1 Annual Report Austria Bosnia and Herzegovina Croatia Czech Republic Hungary Italy Malta Romania Slovakia Slovenia
2 4 Topic: Temporary painting The pictures shown are works from Magda Hrnèíøová - ourth year student at the faculty of fine arts at the VUT Brno, who works in the studio of the academic painter Margita Titlová-Ylovski. Volksbank CZ, a. s. Heršpická 5, Brno, Èeská republika Tel.: ax: S.W.I..T.: VBOECZ2X Company registration number: Tax registration number:
3 5 Contents Annual report 2000 oreword from the Board of Directors 8 Key figures in summary 9 Statutory Boards, Executive Staff 10 International Integration 12 The Overall Economic Background 13 Business activities 14 Profit distribution Balance sheet/profit and loss account 28 Notes to the inancial Statements 33 Independent Auditor s Report 61 Report of the Supervisory Board 62 Summary Panoramica generale sui dati essenziali delle banca 64 Résumé 66 Our Branch Network Our Branch Network 69 The Volksbank Group in Central Europe 70
4 Magda Hrnèíøová: Composition into the circle, 1998
5 Annual Report Austria Bosnia and Herzegovina Croatia Czech Republic Hungary Italy Malta Romania Slovakia Slovenia
6 8 oreword from the Board of Directors Ladies and Gentlemen, Clients and Business Partners, The year 2000 has been our most successful since the establishment of Volksbank in the Czech Republic. We would therefore like to give you a quick retrospective view of the past year, as well as the outlook for the next year. The Prague World Bank meeting in September was one of last year's top events. Volksbank CZ and Österreichische Volksbanken AG used this opportunity to create a pleasant and friendly atmosphere to support the discussions held with representatives of participating banks, the national banks of the Czech Republic and Austria, representatives of our cooperative partners, and also with journalists. Herbert Skok Johann Lurf Martin Heilinger The past fiscal year has seen our branch network continue to expand and rapid progress was made in preparing for In September 2000 we launched our fourth branch in Brno, which is at the same time our tenth branch in the Czech Republic. As early as in the first six months of 2001, we are going to open other branches in Prague, Liberec, Èeské Budìjovice and Brno. urther development of the branch network remains a major priority for the current fiscal year. Volksbank CZ s business strategy has continued successfully to focus on private clients, SMEs, municipalities and towns in addition to joint ventures in the Czech Republic. As part of this, we have placed major emphasis on training and developing the education of our staff. Our professionally-trained and well-motivated staff help us provide our clients with high quality service and meet their increasingly demanding needs. This effort brought excellent results in The volume of deposits and loans, not to mention the overall range of services offered, increased faster than the average for the banking sector. In comparison with the previous year, there was a major increase not only in the number of new clients, but also in the utilisation of the services offered. We have an optimistic view of the future, thanks to the substantial recovery of the economy in the Czech Republic and throughout the European Union. We would like to thank you in this way for the trust you have shown. We shall continue to act in the best interests of our clients in accordance with our company motto Trust is our commitment. Johann Lurf Herbert Skok Martin Heilinger
7 CZK '000 CZK '000 CZK '000 Balance sheet total 9,743,128 7,609,745 6,115,494 Payables to clients including deposit certificates 4,718,015 3,376,685 2,004,267 Receivables from clients 6,652,689 5,734,268 4,433,005 Net income from interest, fees and foreign exchange 470, , ,730 General operating expenses 305, , ,949 Profit on ordinary activities before taxation 49,460 6,893 45,861 Number of employees as at the balance sheet date Number of branches Key figures in summary
