BY VICTORIA ARARATIAN
YEREVAN (PanArmenian)—Armenia is moving forward with its western style banking system – the use of debit/credit cards now being very much in style. Presently, all commercial banks in Armenia offer various types of plastic cards yet the quality of service varies. The customers do get tempting offers. Many banks manage to attract new clients, yet very few are able to maintain the relationship by meeting their needs with affordable pricing. Hrachya Malkhasyan, the Head of Ameriabank’s Regional Branches, in this interview with a PanARMENIAN.net journalist, shares his professional insight on clients’ needs and some of the ways that banks succeed or fail to support them.
PANARMENIAN: Currently, all commercial banks in Armenia offer various plastic cards. How do you meet the competition in this market?
HRACHYA MALKHASYAN: The competition in this field isn’t just tough – we are seeing “price wars.” Ameriabank follows its course, trying to avoid these wars as they seem to be ineffective in attracting clients. We eye the business through the prism of each client’s needs and thereby build communication channels and product line. First, we value quickness and quality of service, as well as profitable lending conditions. We also try to develop infrastructure, specifically by increasing the number of ATMs and POS terminals. Here, a unique role is given to the bank’s image and the brand, which helps attract clients without being dragged into the so-called price struggle. Special attention is paid to bolstering security to rule out any possibility of leaks, a condition highly appreciated by the clients. I would like to emphasize that Ameriabank highlights quality, starting with the presentation of an application and through the entire service process.
Also, Ameriabank card holders now profit from a special deal Ameriabank has with more than 250 sales outlets. With their Ameriabank cards our clients are able to get a 50% discount in all of the 250 sales outlets that Ameria has partnered with.
PA: What does Ameriabank do to make credit and debit cards more available for the population?
HM: Ameriabank is one of the leaders in Armenia’s banking system in terms of its ATMs and POS terminals. Now our customers have access to 90 ATMs across the country – 68 in Yerevan and 22 ATMs conveniently located outside the capital. We work with many tourists from the Diaspora. We want to make sure they have western style banking support when they visit our historic sites, be it Dilijan, Tatev or Tsaghkadzor. They can easily have access to an ATM when needed at these sites. When in Yerevan, we welcome our customers to one of our six branches in the capital. In addition, we have three branches in the regions. Ameriabank also has an established branch in Stepanakert, Artsakh.
PA: Western style banking also suggests the use of apps on smart phones. Is Ameriabank there yet?
HM: I would like to note that Ameriabank is the first Armenian bank to have an application available via the Apple Store. Once you download the Ameriabank app, you are immediately connected to currency exchange rates, news, and the locations of the bank’s branches and ATMs. The Ameriabank app also has an interactive map.
AP: With cashless payments gaining popularity in Armenia, what results did the bank achieve for card transactions for the first half of 2013?
HM: In the second quarter of 2013, we have witnessed 8% growth for card use versus the first quarter. In total we have released 42,000 cards. With the new app, increased ATMs, guaranteed quality of service, and visits by Diaspora Armenians, we are looking at 50% growth in cards for the rest of the year.
PA: What are some of the new programs and services that the bank offers or will offer to its card holders?
HM: Now our customers can have both debit and credit cards with advantageous interest rates versus single-type cards. Also the service fees for credit and debit cards have been considerably reduced, and we offer an overdraft protection service. In the mid-term we’re planning to develop loyalty programs that will give additional incentives to our clients for using Ameriabank’s services.
Ameriabank is a leading universal and retail bank with 68 ATMs in Yerevan and 22 ATMs outside the capital of Armenia. The bank has branches in Yerevan, provincial regions, and Stepanakert, Artsakh. Ameriabank, a member company of Ameria Group, is a winner of multiple global financial awards. It is the only financial institution in the South Caucasus to be recognized as a Global Growth Champion at the DAVOS World Economic Forum for its exceptional growth and expertise. With more than 500 employees, $600 million in assets, and branches across the country, Ameria is performing the most aggressive development in Armenia’s financial and advisory market.