Interview with Ivana Pícková, Director of Max banka

June 28, 2023

Banka CREDITAS became the owner of the then Expobank in September 2022, and in October the bank was renamed Max banka. Since then, it has managed to double its number of clients and increase its balance sheet total from 12 billion CZK to nearly 40 billion CZK. Read about Max banka’s future merger with Banka CREDITAS and much more in the interview with the director of Max banka Ivana Pícková.

You have been the head of Max banka since the beginning of this year, and you are still a member of the Board of Directors and the Head of Retail Banking at Banka CREDITAS. How do you manage to combine both functions?
I think I am doing quite well. It makes sense since we are preparing the merger of the two banks.

When is it supposed to happen? And how will the merger proceed?
The merger is going to take place over the next two years. The project is being prepared and the process will be similar to previous bank mergers on our market. Recent examples include Raiffeisenbank and Equa bank.

What have you already achieved as the head of Max banka?
What I value the most is that as a new name on the market we have managed to reach a large number of new clients.

Max banka focuses primarily on savings accounts, term deposits and daily banking services. Are you looking to expand your product portfolio?
We plan to expand our range of products and services. For example, we will soon present a savings account and a term deposit in euro which could be entirely opened online. We are also working on the development of a mobile app.

On the other hand, you have recently suspended your refinancing consumer loan offer called Refixo. So the merger process has already started?
The current suspension of refinancing corresponds with the long-term intention to merge the two banks. Combined, we plan to build an attractive product portfolio for the longer term. In Max banka, we are currently focusing on deposits.

We are now in an environment of high inflation and high interest rates. What do you offer clients looking for a safe haven for their finances?
We strive to offer our clients attractive interest rates so that their savings do not lose value. Our savings account is currently one of the most favourable on the market. If clients want higher appreciation, they can invest with Banka CREDITAS. It offers a variety of funds and bonds. For example, the CREDITAS Real Estate fund achieved a very nice appreciation of 12% last year.

And how do you invest?
I have a fairly broad portfolio of investment products, mostly allocating money to funds and real estate. However, the biggest investment is definitely the children, which is also true in my case.

The banking world is rather the domain of men. Are there any advantages to being a woman in this environment? And should there be more women in leadership positions in your opinion?
I think there has been a shift in bank management in recent years, involving more and more women. In fact, I can’t think of many banks in the Czech Republic that do not have at least one woman in their top management. However, the ratio of men to women remains very unequal. There are five people on the Board of Directors of Banka CREDITAS, two of whom are women. I am not a fan of quotas, women can assert themselves, even though it is not always easy.

You have thirty years worth of experience in banking and management positions as Head of Back Office at eBank, Head of Operations Transformation Cluster at Raiffeisenbank, Head of BPM team at Česká pojišťovna and Project Manager at Česká spořitelna, for instance. What has influenced your career the most?
I was definitely the most influenced by my work at eBanka, which started as the first internet bank in the Czech Republic, literally on a greenfield site. It was an immensely creative job, which gave all of us the opportunity for a wide overlap of activities outside of our official role. A few years later, another crucial moment for me was the merger of the project into which I put my heart and soul with Raiffeisenbank.

As a member of the project management, I was actively involved in the merger. The clash of two worlds, two companies that each have their own processes, their own corporate culture and their own brand-fixated loyal clients, and how to bring them together in a relatively short amount of time despite the understandable greater or lesser disillusionment of employees on both sides. That was valuable experience.

How difficult was your journey to the head of Max banka then?
It was not that difficult since I am a member of the Board of Directors at Banka CREDITAS, which became the owner of Max banka last year, and I am responsible for retail banking. Max banka is primarily a retail bank, so it seemed quite logical for me to accept the challenge.

Probably the most difficult thing for me was to decide whether it was too big a bite, both in terms of working time and private life. Fortunately, I have a very tolerant family, so when I discussed it with my husband, he was supportive.

What advice would you give to women aiming for top positions?
I’ve personally never consciously addressed being a woman at work. I’ve always solved a specific task, problem or situation. On the other hand, I’ve never made any efforts to disguise the fact I’m a woman. I’m a woman, it’s my nature, and I may handle some things differently than men. I think the main thing is to not try to be someone other than who you really are. And to pursue what you care about.

The position of Director is time-consuming. Do you have enough time for family and non-work related activities?
Unfortunately I don’t. I could use 34 hours of free time a day. But I do find time for sports and gardening. My son is an adult and lives on his own. Although he is a student, he needs us parents much less than he used to. We see each other most often over good food, because he is a great cook.

The interview was published on the server Investiční Author: Jana Zámečníková.