8 10 Statutory Boards Supervisory Board Board of Directors Chairman Dr. Klaus Thalhammer Chairman of the Board of Directors Österreichische Volksbanken AG Vice-Chairman Dr. Ekkehard ügl Head of International Division Österreichische Volksbanken AG Johann Lurf Chairman Herbert Skok Member Martin Heilinger Member Members Primo Brioni Head of International Department Banca Agricola Mantovana S.C. a R.L. Daniel Duquesne Chief Executive Officer Banque Populaire de Lyon Hans Janeschitz Executive Director, Head of Subsidiaries Management Department and Business Services Department Österreichische Volksbanken AG ritz Dieter Jächel Non-executive Director of International and inancial Institutions Department WGZ-Bank ranz Lagler Executive Director Volksbank Krems-Zwettl AG Livius Tramontana Executive Director Volksbank Alpenvorland reg. Gen.m.b.H. Tomáš Vácha Attorney at Law
9 11 Executive Staff Departments Branches Section 1 Ivana Beltramová Back Office Eva Collardová inancial controlling/accounting Mag. Peter Hronek Credit management, solvency Radomír Kokeš IT, organisation Zdenìk Laudát Audit/examination Jaroslava Schafferová Legal Section 2 Christoph Mayrhofer Securities Milana Niedermayerová Personnel Markéta Šichtaøová Research Bibiana Valachová Treasury Luboš Vlèek Administration Section 3 Karl Schleps International & major clients, Prague Branches Prague Region Radka Michalíèková Praha-Na Pøíkopì Branch Hedvika Štìpánková Praha-Spálená Branch Anton Dusík Brno Region, Brno-Radnická Branch Marek Gardáš Zvonaøka Branch Lenka Hojaèová Brno-Královo Pole Branch Martina Hvížïová Brno-M-Palác Branch Ilona Marešová Kaplice Branch Jiøina Pokorná Olomouc Branch Irena Štìrbová Zlín Branch Petr Volák Jihlava Branch Vincent Collard Marketing Mojmír Dvoøák International & major clients, Brno Petr Merta Municipalities Giorgio Migliorini International Desk Karl Schleps International & major clients, Prague Branches
10 12 International Integration Volksbank CZ, a.s., has been successfully active on the Czech market since The bank s main shareholder is Volksbank International AG (100% subsidiary of Österreichische Volksbanken-AG). German Banks and Niederösterreichische Landesbank-Hypothekenbank also hold shares in Volksbank CZ, a.s. ÖVAG was established in 1922 with the founding of Österreichische Zentralgenossenschaftskasse reg.gen.m.b.h. as the central institution of the Austrian co-operative banks (Volksbanken). ÖVAG is one of Austria s 10 largest banks and is majority owned by ca. 60 Volksbanken which have more than 600 branches. Other shareholders are DG BANK Deutsche Genossenschaftsbank AG, the Victoria Group and Raiffeisen Zentralbank Österreich AG. In 2000 the Austrian Volksbank Group was one of the most successful Austrian banking groups having total cumulative assets of approximately ATS 460 billion and a total of 8,300 staff. Ten years ago, in order to support its clients in their business expansion, ÖVAG began developing its banking network in Central and Eastern Europe. To date the ÖVAG group has a network of 60 outlets in the region with 1,200 staff offering a wide range of professional financial services. In line with its motto "Volksbank: Trust is our Commitment", ÖVAG s subsidiaries in Croatia, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Rumania and Bosnia Herzegovina already support in total 200,000 local companies and retail clients. In addition, in Italy ÖVAG has a branch in Pordenone and a representative office in Verona as well as an offshore bank in Malta. Shareholders Share in % Volksbank International AG GZ - Bank 6.66 WGZ - Bank 3.33 Niederösterreichische Landesbank - Hypothekenbank 1.00 Total 100 % The advantages in terms of experience and information gained as a result of ÖVAG having been in the vanguard of the expansion into Central and Eastern Europe as well as its economic success in the region have won the bank a very good reputation and led to renowned co-operative banks taking shareholdings in our subsidiaries in Central and Eastern Europe. Via its co-operation with the Conféderation Internationale des Banques Populaires (CIBP), which has a network of 45,000 banking outlets in the member states of Argentinia, Belgium, Canada, rance, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Morocco, Spain and Turkey, and as a result of the stake in ÖVAG held by DG BANK, it is able to offer its clients a presence in all major financial centres worldwide. The CIBP, the organisation of Volksbank groups whose speciality lies in supporting medium sized companies, currently supplies its excellent level of service to some 25 million clients worldwide.
