Ten years ago the banking system was totally different. It has changed beyond recognition and only people that were active in the system at that time can appreciate the changes that have taken place since then. Today we can say that we have a fully functional banking system, with reliable banks that are under effective supervision and provide services and credits to those who need them on the basis of objective criteria.
By Steven van Groningen
Ten years ago many banks operated through dubious practices, inflation was very high and foreign currency was scarce. It is fortunate that we managed to put behind us memories about the very expensive clean up that was needed in order to put an end to certain practices and to get to the sort of banking system a modern economy needs.
I remember that 10 years ago, when I was with ABN AMRO, we proposed opening 10 branches in Romania. No international bank had done it until then and we would have been the first. The response from our Head office was predictable: why don’t you open one branch first and see how it goes? We only have to look at the expansion rate of branch networks at the moment to see how much things have changed in the meantime.
I also remember how more than 10 years ago, my first money transfer into an account I had opened with a Romanian bank got lost. Weeks later, the bank (which does not exist anymore) finally found the money. Instead of apologizing that it had taken a very long time to recover the money, the bank gave me a reprimand. It was my own fault: I had put S.C. in front of my name, therefore the money was sent to the bank’s corporate department. They thought it meant Societate Comerciala instead of Steven Cornelis, my name.
Still, in spite of such events, I never regretted moving to Romania. It opened up new possibilities for me and gave me the opportunity to take part in the enormous changes that have taken place here over the last 10 years – not only in Romania, but also in the whole region. It was not easy going, but the bigger the challenges, the bigger the satisfaction when you succeed. I am very proud of the team of professionals that I work with every day. Together we have achieved great things and I am sure we are looking at a very interesting decade ahead of us as well. Even though the financial sector in Romania is relatively advanced, we still have a lot of catching-up to do in comparison with EU levels and that will give us plenty to work on for the next 10 years or more.
I hope that when Business Review celebrates its 20th anniversary the banking system will also have new achievements to look back on.