At a time when banking habits have changed, new competitors have entered the market and technology is developing rapidly, it is more important than ever that we can offer relevant services, tailored advice and short decision chains. As we sum up the past year, it is pleasing to observe that we are holding a steady course.
Sparebanken Møre operates in an area with a culture of innovation. Our goal is to be a driving force as well as a participant in this culture in order to further develop and strengthen both the Bank and the community around us. The last year offered several examples of this.
In February, we announced that Sparebanken Møre was joining forces with 105 other Norwegian banks to develop the Vipps service further. More banks joined our ranks during the year and together we have developed a strong, fintech environment with substantial expertise in money-transfer services, identification, and development. This partnership provides us with inspiring ideas and useful knowledge, as well as providing our customers with access to good and userfriendly solutions.
During the summer of 2017, we entered into a collaboration with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) to establish an innovation lab at NTNU in Ålesund. This lab will provide a platform for research in the intersection between technology and finance and is a good example of a successful partnership between academia and business. It contributes to knowledge useful for both the Bank as well as other parts of local businesses and industries, it strengthens the academic environment in Møre og Romsdal, and it will undoubtedly contribute to exciting synergies creating values in our region.
NÆRINGSTEFT is a third example of a concept that has produced positive ripple effects, both for the Bank and for the multitude of ideas to be found in our county. Almost 200 entrepreneurs applied when we announced 50 participants would have a chance to take part in a skills journey on the road to a first prize of NOK 1 million. The competition has provided the Bank with valuable knowledge about an important group of customers, while at the same time we have been important contributors to the work of concretising and realising ideas that can create value for our county. We consider this meaningful processes.
In the autumn, we announced an updated organisation chart, including two new units: Organisational Development and Customer Experience. The right composition of skills is vital for the Bank's positive development going forward. At the same time, we must be able to convert expertise into actions creating good experiences and high value for our customers.
A good, future-oriented structure is now in place and we will make each other even better by facilitating cooperation, sharing ideas and exchanging skills across branches and business areas in the Bank. Good teamwork can be a competitive advantage.
Close to the customers
As a regional savings bank, we have close ties to our customers. Together with our customers, we appreciate the good times and do our part and provide support during bad times. 2017 was a challenging year for oil-related industries. Structural changes in the offshore industry in particular had consequences for companies, people and local communities. During this period, we were regularly reminded that the local corporate sector appreciates our local presence and the way we do things, with proximity and close relations to our customers as well as local knowledge as important management tools.
2018 has begun with good prospects for Møre og Romsdal. Production is high in most industries, the downturn in oil-related industries is starting to turn and the level of activity in the public sector is high. Given that we also have a flexible and forward-leaning local corporate sector, there is reason to be optimistic about the future.
Making our mark
When conditions change, we also have to change. We have taken many steps, but must be prepared to take further in the future. We are, however, confident that we have a flexible organisation capable of both creating and seizing new opportunities.
In 2018, it is 175 years since we established our first local branch. We have been bankers for generations, and we are well-equipped to make our mark going forward as well.
Trond Lars Nydal