SME Banker of the Year 2023 nominee: Bülent Oğuz (Akbank)

SME Banking
08/05/2023 Article
profile picture of Bülent Oğuz

Bülent Oğuz


Executive VP SME Banking & Chief Diversity Officer

Bülent Oğuz joined Akbank in March 2003 and served as Vice President and Senior Vice President of SME and Consumer Banking respectively. Oğuz was appointed as Executive Vice President in charge of SME Banking in July 2013. He served as Executive Vice President of Retail Banking between November 2018 and December 2021. He has been in charge of SME Banking since January 2022. He has also been named as the CDO from the beginning of 2023. Bülent Oğuz is the Vice Chairman of AkÖde and a Board Member of Aklease. Before joining Akbank, Oğuz held various managerial positions at Corporate Banking and Loans divisions at different private sector banks. Oğuz is a graduate of Middle East Technical University, Political Science and Public Administration and holds an Executive MBA degree from Sabancı University

In the course of your career, what have you seen change in terms of demands/needs of SME clients? And what role should a bank play in meeting these demands?

SME market is a dynamic and ever-evolving market, and their needs can change rapidly from one day to the next. Adapting to those changes can be a daunting task for banks especially in volatile environments like Turkey.
According to new research, SMEs; 38% of them say that they reduce their branch and office visits, 24% of them reduce the use of ATMs, 40% of them use mobile banking applications more.
In the light of this information, Akbank embraces the importance of digitization while developing solutions based on the unique needs of their SME clients . 
Our focus on digitization enables us to improve customer experience and operational efficiency in SME banking. This understanding allows us to serve SMEs quickly and efficiently through digital customer acquisition, activation, and retention programs.
In addition to improving basic banking services digitally – digital onboarding and wide range of products to be reached via Akbank mobile & Akbank web, Akbank also intends to support every stage of SME’s life cycle with various services and products. With 3rd party agreements, Akbank offers discounted or free of charge beyond banking solutions like digital marketing apps, company establishment tools.
Akbank also monitors global and national developments carefully and tries to adapt them with new holistic service models & segments. Woman and Green SME segments was born as a result of this careful follow-up.

"Working in various positions from branch to HQ, I have developed expertise in the specific rules, regulations, practices, and trends that shape the sector."

What have you found to be effective in leading your SME banking team/in your leadership position?

Even in the digital age, maintaining strong relationships with branches is essential for an SME banker. Personal interactions are still key to success in SME banking, and frequent branch and customer visits can provide valuable insights into local market trends and customer needs. Listening to what is going on in the field, from the person working at the counter to the branch manager, encourages us to develop a more efficient model. Recognizing the value of branches and building strong relationships with them is essential for developing a successful SME banking strategy that combines traditional relationship-building techniques with the effective use of digital tools

I also find it really important to build strong and positive relationships with our clients and listening to their concerns in order to provide customized solutions to address their unique challenges. 

Within my 20 years of experience in SME banking, I have gained a deep understanding of the market. I used my foresight and strategic thinking to anticipate market trends and develop innovative solutions that help our clients stay competitive. 

Working in various positions from branch to HQ, I have developed expertise in the specific rules, regulations, practices, and trends that shape the sector. This knowledge is crucial in making informed decisions and providing effective leadership. Additionally, I have built a strong network of industry professionals that enables me to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and best practices. Finally, having a strong background from various positions, has provided me and my team with predictability and stability, allowing us to approach new challenges with confidence and maintain consistency in our strategies and operations.

I think we see the effect of this in the NPS (the tendency to recommend working with Akbank to their relatives) score.

SME department’s NPS score increased from 76.1 in 2020 to 78.7 in 2021 and 80.5 in 2022.

It was noteworthy that the SME NPS score continued its upward trend in 2022, while there was a decline in the NPS of other segments and the Bank NPS in general, especially affected by the intensifying waiting times from time to time.

Briefly describe, what would be your top 3 achievements/ projects delivered by your bank for SME customers?

As Akbank, we have performed quite well with our numerous projects this year, but if we have to choose the 3 best ones, these are the ones I can tell you about:

1. Sales and Lending Digitization

Need for Change

The competition in SME segment is very aggressive and we couldn’t be quicker without an overall change in the way we work on Akbank Mobile. We aim to digitize all financial processes of SMEs and ensure that they run their businesses uninterruptedly. In this context, we came up with a new innovation.

