Employee training and forward-thinking make Budapest Bank successful

Cohort 9 students Crystal Koepke, Toshimasa Matsumura, Michelle Naguiat, Duane Trumble, Nelson Silva were on the business team for Budapest Bank.

Today was the final business visit for Stetson University Executive MBA Cohort 9’s international trip to Istanbul and Budapest.

The last presentation was held at Budapest Bank, headquartered in Budapest, Hungary, since 1987. Laszlo Sziraki, leader of consumer business support, and his team from marketing, human resources and strategic business led the panel discussion.

“The Stetson Executive MBA team of Crystal Koepke, Toshimasa Matsumura, Michelle Naguiat, Nelson Silva and Duane Trumble were anticipating an engaging discussion,” said Wendy Lowe, Executive MBA program coordinator, “and Budapest Bank delivered!”

Budapest Bank provides a full range of banking services to small and medium-size enterprises. General Electric Co. holds a 100% stake in Budapest Bank, which provides a solid financial background and extensive training, which has added to the bank’s success.

Budapest Bank’s mission statement is: “We are not just bankers; we are builders.” The panel explained that Budapest Bank builds relationships with current and new customers and wants to grow these relationships by adding additional products and services over time.

Budapest Bank is the eighth-biggest commercial bank, with 3,000 employees and 101 branches. It was one of the first commercial banks in the market. It’s therefore considered a “stable” bank, which means it has business growth, transactional banking and innovation. The speakers listed the following among the bank’s competitive advantages: Leaders project and plan for the future in a methodical way, monitor and manage risk, are responsive to lending, work with “lean” processes, are customer-centric, have strong human resources to train employees and meet their needs, and have strategic partners.

Budapest Bank is using social media marketing on Facebook, You Tube and Twitter to build brand awareness. Other banks in the area are not there yet. Cohort 9 student Gwen Schaefer learned that, for Budapest Bank, the use of social media means that it is “building a society around us,” said the panel. The company’s public relations manager told Schaefer’s classmate, Christina Boncela, that the bank’s approach to marketing is no nonsense; it communicates clearly and effectively, and advises those who have questions by being very approachable and accessible.

The panel leaders said they believe Budapest Bank is successful in part because its managers understand the “drivers,” they plan actively and “deep,” and they consistently measure their progress and respond accordingly.

Matsumura asked if the cultural differences between GE and Hungary have created any issues with company culture. The leaders responded that they feel GE has actually bolstered Budapest Bank’s training and added more depth. Responding to compliance issues is even easier.

Koepke asked how Budapest Bank manages its portfolio, and if it’s planning to make changes. The panel said the bank operates in a performance-driven environment so percentages likely won’t decline.

Naguiat said she appreciated the response to her training and human resource question and was delighted to hear that several training formats (in person and online) are available on a consistent basis. “Actually, such training was occurring when we departed our visit today,” said Lowe.

The group's last business visit was at Budapest Bank.

Trumble asked if Hungary’s savings habits were short-term or long-term. Sziraki said that, unfortunately, locals’ savings habits are very short-term. He added that this could improve by a long-term tax-supported savings plan.

Silva pointed out that he noticed some drops in certain areas of the bank financials. He asked what the bank’s reaction to such events was. Sziraki said the financial crisis brought about a time when the bank’s employees had to change focus and behaviors and, in some cases, become debt claim managers to get it done.

Silva’s classmate, David LaRocque, learned that Budapest Bank can actually be quite flexible. After the financial crisis, it shifted its focus from lending to transactional banking. Now it can rebalance its time and efforts to support the current economy.

“The Stetson Executive MBA cohort enjoyed the panel discussion at the end and the time and enthusiasm of the different business leaders at Budapest Bank,” said Lowe. “Their hospitality was tremendous, and this visit was a perfect way to end our week-long travels in Istanbul and Budapest. We’ve witnessed first-hand the diverse lifestyles, business trends and strategies that now we can apply to our own company roles when we return to the United States.”

Cohort 9 learns an Internet banking success story

Cohort 9 students take a photo at the IND Group headquarters with CEO Balazs Vinnai.

Today, members of Stetson University Executive MBA Cohort 9 visited technology leader IND Group at its headquarters in Budapest, Hungary.

IND, which stands for Interactive Network Design, is an Internet banking company. It was founded in 1997 by Dr. Balazs Vinnai and two friends. Vinnai, the CEO, led the presentation during today’s visit.

When Vinnai and company launched IND Group, they did so with the equivalent of $159 euros (U.S. equivalent: $200). Now IND’s revenues top $12 million euros. Through growth and acquisition, the company has expanded to include 220 employees serving 15 countries in Europe and the Middle East.

Cohort 9 students Christina Boncela, Glorimar Hefner, David LaRocque, Gwen Schaefer and Lindsay Swantek served as the student business team for this business visit. They were prepared to discover the behind-the-scenes operations and future direction of this innovative company.

IND Group is a young, entrepreneurial company. Its goal is to provide a fresh, simple and engaging online banking system. It provides its technology to the banks so that they can differentiate their services to prospective members. Vinnai has a clear vision and understanding that this financial data must be a mobile channel with anytime, anywhere, secure access and with complete transactional data funneling back to the user immediately.

Vinnai said he believes the keys to IND’s success are building online banking for the future, focusing on innovations, using deep customer insight, making the product “sexy” (attractive appearance/graphs) and having simple views and graphs so clients can see and understand their personal financial situation. Vinnai added that compliance is huge and needs to be considered at all times.

