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 Strengthen - stabilizing to accelerate and return to the track

It has been more than a year since the last interview, and now we have a chance to talk to Ms. Nguyen Duc Thach Diem, member of the Board of Directors and CEO of Saigon Thuong Tin Commercial Joint Stock Bank (Sacombank). Sacombank has just celebrated its 27th anniversary and is in its second year of restructuring process under the guidance of enthusiastic leadership.

“Sacombank is ready to return to the track with the leading financial institutions in terms of operational size and efficiency” - Ms. Diem goes straight to the story - “In 2018, Sacombank had achieved credit growth at 14% with value of VND 258,000 billion, mobilization from economic organizations and residents increased by 12% to over VND 364,000 billion, total assets increased by 11% to over VND 407,000 billion. Bad debt is controlled under 3%, asset quality is improved with the proportion of profitable assets increased by 5%, total income is over VND 10,500 billion, up by 21% compared to 2017, in which growth in interest and services fee improved much compared to the previous year, notably the bancassurance service revenue achieved outstanding results and pre-tax profit of over VND 2,200 billion, 20% higher than the plan. Moody - credit rating organization has also raised the prospect of Sacombank to stable level ”.

If it is possible to depict Sacombank in 2018 with the most concise phrases, what words will you purify?

2018 is an active and effective year in all areas. Sacombank has achieved stable growth in terms of market share, effectively exploited network advantages, enhanced customer experience, promoted the strength of its staff, and drastically dealt with debt settlement. Our roadmap for dealing with bad debt is happening faster than the approved restructuring plan after the merger. In parallel, we have invested heavily in modern technology platform, in particular: We have launched 5 projects related to information technology with a total investment of hundreds of billion dong. The first project is a launching Loan Origination System in order to ensure the transparency, comprehension and consistency of credit approval process. The second project is CRM which is to build a comprehensive customer relationship management system, from marketing, customer service to giving new products to create a different experience for all customers. The third project is upgrading the core bank system T24-R17 which is the most upgraded version in the market with many technical improvements as well as financial data management functions that enhanced transaction processing and better risk management control. The other two projects are "Improving the risk management database framework" and "Credit risk modeling" to help standardize data management policies and build data warehouses according to Basel II standards as well as improving business processes and risk management while optimizing customer care. The implementation of these projects helps Sacombank to quantifying business portfolios risk, thereby facilitating strategy planning, balancing risks and expected profits.

Every bank wants high profits and sometimes it is in uncontrolable scenarios which has exceeded the risk limits. How has Sacombank balanced that over time?

In fact, we are under a very high pressure. Pressure of restructuring account receivable, the amount of collateral asset must be handled to recover debts. Pressure to set up risk provisions which must be profitable as committed to shareholders. The pressure does not allow us just to “walk" but have to “run” to catch up with other banks that are breaking through at all distances. However, we act in accordance to our motto which is not because of the short term success to neglect the long term target of sustainable and safety development. Sacombank always ensures adequate provisioning and selective investment in its campaigns and projects that bring the long-term effectiveness.

Therefore, on the one hand we diversify our revenue sources, especially increasing revenue from services such as international payment, bancassurance, card operation and on the other hand, we also promote business efficiency in all aspects in order to thoroughly saving costs and efforts to increase labor productivity.

You once said in an interview last year that: "Sacombank-ers work to finish all tasks, not to finish working day." Is this the main reason for the smooth operation on Sacombank's restructuring path?

I personally think that when all staff working together, looking in one direction, overcoming their limits, the results will be higher than expected. At Sacombank, we focus on customer-centric and consider human resource is the most important factor for the development journey. And to get a strong team, every member of the Sacombank family always practicing their innovative thinking, constantly improving and completing themselves. That is how we created the Sacombank brand together. Chairman of Sacombank, Mr. Duong Cong Minh, often shared in meetings that it is not enough for Sacombank to just complete it, we are required to speed it up to bring Sacombank back to the track, but in order to speed up, it requires each individual to have a positive and innovative working mindset in thinking and doing.

It is almost end of December, but on Sacombank's website, people continue to find many properties for sale and auction. There are assets worth thousands of billion VND. What can investors and shareholders expect from Sacombank next year, madam?

Handling collateral for debt recovery is that we conduct regularly, continuously and need to publish to ensure publicity and transparency. There are assets that cannot be sold right away for the first time, but must be the second and the third time. If the upcoming public auctions come to success, Sacombank may recover trillions of bad debts. I have directly managed the debt settlement department for many years, I clearly understand that in order to effectively recover some bad debt, we not only neet highly qualified staff, but also depends on the rise and fall of the real estate market and this requires us to be both aggressive and persistent. Shareholders and investors who accompany Sacombank should also be persistent. Our Chairman committed at the Annual General Shareholders Meeting for the 2017 fiscal year that we will pay dividends latest in the coming years. We will endeavor to not disappoint Sacombank's long-term investors.

You mentioned the ability to pay dividends, which means that Sacombank's financial indicators will be better in 2019?

Exactly! Enhancing business efficiency, increasing scale and market share, improving financial indicators, promoting digital banking, applying stronger information technology system to all operational departments are Sacombank's most crucial targets currently and in the following years. We are also actively streamlining the apparatus, automating the transaction and operational processes and promoting operating capacity of each department and each employee.

Did you mean "big family" Sacombank and individuals of the bank all need to try?

I believe that Sacombank in all circumstances, the most crucial factor that plays a decisive role is always our staff. It is time for our team to have a big and different mindset, but the original goal is still maintain a sustainable and strong restructured bank and the name of Sacombank will be better known to all customers. It can be said that the initial achievements of the restructuring process after the merger affirmed that we are on the right track in promoting the spirit of Sacombank with a bright mind, enthusiasm, dynamism and adaptability capable to quickly change while still maintaining sustainable development an the Bank's core values. We are not just talking! Consolidation and acceleration in theory are both ambidextrous. Once you choose the path of sustainable development, you must follow along the road. A mature Sacombank needs to keep its discipline, but at the same time it must retains the pioneering spirit to step forward.


 HẢI LÝ 
Saigon Times, 27/12/2018.