Moving to and settling in a new country is always difficult. Any relocation involves a lot of work and research; but moving to a new country brings a whole new set of challenges. Finding an apartment, perhaps a school for the kids; maybe even a job – there´s no end to the to-do list in that first month. And don´t forget the day-to-day business – where to shop, where to bank? Luckily for Prague expats, the where to bank question is easily solved: Česká spořitelna´s Expat Center.
“The biggest benefit clients get here is they have their own advisor speaking their language,” says Monika Fraňková, Head of the Expat Center. “Clients know they´ll always get the help they need.”
Česká spořitelna started the Expat Center in January 2004. Fraňková says they saw a gap in the Czech banking market.
“At the time, no bank was offering specialized services for foreign clients,” she says. “You might find a person who speaks your language at another bank, but no specifically dedicated place for foreign customers.”
The Expat Center is located in the stunning Česká spořitelna headquarters on Rytířská in Prague 1. The building recently underwent a massive renovation; and it´s a showpiece. A spacious area on the first floor is set aside for the Expat center. Here eight employees, speaking English, French or German are waiting to assist with a variety of money matters. Fraňková says their staff can facilitate banking accounts, credit cards, investments, leases, life, car and home insurance plus mortgages and other loans. In your language.
“English, French, and German speakers can get service in their language, including a personal advisor, plus contracts are all in their language,” she says. “But clients also have to sign a Czech version of the contract, according to Czech law.”
The Expat Center offers a package called World Class which includes:
· Czech bank account, plus two accounts in foreign currencies
· Savings account in Czech and foreign currencies
· Debit card
· Credit card (subject to approval)
· Internet and phone banking
· Access to leasing and online brokerage
· Discounts on a variety of services including newspaper subscriptions; health club memberships; language schools and medical and dental services
The price of the package is 390 CZK a month and Fraňková acknowledges these services may not be everyone.
“We offer a package of products which has a certain value, but also costs something,” she says. “It could be cost probative to some and may include services that some people don´t need.”
She suggests for some people, a regular account at Česká spořitelna might be better for their individual banking needs.
Fraňková´s job tasks include problem-solving, motivating and supporting her team, advertising and promotion. Luckily, on the last two she has some free help. She says about 70% of their clients come via word of mouth.
“People stay for the good quality of service; some come from other banks because they didn´t receive a certain level of service,” she says. “I also hear from Czech people that it´s great Česká spořitelna offers this service.”
She adds that Česká spořitelna is often seen as an old-fashioned bank; so this type of service is good for its development and where the bank wants to be.
Her staff does more than just open bank accounts and apply for credit cards, though. Sometimes, they may be one of the first friendly faces, speaking “their” language that a new client might meet.
“I´ve been asked which areas of Prague are good to live in and other basic ‘how to live here´ questions,” says Olga Haškovcová, a banking advisor, who´s been with the Expat Center almost one year. “They want to know about Czech people and the lifestyle here.”
Most people don´t go to a bank looking for advice on where to shop, but the team at the Expat Center is happy to oblige anyway. Fraňková knows the main reason people come to the Expat Center, and why they stay.
“The biggest benefit is to speak your language. Call with any problem, and clients are sure they´ll find someone they can talk to,” she says. “It´s comfortable banking services.”