Vinnai shared that one of the challenges is building a strong corporate image. This is very important because banking is so conservative and IND must gain respect and credibility. IND is a young team (average age lower than 30 with less than 10% turnover), especially within the Eastern Europe region, so the company must earn trust — and professionalism is a must!  IND also must always keep in mind its competitors.

Business team members Christina Boncela, Lindsay Swantek, David LaRocque, Glorimar Hefner and Gwen Schaefer had questions for Vinnai.

Swantek asked what the average age user of IND is, adding that dealing with dollars and banking usually impacts an older customer and the younger ones are the experienced technology users.  Vinnai said that, as an example, the average age user in Iran is younger than 25, mainly because government has given all students Internet free, so they are comfortable with technology and moving this new generational tool forward.

“Is IND focused on the banking or retail space?” asked Hefner. Vinnai explained that the tool is for anyone, has import and export capabilities and was developed as a business-to-business concept.

LaRocque asked how IND Group keeps its employees innovating. Employees maintain their innovative spirit by working on teams, spread throughout the countries. A lab serves as a hub to drive creativity, innovation and collaboration. Vinnai added that the employees spend 60% of their time on current maintenance and customer issues and the other 40% on innovations.

Schaefer knew that customization was important in IND’s technology tool, but she asked Vinnai how IND is able to keep pace. IND works with local partners, he said, and about 60% is made by these alliances.

Vinnai mentioned that he wasn’t sure that IND Group was the best name. Christina Boncela asked if he had considered rebranding? Vinnai said that company officials had considered doing so but didn’t feel the return was there. Instead, the company attends targeted conferences and worldwide shows as a form of advertisement, regularly hosts effective innovation breakfasts for banks and bankers, and presents webinars. He said these methods have proved to be the best way to market IND Group.

Cohort 9 student Toshimasa Mastsumura asked Vinnai to explain IND’s business model. Vinnai said IND receives a license fee immediately and then an ongoing annual maintenance fee.

In closing, Vinnai shared that selling IND’s solution is a long-term sale, for one year or more. It can remain competitive and flexible because its products can run on any platform and work closely with selective partners. Visualization and usability are key to make their product “sexy.” IND uses college students to test products, which is helpful in the development process and keeping it current. “Even young kids today don’t understand why TV doesn’t swipe like the iPad,” said Vinnai, “and this is where we are headed!”

“Our entire group enjoyed the CEO sharing his wisdom, experiences and fresh approach to where online banking and tools are moving toward,” said Wendy Lowe, Executive MBA program coordinator.


Pozitron teaches Cohort 9 about entrepreneurship

Cohort 9 students enjoyed the youthful atmosphere at Pozitron.

Students from Stetson University Executive MBA program’s Cohort 9 got to meet with Firat Isbecer, co-founder and director and business development at Pozitron, earlier today. The highly entrepreneurial mobile app and IT business has been very successful in its short 12-year existence.

Pozitron’s founders came up with the business idea during their final years in college. The business’ mission is to help its clients grow their business with its unique, custom-implemented mobile technology.

The company is self-funded, and from 2006 to 2011, has experienced a revenue growth of 1,100%. Pozitron’s growth has increased by 80% each year, and Isbecer said the company looks for a continuation of this trend in the coming year.

“Cohort members were impressed by the entrepreneurial spirit of the company because Turkey did not embrace entrepreneurs until just recently,” said Wendy Lowe, program coordinator for the Executive MBA program.

The company has grown from a handful of people to more than 60 today, with the average age being only 25. These young engineers are competitively compensated and have access to cutting-edge technology, earn bonuses every six months and receive other perks to stay competitive in the high technology industry that exists today. Pozitron’s client numbers have risen with the release of the iPhone because now, not only do banks want to use its mobile applications, but so do thousands of others. Today, Pozitron doesn’t have to as aggressively sell into new clients as clients are looking to use mobile applications to communicate internally and externally with employees or partners.

Isbecer told the students he believes Pozitron was in the right place at the right time and that the economic downturn actually worked in its favor because competitors who were trying to come to Turkey didn’t have the patience for the economy to sort itself out. This impatience allowed Pozitron to nurture existing relationships, grow new opportunities and find ways to differentiate itself locally. Its focus on large Fortune 500 type of companies, primarily banks, hasn’t been a quick sell. It often takes 11 months in the works with a two-month delivery timeframe to deliver a customized solution.

Pozitron continues to deliver and build long-term relationships. Mobile applications and IT products in general will continue to be an emerging sector, said Isbecer. He added that some measurable risks must be taken to be ultimately successful and to grow! Isbecer said he believes you must be transparent and honest, as well as build a lasting team. “These components will earn integrity and opportunities, especially in Turkey,” he said.

Cohort 9 student Monica Jordan asked how Pozitron handles ongoing training and development.  “Very carefully,” said Isbecer. “As employees want to attend key conferences or workshops, we sponsor them. We will bring in specialists in a technical field as well.”

Student Rebecca Potter asked how the company handles human resources issues. The company has grown so quickly that Isbecer continues to be involved in the interview process of each candidate and even with financial decisions as well. However, he added, the company is scaling to a point that he will start letting go of this segment of the business.

Two other students made observations after the visit was over. Gwen Schaefer said she enjoyed the company’s entrepreneurial spirit, adding that she likes that they have made calculated decisions to prosper, using patience instead of making the wrong decisions in hiring or partnering with a misfit. Student David LaRocque pointed out that in both this business visit and the earlier one to GE, the speakers stressed the importance of using local people to impact local economy.