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RZB: an early mover targets new markets

RZB, Austria’s largest private banking group, has been in the race for market share in central and eastern Europe from the beginning. Now, with so many western rivals, RZB looks to new ground in a pair of Bosnian start-ups.

Herbert Stepic

For some western banks operating in central and eastern Europe, some old habits are harder to break than others.

Take for example RZB, Austria's largest private banking group, which has been actively building a regional branch network largely through organic growth since first entering Hungary via a joint venture in 1987.

Having watched over the intervening years as western rivals have paid an increasing premium to acquire market share, RZB appears reluctant to abandon at least some elements of its blueprint for success.

Recent acquisitions in Romania and Bosnia Hercegovina - RZB's first purchases in the region - are aimed at providing the bank with a similar first-mover advantage in markets that even today remain largely undiscovered by the competition.

"We were there right from the very beginning," says Herbert Stepic, RZB's Vienna-based deputy chairman. "Because we were, we've had the advantage of being able to grow with the market, to train our staff and to capture the most attractive customers.

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