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Supporting SMEs in Turkey: Akbank 11 May 2021

Cemre Bozer, Vice President SME Product Management at Akbank, spoke with Efma about the myriad ways their bank is promoting the success of SMEs in the country.
Small and medium-sized businesses make up an integral part of the Turkish economy. As the needs of these businesses evolve, financial institutions are working to provide their customers with the digital tools that any modern businessowner needs to succeed. With all of the excellent work going on in Turkey, we wanted to speak with SME bankers about the current landscape in the country and their strategy, key projects, and views on the future of the segment. We will publish a series of interviews over the coming weeks, culminating in a Voice of the Members report that will be published in April and May. We are sure you will enjoy this deep dive into the SME banking scene in the dynamic country of Turkey.

How integral are SME clients to your institution’s overall strategy? And how would you define key aspects/features of your SME banking strategy?

We work to create unique banking solutions by analyzing changing trends and customer expectations accurately and developing inclusive solutions.

Areas of Focus: Innovative offerings via digital platforms and increased speed to market. Catering to other service needs of SMEs e.g., accounting, HR, payroll / personalizing solution / using data more effectively to meet / SME needs.

At Akbank, we effectively incorporate our digital transformation journey into business processes and constantly raise the quality of our products and services. Operating with the principle of delivering unconditional customer satisfaction, we develop products and services that make a difference vis-a-vis the competition by maintaining customer interaction at the highest level. Closely monitoring new dynamics in the real economy and emerging trends across society, we stand by our customers 24/7 with diversified products and services, as well as an extensive service infrastructure across Turkey.

Key aspects:

- Being the best bank in Turkey in terms of customer experience and satisfaction
- Maintaining strong asset quality through efficient risk management
- Preserving our competitive cost structure
- Ensuring a superior customer experience in all channels
- Enhancing customer value through innovative solutions
- Building the future of banking by investing in people, technology, and advanced analytics
Our support for SMEs via retail banking services is not confined to funding only. We foster SME development by offering specialized consultancy and advisory services.

Can you briefly describe your sales and service model of the whole SME Banking business?

Akbank currently serves these customers through multiple touchpoints. We have a new era in Customer Experience. This era is:

- Sales Oriented
- Personalized
- Flexible / Fast
- Interactive
- Proactive
- Value Add
- Omnichannel

Could you highlight three key projects your institution has delivered to SME costumers within the last 2-3 years? Have all of these projects been digitally-based?

Our new strategy also requires responding better to changing customer expectations of SMEs who are saying:

- “Give me options and transparency”
- “Help me do what I need to do”
- “Give me everything in one place”
- “Personalize my experience”
In the near future we are going to offer them a tailor-made experience where they have the flexibility to change if needed; everything, every moment and every experience customized.

As of today, we have a couple of partnerships which we will hopefully widen in the near future. We have an HR solution and Pre-accounting solution. Thanks to our integration clients can both monitor income and expenses, HR issues online and do needed payments via our digital channel.
What were the immediate first steps your SME Department took internally to cope with the pandemic crisis and respond quicker to clients? How have you been helping your SME customers face the impact of the Covid-19 crisis?

One of the most important thinsg to SMEs is to finance short term working capital needs during these difficult times. First, installment payments were deferred. With treasury-backed guarantees, new credit lines were allocated to SMEs. On the insurance side we also gave some incentives during pandemic. Unpaid health and life policies were not cancelled as well. What we learned from the Covid pandemic was that “Digitalization is the key issue and path to success.”

From your point of view, what will the future bring for the SME Segment? What will SME banking look like five years from now?

At Akbank we are very digital and an award-winning bank but in order to increase customer satisfaction we launched another SME-oriented digitalization project which hopefully will offer all banking products online.

Digital transaction presentations are carried out on channels for transactions that can be done remotely for SME customers.

We focus on making credit processes instant and hassle free for customer satisfaction and also enable our salesforce to allocate their time to strategic products and dive deep into the real needs of SMEs.

Our approach is:

- Fully automate credit processes
- Simplify and standardize products
- Maximize self-service and remote channels usage for Micro and Small segments
This interview will appear in our upcoming report "SME Banking in Turkey: customer first".

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