Niche players may have winning strategies - Interview with Marija Stepina, President of the EB of API Bank in the Guide to the Foreign Investors Council (FIC)

An interview with Marija Stepina, President of the Executive Board of our Bank, was published in the Guide of the Council of Foreign Investors (FIC), which prepares and publishes Cord magazine.

Entire interview is enclosed below, and you can also find it at or while browsing the entire digital edition of FIC Guide 2020/21

Small players have their advantages in comparison to giants operating on the Serbian market.  “There is a number of them which small banks have in any market while two pre-conditions are crucial to have the work successfully fulfilled – high professional, I would say, expert competence of each team player and clear understanding of operating market”, says Marija Stepina, President of the Executive Board of API Bank. “Creation of workable team is what we are working on every day. We are looking for result-oriented, self-motivated, creative, communicative, cooperative and critical thinking people to join us”.

Flexibility and fast decision making give us, a small niche player, the opportunity to be pioneers in introduction of some innovations, says our interlocutor adding that without having a distinguishing feature, there is low chance to win in competition of 26 local banks in the market of 7 million citizens.

“Of course, support of the owner is vital for each small player, especially in developing stage, and we are honoured that we have this support and trust”, says Ms Stepina. “Significant increase on capital of the bank occurred in second and third quarters of this year, when world suffering pandemic, but life is continuing. All Banks, regardless size, in parallel with business tasks resolving should be social responsible, support domestic economy, and clients’ business, including implementation of special measures issued by National bank for this purpose.”

What is your niche market? Which clients do you target, and what is your value proposition?

First, we are a universal commercial bank. Our clients were and are small-medium companies and individuals. We also serve large companies in its relatively small part of business when individual approach and efficient communication needed to be in place for mutual benefits.

On a daily basis, API Bank analysis potential of yet uncovered but targeted niches in business – and works hard on solutions to get in. Now we are concentrating on developing a few new products designed for private individuals and hope that we will introduce them early next year. So far, we can say that all these products are highly client tailored and different from what the market offers.

How digitalised are your services?

All banks are very focused on digitalization now. We have inherited from previous owner a quite standard set of technological solutions and thoroughly follow up IT development perspectives in Serbia.

The local regulations systematically open opportunities for banks to provide services remotely, which means that shortly physical branches will not be so important anymore – they will more fulfil representative role. Since our Bank has only two branches, opportunities to attract clients and provide them services without physical visit of the Bank office is utmost crucial. We are speaking about retail clients, in the first place.

There are certain habits of population to be taken into account and the new technologies by itself is a half job, which does not guarantee ultimate success. Marketing and acceptance of technologies by clients should be successful to complete the task fully and reach the target of having the business growth. Obviously, that young people are more opened for innovations, but we are looking for such an approaches in sales, which also will attract middle aged, and seniors to us.

Therefore, we have big plans, investor’s support, smart team, healthy ambitions and reasonable realization schedule – sufficient ground for organic and sustainable developing in Serbia and be recognizable in certain niches.