Andreea Voinea: A Dynamic HR Leader Energizing Large-Scale People Integration in the Banking Industry

Top 10 Most Influential HR Executives to Watch in 2022

With a successful career of over 20 years as a dynamic HR Leader with strong business acumen, Andreea Voinea, Chief Human Resources Officer at BCR, is grateful to be in what she considers the best profession possible – one that places people at its core.

Andreea has over 15 years of experience in banking, has built a proven track record to run large-scale people transformation programs, and gained progressive international experience in mature and emerging markets. A strategic thinker and an innovation enabler at core, she defines herself as an integrator of possibilities. She believes that anchoring people in deep purpose and encouraging them to grow are the key catalysts for reversing the Great Resignation.

Discovering her vocation in a profession that places people at its core 

Andreea started her career as an investment banker with Creditanstalt Investment Bank, Romania, and Deutsche Bank, New York. She then worked as an executive compensation consultant with Towers Watson, either in London, New York, or Brussels.

As an executive compensation consultant with Towers Watson, Andreea recalls supporting the Remuneration Committees of top financial services clients, such as Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, and Credit Suisse, to design executive performance management systems and remuneration strategies, while understanding how global banks and their executive teams can create shareholder value in the short, medium, and long term.

But, despite her background as an investment banker, Andreea affirms that she is clearly a people person. “My belief is that people are the key for any business field, no matter how digital it might be. Therefore, when I was recruited as an HR executive for the largest company in Romania, I knew I had found my path, not only my profession, but actually my vocation,” she states.

Today she is proud to be the CHRO of BCR, a company that was recently awarded with the title of “The Best Bank of Romania” by Euromoney. She is also president of the HR Club Romania, the largest HR professional association in her country. “I’ve had a career of 20 years in the best profession possible, the one that places people at its core, and I am very grateful for that,” she declares.

Success is about being better together 

Andreea was just 31 years old when she took on the immense challenge of transforming the largest company of Romania with 58,000 people, as it was taken over by OMV.

“It was probably one of the largest transformation projects in South-Eastern Europe, and I’m very proud to say it was a success,” Andreea says, noting that success is all about onboarding people onto one’s journey, and that the responsibility of a leader is to make this journey relevant, in terms of objectives, and also truly vibrant, engaging and meaningful.

Andreea points out that younger generations buy into more and more interesting experiences and projects when it comes to work. To them, success means a job where they can feel at ease and truly accomplished.

“We must adapt to this new reality and focus more on the ‘journey’, not only on the destination. Delivering a top-notch employee experience should be a priority for all of us, and banks are aware of the needed balance between technology and human engagement across all channels,” Andreea observes.

She notes that the banking industry needs people who not only design solid products and fluent processes, but more importantly, perfect the customer experience and focus more on understanding, supporting and advising clients at a higher level.

“In this fragmented world of ours, success is about diversity, orchestration, and being better together,” says Andreea. “BCR is one of the most important financial groups in Romania. We do believe that sustainable success can be achieved faster and easier through collaboration, by teaming up individuals with a broad range of educational backgrounds, with different work and life experiences and diverse cultural perspectives.”

“We live in a world where we all seek for simplicity. That is why we need more people who are simplifiers, not complex-ifiers.”

Challenges highlight the potential to reinvent ourselves 

Andreea recalls that her biggest challenge at the beginning of her career was to make the transition from the sophisticated and niched job she had in London to a very complex and hands-on job in the largest Romanian company, Petrom.

It was a completely different industry – Oil & Gas – very much a men’s world. It was also a company that undertook a massive transformation, and therefore, the pressure to perform under rapid time conditions was immense.

“All these challenges made me discover that there is always a huge potential to reinvent ourselves. I also discovered the importance of having a strong team with the same values,” says Andreea.

Another possibly bigger challenge was a combination of roadblocks – the recent pandemic, followed by the energy crisis, inflation, and a humanitarian crisis at the borders caused by the Ukrainian war.

“To address these critical issues, there were no ready-made recipes for resilience, let alone success. We had to adapt, place our faith in our people, and be ready to reinvent ourselves. It is still a work-in-progress, but I’m pleased to say that we’re on a consistently good path,” Andreea remarks.

“We should worry less about possible imperfections, because in this dynamic world, the key is the flow. As Einstein said, life is like riding a bicycle; to keep your balance, you must keep moving.” 

Integrating possibilities to create positive social & growth impact 

Andreea defines herself as an integrator of possibilities, and is always in search for growth opportunities, even in a crisis. Building on her international experience and banking knowledge, the most valuable contribution that she brings to the organization comes from her track record in large-scale transformation programs, running the two largest people transformation programs in Romania (Petrom OMV: 58,000 employees, and BCR: 13,000 employees).

She notes that emerging markets move at a higher pace (albeit starting from a lower base) than the more developed markets, and she had multiple opportunities to ‘write history’ by building things from scratch, and exploring virgin territories, whether in the form of new strategies, new processes, new products or new approaches.

“For instance, while at Petrom OMV, I built from scratch an outplacement center which proved to be the largest ever in Central & Eastern Europe, managing to successfully outplace over 25,000 employees, with a significant positive social and growth impact in the domestic economy,” Andreea recalls.

Another example where she proved that they could innovate was at BCR with the Money School project, where they created a volunteer-based community of over 1000 financial educators by empowering their colleagues to promote financial literacy and inclusion in their communities (from kindergarten kids to adults).

“We managed to reach more than 600,000 Romanians, and even landed a Guinness World Record in 2018 for the Largest Financial Lesson in the World,” Andreea states.

