Olav Arne Fiskerstrand


The pace of change steps up a gear

The wheels of the financial industry have never turned faster, competition for bank customers has become much tougher and there is uncertainty in the Norwegian economy. Nevertheless, we can look back with pride and look forward with optimism.
In 2015, for the first time in its history, Sparebanken Møre passed the NOK 50 billion mark for lending. We have acquired many new customers, and we have played a key role in the development of industry, local communities and growth in the region through distributing a substantial dividend to society. We have much to be proud of.
Local knowledge leads to security 
As the largest bank in Møre og Romsdal, we live in symbiosis with the communities around us. There is little doubt that industry and commerce in the county was characterised by a greater degree of uncertainty and a stronger focus on costs last year. However, while oil-related industries were adversely affected by declining oil investments, many industries in our region also experienced an increase in activity due to the weakness of the Norwegian krone and continuing low interest rates. The prospects for the fisheries, tourism and trade sectors in 2015 were very bright. Despite the challenges that we face in the Norwegian economy, losses were very low and commitments in default fell to a record low level last year.
For us at Sparebanken Møre, local knowledge has always been an important part of our lifeblood. Ever since the very beginning, our awareness and knowledge of customers, sectors and local communities have been a deeply engrained aspect of our business. Through our 30 offices and almost 400 advisers and sector specialists, we have built up local knowledge which gives both our customers and ourselves vital security in both good and more challenging times.
Personal contact 
Last year’s retail bank customer survey by Finance Norway shows that bank branches are providing more and more advice. Although the banking industry and society in general is characterised by automation and digitalisation, we were not surprised by this trend. Every day, we find that customers greatly appreciate good personal advice, particularly as regards questions linked to savings and investments.
In addition to being the best at personal service, we also aim to be good at digital solutions. Last year, we took several steps to enable our customers to use even more of the Bank’s services when it suits them. We launched a new online banking service and new websites, with provision for electronic applications and the signing of loan documents, as well as communication with customer services through chat and secure e-mail.
The digital revolution will undoubtedly continue at full speed in the future and we must continually adapt to developments. At the same time, our strategy clearly states that neither machines nor new platforms will replace what is and will remain to be our most important resource in the future, namely our staff.
Best for expertise 
With ever increasing competition and rapid technological advances, the work relating to resource development is now more important than ever.
Sparebanken Møre has a tradition of involving all employees in the strategic work, every single year. We are investing heavily in ensuring that every single member of staff has ownership of our objectives, our core values and our common working methods. Of course, this is a time-intensive process – but I have never been in any doubt that this approach has been a key success factor behind the good results that we have generated over time. A good strategy is worthless if it is not operationalised by capable employees.
We have also targeted improvements in the quality of the financial advice that we provide. In addition to fulfilling the statutory requirement concerning the national authorisation of everyone in a customer-facing position within the retail market, the Bank has introduced the same practice within the corporate area. At the end of 2015, the number of authorised advisors totalled around 250. Virtually all managers have also completed the sensor training for AFR, which provides excellent training in mentoring and giving feedback. Our goal is to ensure that all our employees who have customer contact are authorised.
Organisation with flexibility 
The Bank’s vision has remained the same for many years – Sparebanken Møre shall be the number one bank in Møre og Romsdal. However, although our objective has remained the same, the organisation has continually adapted itself throughout its existence. A recipe for success is never static. Our success lies in our ability and desire to change. Customers have new needs, we have new tools and the authorities have changed the underlying framework conditions in which the Bank operates.This necessitates fine adjustments to direction, adapted working methods and good action plans.
We know that these changes will continue to flow over us as in an ever-increasing rate. We also know that we must face up to them with continually developement of competence. It will undoubtedly be the most important investment we make in the future.
Olav Arne Fiskerstrand