1 October 2003

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Volksbank Malta announces demise of Group Chairman Dr Klaus Thalhammer

The Supervisory Board of Österreichische Volksbanken-AG (ÖVAG), which is the parent company of Volksbank Malta Limited, this week informed the public about the unexpected death of Dr Klaus Thalhammer on 22 September due to a sudden heart failure.
Dr Thalhammer has been a member of the board of directors of ÖVAG since 1987 and became Deputy General Manager in 1992. Since 1999 Dr. Thalhammer has been Chairman and General Manager of ÖVAG.
Dr Thalhammer has been responsible for the successful development of ÖVAG into one of the leading banks in Austria. His vision and support in the setting up of branches in Eastern and Central Europe has transformed the Austrian bank into an international financial institution.
Being actively involved in the setting up of Volksbank Malta Limited in 1995, Dr Thalhammer has since been a regular visitor to Malta. He was last on the island in May 2003, leading a group of Austrian journalists and bankers, and promoting co-operation with the Maltese subsidiary.
Dr Thalhammer always forecast a bright future for Volksbank Malta, a fact he emphasised when in Malta in May. Interviewed by this newspaper, Dr Thalhammer explained the concept behind the recent Austrian press trip to Malta, "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."
Dr Thalhammer added, "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 ago 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."
What dis 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 on the basis of IT and telephone. However, our belief is that even the core banking services should be for people, through people."
Meanwhile, Herbert Skok, Managing Director of Volksbank Malta Limited, confirms that nothing will change for the Maltese subsidiary. "Dr Thalhammer has always valued our bank as a important springboard into the North African market. We are deeply shocked by the sudden death of our group chairman, but we will carry on just as Dr. Thalhammer has planned. We have the full support of the board members in ÖVAG, and we will continue on our successful road to becoming an important local bank on the Maltese financial market."

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
The Malta Financial & Business Times, Newsworks Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann
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