Mr Gremmel, can you explain the key points of the collaboration?
As of 2019, BAWAG P.S.K. has been the exclusive financial partner of METRO Austria. Thus, we strengthen our commitment in the SME segment (small and medium-size enterprises, editor’s note) and offer METRO customers innovative financial services tailored to their specific needs. Because we understand that our customers want to focus on running their businesses rather than analysing their financial needs. Our current METRO product range includes current accounts and credit cards developed jointly and with METRO's industry know-how especially for restaurateurs and self-employed persons, freelancers as well as small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as special payment transaction solutions, such as cash disposal, which is currently still being planned for 2020, financing products and leasing models in which we expect strong customer interest.This allows us to make a significant contribution to METRO being able to offer its commercial customers a comprehensive ecosystem.
To help our customers achieve their goals, we are breaking new ground – and offering financial support, for example.
More about the strategic approach Wholesale 360 in the Annual Report 2018/19
Why is it so difficult for restaurateurs in particular to obtain financing?
There are various reasons for this dilemma, such as the industry rating, which provides a general assessment of the creditworthiness of various industry sectors. Historically, the index for the hospitality industry is rather low. Moreover, the equity position of restaurateurs is often lower than in other industry sectors. The situation can also be aggravated by a lack of options to secure financing. Seasonal factors and partly strongly fluctuating liquidity requirements also play a role.
Why did the BAWAG P.S.K. deliberately choose this segment?
Small and medium-sized enterprises are among the most important players in the Austrian economy and account for more than 99% of Austrian enterprises. At BAWAG P.S.K., we want to be a strong and reliable financial partner for all SMEs in Austria. The collaboration with leading SME wholesale company METRO Austria enables us to structure a unique value proposition in the domestic market.
What needs do restaurateurs have in terms of financing?
The hospitality industry requires specific, simple and flexible financing solutions. For example, many restaurateurs have a need for financial injections that are available quickly and at short notice. Just think of a catering service provider, who has to know tomorrow whether he can fulfil an order, or the operator of a mountain lodge, who has to decide at short notice whether she can extend the season thanks to a mild autumn. To meet these short-term needs, we have developed Express Financing for SME loans between €5,000 and €50,000 with a fully digital application process. This offer is also included within the scope of the collaboration with METRO. After a positive credit check, the amount can already be in the business account on the next business day.
Offline and online transactions are equally important to domestic SMEs.Markus Gremmel
Why did BAWAG P.S.K. decide to work with METRO to tailor financing solutions to this particular customer group?
Austrian restaurateurs are an interesting group of customers for us. The WKO (Austrian Economic Chamber) has 48,000 members in the hospitality association and the start-up rate is 7%. For example, we specifically designed the BAWAG P.S.K. custom accounts ‘Gastro’, ‘Profi’ and ‘Gourmet’ with unique benefits to meet the needs of this customer group. They include a welcome package offering a 10% discount on the first METRO purchase, voucher booklets and product offers. The accounts also come with a special METRO deal: among other things, account holders of the ‘Gastro’ and ‘Profi’ custom accounts or a METRO Business credit card receive a €50 shopping bonus or quick check-out at the cash registers.
You already handle 90% of online banking transactions and also offer online express financing as part of your collaboration with METRO. How important is personal contact with the restaurateurs who use your services?
Offline and online transactions are equally important to domestic SMEs. A BAWAG P.S.K. survey of 900 SMEs in Austria showed that 6 out of 10 SMEs already prefer to conduct their business banking digitally. When it comes to individual advice, however, 45% of respondents like to visit a bank branch. We want to do justice to both, which is why we are constantly expanding our digital business customer experience and modernising our branch network. For important decisions, such as financing of business expansion or major acquisitions, we want to offer our customers excellent advice and a personal discussion with our financing experts.
Restaurateurs want a financing partner who understands their aspirations and challenges. What does the collaboration with METRO mean for the BAWAG P.S.K consultants?
We have experienced financial experts throughout Austria who really understand the needs and challenges of business customers. Together with METRO customer management, our consultants also support our customers every step of the way – from the opening day to receiving their first Michelin Star. We focus on quick and simple solutions with our online offer. At the same time, our customer managers are available with competence advice. They also provide personal support for the implementation of all other projects – even at the customer’s location.
What has been the response from the restaurateurs so far?
We are pleased to have received very positive feedback from METRO customers so far. Our range of payment transaction solutions and our target-group-specific financing solutions are particularly well received. Customers also appreciate the rapid solutions and are pleased that we are a bank that truly understands their concerns and needs.
About ... Markus Gremmel
Dr Markus Gremmel has been Head of Marketing at BAWAG P.S.K. since 2014 and has been with the company since 2008. In addition to brand management and advertising, he is also responsible for product management and product development, for example the collaboration with METRO.