(Article published in the Sept 20, 2006
issue of Manila Standard Today)
(21 Sept. 2006), at the Manila Polo Club, at just about the time the
lights of Manila turn up and the sun rises in the other side of the globe,
Philippine business will meet Dr. Herbert Stepic, CEO of Raiffeisen
International Bank-Holding AG and Deputy General Manager of Raiffeisen
Zentralbank Österreich AG (RZB). Dr.
Herbert Stepic is expected to make us aware (we, who take it as a given
that it is us who are in the East) of the potentials of conducting
business with another East, specifically Central and Eastern Europe.
Austrian born on 31 December 1946, Dr. Stepic conducted all of his formal
studies in Vienna. The foundations were dug at Schulbrüder
He joined Raiffeisen
Zentralbank Österreich AG (RZB) the following year and has since been
involved in the task of growing the international business of RZB.
In his east of the world, as in ours, responsible positions in
trade organizations and honors quickly come in the wake of stellar
performance. Thus, Dr.
Herbert Stepic became the President of the Austrian-Arab Chamber of
Commerce in 1992 and the Vice-President of the International Chamber of
Commerce in 2002. He has held
both posts since then. Citations
were also given to him by the countries of his region recognized the work
he has done. He was made
“Offizierskreuz des Verdienstordens” by the Republic of Hungary;
awarded “Groβes silbernes Ehrenzeichen” by the Republic of
Austria; pinned the medal “For Friendship of Nations” by order of the
Russian President Valdimir Putin, the “Golden Medal” for outstanding
service by the Slovak Chamber of Commerce, “The Madara Horseman” by
the Bulgarian President Georgi Purvanov, and the medal “For Merits” by
President Leonid Kuchman of the Republic of Ukraine.
Herbert Stepic, at the top of Raiffeisen International Bank-Holding AG (Raiffeisen
International) and Raiffeisen
Zentralbank Österreich AG (RZB), is the embodiment of the symbiotic
relationship, i.e, of both independence and cooperation, between the two
RZB and Raiffeisen International stand among the dominant figures in
Central and Eastern European banking and finance.
which owns 70% of Raiffeisen International, began with Friedrich Wilhelm
Raiffeisen, he was born in 1818 and died in 1888.
A social reformer who was an advocate of self-help Austrian version
of our “sariling-sikap”, that the cooperative grew organically over
more than 140 years without a single bankruptcy.
RZB is Austria’s third largest bank.
Through the equity held by Raiffeisen International in various
banking units, RZB is present in Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Kosovo, Poland, Romania,
Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Ukraine.
In addition, RZB has also representative offices in Lithuania,
Molova, and Russia.
concentration of offices in Central and Eastern Europe does not mean,
however, absence in financial centers elsewhere. RZB has branches in
London, Beijing and Singapore as well as representative offices in New
York, Brussels, Frankfurt, Milan, Paris, Stockholm, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong
Kong, Mumbai, Tehran, and Seoul.
is a full service bank, but its focus is on retail banking, giving
personal loans to banking customers as well as small and medium-sized
enterprises and engaging in the credit card business.
is thus not surprising that RZB enjoys the confidence of international
agencies and scores high in the eyes of the rating agencies.
It is partner to the European Bank for Reconstruction and
Development (EBRD) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the
World Bank. Standard and
Poor’s gives its short term obligations a rating of A1 while Moody’s
gives P-1 for short-term, A1 for long-term and to RZZ, as an entity, C+
for financial strength.
hand shake of Dr. Herbert Stepic with the Philippine business community,
however, is more than just a fleeting cocktail reception.
In fact, it serves as the public epiphany of quiet kapit-bisig RZB locked with Filipino partners in the beginning of
this year. During the first
quarter of 2006, RZB together with its long-time partner in Asia, the
Lippo Group, infused about Php 3 billion in Export and Industry Bank (Exportbank),
resulting in RZB owning about 10% of the latter’s equity.
many will recall, was the white knight that came to the rescue of the
despositors and investors in Urban Bank which imploded in the first half
of 2000. It was a rare
occurrence in Philippine banking that saw a bank less than five years in
the scene boldly take over the assets and liabilities of a banking
institution and investment house and shouldered the responsibility of
bailing out its trapped depositors and investors. By 2004, Exportbank
successfully concluded the 3-year liability program of the rehabilitation
plan it submitted to the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation; and
April of this year, it completed all payments due, amounting to about Php
16.% billion, to depositors and creditors both of Urban Bank and Urbancorp
all indications, RZB and Exportbank are a perfect fit.
Both are bent on focusing on delivery of banking services to small
and medium-sized enterprises. On
the one hand, Exportbank has chosen as its customer base the country’s
export sector; RZB, on the other hand, through Raiffeisen International,
has embraced the goal of assisting customers in other parts of the globe
penetrate Central and Eastern European markets.
Castillo, President of Exportbank,
is very optimistic, and rightly so. RZB is certain to provide
Exportbank’s customers a ready and reliable channel to Austria and the
rest of Central and Eastern Europe, which is known to us in Asia as the
“China” in the other side of the world.
Exportbank is THE gateway to the opportunity, offered to Philippine business by the new markets in Central and Eastern Europe and Exportbank President Ben Castillo pledges, “our bank will certainly maximize this opportunity.” So let it be written; so let it be done.