Susanne Wendler tells us how she supports clients and companies with her heart and soul
Today UniCredit launches a new series named Women in Leadership, to highlight the roles, expertise and commitments of some of its female executives operating in the different countries and areas of the business in which the bank operates.
Our first interviewee is Susanne Wendler, Member of the Management Board at UniCredit Bank Austria, Unternehmerbank, who tells us about her career in the financial sector, gives us an outlook of the current situation in Austria and how the bank is supporting companies and clients in its constant commitment to being part of the solution in these challenging times.
What is the current economic situation in Austria and how are companies reacting to the crisis?
Many companies are seizing this situation as an opportunity and are now setting the course for tomorrow, i.e. sharpening their strategy, investing substantially in digitalisation and, above all, in sustainability and climate protection as well as adapting their business models. Despite the pandemic, or perhaps because of it, today there is a strong focus on future topics. The crisis is also an opportunity. Now is the time for companies to position themselves well in order to take advantage of the upcoming pick-up.
UniCredit Bank Austria supports companies in all these areas and has also provided Austrian companies with liquidity and support for subsidies during the crisis from the very beginning of the pandemic outburst., extending loans for a total of three billion euros (at the peak) and implemented tens of thousands of loan deferrals also totaling around 3 billion euros.
What are your key take-aways from the pandemic? Which initiatives are you most proud of?
I am proud of what we have achieved for our customers. Especially at the beginning when the situation demanded a lot from us. We switched to remote work from one day to the next. We started very early and finished very late to concretely support the Austrian economy.
We have positively processed applications for state-guaranteed bridging loans, and in just three months we had to process much more than the annual volume of funding applications! We created a task force, colleagues from the entire Unternehmerbank worked together. This was a very challenging time for all of us, but it was also great to see how we stuck together and managed this situation brilliantly.
As a woman in an executive role at UniCredit Bank Austria what advice would you give women working in the financial sector?
I am very supportive of women's careers in my area. Of course, the overall conditions are also crucial, and this topic is right at the top of our agenda. This includes our targets for gender equality of around one-third of women in management positions and our offer of a wide range of measures such as company kindergartens and flexible working hours to support women in their career path.
Gender equality is a very important issue, and we are aware that we still have a long way to go in this respect. I also think it is very important to encourage women to dare and aspire to leadership positions.
Basically, I notice that a man usually says, "I want a management job and I'll get the qualifications." A woman, on the other hand, says "I won't do it without qualifications." Although both can do it equally well - one shouts louder.
Can you tell us more about your career journey and your current role?
I studied business administration in Vienna and joined the bank as a trainee, at that time at Creditanstalt, one of the predecessor institutions of UniCredit Bank Austria. That was a little more than 30 years ago. I went through many exciting stages in my career, including credit risk, project finance and subsidy. I then came to the Corporate Network via the Multinational Corporates unit. I have experienced everything from business with international and large corporate customers to SMEs. I soon held my first management position as Team Head. Other management positions followed, and from 2013 I was responsible for the entire corporate network at UniCredit Bank Austria. Since January 2019, I have been on the Management Board of UniCredit Bank Austria. The most important thing is interest and joy in what you do. I support our client companies with passion and enthusiasm.
What are your expectations for the future?
Despite the pandemic, economic development in numerous sectors shows that we can look to the future with optimism. Of course, expectations depend heavily on the course of the infection - and above all on the success of the vaccination. Some sectors such as the industrial sector are already doing very well. We also see very positive signals in many service sectors and in the construction industry, while for others, such as the hospitality sector, the recovery will take longer. All in all, there are good reasons to be optimistic about the future.
Many things will remain. For example, access to remote work, which we had already implemented before the crisis and which has now been significantly expanded. However, I am particularly looking forward to the personal talks with our customers again. The personal contact in the companies, meetings at events, the conversation beyond the purely business-related, that remains irreplaceable for me.