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Banking

Raiffeisen's Stepic refines his recipe for emerging Europe

In 20 years, RZB has gone from being an Austrian also-ran to a central and eastern European market leader. Much of its success is attributable to the vision of Raiffeisen International’s CEO, Herbert Stepic. No wonder he is known to the Austrian masses as ‘Der Cash-Man’. Guy Norton looks at RZB’s ambitious plans for further expansion in the region, and Sudip Roy finds out what keeps the fire burning in Stepic’s belly.

Stepic: a rare breed of banker
Where next in the battle for central and eastern Europe?

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CALL IT JOURNALISTIC intuition or maybe just a lucky guess. Somehow, though, the 20-foot inflatable bull, emblazoned with RZB’s famous gable cross logo and parked slapbang in the middle of the lobby of the bank’s headquarters in Vienna suggested that the 2006 results press conference for Raiffeisen International might have an upbeat tone. And so it proved.

Most annual results presentations these days tend to be tedious affairs, only enlivened, if you’re lucky, by the theatrical antics of a gatecrashing Greenpeace protester. Raiffeisen International’s, on the other hand, was a thoroughly entertaining event, combining high finance and haute cuisine in equal measure. Herbert Stepic, Raiffeisen International’s chairman and self-confessed gourmand, set the tone with an invitation to the assembled press pack to fill their boots at the post-results luncheon. In contrast to the minuscule canapés and semi-flat mineral water on offer at most such events, Raiffeisen served up a smorgasbord of delicacies from the 16 central and eastern European countries where it operates – and some decent alcohol to boot.

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