11 13 The Overall Economic Background ollowing two years of poor economic development, the year 2000 proved to be a period of economic recovery. Since January 2000, it was clear that the growth in both domestic demand and production would be greater than expected. This increase was due to both high consumption in the private sector and the positive trend in investment. Steady growth in the European Union was another important factor, enabling Czech exports to grow. Growth was also boosted by the record-breaking volumes of foreign investment attracted by the Czech government's offer of incentives. oreign and domestic investment grew in particular in response to the restructuring of Czech industry, the quality of economic growth and the positive forecasts for future developments. The year 2000 has also marked the end of the period of very low inflation. Prices have risen as a result of the increasing prices of raw material in general and crude oil in particular. Prices were further affected by the elemination of price controls on energy, gas, rents etc. If we eliminate the impact on inflation of exports and deregulation, its development can be seen to be very mild despite the rise in domestic demand. The positive development of inflation enabled the Czech National Bank to maintain a neutral price policy throughout the entire year. The considerable economic growth was also reflected in the substantial fall in the unemployment rate and the improvement in work productivity. The foreign trade deficit rose as a result of higher import prices and raw material prices. On the other hand, this factor has been balanced by the increase in direct foreign investments in the Czech Republic. This discrepancy therefore does not represent any serious danger. In terms of international trade, the Czech Republic has already integrated with the European Union, as the European Union has become the country's leading business partner in both exports and imports. The Czech economy and the European Union are therefore inexorably linked. With the exception of a short period in April and May, in 2000 the Czech Crown appreciated against the Euro, which reduced the competitiveness of Czech exporters considerably in terms of price. This improvement was stimulated by the strong inflow of funds from direct investments and privatisation revenues. The securities market was directly dependent on the world market. Growth in the first quarter was followed by a decline over the remainder of the year was another year of consolidation for the banking sector. The proportion of bank loans to GDP continued to fall. The reason was not, however, the "credit crunch" of previous years, but the improvement in bank portfolios and the reduction of classified loans. In general, the Czech banking sector has followed the international trend and focused on concentrating into larger and, above all, healthier units.
12 14 Business activities a) Sales In 2000, selling areas were reorganised to improve our ability to meet the increasing requirements and needs of our clients. After its separation from the general segment of commercial clients, the International Desk focused more closely than before on business relations with our partner banks from the Volksbank network in Italy, rance and Germany. This department is responsible for supporting all Volksbank branches in the Czech Republic. Lending activities in the municipalities business area were not extended. However, the overall scope of activities in the fields of deposits and securities increased. This was the result of the privatisation of companies with infrastructure and to the resulting inflow of funds to regional units. In order to support municipalities in West Bohemia, a Municipalities Department was also developed in Prague. The Real Estate unding Department was established in Prague as a result of the increasing interest Volksbank CZ was meeting there. This department, as the centre responsible, plans to follow and implement all future Volksbank projects relating to real estate. With this unit, the co-operation with the company Immoconsult, which is one of the subsidiaries of our concern, can be developed more effectively. It will enable us to provide not only to investors, but also to individuals, options in mortgaging and project funding or real estate leases. urthermore, the commercial clients business field was split in 2000 between international and major clients and SMEs. This split has enabled us to provide large clients with special customer care to ensure optimum customer servicing on-site in areas of extreme importance when dealing with their branch. The market was also split between the regions of Bohemia and Moravia. As for SMEs, teams providing customers services were allocated to the existing main branches in the regions, which are able to provide on-site service by those branches best equipped to deal with commercial clients. This makes it possible for smaller branches to place more emphasis on their main business activities. These measures, when combined with the strengthening of sales via new, qualified personnell and regular training, contributed to the increase in the total volume of loans from CZK 5.7 billion to CZK 6.7 billion, representing an increase of 18% over the previous year. The total volume of deposits increased from CZK 3.4 billion to CZK 4.7 billion which corresponds to an increase of 38 %. As a result of the growth in liabilities, which is higher than the volume of loan business, Volksbank CZ took another small step towards its aim of achieving an independent position on the money market. Deposit structure by currency in CZK Ths Balance sheet total 1,284,751 2,033,817 3,153, ,516 1,342,868 1,564,840 foreign currency CZK
13 15 b) International Desk The basic International Desk concept from the previous year has proven to be successful as relations with our partner banks and international clients have intensified. This explains why the volume of International Desk transactions reached almost CZK 1 billion and at the same time, the number of clients increased to approximately 650. The Desks administer over 1,000 loans for these clients. New, qualified staff have been recruited who can speak several languages, helping to consolidate the current structure. In this way our international client services can be even more efficiently offered to both clients of our cooperative banking partners abroad doing business in the Czech Republic as well as to Czech customers with international business relations. In 2000, we systematically began to develop services for rench International payments clients on the Czech market. Since the bank joined the rench-czech Chamber of Commerce and due to mailing and acquisition visits, Volksbank CZ has became an important player on the market in the rench speaking world. Although the International Desk in Prague has remained focused on funding real estate, new emphasis is going to be placed on a new target group of industrial and business companies. In order to develop and extend foreign relations, we visit our partner banks and their clients directly at their premises and organise