Kosovo is the youngest country in Europe, but its banking sector has proven to be mature and resilient, said Anita Kovacic, general director of Raiffeisen Bank Kosovo (RBK), in an interview with bne IntelliNews.
Kovacic, CEO of Kosovo’s largest bank, describes a sector that is “healthy, liquid and profitable” as well as increasingly competitive.
“In recent years, several banks have entered the Kosovo market, leading to the creation of a competitive banking sector. The banking sector has managed to maintain a high level of capitalization and liquidity and a low level of non-performing loans, which has increased the loss absorption capacity of the sector over the years,” explains Kovacic.
“Furthermore, the sector has also shown itself to be resilient, mature and able to adapt to new circumstances. Overall, I believe that the banking sector in Kosovo can respond to the demands of the markets in the same way as the banking sectors in the region do.”
Kosovo’s greatest asset is arguably its young and growing population – unlike the rest of the Emerging Europe region, where the population of almost all countries is experiencing long-term decline. This also creates opportunities for the banking sector.
“Kosovo is one of the youngest countries in Europe and its proximity to major European markets and its young population give the country advantages for growth. Additionally, low taxes and labor costs, a healthy financial sector and strong ties to the diaspora further add to the benefits,” says Kovacic. bne IntelliNews.
RBK entered the Kosovo market in 2002, six years before the country’s declaration of independence from Serbia. The history of the bank began with the acquisition of the shares of American Bank of Kosovo, followed by its renaming to Raiffeisen Bank of Kosovo in 2003. Over the years, RBK not only became the largest bank in Kosovo, but has also demonstrated its commitment to adapting to market trends, fostering sustainability and contributing to the country’s economic growth.
While having the largest branch network in the country, RBK has strategically focused on expanding its digital offerings while maintaining its physical presence. Despite the economic challenges of 2022, including high inflation rates, Kosovo’s economy grew by 3.5% and RBK recorded strong performance in its own operations.
“Even under these circumstances, Raiffeisen Bank Kosovo has consistently improved its performance on key financial indicators, which has translated into both our financial success and increased customer satisfaction. Our bank’s profits have increased steadily,” Kovacic said.
Kovacic identifies key sectors with high potential in Kosovo, including mining, construction materials, IT, renewable energy, tourism, agriculture and manufacturing.
“The Western Balkans in general, and Kosovo in particular, have a young population and untapped banking potential,” says Kovacic. “For example, the IT sector is booming recently and many young people are involved in this sector. In recent years, the country has started to focus on a greener and more digital economy, which is why technology and renewable energy have great potential, but also tourism, agriculture and manufacturing, to move towards a more export-oriented economy.
Kovacic highlights RBK’s commitment to sustainability, as evidenced by its collaboration with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and its partnerships with the European Union and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). ).
“As the largest bank in the country, Raiffeisen seeks to play its role in promoting responsible banking and sustainable finance through its ESG (environmental, social, governance) program,” says Kovacic. This focuses on core business practices, employee well-being, community investment and internal green initiatives.
Some of the measures taken by RBK include the distribution of VISA cards made from recycled materials, a fleet of hybrid vehicles, a revised business travel policy to reduce the bank’s carbon footprint and the installation of solar panels for the clean energy production.
Furthermore, RBK’s involvement in projects such as the BOOST project with UNDP demonstrates its commitment to supporting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in their green transition, thereby contributing to Kosovo’s broader environmental goals.