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Banking Sector in Slovenia: Low Competitive Position in Eastern Europe

By Rok SPRUK

International Service Check recently accomplished covered test attendance in several banks in Eastern Europe. The survey broadly included 86 banks in 32 different cities where customers attended 283 control visits. In Slovenia, 24 control visits were made in 8 different banks. The benchmark included the following countries: Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia. The criteria included factors such as the appearance of the bank, service quality and customer connection.

In Slovenia, 87 percent of the mystery shoppers were satisfied with the image of the bank, 71,2 percent of all mystery shoppers were satisfied with service quality of the bank and only 60 percent were satisfied with the level of customer connection. Generally speaking, Slovenian banks were scored poorly compared to their competitors in other Eastern European countries. For Slovenia, the overall grade measuring the service performance was 74,5 percent, putting Slovenia on 7th place, lagging behind all surveyed countries in Eastern Europe except for Bulgaria. It has to be noted that the average overall level of satisfaction was 77,3 percent. Among 8 Slovenian banks, Raifeissen Krekova Banka, Bank Austria Creditanstallt, and Nova Kreditna Banka Maribor achieved the best result. Among the most obvious setbacks, customer approach was scored very low. For instance, only 50 percent of the mystery shoppers rated the approach to the client as “very good”. 54 percent of the mystery shoppers were offered an additional service. The level of trust and quality reached a rock-bottom bracket as only 41,7 percent of the clients were willing to accept the advice of the banking advisor. The customer test of International Service Check judged 28 tests with the total judgment of “very well”, “well”, “satisfying”, “unsatisfactorily” and “insufficiently”. The front runner and the winner of the test is Hungary with 88,9 percent, before Romania with 85,7 percent and Serbia with 83,7 percent. On further ranks follow the Czech Republic with 80,6 percent, Croatia with 83,7 percent, Poland with 78,1 percent, Slovenia with 74,5 percent and Bulgaria with 71 percent. In benchmarking separate indicators, Hungary scored on top in appearance and advisory activity. Serbia, for example, topped in offers and attempts for customer connection. The total result evaluated the overall satisfaction. OTP Bank, Erste Bank, GE Money, Raiffesenbank, Allied Irish Banks, Volksbank and Citibank, all exceeded the 80 percent evaluation level of overall customer satisfaction.

For Slovenia, the picture extracted from the survey accomplished by International Service Check is far away from flattering. First of all, Slovenian banking sector is highly concentrated with top three banks accounting for the majority of banking assets. Further, government owns a majority stake in Nova Ljubljanska Banka and Nova Kreditna Banka Maribor. In addition, the government also owns 85 percent of Zavarovalnica Triglav, the largest insurance company in Slovenia which dominates the market. The reason behind the failure of international performance of most of Slovenian banks lies in the fact that, in the past Slovenian capital market had an opportunity to achieve and sustain greater degree of sophistication by privatizing most of the financial sector. In 2002, Nova Ljubljanska Banka was privatized by KBC, Belgian bank and insurance company. The privatization program pledged to accelerate the privatization of the banking and financial sector but it stopped when the minister of finance largely supported greater government intervention to maintain the ownership of Nova Ljubljanska Banka when KBC expressed a desire to purchase the majority share in previously mentioned bank. In fact, Nova Ljubljanska Banka is having strong potential to become a regional leader in financial industry but it certainly won’t be able to become a regional financial boomer without the infusion of additional investment capital which is supposedly needed to ensure the basis of future venture in financial industry which is already known for a high degree of competition. Bank Austria pioneered the entry on Eastern European markets at the beginning of economic transition in Central and Eastern Europe. As a new venture pioneer, Erste Bank’s balanced annual profit equals 10 percent of the Slovenian GDP. As everywhere else, there is also empirical evidence in banking sector saying that resource allocation in private sector is far more efficient and productive than in public sector. To support the evidence of the abovementioned survey I enclosed a table comparing the performance of the banking market in several Eastern European countries.

Table 1: Banking Market Performance in Eastern Europe



One of the possible reasons behind the relative lagging of the banking sector in Slovenia is a very rigid legislation hampering growth potentials of the Slovenian banks in becoming regional financial leaders. Compared to other Eastern European economies, the penetration of foreign direct investment in the banking sector in Slovenia has been relatively low. In going for growth, the financial sector is ought to absorb the potentials of emerging markets by using the strategic approach depending on the real risk-yield and capability of venture. In fact, venturing and competitive supply are both the prerequisites for greater market capitalization which further confirms the credit ratings and stability of the banking sector. In fact, growth outlook is one of the foremost factors determining the credit rating of the bank graded by P&S, Fitch or Moody. As the real sector of the economy needs a strong financial and credit component in challenging growth to support investment and strategic expansion on international and domestic markets, the role of financial sector’s supply is playing an essential role. Everyone should know that economic growth is fueled by investments which substantially contributed to the recent record-breaking quarterly sequence of high economic growth rates in Slovenia, exceeding 5 percent. As the question of restructuring is becoming crucial, it should known that customer approach and the level of service quality delivered to the final customers determine the competitive position of global, regional and domestic banks besides high-quality policy features and responsible management guide which could substantially trigger long-term growth performance of the banking in competing domestically and internationally.

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Rok SPRUK is a supply-side economist and a classical liberal. He lives in Slovenia where he studies economics and business. His fields of professional interest and research are economic growth, international economics, macroeconomics, tax reform, international competitiveness, free trade and globalization. In the field of business he is focused on strategic management, financial markets, business models, marketing and innovation. Rok works for economic freedom, individual liberty, free enterprise and a free society. His ideas, writings and observations are posted on his blog Capitalism & Freedom. You can contact Rok by sending an email to rok.spruk@gmail.com
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