preliminary interviews with important institutions in various countries. Other improvements are planned by undertaking a regular international exchange of staff. c) International & Major Clients Department value of incoming payments number of incoming payments The Czech Republic is one of the Central and Eastern European countries where the volume of investment projects is growing, companies are being established and transactions are performed. In order to be able to provide the best services, the department for "International & Major Clients" was extended. Six employees from the Czech Republic and Austria together with a team of experts from the central department of Volksbank CZ in Brno and from Österreichische Volksbanken AG in Vienna provide assistance to companies in relation to their business activities. These employees have professional experience and obligatory language skills (Czech, English and German). Advisory services include standard operational funding (at present, the financial volume amounts to about CZK 1,350 million), deposits (at present approximately value of outgoing payments number of outgoing payments
14 16 CZK 800 million) and the administration of approximately 700 loans including relevant services such as payments (mainly via electronic banking). The year 2000 was also significant due to the International Monetary und meeting in Prague. Volksbank CZ used this event to establish an information base for discussions with local and international visitors from the field of economics, politics and from the Volksbank Group, led by the Chairman of our Supervisory Board and Chairman of our parent company, ÖVAG, Dr. K. Thalhammer. d) Municipalities In 2000, municipalities and the municipal area as a whole saw a fall in their financing requirements in macro-economic terms due to revenues from the sale of assets, in particular the sale of shares and/or share rights, which had been assigned to municipalities during the privatisation process. A large portion of these funds was used to finance municipal infrastructure, thus replacing capital project loans. In the course of the previous year, the municipal department worked towards meeting the financial needs of the municipal sector. The macro-economic situation had a significant impact on assets - receivables from municipal clients. New municipal loans for municipal infrastructure projects were granted. There was also an increase in liabilities - municipality deposits increased by more than one third. In addition, the trend is to transfer municipal payables and receivables from foreign currencies to CZK. While the volume of foreign currency loans fell due to conversions to CZK throughout the year, there was a corresponding increase in bank assets in terms of funding denominated in CZK. A similar development was also noticeable in municipal clients deposits. In 2000, considerable progress was achieved in the work of the Municipal Department at Head Office due to innovations in public sector service products together with the Bank s entry into a co-operation agreement with major financial institutions - such as Municipální finanèní spoleènost, Èeskomoravská záruèní a rozvojová banka (ÈMZRB), Svaz èeských a moravských bytových družstev. We have extended the range of banking products to the public sector with the introduction of new products in the area of assets and liabilities, such as long-term loans with fixed interest to support housing schemes and special current loans for not-for-profit companies and municipalities. The Bank was one of the first banks to join " The programme of panel housing repairs" on the basis of contractual relationships. In 2000, we developed a special financial product which included state subsidies covering the interest and guarantees granted by ÈMZRB. In 2001, we would like to further fully develop this type of funding. e) Branches The Prague Region Changes were needed to the organisation to build on the increase in revenues and the number of branches in Prague in This would improve customer care and allow the region to continue to grow. The "International Desk" and "International and Major Clients" departments were established, a regional management for Prague was formed and preparations were made to establish the "Real Estate and Project unding" Department. A decision was also made to establish another registered office in Karlín (Køižíkova-Corso Karlín) in addition to the two existing registered offices (Spálená 8 and Václavské námìstí 1).
15 17 The Brno Region On 30 October 2000, a new branch of Volksbank CZ, a.s., was officially opened in Brno at Palackého tøída 38, on the occasion of the International Monetary und meeting. It was Volksbank's tenth branch to be opened in the Czech Republic and moreover the fourth branch in Brno, helping to improve the bank's standing and services to clients. A five-member team is ready to offer our private and corporate clients the full range of our financial services. In line with Volksbank's 150 years of tradition, the staff draw on their "know how", to be able to best meet the individual needs of our customers. 187 accounts containing a total of CZK 28.3 million had been opened at this branch as of 31 December Zlín The Zlín branch had an above-average performance in terms of the volume of financial transactions handled when compared with all the branches in Bohemia and Moravia. This was due in particular to the large number of major companies which established their registered offices in Zlín. The branch supported business-related events in addition to the usual expansion of business activities. The first event in 2000 sponsored by the branch was the Czech junior table tennis championship. The branch also supported the irst Zlín Region orum 2000, which was held in the Academic Centre of the aculty of Engineering. This event was organised by Zlín's town authorities to inform participants from the municipality and companies about the economic conditions in the region. Kaplice Kaplice, one of the oldest branches of Volksbank CZ, is particularly successful with private clients. The Kaplice branch is the only branch so far operating in the region of South Bohemia. However a new branch is going to be opened in this region in 2001 in Èeské Budìjovice. The new branch will be mainly responsible for the region of Èeské Budìjovice. Olomouc The main business focus of this relatively small branch lies in particular in providing services to municipalities, medium-size businesses and private customers. The name Volksbank has been successfully established in this market segment. This is partly due to the quality of services provided by our staff and partly as a result of supporting various local events. The Olomouc branch presented itself in co-operation with the Regional Development Agency (Administrator of the PHARE und for the region of Central Moravia) at a meeting of representatives of town authorities and companies with the rench Ambassador on 29 March 2000 and the Austrian Ambassador on 19 June The aim of this event was to address companies which are active in exports and imports, and offer them our services.
