Špadijer : I am glad that citizens are associating Hipotekarna banka with digital innovation

Interview with the member of the Management Board of Hipotekarna banka Nikola Špadijer

Hipotekarna banka is an advocate of change, keeping itself abreast of the latest global technological banking trends. It is deeply committed to sharing its knowledge with clients and partners to ensure a seamless and successful digital transformation, said Nikola Špadijer, a member of the Board of Directors of HB for Diplomacy and Commerce Montenegro magazine. During the conversation, he expressed his satisfaction with the fact that aside from security, Hipotekarna banka is primarily associated with digital innovation by its customers, as a significant portion of their investments is dedicated to the development and improvement of these services.

What are the main strategies of the Mortgage Bank of Montenegro to improve financial services and increase market share?

The bank’s main strategies for improving financial services and increasing market share are mirrored in the diversification of innovative products and services, significant investment in the development of digital services and technologies, personalized services carefully focused on clients’ needs, proactive and dedicated employee approach to clients, sustainable operations, and enhanced marketing and communication activities.

Hipotekarna banka supports the achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and thus takes a leading position in the banking market in the environmental protection, social responsibility, and corporate governance segment.

The aforementioned strategies aim to improve the bank’s competitiveness and continue its continuous growth in the Montenegrin market.

How does Hipotekarna banka plan to deal with challenges and changes in Montenegro’s banking sector?

Stability, security, and a dedicated approach to clients are critical factors in the successful operation of Hipotekarna banka. Building on such a foundation, and with careful strategic moves, we created a system that adapts professionally and quickly to all current changes. Over the years, we have made a conscious effort to invest in our employees’ education, diversify our business to minimize risks while driving growth, stay updated on regulatory changes, and adapt our operation to new regulations and standards.

When the most important international financial institutions, in this case, the EBRD, recognize you as the most active bank seven years in a row, that speaks volumes of our capacity to deal with all the changes and challenges that follow.

Our esteemed ownership structure, coupled with an excellent portfolio, stable and strong management, and exceptional professionalism of our employees, guarantees security for all our clients—both existing and potential. These attributes have only helped Hipotekarna banka to maintain its competitiveness and ensure its sustainability for years to come.

What innovations, new services, or investment strategies does Hipotekarna banka plan to introduce to meet the needs of its clients?

Hipotekarna banka offers its clients the convenience of accessing a wide range of services through its online platform and mobile applications. As part of our digital transformation, we are committed to further digitizing our services in accordance with legal requirements.
A critical business segment that we are intensively working on is improving the safety and security of our clients through the implementation of the SCA (Strong Customer Authentication) system. This system will additionally provide a high level of security when accessing bank accounts and performing transactions.
By complying with PSD2 regulations, Hipotekarna banka will enable clients to share their banking data with other financial institutions in order to provide personalized services.
The partnership with Mastercard continues with the introduction of digital Mastercard cards that will enable customers to access their funds faster and facilitate online payments.
As always, we are prepared to accommodate any changes in the banking market. When the law mandates the provisions, Hipotekarna banka will allow customers to open bank accounts online, providing them with simplicity and convenience.

The transformation towards a digital bank requires a comprehensive strategy that will ensure competitiveness and client satisfaction. Hipotekarna banka is determined to maintain its leadership position in digital banking, offering innovative products and services that will meet all the needs of its clients in the digital age.
This business type is known for its outstanding collaboration with international financial institutions. In this regard, we take pride in being the only bank in Montenegro that has established lines with American banks. Also, we have the largest network of international partners for concluding transactions on the international financial market.

How does the bank plan to use technological innovations to improve user experience and business efficiency?

I am glad that citizens’ first association with the Hipotekarna banka, besides security, is precisely “digital and innovative”. Our bank has always invested heavily in the development of digital services and technological innovations to enhance the user experience. Our goal is to save our clients’ most valuable resource, time, and improve the efficiency of managing banking services. I am proud to say that Hipotekarna banka is known for being the first to introduce innovative banking services in Montenegro.

Contactless payment cards, mobile and electronic banking, My Wallet, Google and Apple pay applications, and the latest generation ATMs, where you can perform traditional banking services 24 hours a day, are just some of the digital services we offer our clients.

We prioritize services and products that will provide clients with complete comfort and save time with a guarantee of the best quality and safety.
Hipotekarna banka was the first to “transfer” part of the process to a robot a few years ago. Namely, a software robot processes several mass, template-type tasks that are error-free. In addition to the software robot, we implemented software based on AI (artificial intelligence) that processes around 500 documents daily. We continue to invest in the automation of similar processes using the most modern global tools. In this way, we protect human resources from redundant work, which significantly contributes to greater competitiveness and employee satisfaction.

How is Hipotekarna banka positioned in relation to the competition in the Montenegrin market?

Hipotekarna banka, as the third bank in the system, currently has EUR 921 million worth of assets on its balance sheets.
Hipotekarna banka ranks first in Montenegro in terms of investment in securities. At the end of the year, the value of the securities portfolio was around EUR 356 million. We are the leading provider of investment services in Montenegro, with the highest portfolio value in clients’ custodial accounts, which amounted to around 310 million euros at the end of 2023. This makes us the largest custodial bank in Montenegro. In addition, our turnover with international bonds exceeded 800 million euros last year, placing us among the most active regional banks on the international financial market.

Last year’s operations also marked the constant growth of deposits, which currently amount to EUR 789 million. As the absolute leader in the card industry, it is important to note that in addition to 24% of turnover in Montenegro taking place through our bank’s cards, Hipotekarna banka also owns a quarter of the POS terminal market.

How does the bank plan to support its clients and partnerships in digital transformation?

In addition to all digital tools and services, which facilitate business and provide a better experience to users, a vital segment is customer support through education on digital technologies and their application in business and financial management.
From very understandable “how-to” content disseminated through our communication channels to organizing workshops, seminars, and conferences on digital transformation, investment, and banking trends, we strive to provide adequate education to all our clients continuously. We are the only bank in Montenegro that has a large banking conference within its own organization. This provides the opportunity for all members of the public to learn about the latest banking trends from the most eminent interlocutors from around the world.
As a confirmation of dedicated work, the bank has also cultivated many partnerships and loyalty programs for decades with large companies such as Crnogorski Telekom, Tehnomax, Voli, and technology companies and startups. Through such partnerships, we see new perspectives and ideas for improving business and creating new values for our clients.
We are open to changes and informed about all global technological banking trends; we transfer knowledge to our clients and partners, all with the aim of successfully implementing digital transformation.

What are the bank’s forecasts and plans for further growth and development in the coming years?

As stated before, constant investments in the improvement of services and innovative services, the development of a digital bank, sustainable operations, and the preservation of the trust of clients are priorities on which we will continue to work. We participate in all world fairs and follow trends in the financial industry so that clients have the best user experience, which is what we are recognized for in Montenegro.
We are dedicated to constant education and the introduction of services focused on protecting banking processes, effective risk assessment, and increased business efficiency. The strategic partnership with Mastercard imperative is something we are particularly committed to.
The plan is to expand the branch office network and continue renovating the existing ones so that clients can perform their services in a comfortable environment. I am confident that we will continue to uphold our reputation as a bank that fosters strong relationships with its clients, just as we have always done.
The entire business strategy of our bank is adapted to sustainable development and due attention to our direct and indirect impact on the environment. In today’s world, it is not just an option but a responsibility of ethical business conduct to integrate environmental protection, society, and management principles. We firmly believe that considering ESG factors in our operations and strategic initiatives is essential to our commitment to promoting a harmonious balance between financial prosperity and the greater well-being of our ecosystem.