HEBROSBANK WILL NOT GIVE US UNPLEASANT SURPRISES
Helmut Bernkopf, Bank Austria General Manager for Central and Eastern Europe and HEBROSBANK Supervisory Board Chairman, to the BANKER weeklyHelmut Bernkopf is Bank Austria's General Manager for Central and Eastern Europe. At HEBROSBANK's general meeting held on March 1, 2005 he was appointed Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Bulgarian bank.Mr. Bernkopf was born in Vienna 36 years ago. He is married and has two children. He graduated in business administration from the University of Vienna. He has been working for Bank Austria for over ten years. During the first two of them he occupied various posts in the bank's headquarters in Vienna, then he spent four years in its London-based branch. Since 2000 he has been CEO of its subsidiary bank in Romania. At the end of 2004 he went back to Austria to become general manager of the bank's operations in Central and Eastern Europe. He takes care of Bank Austria's interests in ten regional countries ranging from Poland to Bulgaria.Mr. Bernkopf, HEBROSBANK is now part of the Bank Austria group. What will be the advantages for the Bulgarian bank?- HEBROSBANK is growing stronger on the market. Its assets as well as the number of its customers are going to increase considerably.Did Bank Austria managers discuss an alternative to the merger between HEBROSBANK and HVB Bank Biochim?- In principle, HVB Bank Biochim and HEBROSBANK might be operating separately and we might be the owners of two banks in Bulgaria. It already happened in Austria - Bank Austria and Creditanstalt have operated simultaneously as independent financial institutions for many years. But I think that a merger of our Bulgarian banks would be to the advantage of our customers as they will profit by our expanded network of branches and our joint presence in the country. In the coming weeks we are going to discuss these problems with the managers of the two institutions. We have not taken a final decision yet, but I think that a merger is quite probable.Before you acquired HEBROSBANK, you made a complete financial and legal analysis of the bank. What problems did you find out?- Yes, we did make a detailed analysis of HEBROSBANK and we know the bank very well. If we were afraid that we could find problems in it, we wouldn't have bought it. I don't think it would give us unpleasant surprises in the future. Will part of HEBROSBANK's personnel be laid off?- Bank Austria is planning to remain on the Bulgarian market for a long time. Since banking is a financial services industry, in order to offer these services we need to have a qualified personnel. We are going to analyse the work done by both HEBROSBANK and HVB Bank Biochim employees and try to motivate them to serve the customers better. Anyone who demonstrates eagerness in his work and satisfies the customers' needs will be allowed to work for us.Are you planning to integrate the information systems of the two banks or build a new system for the two institutions?- I'm not an expert in high technologies, but once we analyse their systems in details and find out the differences, we'll take the best from each and put it in the basis of a new integrated information system.Do you intend to specialize HEBROSBANK or keep it a universal institution?- Due to the broad base that we have at our disposal we have a chance to keep operating as a universal bank and to offer services and products in all bank segments.Are you going to rely on small and mid-sized business as a priority?- All customers are important to us. We have long lasting relations with German and Austrian investors that we are going to develop. But we also know that on many markets growth is driven by small and medium-sized enterprises. And that here - on the Bulgarian market, there is already great demand for services and products in the field of small and individual banking - household credits, consumer credits, deposits, etc. So we are going to cover all these segments through the activities of the two Bulgarian banks by finding the best way to offer our customers quality service.What are your personal ambitions?- Being Bank Austria's General Manager for Central and Eastern Europe, I'd like to expand its business in this region. And Bulgaria is situated right in its heart.