Interview with Ivana Pícková from the CREDITAS Bank
A thick dividing line for some, just another incident for others. The pandemic split the Czech Republic into those ready and those caught by surprise. The CREDITAS Bank functioned before and after equally as well and continues to be in good shape as it expands its services. This is one of the topics of the interview for the Prosperity magazine with Ivana Pícková, the Member of the Board of Directors responsible for retail banking.
Why did you decide to prepare special products for clients who earn in a foreign currency abroad?
It is a very interesting group, although rather neglected by the majority of banks. There are almost 200,000 cross-border commuters in the Czech Republic, mostly in the border regions near Germany and Austria, where we have a properly distributed network of branches. Furthermore, the profile of our services and competitive advantages correspond well to the cross-border commuters’ needs. For instance, we have ones of the best exchange rates in the market. It is an apparently inconsiderable difference in the range of tens of hellers, or several per cent, at the first glance, but if you consider the fact that you, as a cross-border commuter, will need to exchange an average German salary into Czech crowns, the difference between our exchange rate and the exchange rate of major banks may save you 10,000 to 15,000 a year.
In addition to this specific need, we also wanted to offer a solution that will enable the client to partly or fully avoid exchange rate losses with international payments. Therefore, we offer a EUR account with a EURO card. The client keeps a portion of the EUR income in the EUR account to use it for payments abroad – thus completely avoiding the currency conversion. The required amount will be transferred to the CZK account at an advantageous exchange rate. As of June, we offer another advantage for clients with income made abroad. In the case of mortgage applications, we will assess the income made abroad, and not only in EUR, similarly to the income made in the Czech Republic. We want to provide a client with income in a foreign currency with the same conditions, including identical exchange rates, which we offer to the clients with CZK income.
What was the biggest surprise for you in the survey focused on the Czech cross-border commuters?
Firstly, the high number of people who would be willing to work abroad – along with those who already work abroad, which exceeds one half of the adult population in the frontier regions. And secondly, the biggest barrier for the people is not commuting, but little or no knowledge of the language. It appears that the trend of preferring to learn English and abandoning German language learning is not so ideal. The knowledge of German would certainly expand the work opportunities of the people in the frontier regions.
Were you affected by the pandemic, whether in the terms of the way of working and thinking in the Bank, or changes in the offer of financial products for the existing and potential clients?
Essentially no. Already before the pandemic, we had combined the services in the branches with high-quality on-line banking where the client may manage everything important with a few clicks. During the pandemic, we significantly expanded the range of services that are available in that manner, but please note that this was a planned change, not a response to Covid.
The era of cheap money is over. How has your policy changed in relation to savers, investors and those interested in loans and mortgages?
I would not talk about an era because the periods of low and high interest rates alternate periodically every few years. There is nothing special about it. The five-percent repo rate of the CNB was here in 2001, for instance. The current phenomenon is mainly the high inflation and unclear expectations for the future. It is important to us that we keep holding the same position: we want to be among the first choices for the clients who wish to appreciate their savings properly. As a consequence of the present, the people do not like to fix their money for a longer period of time. Therefore, the popular products include savings accounts, savings deposits with a one-month notice period, or the fixed-term deposits for six months. These are the periods for which the clients are willing to put their money aside. For these, we offer extraordinary rates ranging from 4.1 to 5.2% per annum.
What makes the CREDITAS Bank attractive for those who are looking for a safe harbour for their financial funds?
We are a Czech bank with more than 25 years of history and with Czech capital. Our products are clear and comprehensible, and everybody may choose what corresponds to their investment nature. Furthermore, although the people mostly associate our Bank with savings, we are also very good at day-to-day banking. We offer services basically without fees and with a number of technological gadgets that can make your life simpler and more pleasant. For instance, we are the only bank in the market that enables clients to connect bank accounts from more than 20 Czech and Slovak banks to the CREDITAS Banking. The client can control them from a single point and can instantly see all balances and changes in the bank account in the format the client chooses as the best arranged one. Due to the increasing prices, the people also more and more appreciate the option to make own budgets and categorize expenses in the Internet Banking. This helps them easily keep the family budget under control.
This text was published in the Prosperita magazine and on website iprosperita.cz