Despite de hardship of this period, UP ROMANIA has emerged stronger from this crisis

Despite de hardship of this period, UP ROMANIA has emerged stronger from this crisis

Interview with Elena Pap, Regional Director (Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece) Up Coop, General Manager Up Romania

Q: The  pandemic  crisis  came  with  a  lot  of  changes     and     uncertainties,     shifting     priorities  and  strategies.  What  has  been  your company’s dynamic for the first half of 2020 and  how  do  you  see  its  evolution  for  the  near  future?

E.P. Despite de hardship of this period, Up Romania has emerged   stronger   from   this   crisis.   In   the   first   months  since  the  outbreak  of  the  pandemic,  Up  Romania  has  accelerated  the  digitalization  process  in  order  to  meet  the  new  needs  triggered  by  the  pandemic,  both  among  customers,  partners  and  users.  The  company  was  already  on  this  path  of  digitalization, but the pandemic has speed up all the processes   and   made   us   reach   flexible   solutions   faster. As a consequence, over 80% of the companies in the Up portfolio are granting electronic tickets to their employees. In the near future we think this path will continue. It is  clear  for  us  that  we  are  not  any  longer  just  a  solutions provider for the labor market, but we are a co-creator of tech solutions that help employers and employees  to  stay  motivated,  reach  a  better  work-life balance and have a certain financial flexibility.

Q: How  complex  is  the  market  disruption  after   the   lockdown,   seen   from   your   perspective? What has changed?

E.P. The current crisis is a test for all the companies and I  know  how  difficult  it  was  for  them  to  continue  providing   benefits   during   this   period.   However,   many have done so, which shows both their maturity and  a  new  mentality  in  terms  of  partnering  with  their own employees. The market has fully recovered compared to the same period last year and after the lockdown    period    where    we    could    see    some    shortages. I think the main change that this crisis has brought is that it has put a mirror in front of us and shown us how dependent we are on each other. This brought also  a  great  opportunity  to  explore  and  accelerate  new    partnerships    that    would    probably    have    materialized in a much longer time.

Q: Up Group has global presence and over a million corporate        clients. What particularities  could  you  identify  in  their  behavior  from  the  crisis  debut  until  now?  What  are  the  trends  that  could  also  be  identified  at  national level?

E.P. I  think  the  Romanian  companies  have  joined  the  global trend. In general, in large companies, especially in corporations, which base much of their activity on employees who can do remote or telework work, the benefits have continued to be provided as before. On the  other  hand,  there  were  employees  who  were  temporarily cut off from certain benefits, but even in their  case,  we  could  see  the  maintenance  of  certain  categories  of  motivation  solutions,  such  as  vouchers  and  gift  cards,  a  category  without  sales  decreases,  compared to the same period last year.

Q: Which  are  the  top  5  priorities  on  your  CEO agenda today?

E.P. My first priority is to maintain the health of my  employees,  reason  for  which  we  focused  on  creating  telework  conditions,  resizing  office  spaces  and keeping the team united and with high morale. Then,    I    am    concerned    with    continuing    the    digitalization  process  that  the  company  is  going  through, identifying new partnerships and solutions in  this  direction,  modeling  programs  to  help  the  industries   with   which   we   find   ourselves   in   an   ecosystem, especially the HoReCa industry and, last but not least, supporting government aid programs for disadvantaged groups through social vouchers.

Q: We are crossing a period full of challenges and  changes.  How  do  you  prepare  for  a  permanent shift in working relationships? How  did  remote  work  impact  your  activity  and  how do you see this evolution?

E.P. Up  Romania  employees  experienced  remote  work  for  four  months  and  the  adaptation  was  relatively  easy  to  this  new  way  of  working.  Now  we  work  according to a more complex scheme, in which part of the team is at home and part at the office, the two groups rotating periodically, in the idea of ensuring the necessary social distance. Personally, I am a fan of office work and I am the kind of person who needs physical  and  direct  contact  with  the  team.  In  the  long   run,   I   believe   that   we   will   witness   the   permanence  of  this  new  type  of  hybrid  work,  in  which  employees  will  choose  the  way  they  work  according to their personality and needs.

Q: On the other hand, there are opportunities in every crisis. Which are the opportunities that  this  crisis  has  popped  up  for  your  lines of business?

E.P. This  crisis  has  shown  us  that  people  are  eager  for  flexibility  and  that  the  future  belongs  to  online  consumption.  From  this  point  of  view,  Up  Romania  will    continue    the    affiliation    process    of    the    commercial  partners  that  have  developed  online  purchasing  platforms  and,  at  the  same  time,  will  meet its own customers with flexible solutions.

Q: The  crisis  accelerated  digital  technology  usage, and Up Romania is now pioneer in this  regard,  already  using  a  lot  of  apps,  platforms  and  digital  solutions.  What  were  the  necessary  steps  that  you  had  to  make  in  this  direction,    to    further    adapt    to    the    market    requirements?

E.P. Up  Romania  has  developed  a  package  of  digital  solutions  for  its  benefit  card  users  and  for  client  companies  in  order  to  make  possible  online  and  contactless  orders  and  payments,  food  and  goods  delivery,  holidays  booking.  Our  users  have  now  at  their   disposal   one   of   the   best   rated   finance   applications  in  Romania  that  can  be  used  to  track  their transactions, have their balance, have access to partners’ offers and pay directly from the application by  phone,  through  the  Up  Mobil  Pay  wallet.  In  the  same  time,  our  users  can  also  enroll  their  cards  in  other  electronic  wallets,  such  as  Mobil  Pay  Wallet,  Apple Pay or Pay by Face.Our   journey   towards   digitalization   has   started   several years ago and it was a necessary and organic development. The dynamic on this market from this point of view is incredible and it will continue on the same   speed.   I   think   that   the   premise   of   this   development  was  in  our  case  represented  by  the  company’s values, oriented towards innovation and entrepreneurship.

Q: From your experience, what’s your „Focus on  ...“  advice  for  the  managers  of  local  companies during this challenged period?

E.P. I  think  the  only  way  we  will  get  out  of  this  difficult  period  is  to  be  supportive  and  reach  out  to  our  partners in difficulty. So, my advice is to design new ways of collaboration and partnerships and develop a certain level of agility.

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