European Times: What is your background in the financial sector?
Martins Bicevskis: I am an attorney and formerly worked in a small private bank before entering the government service over ten years ago. I served as the State Secretary for the Ministry of Finance and the State Secretary for the Ministry of Justice, among other posts, before becoming President of the Banking Association in 2011. This government experience helps me promote productive cooperation between the public and private sectors.
European Times: What are the Latvian Banking Association’s top priorities?
Martins Bicevskis: One of our main goals is to lobby for legislation that enhances and improves the regulatory framework for businesses. Secondly, we represent the interests of the financial sector in dealings with public authorities, municipalities and international institutions. For example, we are promoting more financial-sector cooperation among Nordic and Baltic countries, because we understand that we are one market. We believe that it is really important to harmonise regulations, standards, procedures, and reporting systems in all the Scandinavian and Baltic countries to decrease costs and increase the efficiency of the banking sector. The third direction is completely unique. Our financial sector has a huge client base coming from CIS countries, and we are involved in issues relating to this.
European Times: Why do CIS countries choose Latvia?
Martins Bicevskis: We understand the CIS environment and our bankers speak English and Russian. We provide efficient services, including services geared to Russian executives who are looking for a more favourable business climate than they can find in their home country. Furthermore, we actively support companies from CIS countries.
European Times: What are some of the main challenges the Baltic banking sector is currently facing?
Martins Bicevskis: One of the challenges is an aging population. Others are that many different languages are spoken in the region, there is low population per square kilometre, and there is huge inefficiency within the regional banking sector.
European Times: What are Latvia’s financial-sector advantages for foreign investors?
Martins Bicevskis: The Latvian financial sector is creating more and more interesting conditions for private clients as well as private companies. We are making the Latvian banking sector a desirable, long-term business partner, and Riga could be a financial-sector hub within the region. We are confident that the financial sector will be an engine of growth for Latvia in the years to come.