“I would try to restore the relationship with the European Union. Hungary is in great need of these funds, which seem to be stalled at the moment,” OTP bank CEO Sándor Csányi told Forbes Hungary in an interview. The chairman of Hungary’s biggest commercial lender also talked about his relationship with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, his opinion about the government’s politics, Hungary and the European Union, and his son possibly becoming his successor at the bank.
Csányi’s influence on PM Orbán
“If I want, he will listen to my opinion on many issues. We talk honestly, so I don’t have to think about what I can or can’t say or what I can’t talk about. And he’s smart enough to think through the things that come to him, not just from me. In that sense, I have influence.
But not in the sense that I can say, Viktor, please, let it be this way. I don’t think anyone in Hungary has that,”
Csányi said about the Prime Minister. According to Csányi, although they talk regularly, they have not met in recent weeks. He usually waits for Orbán to contact him.
For thirty years, Csányi has led OTP, the most influential, stable, and inescapable figure in Hungarian economic life. He sees himself as conflict-averse, yet not even a month after becoming boss, he has already fired 215 people and fought a number of battles with major rivals, Forbes writes
As we reported earlier, he was ranked 2,190 on the Forbes list, up almost 200 places from last year, making him the richest Hungarian.
Hungarian economic policy
According to the OTP Bank CEO:
We [Hungary] could be further ahead.”
“If we look at thirty years, every government has had a role to play in this, and there have been many mistakes from the beginning,” he said. Csányi criticized the Antall government (which was the first democratically-elected government after the regime change in Hungary). He also added that “We have not always used EU funds well either.” He continued:
As far as the current situation is concerned, I would try to restore the relationship with the European Union. Hungary is in great need of these funds, which seem to be stalled at the moment.”
Csányi talked about several economic questions. He said that “the big question is how to phase out so-called one-off interventions such as the overhead, interest, and food price ceilings. Such measures, if they persist, are in my view, misguided.”
The election was about having two formations, and people decided that one was better. And I think that’s probably right. Of course, I have my objections to the government of the last period, but I would be more concerned at this point in time if the current opposition were in government,”
Csányi said about the current, re-elected government and the opposition, adding that “I am convinced that we need a strong opposition of the social-democratic type, somewhere on the center-left. What we have had here in the last period cannot be effective. When you have everything from the far right to the liberals in one formation, how can you expect an effective, principled economic policy that is outlined and implemented?
Poor is a country that does not even have a strong opposition.”
“I do not feel that we [OTP Bank] are conservative.”
Csányi does not think that OTP is a conservative bank. He told Forbes that “We are indeed lagging behind in women’s issues, but this is not a cultural issue. […] We already have a good number of women among the Hungarian managing directors and on the boards of our subsidiary banks, and there are also many young managers.”
Csányi about his son, Péter Csányi
The fact that he is my son does not predestine him to be my successor. But neither does the fact that he is my son mean that he cannot be my successor,”
the current CEO emphasized. He said that “Péter is a graduate of the best international schools, having worked for Western European banks and a large international consulting firm for more than ten years.” However, he added that “when he came here as executive director, I told him quite clearly not to expect it to be a straight road. It’s not closed to him, but it’s not that he is bound to follow it.” Csányi also said that he currently sees three or four people at the bank as suitable candidates to succeed him.
The full interview can be read in the May issue of the Hungarian Forbes magazine.
Featured image via Márton Mónus/MTI