16 18 Jihlava The strongest part of the Jihlava branch's activities is securities trading. This branch also achieved excellent results in providing services to some of our major clients with business links to Austria. In terms of sponsorship activities, the branch supported in particular the big show organised by the town of Jihlava from 13 October to 15 October 2000 commemorating two major events from the world of music: the 140th anniversary of the birth of the world famous composer Gustav Mahler and the 130th anniversary of his first public concert. f) Payment system The quality of banking services resulted in a significant increase in the number of transactions. Both the international and domestic payments have seen an extraordinary expansion over the previous 12 months. The number of outgoing payment orders increased by 80% and their volume increased by 70 %. The number of incoming international payments rose by 63%, while their volume increased by 39%. In the past year, there was an increase in the volume of documentary trading of our clients, in particular in the area of letters of credit. The volume of documentary letters of credit increased by more than 100%, while that of documentary collections increased by 60%. There was a continuous increase in the number of clients using electronic banking. This service has been used by 1,112 clients over the past year. The total number of transactions performed by the Domestic Payments Department increased by 63%. The number of transactions made via homebanking services accounted for 44% of all payments last year. In addition, Volksbank CZ extended the network of nostro accounts with foreign banks, and it was also able to open new loro accounts for foreign banks. g) Treasury The Treasury Department expanded the services provided to its clients in 2000 by providing financial derivatives products in addition to money market deposits and foreign currency transactions. Volksbank CZ tried to focus on client transactions to assist clients in non-standard transactions and to find appropriate solutions for them. This flexibility was the principle reason for the significant increase in the volume of client transactions. Deposits for major clients are an important part of flexible customer care. These deposits can be concluded directly in the Treasury Department in both local and foreign currencies. As a result, Volksbank CZ was able to further extend and strengthen its position in the national banking market. Great emphasis was placed also on the training of the Bank's employees in the area of sales and of branches. In addition, the Treasury staff provided the clients of Volksbank CZ with direct on-site care and information. h) Securities After the successful acquisition of the securities trading licence in the autumn of 1999, great emphasis was placed in 2000 on training staff in branch work and consultancy. This staff training helped us achieve remarkable volumes of securities administered on behalf of clients in all branches. As in Austria, Volksbanken KAG funds have proven to be the best selling products. Volksbank CZ sells 17 Volksbanken KAG funds and also the Union-Investment (12 funds) products. The bank also began initial work in fund savings.
