Volksbank Malta in the
right place at the right time
A high level delegation from Österreichische Volksbanken,
of which Volksbank Malta is a subsidiary, was recently in Malta. David
Lindsay caught up with Österreichische Volksbanken Director General
Dr Klaus Thalhammer, Senior Vice President for International Business
Development Barbaros Olcay and Dr Hans Hofinger President of
the Confederation Internationale des Banques Populaires and discovers
how Volksbank Malta fits into the Groups plans for trans-regional
Österreichische Volksbanken is undoubtedly one of
the largest banking groups of central Europe. Its Malta subsidiary,
Volksbank Malta first set up as an off shore bank in 1995
made the move on shore just last year, with a considerable amount of
success and innovative policies.
But while Volksbank Malta undoubtedly has its eyes set on the local
market, it is also looking to tap into the lucrative trade potentials
arising as a result of Maltas EU membership next year, and to
serving to bridge the gap between Europe and the emerging markets of
the Maghreb region and Turkey.
The concept recently brought a high level delegation from Österreichische
Volksbanken to Malta, accompanied by a group of Austrian journalists,
with a view to acquainting the Austrian press with Volksbank Maltas
Österreichische Volksbanken Director General Dr Klaus Thalhammer
explains, "The idea behind the trip is to familiarise Austrian
journalists with the business climate in Malta and to demonstrate the
sound capabilities of Volksbank Malta.
"This is being done to highlight the fact that Malta has a very
good opportunity to serve as a link between Europe and the Maghreb region
of North Africa. Our main goal here is to channel business between Europe
and the Maghreb through Volksbank Malta."
Volksbank Malta does indeed appear to be in the right place at the right
time. In fact, the Confederation Internationale des Banques Populaires
President Dr Hans Hofinger the CIBP has as members some 45,000
member banks in the four corners of the world - including Österreichische
Volksbanken, also views Malta as an important business platform for
CIBP members for the region.
Dr Hofinger comments that if a mere one third of CIBPs tens of
thousands of member banks were to utilise this channel, there is indeed
great potential for Volksbank Malta on the cards.
Dr Thalhammer adds, "Our goal is not only to provide services to
Austrian firms, but we are also taking into consideration trade flows
between Hungary and Libya, or Slovenia and Tunisia for example.
"These trade flows would be routed through Malta. We have subsidiaries
in Hungary, Slovakia, in the Czech Republic, Romania, Bosnia Herzegovina,
Slovenia, Croatia, Poland and just recently we signed a purchase agreement
concerning a bank in Serbia.
"This means the numerous opportunities in Morocco, Libya and Algeria
give us the possibility to do business in a very significant market
- Poland alone has a market of 130-140 million people.
"I also see Malta as a very good link in this context. Our intention
when we first came to Malta was to capitalise on the Maltese sense of
the culture and language of these Arabic countries in line with
our Group motto: to know your customer.
"While we were here in Malta we also received a great deal of information
on tax benefits and advantages in place. I believe that, from our point
of view, the Maltese government is doing a very good job in this sphere."
Barbaros Olcay Senior Vice President for International Business
Development comments, "Naturally Austria is our home market but
we are also very active in all of Eastern Europe, Germany, Italy, France
and many other countries through our partnership banks in the CIBP.
As a relatively new idea, our chairman decided to work more closely
in the developing markets of North Africa, the Middle East and Turkey
and maybe in the near future countries like Russia and the Ukraine.
"We want to channel the business coming from these areas through
all our member banks and through Volksbank Malta. One mustnt see
Volksbank Malta as just a Volksbank Malta, because we have the ability
to gain access to the whole of Western and Eastern Europe."
What does Dr Thalhammer see in the future for Österreichische Volksbanken,
its Malta operations aside?
"We would like to stick to a very decentralised system and remain
the very transparent, flexible and quick decision-making Group that
we are today.
"Many in the industry today believe the next generation in banking
will only be done on the basis of IT and telephone. However, our belief
is that even the core banking services should always be for people,