Joanna Erdman, Vice President of ING Bank Śląski SA

Companies currently attach great importance to sustainable and responsible operation. What specific actions does ING Bank Śląski take in these areas?

Clients and employees are the ones who increasingly often demand that companies are run in a sustainable and responsible manner. On the one hand, this is an external expectation, on the other – a bottom-up initiative coming from within the company. We want our business to support the values we believe in. This is why we operate in an honest, responsible, and prudent way – using common sense. We apply these values to all our stakeholders: employees, clients, shareholders, suppliers, as well as the natural environment.

We live in a world where climate change is a growing threat. This is why we feel that we need to care more for the environment. It is currently an integral part of our business strategy. In 2015 we were the first bank in Poland to declare a reduction in the financing of coal energy. Two years ago we announced our Ecological Declaration, according to which by the end of 2025 we will gradually reduce, until full repayment, credit exposures granted to customers whose activity is based on steam coal in more than 5%. At the same time we intend to finance projects – unrelated to coal – supporting the energy transformation.

We can currently see that more and more financial institutions, also in Poland, are limiting their financing of environmentally harmful activities. We are very glad about that, because only a joint effort can give us a chance to live in a cleaner and healthier world.

The next question concerns an issue which regularly appears in the bank’s communications and also seems to be very close to your heart. It is about ecology and support for pro-ecological attitudes among clients. How does ING Bank Śląski care for environmental protection? Do you do this alone or in partnership with other entities?

At ING we support and promote modern solutions associated with environmental protection. Our strategy has already translated into concrete actions. Both last and this year, in partnership with Tauron and Innogy, we became involved in electromobility by developing electric car sharing. Our analyses show that such a service may contribute to the popularization of this type of vehicles. It eliminates the accessibility barrier – the still relatively high price of such cars – and supports the development of a network of charging stations. We also cooperate with Blinkee, which offers electric scooters.

We want to help clients in their energy transformation and choice of ways to conserve energy. At the end of last year we signed an agreement with Engie regarding the development of electromobility and solutions in the field of energy efficiency.

We currently offer our clients solutions developed by Siemens, providing manufacturing companies with technological and infrastructural improvements leading to lower energy consumption. Interestingly, companies that use such solutions do not have to incur high investment costs immediately – they only conclude an agreement for a subscription-based service.

There are, of course, many activities that we carry out on our own – as part of internal projects. Reduction in paper usage, conservation of water, 100% electricity from renewable sources, or elimination of plastic bottles are just some examples of our many internal initiatives.

Many industries are currently facing numerous challenges, such as the lack of qualified staff. What are the biggest challenges of ING Bank Śląski that you can share with us?

The Polish economy is developing well, but mostly thanks to consumption and public sector investments. Private sector activity is below our expectations, which concerns us in the long term. Good years are a time for preparatory changes, and we are still lagging behind in this area.[JC1]  As a country we are slowly moving away from competing with attractive costs of labor. If we don’t increase the pace of investment in new technologies and ensure higher productivity, we may find ourselves in a difficult situation when the market weakens. These dilemmas translate into uncertainty in private sector investment. This is where we see some risk.

Now for a technological question about startups. This is an area you are very involved in. Why are they so important and where do you see their role in the bank’s operation?

For years we have been developing products and services for companies, going beyond the standard banking offer. We search the market for solutions which companies can use to grow faster, build scale, as well as simplify internal processes and contact with the bank. Hence the idea to cooperate with startups. We value their expert knowledge, operational efficiency, and commitment to transforming ideas into new products. We are using many of them right now. Cooperation with startups is symbiotic in nature. Both parties benefit and develop through growth and adaptation. We happily use ready-made solutions or develop them together with startups. The condition is, of course, that they must meet our needs as well as the needs of our clients.

Professionally you attach great importance to employees, their competences, as well as the teams in which they work. What is your recipe for team management in such a large company?

Inclusive leadership. All of our actions result from the work of goal-focused teams, diverse in terms of their competence levels and professional experience. Every voice is equally important to us, we listen to everyone and treat everyone with respect. There is no unhealthy and exhausting rivalry between us. It is a matter of corporate culture, which is built over many years. The leaders of ING understand this and promote this kind of attitude in their teams. They support and set strategic goals that are consistently implemented in the long term. It builds stability and trust.

Since you have so much experience in management positions, we would like to ask you about your reflections on the career path from a woman’s perspective. Do you think that a woman’s career path is more difficult than that of a man? If so, what are the main reasons?

I see many positive changes in this area. If it’s more difficult for women, it’s often because they are still struggling with the stereotypical perception of gender roles – consciously or not. I know many women who, thanks to their competence, determination, and openness to change, achieve professional success in management positions and ING is the best example. We promote talented people who want to grow and are full of positive energy. Regardless of their gender.

We would now like to ask you about the differences in the style of management with respect to gender. What are the weak and strong points of women and men in the highest positions in companies? What are the differences between both sexes in this matter?

In my opinion the most important thing in management is the ability to build an inspiring vision and work with a team. Competences, openness to change, and readiness to face challenges are, of course, important as well. In this context, gender is of secondary importance. I know from experience that mixed teams work best and most effectively. Diversity brings tremendous value, which is often underestimated. Different views, work styles, ways of building relationships, and cognitive curiosity shape the most creative environment in the context of searching for ideas and implementing solutions.

Last Updated on October 29, 2020 by Łukasz