17 19 i) Loans / Risk management Loan structure by currency in CZK Ths Volksbank CZ adheres in full to the main principles of international 540,556 partnership with clients. This means giving the client top priority over and above the loan operation as such, and trying to find the best 3,892,449 overall solution for individual clients. On the basis of effective and high-quality advisory services based on this principle, Volksbank CZ is able to retroactively monitor the positive growth in the area of loans in Volksbank CZ's core loan portfolio is provided to national and international SMEs, which are administered in close co-operation with our partner banks from the international association Volksbanken-Verbund. Moreover, Volksbank CZ established an foreign currency excellent position last year in financing cities and municipalities, which have an important share in Volksbank CZ's overall loan portfolio. Leasing is an important core area of banking, 1,564,458 4,169,810 CZK characterised mainly by the close and extensive relationship with the sister company VB Leasing CZ, spol. s r. o. It is very positive that our basic scope of activities - i.e. services provided to corporate clients in the KMU area - resulted in a large increase in the loan portfolio in Volksbank CZ was able to expand its lending activities by more than 30% in this area alone. The net volume of total loans increased again by 16% to CZK 6.65 billion, while approximately 88% of the total portfolio consisted of investment loans, and 12% was made up of current account loans. 2,556,249 4,096,440 j) Credit cards The number of Maestro cards issued almost doubled in The number of Eurocard / Mastercard cards issued increased sevenfold in The number of transactions performed with cards increased by approximately 175%, while their volume increased by 195% to reach a total of CZK 150 million. A new ATM machine was installed at the Královo Pole branch in Brno in The bank operates 8 ATM machines at present. The number of ATM transactions increased by 45%, and their total volume increased by 50% to total CZK 260 million. In ATM cards value of transactions in CZK million 2001, Volksbank CZ envisages diversifying its payment card line by adding the Eurocard/Mastercard CHARGE, while accepting VISA cards in its ATMs. k) Administration and construction Important steps were taken in 2000 to extend the network of branches. A new branch was opened in Brno at Palackého tøída 38 in September In autumn, the bank managed to renew the activities at the Prague branch on Václavské námìstí in a recordbreaking time of 20 days. The existing architecture of the branch allows not only for client transactions to be processed quickly in one value of transactions number of transactions
18 20 Number of newly issued ATM cards between 1998 and 2000 of the most interesting and most frequented places in Prague, but also for the self-service zone to be used outside the branch's opening hours. Preparatory work has also been performed in the Praha-Karlín, Plzeò, Èeské Budìjovice, Liberec branches and in the centre of Brno, which should be ready in l) Human resources Maestro EC/MC The results achieved in 2000 are to a large extent proof of the enormous commitment and involvement of our employees. The increase in staff numbers is a result of diversifying business activities and expanding into further areas. The number of employees increased to 208 during the year. Quality is guaranteed by the rise in productivity, along with the utilisation of modern IT technologies. During the year, a second level of bank training was prepared based on Austrian design and in co-operation with Volksbankenakademie der Österreichische Volksbanken AG. It aimed not only to increase the staff skills, but, above all, to ensure the quality of advisory services to clients.
19 21 m) Marketing In the area of marketing in 2000, we focused on promoting Volksbank s already well-known name on the market. In order to be able to meet this objective, Volksbank CZ participated in a number of international and national activities, including our sponsorship of Lucie Hrstková, who is now the Czech skiing champion. Volksbank CZ also sponsored other sports activities such as beach volleyball, swimming, gymnastics, and - for the first time in the history of the bank - ice-hockey. However, Volksbank CZ has also supported organisations which are not in the centre of public interests, but the support of which is extremely important for the area - we financed SOS villages, we assisted the Czech Red Cross over Christmas, and we have been working with the children of the Charity Effeta in Brno for a long time. Another successful project was that of the municipal conference. Customer communication is not just a theory or an idea. Much active work was done in relation to this project, and Volksbank CZ prepared new, transparent bank statements. On the basis of these statements or through home-banking, our clients are now able to obtain regular information on their bank transactions. As for our external activities, we were able to extend our new services through regional, national and multilingual media, such as the "Prager Wirtschaftszeitung". PR activities and meeting with our clients culminated at the year end with the grand Christmas party in Dùm umìní in Brno. Although not always clearly visible from outside, it was also important to monitor the market and to implement Corporate Identity and Corporate Design measures. We would like to stress that Corporate Identity and Corporate Design are not just empty words for Volkbank CZ, but that they are intended to strenghten the identification of our bank in the market. New successful services focused on non-profit-making organisations have also been generated thanks to the range of ideas developed and work implemented across the different departments.
20 22 n) IT This year, IT has mainly been affected by the large increase in banking activities and in the development of e-services. During the year, the banking and computing systems were upgraded to a higher-level version. Thanks to the excellent work of our IT specialists, this update did not cause any interruption in services to our customers. The main focus of the IT department was placed on services designed to help clients and on making operations more userfriendly. The preparation of new services was aided by the reorganisation of departments to include the IT function. There was a large increase in the number of clients using e-payment and electronic account maintenance. The Bank continued to focus on direct contact with its clients. As of the year end, services to our clients included accessing information relating to their accounts via standard credit cards, and client cards statements or by obtaining exceptional bank statements, in the selfservice departments. In order to enhance the security of cash operations, our new branches have cashiers' desks equipped with automated electronic cashier systems. Each branch of the bank is equipped with the most up-to-date software and IT technology. The bank also strongly emphasises communication via the electronic media. Every workplace has access to the Internet, and clients can reach all bank staff at any time by . Volksbank CZ is also liaising with Österreichische Volksbanken AG to prepare new e-services for its existing and future clients.