAPHY
Hüseyin Özkaya was born in 1962 and graduated from Istanbul Technical University with a degree in Management Engineering. He then went on to obtain an MBA from the University of Wisconsin before going to work in the Corporate Banking sector at IMPEXBANK and Midland Bank in Turkey. He worked for HSBC between 1994 and 2012 in the UK as a Manager for Fixed Income Products, and in Turkey as Head of Corporate and Investment Banking and Assistant General Manager and Board Member. He went on to become the CEO of HSBC’s operations in Russia before joining Odeabank as its CEO.

As a new addition to the Turkish banking sector, what motivated the Audi Saradar Group to enter the country and how would you characterize the potential of the local market?

This is a regional bank and Turkey has always been part of our plan because it is close to each segment in the region: the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and the South Mediterranean. Economically, it is connected to the Western world as well. It is becoming a very good link between many economic centers. Culturally, politically, and economically, its influence is increasing constantly and in line with world trends. Development in Turkey has taken a significant step, especially in the past 10 years. Entrepreneurship has transformed the market into a well-structured, economically well-run, micro-economically growing, and more internationally aligned mechanism. Turkey is part of the global market, but its domestic market is attractive as well. The country has a large, young population with a very diverse culture. So much is happening in Turkey that makes it a very dynamic and evolving place to do business. Because this is a socially developed economy with an impressive export development industry, its ties with the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and the West in general are increasing. The numbers reveal 20%-30% growth every year in terms of exports and investments as well. In northeast Africa, there has been more investment from Turkish companies in the last five years—not only in the construction industry, but also in factories, highways, bridges, and dams, for example. Inward investment from many countries in the region has also been increasing over the last five years. We have also seen an increase in the number of conferences in the last two or three years, which is driving up the cost of hotel stays. This gives stakeholders an opportunity to explore new business lines. The question for us was never “Why Turkey?" It had always been “Of course Turkey." It was just a matter of when.

What strengths does Odeabank bring to the local banking sector?

We have the advantage of being new. We can use the best technology, systems, and efficiency in our organization. Large banks usually grow over time, with many of their systems becoming obsolete—they cannot manage high growth because they have to fill a gap by bringing in many new people. When growth slows, they still have to keep the extra people, and it becomes difficult to maintain high efficiency. In our case, because we are a bank established by bankers who have come from other banks, we recognize bottlenecks and understand what can be improved—it makes sense that we started with the most efficient system and the highest technology, which is always very important. We have to sell, but we don't always have to sell face-to-face—we can sell over the internet or through call centers as well. Turkey is developed and fast, which is why it is attractive. We use many of the best-automated processes and put some form of creativity into the equation. Maintaining efficient communications between the departments is a very important factor because there are many different people and systems involved. To this end, we are doing some very basic things and also implementing advanced products. We have a group intranet, which is very important as we seek to maintain the overall branding and internal culture of the company. Most institutions don't place too much emphasis on this concept, but as one of the best companies in terms of establishing media, we are working to communicate better. We are progressing and developing every day. From the first day we open a branch, everyone in the company is entitled to see the issues at the branch as well as the procedures and guidelines. Everything is out in the open so that if a newcomer comes in, they can see the whole picture.

How will advanced technology become an element that customers experience?

When customers enter our branches, they can investigate our service in the waiting room, type “Odeabank" into Google and explore our products online, or benefit from our online entertainment offerings with their children. Other institutions only provide magazines; we are providing customers online games to play while waiting their turn in line. It is also useful for customers to see their account online and learn about the products that are available to save time before meeting our representatives. Our clients can search for what they need and we can provide it for them. We are trying to make use of technology to be efficient in addition to presenting a positive image for the bank.

“Our products are going to undergo significant evolution and growth in 2013."

What does Odeabank have planned for 2013?

Our main vision is to open 26 or more branches because we have to expand. The first six branches have demonstrated the ability to attract a large number of customers, and we are very eager to develop demand further. Odeabank is a young bank, and it will take time to absorb and digest every aspect of the market before we begin expanding. Once we recognize the right path, we will continue steadily. Moreover, our products are going to undergo significant evolution and growth in 2013. For example, the infrastructure behind credit cards is being developed, and we hope to allow their usage at multiple ATMs in the coming year. We have to do in months what other banks have achieved in years. Furthermore, the bank is actively working on branding. In 1Q2013, we plan to offer a variety of different credit cards. Apart from that, we will be receiving and processing applications from other investment banks.

How would you characterize the outlook for Turkish banking and how does Odeabank's long-term vision fit into the future of the sector?

In Turkish banking, the local banks dominate the scene. This is also common in many other countries. Unlike consumer groups, banking is more sophisticated and geared more toward service and penetration in the market. I do not believe that any of Turkey's top four banks will be sold in the short term, and thus we are not aiming for the top four or five places. The state banks will not be changing hands, but the banks ranking below them are all multinationals. Some of them will stay here, and some might chose to leave if the shareholders change. There are many other smaller local Turkish banks, and we foresee some consolidation. Due to the economic fundamentals in Turkey, there will be continuous interest in buying mid-market banks, so there may be changing shareholder structures among the secondary banks; there will be more activity in that segment. The speed and health of banks similar to ours will also be changing, but we are not going to see the market evolve significantly. We are aiming for a 2% or 3% market share, and all of the banks will grow and have room to do so in the coming years. The expected growth rate is approximately 20% for the Turkish banking system, against 11% nominal growth and 4.6% real growth in the overall economy in 2013.