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Ararat Ghukasyan: "My dreams agree with the plans of Mr. Eurnekian"


Mr. Ghukasyan, what are the priorities you intend to address now that you have taken charge in Converse Bank?

My first goal is to develop all positive initiatives already launched in the Bank especially with regard to the Bank's image. I should point out that I plan no revolutions in the Bank rather I envisage the Bank following the path of harmonized development and maintaining a high level of competitiveness. Challenge number one is to enhance efficiency and service quality. Another challenge is to make Converse Bank the best place to work in. I strongly believe that human resources are the most powerful resource of any bank which surely requires professional management. It is imperative that employees should perform their work not automatically but with a will and heart. It is important that employees should regard the Bank as their second home. Bearing this in mind we are planning to establish a clear and transparent system of staff assessment, payment and, bonuses.

Another goal is to live up to the expectations of our customers which is not in the least a light matter. This implies enhancing the available services and launching new ones. The first step towards these challenges will be enhancement of the IT platform for the Bank management and introduction of a business process automation system with state-of-the-art technologies.

Do you envision any changes in the Credit Policy of the Bank, particularly, in the vehicle loans, mortgage and consumer lending areas?

Actually no but we are determined with our goal to increase the weight of SME loans in the overall portfolio. Nether will Converse Bank shift its positions in the agro lending issue. Moreover, we will develop and introduce new approaches to agro and microlending, most adjustable to potential borrower demands, with consideration of the specifics of the types of business credited.

Currently, we do not provide for any changes in our interest rate and tariff policies since analysis of our prices and market situation shows that Converse Bank is quite competitive. Thus there in no need for any changes whatsoever yet.
Surely we will keep track of market developments in order to be able to react promptly and adequately.

Can we presume that no cardinal changes are envisioned in the Converse Bank strategy either, namely, enhancing the retail set or corporate finance?

Precisely. No cardinal changes are expected, the Bank will remain a universal bank with a wide range of retail services and products and a comprehensive corporate finance package. At the same time we are planning to increase the volume and mix of special tailored services. In my opinion the Bank has to a certain degree missed its niche in this area, whereas once we were adequately represented. What we need now it to regain our position and we will get to this in the near future.

You just mentioned new products. Could you please specify what, exactly?

Surely Converse Bank already has an extensive set of services and products, which renders it possible for us to successfully operate in the local market. The point is to go on, not to stop on the achieved results. In the nearest future the Bank will introduce 2-3 new deposit types and launch new instruments in the card business. Let me skirt the details now for later our employees will provide information on those to our readers.

What strategy has the Bank adopted in view of the increasingly stringent competition in the Armenian banking industry?

If somebody wants to value real estate then that person applies three key benchmarks: location, location and again location. In case with the bank the key criteria are still three: service, service and again service. Hence in the context of competitiveness our objectives revolve around enhancing the quality of this very criterion - service. One of the possible options is to optimize the path of the customer application from the moment it is accepted through making a relevant decision. This is especially important for business loans. The overall scheme of operation should be contrived in a manner that lets each employee perceive the customer as the key component of his activity.

What you mean is minimization of "handwork" in processing loan applications?

Surely we plan reforms in Converse bank governance system. The Bank will be governed with the "matrix" principle employed, with a multl-level decision-making scheme. We will expressly describe positions, outline authorities, powers and, responsibilities. This is imperative since unless the employee envisages the real scope of his job decisions will be made slowly and with little or no quality. This affects the overall efficiency and service quality of the bank. Certainly we will focus on the automation of processes and minimization of "handwork", especially for standard types of credit facilities. With a view of more efficient management of the key risk banks are exposed to, i. e. credit risk, we will establish a new risk management subdivision.

Nowadays the problem is acute of staff turnover in the banking system. How do you plan to motivate your personnel?

I should point out that Converse Bank has good personnel, comprised of professionals of quite a high level. I have already told of my intention to make Converse Bank the best place to work in, and should say that we will take appropriate actions to accomplish this target. To be more exact, we will improve our system of incentives, staff training and development system. The most important aspect is creation of opportunities of career development within the Bank. The employee should be regularly assigned new tasks, should have new challenges to face. Through handling these tasks and addressing the challenges he will be able to improve his professional qualification level. Along with the "HR breeding" policy inside the Bank we will survey the market to recruit new employees. On the whole the entire HR Policy will be designed to achieve enhanced efficiency of each staff member, identification and encouragement of promising employees. I think this very model of dynamic development will render it possible for us to remain a competitive employer in the market.

What are the strengths of Converse Bank, that you plan to promote during your tenure?

I believe Converse Bank to have two strengths: the first is its customers, and the second is its employees. The Bank has quite a heavy and stable customer base. I should like to express my gratitude to them for fostering their faith in the Bank. I have spoken of the personnel, and I will repeat that we have a very prospective HR base of young and proficient specialists. Our goal is to set their energy on the right track, particularly to accomplish higher quality in liaison with customers.

Do you plan to enter capital market?

Indeed we are interested in the capital market, moreover the Bank is quite likely to issue the relevant financial instruments. I think by the middle of this summer Converse Bank will be ready and prepared to emerge in the capital market.

Mr. Ghukasyan, let me ask a personal question. What reason lay behind the transfer of the top-manager of HSBC to Converse Bank?

I am satisfied with the experience and professional record I've had in HSBC Bank. I do believe my former employer is of the same opinion. As for the reason of my transfer to Converse Bank, it was mostly fueled by the interesting and serious ideas of Mr. Eduardo Eurnekian, a new shareholder of Converse Bank, concerning the development of both the Bank and economy of Armenia. Mr. Eurnekian's aims and my personal and professional interests happened to coincide which on the whole may be defined as creation of an Armenian bank brand and compliance with the best international standards. As stated above I am attracted by the project our new shareholder intends to implement in Armenia. It is great that the Converse Bank team could muster enough strength to accept this challenge.

And the last but not least, question. In you opinion, what are the features a good bank manager should have?

This seems to be the hardest question. It appears to me that any manager regardless of what sphere he is working in should possess diligence, knowledge, expertise and, team thinking. Banking system is not exception. Though for a banking manager, I should consider flexibility as well, for each customer presents his demands and expects adequate treatment, while the bank manager has to work with them with a certain set of instruments available, let alone lack of information required for decision-making, and time. On the other hand, the results of the bank manager's activity are slow to ripen. There are, of course, adherents of "instant effect" solutions, but such solutions are often short-term and result in deviations from the core strategy of the bank which on the whole cost the bank much more than in the other case. What helps a bank manager to stick to the elected strategy notwithstanding the temptation of accomplishing a passing if quick result, is but faith in the elected strategy, and without this faith it is in principle hard to picture a good bank manager.

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