New Head of GSS Operational Risk Management
It is quite unusual that a trader turns into a risk manager. The GSS Newsletter wanted to find out how Michal Baranek managed to make this transition in his career.
What were your career steps before joining GSS?
My first student job was far from the financial sector, I moved on rather fast to banking with my next student job at HYPO Bank Slovakia, then a subsidiary of former Bayern Hypo, which formed one of the roots of today’s UniCredit. Since the operation in Bratislava was a tiny entity, I had the opportunity to look into many different areas, including FX trading.
I joined Bank Austria’s FX order desk in Vienna in 2001, which I remember as a rather dynamic and challenging time. Eventually, I came back to Slovakia to work as a senior FX trader. In the following years I worked in Prague and London, but fate moved me back to Bratislava...
...after which you decided to change your professional direction?
I found the newly founded Financial Institutions Group coordination unit for Central and Eastern Europe (FIG CEE) very intriguing, partially because we built it up from scratch. At first, I was a relationship manager and global account manager and in the last years also responsible for business development. The time at FIG was like a banking university for me.
Five exciting years on, I was promoted to head the CEE desk in UniCredit’s Chief Risk Officer (CRO) area in Milan, where I covered financial institutions’ risk side on a group level.
It seems there is hardly a location of UniCredit left in Europe where you have not worked!
Somehow, yes. But I guess that my cross-divisional background and my knowledge of the “other side” as a former relationship manager in FIG are equally useful in my new position at GSS.
In a nutshell, what are your responsibilities in your role?
We ensure to get all operational risk aspects of our business line under control. First and foremost, this implies visiting all our GSS locations. We review the processes, identify potential gaps and recommend improvements.
So far, since summer we have already conducted six on-site examinations and by the first quarter of next year, we will have closed the first round.
Which insights can you share with us after your first visits?
I am quite satisfied with what I have seen so far. I was also glad to find out that we have excellent people on the ground.
On top of that, I am getting great support from my colleagues from the Central Team and of course Júlia Romhányi, our Global Head of GSS. Her experience cannot be replicated so easily and thus is invaluable when it comes to tackling complex matters.
What will be next on your task list?
Our risk assessment is an ongoing project, which by nature never comes to an end. Local visits take place on a regular basis and we constantly monitor KPIs as well as the progress made concerning improvements.
I want to make sure that all our locations can leverage on an exchange of experiences made elsewhere.
Coming from Bratislava, how was your relocation to Vienna?
I have already spent many years of my life in Vienna, although with interruptions. When I moved here once again in spring, I called it a “twofold return home”: to my favourite city and to the Corporate & Investment Banking area.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Spend as much time as possible with my family; my job is rather demanding, in part due to my frequent business trips, so family life ranks at the very top.
We love travelling and make sure we get to know our old and new home countries. That said, our next holiday destinations will be here in beautiful Austria, which we do not yet know well enough.
You are a champion in a peculiar type of sports…
Indeed, I was a member of the Slovakian national team for clay pigeon shooting. I even carried home two bronze medals from European championships.