Ufuk Tandoğan, CEO Garanti BBVA Romania: This country has become my second home
"Romania and my term here have given me the chance of important career development, but also the opportunity to know the best professionals and to meet those who have become my best friends in time." - Ufuk Tandoğan, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Garanti BBVA Romania.
Ufuk Tandoğan is a top executive with an impressive career in the banking sector. After graduating from university, he joined the team of Garanti BBVA Turkey, a group he is still part of today.
His Romanian adventure started nine years ago when he moved to Bucharest to take over the helm of Garanti BBVA Romania - one of the best-known banks on the local market. In the last nine years, he has also been Chairman of the Board at Garanti BBVA Leasing and Garanti BBVA Consumer Finance, the two non-banking financial institutions within Garanti BBVA Group Romania.
Despite the busy professional schedule, Ufuk Tandoğan has dedicated a lot of time to travel across Romania, discovering the country's "amazing places, welcoming and joyful people, good food, and special culture." He even wrote two books promoting local tourist attractions, which he hopes will help increase the public's awareness about "Romania's richness."
And, although he is currently preparing to leave the helm of Garanti BBVA's local subsidiary, leaving Romania is not yet an option for him. "I will continue to live in Romania and move enthusiastically toward the new professional challenges ahead of me. As I have mentioned before, Romania has become my second home, and I am eager to further explore its opportunities," he told Romania-insider.com.
Ufuk Tandoğan shares his Romanian story in the interview below.
Please tell us a bit about your background.
I graduated from Uludağ University in Turkey with a Bachelor's Degree in Economics.
Having worked at Garanti BBVA Turkey (Garanti BBVA Romania's mother bank) since graduating from college, it has been a rewarding and gratifying experience thus far.
During these years, I held various managerial positions in Turkey, such as Branch Manager, Regional Manager, Commercial and Corporate Credits Department Manager, and Commercial and Corporate Credits Senior Vice President, being responsible for large and significant portfolios. Also, I was a Board Member in Turkey's Credit Bureau and Garanti Mortgage Turkey.
In 2012, I came to Bucharest and became the CEO of Garanti BBVA Romania, as well as Chairman of the Board at Garanti BBVA Leasing and Garanti BBVA Consumer Finance, the two non-banking financial institutions within Garanti BBVA Group Romania.
Please describe your first encounter with Romania.
Coming to Romania nine years ago and becoming the Group's CEO was a very important move in my career. For this reason, I came here with great enthusiasm, along with the desire to get to know the local banking system and to perform here, but also to discover Romania and its people.
The local market has huge potential, and I was very happy to move here because I knew there would be a lot of things that I could do in terms of the bank's development and even my own.
From the very beginning of my term in Romania, I have had the opportunity to come in contact with great projects, ambitious clients and lead a talented team of banking professionals. It was an exciting experience for me that, at times, does come with its share of challenges, like the current pandemic. Nevertheless, I am always ready for a new challenge because it gives me the opportunity to grow further, improve who I am and what I do for both myself and others.
Besides work, despite my busy schedule, I also had the opportunity to visit Romania, and I can say Romania is a very beautiful country, with warm people, a peaceful environment, and breathtaking nature.
How has Romania changed since you first arrived?
In recent years, Romania has seen significant growth in most economic sectors. Over the same period, investments in infrastructure, retail, and office buildings, for example, have increased. And even if the pandemic has impacted development and investments, I am optimistic that Romania will recover and, in time, catch up with the other developed countries.
What was your main challenge when arriving in Romania? How did you overcome it?
Moving abroad can often be an overwhelming experience for any expatriate because of the unfamiliar landscape, the limited social network, and the new culture and language. At first, it was difficult for me because I was far from home, family and did not know the language. But in time, I got closer to my colleagues from Romania. Now, I feel Romania is my second home.
What has Romania brought to your life?
As I said before, Romania and my term here have given me the chance of important career development, but also the opportunity to know the best professionals and to meet those who have become my best friends in time. In Romania, I also discovered amazing places, welcoming and joyful people, good food, and special culture. The closeness of our cultures makes my life very easy and pleasant here.
What are the three things you like most about Romania and why?
After so many years living here, I have come to know Romania very well, and I could talk a lot about what I like in this country. But if I were to make a top 3, then I would say for sure: people, landscapes, and traditional food. The people are warm and welcoming, the landscapes are breathtaking, and the Romanians have some of the tastiest dishes in the world, in my opinion.
What don't you like in Romania?
Regarding the aspects I am not much of a fan of, I could mention the crowded traffic, especially in the Bucharest area. Nevertheless, it does give me the opportunity to walk more often to my office.
What is your favorite place in Romania, and why?
As I said, Romania is a very beautiful country. I had the chance to visit it entirely, both for business and personal purposes, and I can honestly say that it has one of the most beautiful landscapes I have seen in my life, with welcoming people. But to be specific, my favorite place is Bucovina, with its extraordinary scenery. For example, a place where I really like to go and that I would recommend to anyone is Marginea Village, a national and worldwide attraction known for its black pottery, which is unique in the world. Marginea became a pottery center sometime in the 16th century and has kept its traditions throughout the time. Of course, nowadays it may not be a good time to travel, due to the restrictions in Romania, but I believe this is a place that deserves to be placed on the list of attractions not to be missed in Romania.
What is your favorite Romanian food?
The visits to the Danube Delta delighted me both because of the breathtaking landscapes, amazing flora, and fauna, but also through the tasty fish dishes cooked by the locals to delight their visitors.
What made you want to write a book promoting local tourist attractions? Where did you get your inspiration?
I must be honest and admit that I never planned to write a book about Romania. It all started with a few articles I wrote for Hayat newspaper, in which I shared my traveling impressions with the Turkish community. Right after discovering Bucovina, as I talked to some professionals, even Romanians, about the places in Romania I had the chance to visit, I realized many people did not know its beauties yet. So, I made the decision to put all these travel notes together in one book.
Romania is full of amazing places that deserve to be known - from Viscri to Bucovina, from the Danube Delta to Maramures or Baile Felix. Moreover, in my second book, an extended version of the first one – "Discover Romania," I shared my travel notes regarding additional 5 local destinations – Caras-Severin, Racos, Dealu Mare, Rasnov, and Transylvania Amphitheater, which are not very well-known places, but are worth visiting at least once in the lifetime.
The purpose of both books is to help to increase the awareness within the public about the richness of Romania.
How would you describe the experience of doing business in Romania?
Coming to Romania was an important step for me, as I mentioned before, and I came here with great enthusiasm and a desire to get better acquainted with the Romanian banking system and to achieve good results, together with my team.
I knew that the Romanian market has great potential for development, and in all the years I spent here, I witnessed the evolution of the banking system toward the development of banking products and services tailored to the customers` needs.
You'll soon leave from the position of CEO Garanti BBVA Romania. What are your plans for the future?
I will continue to live in Romania and move enthusiastically toward the new professional challenges ahead of me. As I have mentioned before, Romania has become my second home, and I am eager to further explore its opportunities.
Irina Marica, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Photo source: courtesy of Ufuk Tandoğan)