Ufuk Cemal Bali is general manager of the main branch in Istanbul and a member of the board of Intesa Sanpaolo Corporate and Investment Banking in Turkey. He joined the group in April 2013 as a relationship manager, working with top-tier Turkish and multinational clients. Since Feb 2017, his responsibilities have covered everything from business development to accounting, risk management and human resources.
How has international experience helped you professionally and personally?
It’s not easy to separate personal and professional development because any personal development directly feeds into and is reflected in your professional progress as well. Having said that, working for an international organisation has helped me to develop a strong cross-cultural competence, which is an essential skill in today’s world where boundaries that shape social interaction between people no longer exist. As part of a global network, I have continuous exposure to a diverse set of people with very different perspectives and geographies, which stimulates creative thinking. Working with people from such a variety of backgrounds often results in different approaches and solutions to the same problem and that brings about a paradigm shift in one’s thinking. That is helpful to one’s personal perception of the world because you gain knowledge and broaden your mind.
What opportunities does working with Intesa Sanpaolo offer?
Within my first year of working for Intesa Sanpaolo, I had contacted the majority of industry leaders in Turkey, which is challenging when you’re a new bank in the market and with limited human resources on the ground. That was a great opportunity for me to introduce the bank and start building relationships from scratch. It also helped me better grasp the dynamics of the various industries in which clients operate. In my role setting up the Istanbul branch’s client portfolio, I also had the opportunity to introduce the Turkish market to the senior management of the bank, which ultimately supported my personal visibility within the organisation. Generally, compared to other institutions, Intesa Sanpaolo’s organisational structure is much leaner, which I believe is an important facilitator of success.
What do you like best about working for Intesa Sanpaolo?
Both the Corporate and Investment Banking division and the bank as a whole are dynamic environments, which I enjoy. Collaborative colleagues, supportive senior management and a well-established business model provide a certain level of confidence with minimal room for surprises. This is an ideal set-up to serve the market, especially one in which customers can be very demanding. I also like the level of interaction between branch and hub, between business lines, industries and product groups, which ensures symmetric distribution of information and allows me to feel part of a wider global network.
What have you learnt from your international experience with Intesa Sanpaolo that you might have missed otherwise?
Because Intesa Sanpaolo has evolved over so many years – and undergone numerous mergers – its accumulated experience is quite diverse, something from which one can benefit a lot. Like an enormous library where you feel confident that you will find the best possible answer to your needs. I believe it is of the utmost importance to make use of this information pool. When I’ve a decision to make, being able to access the collective knowledge of so many different parties from various backgrounds makes me see the risks and thus be more confident. I might have missed that collective decision-making framework elsewhere.
How does it feel to be an ambassador for the group?
What I feel we’ve achieved as a team is to become a relevant and reliable banking partner to our clients over a short period of time, in a market where competition is fierce. I’m very proud of everyone and am happy to work for the bank. I also feel empowered because I am one of the key decision-makers for all matters relating to Turkey and stakeholders value my insight and opinion. The group values the views of people from outside of Italy.
Where would you like to be in your career in five years?
I am relatively new in my current role as general manager of the Istanbul branch and I feel humbled to have that position. I owe a lot to my predecessor, who has done a lot in Turkey and been providing me with constant support. My priority is to exploit the full potential of the Istanbul office, because I sincerely believe we can deliver more to increase our contribution to the Middle East and Africa hub and, on a wider scale, to the Intesa Sanpaolo Group. Once I am convinced that I have taken the branch to the next level, I would be interested to take on new challenges, maybe heading to places where I can further enhance my leadership skills and gain more responsibility.
What else do you like about Intesa Sanpaolo and its people?
That’s easy: a co-operative environment and friendly people.