Komercijalna Banka: Selling Serbia’s sleeping beauty
Komercijalna Banka was in urgent need of modernization ahead of a planned privatization – enter Alexander Picker, an Austrian who has made a career of bringing socialist-era lenders into the 21st century.
Alexander Picker, Komercijalna Banka
When Alexander Picker took over as head of Serbian state-owned lender Komercijalna Banka, he expected to find a “sleeping beauty”. Eighteen months on, he says: “She’s still a little sleepy – but at least we’re sure she’s a beauty”.
Picker’s remit was to prepare this slumbering institution for privatization by tackling the bad debts weighing on its balance sheet and devising a new business model suited to a digital era – or, as he puts it, “cleaning up the past and building the future”.
Mild-mannered and humorous, the unassuming banker from Salzburg seems an unlikely Prince Charming for a socialist-era Balkan lender. Yet, as his CV shows, Picker has ample experience in dealing with challenging banks in the former Communist countries of central and eastern Europe.
As well as detailing his impressive linguistic skills – he speaks five languages fluently, including Russian and Serbo-Croat, and is proficient in four more – his LinkedIn profile describes him as “an agent of change in difficult environments”.
If anything, this is an understatement. He was in Moscow as head of risk for a local bank for the Russia crisis in 1998.