2021 was a year in which Aktif Bank made confident strides towards its goals despite domestic and global challenges. We maintained our position as Turkey’s largest privately-held investment bank while building on our global partnerships. Our innovative products and customer-friendly services enabled us to reach the growth and profitability targets we had set for 2021. As of the end of 2021, our assets climbed 62.79 percent to reach TRY 34.5 billion. As is now customary for our Bank, in 2021, we recorded a return on equity that is almost twice the sector average. We achieved this by also maintaining our cost efficiency.
We continued to create value to our country as Turkey’s most extensive fintech ecosystem, leveraging our unique way of doing business, future-focused vision, and global partnerships across various industries. We enhanced our productivity by supporting our flexible organization and technology-oriented style with the hybrid work model we implemented independently of the pandemic. As a game-changer that does not shy away from breaking new grounds, we managed to accomplish the level of success that we had set our eyes on for 2021.
Our actions are guided by a unique business model far from the investment banking conventions, supported by subsidiaries each highly successful in their respective fields. We are proud to be contributing to the Turkish economy with the jobs we create in over 10 fields of business, and the convenience we create for our customers in all aspects of their lives.
The growth we achieved in 2021 was not limited to our financials, as we also grew our family with new members. We hired 300 new employees, including those hired by our subsidiaries. Meanwhile, the 12 highly successful branches we operate across Turkey continued to boost the strength of our family in the field. We will further augment this support with the new branch we expect to open in Kozyatağı, Istanbul in 2022.
On the investment banking side, in 2021 we continued to keep a close eye on new opportunities in industries such as energy, logistics and mining. We also maintained our support for Turkish exporters in their operations across the globe, guided by our solution-oriented approach to corporate and international banking. Our energetic and proactive style to foreign trade enabled us to go above and beyond banking across the globe, regardless of distance. We continued our trend of success by establishing bilateral limit and account relations with new banking partners in Europe, Asia and Africa, increasing our foreign trade volume from USD 570 million in 2020 to around USD 1 billion in 2021. Aktif Bank expanded its correspondent bank network of over 1,000 from 150 countries across the world.
Meanwhile, our digital bank N Kolay took the first step towards becoming a true “Neobank”. We introduced N Kolay as a digital banking app that offers end-to-end services, and our goal is to transform it into Turkey’s leading digital bank. Accordingly, we re-launched N Kolay in 2021, reaching an audience of millions with our motto “N Kolay: fast, reliable and high-yield banking!”
In 2021, we were once again the naming sponsor of the Istanbul Marathon, one of the leading sporting events of its kind in the world, with N Kolay. By giving our name to the Istanbul Marathon, which saw over 40,000 participants, we communicated N Kolay’s dynamic service model and energetic character while also increasing the support we provide to sports. We organized several events connected with the marathon throughout the year, and collected creative ideas from young people as part of the N Kolay Idea Marathon.
With our Passo mobile app, a key player of our digital universe with 8 million subscribers, we continued to offer access to football matches as well as a broad range of cultural events such as concerts and theater plays. Early in 2021, we signed a key partnership agreement with Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV), a prominent organization enriching the city’s cultural and artistic scene, making Passo the ticket sales platform for IKSV events. Keeping a close eye on the global “Super App” trend, we accelerated our efforts to transform Passo into an application that offers unique experiences to its users.
On the retail banking side, in 2021 we continued to expand our cooperation with PTT, a delivery channel that has reached impressive levels of growth. To this end, we also increased the range of products we offer through PTT.
2021 was a year of significant initiatives for improving our organizational model and processes. We took swift and agile action to strengthen our information technologies base, implement key transformation programs and make the necessary tech investments required for those. We prioritized data analytics and continued our agile organization efforts.
For information technologies, it was also a year of important achievements in the field of software development. As part of our operations to export our proprietary technologies, we sold the “Atlas Card Package” service for end-to-end card payment systems management to two banks in Albania and Kosovo, and our ticketing software to Senegal.
Another key development in the final quarter of 2021 was the launch of Aktif Ventures, which we position as a fintech venture founder. As a result this development that consolidated our pioneering position in fintech, we aim to establish new fintech startups in Turkey and Europe, invest in entrepreneurs with venture capital funds, and create new collaborations in service banking.
Another important development involving our subsidiaries was the launch of UPTION by UPT. A global player, UPT introduced its money transfer app UPTION in 2021 to accelerate its growth in the global arena, and expand its market. One of the most comprehensive apps of its kind on the market, UPTION enables money transfers fully compatible with domestic and global financial systems. UPT also expanded its domain with several new money transfer agreements with other countries.
Meanwhile, N Kolay Payment grew its customer base with the addition of businesses, offering both physical and virtual POS services. N Kolay aims to leverage the strength of physical delivery channels to reach more SME customers, and launched N Kolay Pay as the first step towards SME Banking services.
Aktif Asset Management, which was renewed last year and subsequently focused on growing and expanding its product range, reached a total asset under management size of TRY 4.5 billion. Aktif Asset Management recently issued the “Robo Fund Basket Fund”, Turkey’s first investment fund managed fully via artificial intelligence and including Global Exchange Traded Funds. Four mutual funds managed by Aktif Asset Management surpassed other funds in their respective categories to finish 2021 at the top.
In 2021, Sigortayeri took significant steps towards digitization, especially on the retail side. Guided by the ambition of becoming a pioneering broker in digital insurance over the next five years, Sigortayeri, completely rebranded with a new infrastructure, website and even a new logo, aims to accelerate the digital transformation of insurance and reach broader audiences.
Next-gen payment systems provider PAVO expanded its product range in 2021, leveraging its strong R&D capability, experience and know-how to offer modern solutions to its customers. Having increased its market share to over 20 percent, PAVO maintains its position as one of Turkey’s two key players in terms of value-added application and software integration.
Another Aktif Bank subsidiary, Workindo, developing solutions to problems encountered in the construction industry, such as access to qualified workers, team forming, and reaching material and service providers, continued its growth in 2021. With 400,000 registered members, Workindo is active in Turkey, Russia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.
Aktif Bank’s agenda is always focused on growth. We enjoy the exhilarating rush of growth across our organization, from subsidiaries to business units and head office to field operations, all the while being emboldened by our achievements. We welcome 2022 with excitement as a bank with a strong technology base, prominent position inside and outside the country, and the ability to reach its customers from all walks of life. We are committed to remain a leading player in banking and fintech ecosystem alike, with our visionary ventures, effective partnership and market-leading subsidiaries. Aktif Bank and its subsidiaries will continue to create lasting value for our country, economy and society in 2022.
Ayşegül Adaca Oğan