CEE architects of transition: Herbert Stepic
Herbert Stepic joined Raiffeisen Zentralbank Österreich (RZB) in 1973. In 1978, he took over the group’s international banking division and from 1986 led its expansion into emerging Europe. He stepped down as chief executive of RZB’s legal successor Raiffeisen Bank International in 2013.
Few individuals have left a greater mark on banking in emerging Europe than Herbert Stepic. From small beginnings in Hungary in 1987, the founder of Raiffeisen Bank International built up a regional empire that today spans 13 countries from Russia to Albania.
“When we opened our first bank in Hungary, it was literally the Wild East,” remembers Stepic. “There were no banking laws, no bankers, no credit bureau and no systems.”
He says his previous experience in emerging markets stood him in good stead. The famously convivial banker began his career at Raiffeisen Zentralbank Österreich (RZB) in 1973, when he was headhunted to set up the group’s foreign trade division.
He was reportedly the first foreign banker into Iran after the 1979 revolution and one of the first to establish a foothold in China.
Then in 1986 RZB was invited to start the first foreign commercial bank in Budapest by János Fekete, the reformist head of the central bank.