Seamless Process

  • Sales and Lending was born as a result of the above concept. We minimize customer data requirements, obtain all necessary data and documents automatically on mobile application for a more seamless process.
  • Thanks to the short and easy application process the time customers spend is diminished. We obtain the least amount of information possible.

Creating Personas

  • In order to offer the right packages to the right customer, target groups with common needs were identified and various personas were created. (There are 13 different personas)
  • Customized package setups for different personas were implemented. As a non-banking advantage in certain personas, we give free memberships of third-party companies that provide e-commerce integration services, accounting services and e-commerce price and buybox tracking services for certain periods. 


Sales & Lending allows Akbank; onboard new customers, sell bundled strategic products to new and existing customers without requiring them to visit Akbank branches, reward customers with banking advantages and 3rd party partnerships advantages as a prize. Thanks to the package setup, customers can buy multiple products in an uninterrupted single flow. (There are 6 POS, 4 Commercial Credit Card and 6 Commercial Loan packages, adding up to 16 packages overall.)


The key objectives are to increase the sales numbers by also using the cross-sell opportunities via the packages and to increase the use of Akbank Mobile application by SMEs.


2.  Specialized and sensitive approach for customer segments

Women SME
Creating a new customer segment for women SMEs, highlights Akbank's commitment to support women entrepreneurs and promote gender equality. This initiative has a significant impact on empowering women and promoting sustainable economic growth. Akbank is working with EBRD and Credit Guarantee Fund to support women SMEs by helping them overcome financial barriers. The bank has received 100 millon dollars fund and disbursed 50 million dollars in 4 months.

Green SME
Creating a new customer segment for eco-friendly SMEs, highlights Akbank's commitment to promoting sustainability and responsible business practices. Eco-friendly SMEs are crucial for driving sustainable economic growth and reducing the negative impact of business activities on the environment. We launched SME Eco Transformation Package as a first green SME package in Turkey in order to support customers unique needs and promote sustainable business practices.


3. FInancial Achievements

  • With a net increase of 64 K active customers, our performance was close to 4 times the highest annual net increase ever achieved
  • Akbank's commitment to SMEs is further underscored by an increase in private sector commercial credit market share by 205 bps 
  • According to the current BRSA report published using legal SME definition the volumetric growth, which was calculated as 112% in the private sector commercial credit in 2022, was realized at the level of 156% in Akbank. Our TL Demand Deposit and TL Time Deposit volume also increased by more than 100% with similar growth rates.  
  • We completed 2021 with a rate of 70% digital penetration and reached 75% in 2022. As of Q1 2023, we are at 79% and we will continue to develop in this area by improving customer experience through digital channels. 
  • When we examine the new customers by channel, we see a particularly significant increase of 6 times in digital.
  • We organized a total of 67 SME seminars about digitization and sector based trainings for our women & green SME’s. Also we advertised 12 times on TV, 1385 times on digital platforms and 364 on newspapers. These activities reached out 45.000 SME’s.

"I am deeply committed to promoting diversity and inclusion, especially for women-owned SMEs. That's why I am proud to have launched the "Woman SME Package," which provides financial and educational support to female entrepreneurs."

What would be the most significant business case that you've applied and learned the most out of it? Both positively or negatively?

I am deeply committed to promoting diversity and inclusion, especially for women-owned SMEs. That's why I am proud to have launched the "Woman SME Package," which provides financial and educational support to female entrepreneurs. This initiative is evidence of my dedication to empowering women and promoting diversity in the business. Recently,as I have mentioned before, I was appointed as Akbank's Chief Diversity Officer, and I'm humbled to have this opportunity to make a difference.

Furthermore, I am passionate about sustainability and take pride in my leadership of the SME Eco Transition Package. This pioneering initiative provides financial support to SMEs to invest in carbon emission reducing projects, and I am proud that Akbank SME spearheaded the launch of this package. This innovative initiative is the only one of its kind in Turkey, and it reflects my commitment to sustainable finance and social responsibility. I believe that by promoting sustainability and empowering women, we can make a positive impact on society and the SME banking industry.

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