Interview with: Eleonora Zgonjanin Petrovikj, MBA, CEO of FULM Savings House
Published on: December 18, 2020
- What are the digital transformation steps that FULM Savings House adopted in the last period?
Our journey toward digitalization began back in 2003, when we launched our first web page, by being one of the first financial institutions in the country with a multilingual website in the languages spoken by our members. The goal was to introduce our members to something new that will be so normal in the future. In 2010, we implemented our first full ICT & social media strategy, today called Digitalization Strategy. Our digital transition happened due to an international community from over 100 countries via the technical support of the World Council of Credit Union.
In the last period, FULM members who use electronic banking and FULM’s Mobile application have the opportunity to check the balance of deposits and loans, online payment of loan obligations (internal transactions), online application for a loan, and getting information about our latest products and services. This year in order to reduce the contact between the employees and members, we enabled the members to electronically submit a request for using FULM’s Electronic Banking without having to visit the branches.
When it comes to internal processes, in 2016, FULM Savings House started to develop its digitalization through the customized software ASPEKT in order to optimize these processes, thanks to the USAID support. The customized software ASPEKT offers support for internal processes, including processes related to the entire life of loans and deposits, as well as certain reporting. In addition, when introducing the possibility for an online loan application, we have created customized back-end software through which loan officers manage and process the applications that are submitted online.
Last year, we launched the mobile application mFULM and the possibility to perform electronic banking through our website and mobile application.
- What were the biggest challenges you came across and how did you addressed these challenges?
The biggest challenge was how to make everyone (Boards, CEO, employees, members, stakeholders, and business associates) be “IN” for this strategy that really was not needed at that time. The most important thing was to introduce the Board members to ICT competencies. Later on, I also started my Ph.D. studies in ICT which was extremely difficult with my background in the economy. The second challenge was to create a company culture that everyone can “help” with digitalization, simply by thinking “what ICT can do for you, to enable easier daily work”. Rethinking that Digitalization is not for the IT’s guru in the company, but is for everyone. We have done a lot of training for employees, volunteers, and members on how to use the technology, not only for the needs of FULM but also for their own benefit. The next stage was to introduce ourselves on social media, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram. When using social media, the key challenge was to prevent fake news around you. Our goal was not only to present our products but also our beliefs through the philosophy “People helping people”, as well as the many success stories from the past 21 years.
- How did the digital transformation helped your company in these uncertain times?
For digital transformation, I think COVID-19 is “challeopporty”, a challenge that was successful “converted” into an opportunity. Since the start of the Coronavirus crisis, the highest priority of FULM Savings House has been to preserve the health of employees, executives, members, volunteers, and their families. In the newly created emergency conditions, we have made our existing digital channels available for maximum use by our members and we plan new ones in the near future. The opportunity for people to find out more about our products through digital channels became extremely important during the Covid-19 crisis. We are really proud that more than 60% of FULM’s employees have been working from home during the past 9 months, thanks to starting on time with digitalization. Our loan officers answer all questions and messages on social media and online chat, which reduces the need for people to come to the branches and be informed about our products.
Finally, our target for 2020 was good health for our volunteers, executives, employees, and their families. I am extremely happy and proud to “report” that we achieved it, and we are ready for a better 2021.