UniCredit Boosts Transaction Banking in London
An Executive Interview with George Stein, Head of Global Transaction Banking, UK, UniCredit
In this edition, Helen Sanders, Editor, talks to George Stein, who joined UniCredit in 2015 to head up the bank’s global transaction banking activities and pioneer innovation in its growing UK branch.
Your appointment as Head of Global Transaction Banking in the UK was a new role for UniCredit. Why was the role created?
UniCredit has a major strategic emphasis on global transaction banking, which includes leveraging our foreign branches to build out trade finance business and meet the international needs and aspirations of our customers. In London, for example, although transaction banking has been an important aspect of our service delivery for many years, we are making a major investment in skills and solutions to build capacity and expand the breadth of our services. On a personal level, having worked most recently in the financial technology space following my previous banking roles, the opportunity to shape the business at such a crucial time was very attractive given the exciting changes that are taking place in the bank and in the wider market.
As you expand your foreign branches, is your client profile also evolving?
Absolutely. In addition to delivering additional value to our home market customers as they pursue their international growth strategies, we are also building partnerships with banks and other customers that are seeking to leverage our solutions, expertise and depth of presence in our home markets of Germany, Austria and Italy, and in Central & Eastern Europe (CEE). In the UK, for example, we are expanding our proposition in both cash management and trade finance. We have a large and growing number of correspondent banking relationships. And, while some banks have reviewed their portfolio and network and altered their strategy by exiting or reducing their activities in some markets, we have reinforced our commitment to our network, which is very important to both new and longstanding customers.
You mention the investment that UniCredit is making in its foreign branches, such as London. What form is this investment taking?
One of the reasons I was keen to join UniCredit, particularly based on my experience both with other banks and in financial technology, was the strength of the bank’s technology solutions. This is the result of sustained investment, and also the high expectations of our customers in the advanced markets in which we operate. As part of this ongoing investment, we will be offering a newly enhanced platform for clients who are looking to concentrate their cash in London, which is proving very attractive to both customers in our home markets and beyond.
In our home markets we are also pursuing a proactive digital strategy, reaching out to the fintech community to establish UniCredit as the fintech ‘bank of choice’. Many of these companies are exploring opportunities to offer services in the payment space, but they still have to rely on a bank at both ends of the transaction. By partnering with fintech companies that have the most compelling value proposition and robust technology, we are facilitating a new generation of payment (and wider) services and embracing the opportunities that these present, rather than viewing them only as a threat or challenge.
As a bank, we continue to explore, participate in, and help to shape the financial technology landscape of the future, such as through our UBIS (UniCredit Business Integration Solutions) group. The UBIS team is active in working across our business, with our customers and with the wider financial community through events such as Sibos.
How do you see UniCredit’s branches, such as those in London, evolving in the future?
We are developing our branches in London and elsewhere as the place where ‘the old world meets the new’. We have a loyal, diverse and expanding customer base that values our commitment to long-term relationships, and our focus on trust and reliability. At the same time, UniCredit’s foreign branches are ‘locking arms’ and working together to make sure that we are able to offer leading edge solutions and services to meet our clients’ evolving business needs. In the UK, for example, we have a number of investment programmes reaching fruition in 2016-7 that will deliver significant competitive advantage to both the bank and our customers. Our new eBanking portal is being expanded into a global solution, and will be launched first in London, reflecting the importance of the UK within the UniCredit group. This development will be instrumental in enhancing the customer experience and providing consistent access to information and services across the bank.