WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland's economic outlook looks promising with an expected growth rate of at least 4 percent this year, but to capitalize on it banks need to invest in artificial intelligence and data management, the CEO of the country's fifth largest bank said.
After months of sluggish growth the economy accelerated in the first quarter to an annualized 4 percent, its fastest pace in over a year and above expectations, thanks to a pick-up in investments and consumption.
"We're seeing the speeding up of investment process which is leading to the speeding up of GDP growth," Brunon Bartkiewicz, Chief Executive Officer at ING Bank Slaski SA INGP.WA said at the Reuters Central & Eastern Europe Investment Summit.
He called macro data a core component to profits.
"That creates a situation where Polish GDP will grow with a speed of about 4, or even above 4 percent this year and it will exceed quite safely 3.5 percent in the years after," he said.
Economic growth is key to most lenders' strategy as they are connected with economic cycles and earn profit when individuals and companies take credits to finance spending. But number of uncertainties are still remaining.
Poland is the largest beneficiary of European Funds in the years to 2020. The question is whether the country will have enough of an edge of competitiveness to drive GDP "when the European money will be reduced," Bartkiewicz said at the Summit, held at the Reuters office in Warsaw.
Banks are also facing challenges from regulations, super-low interest rates and technology changes in the use of banking services and by IT companies taking over parts of banking business and profits.
"The more customers have the money, the more they are in doubt about their future, their financial future. They feel confused and that's why they need somebody to help them make that decision," Bartkiewicz said.
"And this is the task in which we have to invest because we cannot help 4.5 million customers in every-day conversation with all of them. And (this is why) the tasks like Data Management and AI are of course very high on our list."
Bartkiewicz also said that ING Slaski will be growing organically, but it will not exclude buying another bank if it were to create an opportunity for "improving (Slaski) general ratios".
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Additional reporting by Rachel Armstrong, Justyna Pawlak, Pawel Florkiewicz, and Pawel Sobczak, editing by Pritha Sarkar