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Exclusive interview with Mr. Arthur Hambardzumyan, Head, Innovation and Quality Unit, Ameriabank CJSC.
ARKA news agency

Mr. Hambardzumyan, how does Ameriabank manage to satisfy the continuously growing needs of clients given the current technological progress and toughening of competition?

- Wayne Gretzky, a legendary hockey player once said: ‘A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.’ The same is with Ameriabank. We strive to be at the point where the client will be tomorrow. For this purpose the bank has elaborated and implemented an innovative development program. Its key objective is satisfaction of both current and future needs of clients by means of new methods.

 

Mr. Hambardzumyan, what innovation policy does Ameriabank run to realize its strategic program?

- Innovation is in our mission. Application of cutting-edge technologies is among the bank’s priorities. Therefore we can state that all our activities are innovation-oriented. According to our approach innovations refer not only to new products and services but also to business model, processes, technologies and management systems. While introducing innovations in the market in the form of new products and services we simultaneously proceed with implementation of infrastructure-forming systems, enhancing intra-bank cooperation opportunities and increasing efficiency of business processes.

Meanwhile, I would like to underline two main motivation vectors for innovating activities. First and foremost it is the desire to be up to date. Due to the development of the state-of-the-art technologies and social networks and penetration of internet into almost all spheres of human activities the behavior and life style of our clients undergo considerable changes. To comply with continuously growing needs of the client we should change, too. Currently we find it necessary to implement projects which enable clients to enjoy maximum convenience while banking.

The second direction aims at outstripping and gaining priorities in the market. It enables us to get prepared for the coming changes, especially in the use of banking services, implementation of long-term plans and projects and application of new technologies.

For instance, if the world talks about plastic cards becoming less applicable as a payment instrument and mobile and wireless payment systems taking privilege, it’s high time to think about it today even if the local market is not ready for such changes yet.

 

What are the main principles Ameriabank’s innovation policy is based on?

- The bank adheres to the following three principles while developing the innovation policy. The fist and foremost is the client-orientedness. It was and still continues to be the guarantee of our success in the market. Even in retail banking business where standard products prevail we manage to retain individual approach and offer to the client the product which best meets needs, life style and preferences.

The second important principle of our innovation policy is adherence to the best international practice and cutting-edge technologies. We in advance highlight implementation of services and offers complying with international standards. The world grows narrower and the banking competition acquires global character. Not only people living in Armenia but also those from other countries, including Armenians from Diaspora, become clients of the bank. Therefore, to be transparent and competitive, we should offer products which are equally good as the ones offered in the client’s country of residence.

The third principle is ensuring compliance with the adopted strategy, i. e. both the innovation policy as a whole and separate innovation projects are aimed at fulfillment of the strategy and creation of basis for further development of the bank. Once the strategy is changed the innovation policy changes accordingly and those products begin to prevail which comply with our new objectives. One year ago we shifted towards the universal bank model and increased the retail product line, and so as per our innovation policy the year 2011 was mostly a retail banking year. We introduced about 15 new offers in the market.

Combination of these three principles allows us to elaborate and implement an innovation policy which enables us to become a leader in the banking system in a very short period of time and go ahead of the market.


Which are the main sources for new ideas the bank uses for implementation of innovation policy?

- I would outline three main sources of innovations. The first source is our clients. Ameriabank’s clients are the engine of our development.

Sometimes clients give interesting ideas which are invisible from inside. We appreciate it highly. We have a special group in charge of processing of the received recommendations and offers. Very often our clients who are satisfied with our services recommend improving our products and services. It shows that our loyal clients wish to see us on even a higher position. Firstly, this allows establishing interactive communication with our clients. Secondly, implementation of clients’ recommendations and offers results in growth of trust towards our bank.

Currently the clients’ messages are received in free format, yet in future we will try to develop a special system for the clients to submit and track their recommendations and offers more easily.

The second source is our employees. As we know, currently the so called ‘Open’ innovations are beginning to prevail in the world, which are formed due to cooperation of the members of a large professional community. The key objective of our innovation policy is the use of a huge intellectual potential of our employees irrespective of position and status. I am talking about the so called internal corporate crowdsourcing. And it is no mere chance that currently each employee of the bank can introduce his innovative recommendations, offers or ideas and so have his input in the bank’s development. As a result, ideas are formed which could have never been generated by a limited group of people. The sense of involvement serves as a strong motivation. It is a reliable incentive for the employee to know that his idea will be considered.

Currently most innovations and new offers are implemented thanks to our employees. During 2011 we received and processed about 300 offers from employees, most of which have already been implemented.

We have developed an electronic system enabling to efficiently submit and track ideas and offers in the general database. Since the system is available for all employees they can view the management feedback about their ideas.

Besides, a special Innovation and Quality Unit is functioning in the bank of which the key objective is to coordinate the process of generating ideas, elaborating and implementing innovations. Back in 2008 our bank was among the first banks in Armenia to have developed this infrastructure.

And as last, the third source of innovations is the members of Ameriabank’s Board of Directors. The Board of Directors is comprised of outstanding people prominent in international business community, who have global view of markets and receive first-hand updates about global developments and trends. Based on this information we get prepared for the coming changes in advance.

 

Would you please specify the products Ameriabank offers under its innovation policy?

- I have already mentioned that in 2011 we implemented a number of retail banking products such as metal accounts, investment loans for individuals for acquiring business or shares, mortgage schemes enabling the clients to apply for mortgage loans on more attractive and favorable terms. For instance, mortgage loans where the advance payment is made as a bank deposit which may be used for loan repayments, if the client is experiencing temporary financial difficulties. We have also developed a mortgage loan for people who wish to purchase real estate abroad (which is not envisaged by standard mortgage terms). This scheme enables clients to pledge real estate in Armenia to acquire property abroad.

In other words, we try to segment our services for the client to choose the option which meets his needs best. Currently we are working on several large-scale projects, particularly in payment cards business, such as co-branding projects with several big retailers. These projects will provide our clients with complete advantages of our card products.

We are also going to promote and further enhance consumer loans for our clients to be able to purchase goods, vehicles, etc., on more favorable terms.

To make a qualitative difference in the market we mostly highlight non-price factors of competition. They are not measurable in interest, but the effect of the use of our services is rather valuable for the client. We are far from offering the lowest rates in the market, but by using our services the client gets much more than a mere loan, deposit or card is.

We also continue to pay great attention to small business products. We have projects under which small businesses get interesting services to save financial resources and manage their business more efficiently (for instance, interest holidays or grace periods).

Last year we implemented brokerage terminals enabling clients to perform operations in 80 largest stock exchanges of 19 countries of the world. This year we are going to increase this product line and ensure access to even more international markets.

Besides, a card project for premium clients is in the stage of implementation. We will introduce it in the nearest future.

We plan to fulfill all the mentioned plans by the end of 2012. We are currently elaborating a number of special offers for our clients, which will be introduced during the year.

 

What are the expected results of implementation of new projects?

- What is important, is that we do not set short-term objectives. Each product has its own benchmarks yet we pursue a more global goal – that is establishment of a universal bank in the market. Having our own position in the market and creation of basis for development are more important than short-term effects of products.

This is the reason why our products are aimed at creation of preconditions for strengthening of our position and ensuring continuous growth.

 

11:51 15.05.2012  ARKA.am

Updated 29.05.2012, 11:56
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