<strong>About inflation, ESG development strategy and social responsibility – says Paweł Strączyński, Vice President of Bank Pekao S.A. supervising the Financial Division</strong>

About inflation, ESG development strategy and social responsibility – says Paweł Strączyński, Vice President of Bank Pekao S.A. supervising the Financial Division

Currently, 20 million Poles actively use internet banking, and as many as 14 million use mobile banking applications. In Bank Pekao S.A. you put a lot of emphasis on the digitization of your services. Are you already seeing the impact of these changes on your customers?

In two years’ time, we want 100 percent of our services to be available from the application. The digitization of services index is one of the main indicators of the implementation of our business strategy. Now the bank’s digitization rate is at the level of 70 percent. We do not give up service in branches and we will not replace it with only digital service. We want to supplement the current offer so that the choice of service channels is left to the customers’ decision. If they want to visit a branch or stay at home and bank with us in this way, they will receive the same level of service.

But this is also probably changing a bit, as more and more elderly people are slowly learning to use remote service channels.

It is not only about the age division, I would not stigmatize the elderly by attributing them to the lack of the ability to navigate in the digital world. Direct relations with advisers are a great value appreciated by, for example, entrepreneurs. Let us remember that the pandemic has left its mark on social relations and often personal contact is the result of a deficit in meeting people.

When it comes to the corporate segment, many companies are your customers. In what direction are you planning to go?

We are absolutely number one in this segment. Our market share is up to 30 percent. We are becoming more and more involved in large projects. We finance huge investments related to the energy transformation. We want to be the bank of first choice in this area. In the case of smaller enterprises, we are the second number, but with a growing position, and we want to keep growing. For strategic purposes, we also assumed greater acquisition of younger clients. We are a system bank and our ambition is to be a leader in every market segment.

Is today, when inflation rages and interest rates are gradually raised, a good time for the banking sector or is it rather a period of some kind of consumer stagnation?

Inflation is a global occurrence. It is mainly the result of the global increase in energy and raw material prices, caused on the one hand by the geopolitical situation and war, and on the other hand by the directions of the European Union’s climate policy, which wants to accelerate the energy transformation and transition to renewable energy sources. Supply chains disruption due to Covid-19 and the war has also an impact on inflation. Stretching supply chains was a missed idea. However, it does not matter where it is produced, even if it is cheap.

The lagging demand effect is another factor driving inflation. This can be seen, for example, in the tourism or catering industry. After two years of the pandemic, we went to restaurants, shopping, to travel agencies, just wanting to live as before the pandemic, and this first effect of delayed demand is an additional inflationary factor. Of course, interest rates are rising, let’s just remember that inflation is now 12-13 percent, and the basic interest rate is 6 percent, so the real interest rate is still negative. Wage dynamics is higher than inflation.

Many refugees have accounts in your bank, and moreover you have prepared special solutions for corporate clients from Ukraine to help safely manage the finances of their companies, during their stay in Poland. How, in your opinion, will the war in Ukraine affect the situation of the bank?

We reach out strongly to the citizens of Ukraine. Our mobile application is available in Ukrainian, we also implement support in this language. In Bank Pekao, citizens of Ukraine can now submit applications for child benefit from the Family 500+ program via the website and through the application. The bank simplified the procedure of opening accounts for Ukrainian citizens as much as possible – one identification document, e.g. a passport, is enough. Bank Pekao does not charge any fees for running it.

What is the ESG strategy that the bank has adopted last year and what are its goals?

In the ESG strategy, above all we assumed a greater commitment to sustainable projects – for at least PLN 30 billion. Please treat these numbers as an absolute minimum. By 2024, we would like to engage in low-carbon projects, reduce our exposure to high-carbon assets to less than one percent of the portfolio. It will not be a massive termination of contracts or non-renewal of contracts. We are a responsible bank, a Polish bank, with the participation of the State Treasury, and just as foreign banks have their owners whose will is expressed and implemented by the management board, we also have our shareholders and we listen to what they say.

So if you do not terminate contracts en masse, how will it work?

We will definitely not get involved in new projects with high-carbon sectors, but we will take part in the energy transformation. During the forum in Davos, in which I had the honor to participate, Prime Minister Jacek Sasin said that the energy transformation in Poland should take place from coal directly to renewable energy sources, bypassing this transitional fuel. Today, in this complicated situation that we find ourselves in, we should continue the process of extinguishing coal assets in a controlled and safe manner, but on a different schedule because we have to take into account that there will be not as much gas as was planned. We definitely need to accelerate the programs for building renewable energy and distributed energy.

Bank Pekao S.A. attaches great importance to corporate social responsibility, on the basis of which the “Charter of Principles” was additionally developed, i.e. an internal set of corporate values. Could you please tell me more about this?

 Our social responsibility is the bank’s response to the goals contained in our ESG policy. It is a comprehensive document based on three pillars: Environment, Commitment and Orderliness. The key aspects of the latter include the promotion of employee development, diversity and equality. The most important goals in this context are increased satisfaction and commitment. They are achieved through development programs, succession plans and an attractive performance-related remuneration system. Pekao’s priority is also to ensure equal rights, reduce the salary gap and maintain a balanced number of women and men in managerial positions. In the finance division that I oversee, there are four women out of eight directors. This shows that there is no disproportion in the approach to building management staff. In the entire Bank Pekao, three-quarters of employees are women. No wonder that our Bank, for the third year in a row, qualified for the Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index. The share of women in senior management positions is 57 percent. There are only two companies from Poland in the mentioned ranking.

I would also like to ask you about social campaigns. Is Bank Pekao S.A. involved in various kinds of help?

In the FOB report, i.e. the largest cyclical review of corporate initiatives in the field of CSR and sustainable development in a given year, Bank Pekao was recognized for all reported activities. The limit was 10, all activities were highly rated. Including the program for women “Bez cukru”, the aim of which is to support and inspire women to develop in life and in business, or the project “MiLOVE biegi z Żubrem”, the task of which, in addition to strengthening friendships between employees, was also to encourage them to be physically active and participate in charity action. Employee volunteering is also flourishing at Bank Pekao. Employees educate and support seniors associated in the Polish Red Cross seniors clubs. We also cooperate with the SOS Children’s Villages Association in Poland. The bank’s opening of the Bank Pekao Virtual Art Gallery, which was accompanied by the donation of two exhibits from the bank’s collection to the Museum at the Royal Castle, worth approx. PLN 400,000, was also appreciated.

Paweł Strączyński, Vice President of the Management Board supervising the Financial Division at Bank Pekao S.A.

A graduate of the Wrocław University of Economics and an Executive MBA with a specialization in business management. He has extensive managerial experience. He was the President of the Management Board of Tauron Polska Energia S.A. and Member of the Management Board of the Polish Electricity Association. Previously, he was the Vice President of the Management Board at PGE S.A.

Last Updated on August 10, 2022 by Anastazja Lach