“I define myself as an integrator of possibilities. I am always in search for the growth opportunities, even in a crisis.”

Energizing the HR community around an ambitious goal

Andreea puts a lot of energy in her role as a President of HR Club – the community that brings together the HR leaders from the main companies operating in Romania. Her aim is not only to prepare the community members to better adapt to the future, but also to have a real impact on society.

“At HR CLUB, our strategy is clear: SHARE, CARE, DARE. All these three strategic vectors have a common denominator: our community spirit. As Henry Ford said. Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success.  Together is the key word for our success. HR Club is fundamentally about being better together.”

Building a professional community that will have a positive impact on society is not an easy task. Andreea explained that, under the SHARE vector, she has carefully developed the HR community in the last years with free trainings, mentorship programs, including reverse mentorship, and certification programs.

Within the CARE vector, the HR Club is keen to bring a valuable contribution to educating Romania. Its members have been offering their input in the selection of school principals during the last year. Moreover, they have a significant input in designing the National Strategy of Life-Long Learning in Romania. Andreea pointed out that only 1.12% of the Romanian adult population is included in learning processes during a year, while the EU objective is to reach 45% by 2028. Another theme, under the CARE umbrella, is educating an open mentality of sustainability and integrating the ESG objective of the European Union in the daily practice by 2030: both at business and at home.

“The most challenging component of our strategy at HR Club is under the DARE vector. To really make an impact in society, we must have the courage to address the difficult topics. One of the main issues that affect the HR profession is the difficulty to find the right people for our organizations. On the other hand, the statistics indicate that 22.5% of the young people between 16 – 25 years are invisible: they do not appear on any mapping, neither at school nor at work. Moreover, on the other side of the spectrum, there is this problem of ageism: people who find it extremely hard to get a job after the age of 45.”

“Therefore we witness a blockage both at the young and the mature end of the work spectrum”, declares Andreea. The solution she is building, together with her colleagues at HR Club, is to start a national campaign of awareness: (RE) Start Working. This campaign aims to become a great mobilizing effort that will energize the workforce in Romania.

Adapting to the new post-pandemic world of work  

Andreea points out that the labor market is rapidly changing, and the past two years have shown us a massive shift in the way work is perceived, with new trends like “work uberization” worldwide. An increasing number of workers are using ‘gig’ jobs to earn money, also giving businesses the ability to hire temporary workers to fill in demand.

The so-called ‘Great Resignation’ is another post-pandemic trend that has brought much uncertainty to the HR industry. Another trend is that technology is here to stay, making the more repetitive jobs irrelevant.

But Andreea chooses to think of these shifts as a great opportunity for those in HR, to anchor people in meaning and to give them a sense of deep purpose. She feels that this is one way the Great Resignation might actually be reversed.

“It is also a critical moment for all of us to understand that we must be more adaptable, more empathic, and more creative in order to stay relevant,” she remarks.

Andreea points out that BCR is quickly moving towards becoming a technology-intensive company, and is continuously launching new technologies, while helping its employees in developing new skills and abilities.

“Therefore, for us, the investment in the upskilling and reskilling of our people is a top priority. During the last few years, we focused our efforts in improving our learning and development ecosystem to enable our people to acquire new skills fit for the new reality,” she says.

At the same time, Andreea remarks that it’s important to acknowledge that each generation brings dynamism to the labor market and regenerates the system, the way we work, and the way we cooperate.

“The new generation comes with a new set of values and expectations, which employers anticipate and adapt to, because this is the only way to attract and retain colleagues that create value and bring to life new opportunities,” she declares.

In fact, one of Andreea’s proudest achievements is the Smart Work @BCR project that’s redefining the way the organization is working right after the pandemic emerged. This innovative model was created by a multifunctional team of 70 people, using bottom-up feedback, with an unprecedented speed of reaction and adaptability.

“It was truly a project created by the people for the people, with clear improvements we still maintain in place today,” states Andreea.

“In a world of limited resources, people are the only resource with an infinite potential. It is up to us, the HR people, to create the right context for this huge potential.”

Living an energetic life with resilience & drive 

As a continuous learner, Andreea is always connected, always trying to find the next big projects to reinvent herself and her team.

“I try to keep the team aligned alongside the same vision as mine – being ready to change, ready to adapt and innovate. For them, I’ve created permenantly learning opportunities and job rotation programs. We also connect a lot to the outside world” she notes.

Andreea observes that, since they share the same values and have been together through both good and challenging times, they consider themselves as more of a family – the small family of HR that takes care of the larger family of BCR.

In terms of her schedule, she reveals that the only day that is fixed is Tuesday, with a board meeting in the morning, and an HR management meeting in the afternoon.

“Apart from that, each day is different, and I like this diversity a lot. To define myself in one word, I would choose energy. People say I have an overwhelming level of resilience and drive,” she remarks.

As for her work-life balance, Andreea considers it more of a dynamic equilibrium than a static balance. However, there are some landmarks that are fixed, such as never working during weekends, spending quality time with her husband and her 16-year-old son, traveling a lot, exercising regularly, and taking a detox cure twice a year.

“Apart from that, what keeps me truly fulfilled is my tribe – my family, my friends – and I include here, my colleagues. They give me the energy and the purpose to go on,” Andreea states.

So, what is it that keeps her awake at night? The answer to that is how to enable their people to support the transformation of the business model from a traditional bank into the bank of the future, building financial health for all. “My plan would be to energize all our people to live this vision every day,” she declares.

Andreea’s parting advice to the aspiring leaders of the HR industry is: “Be ready to reinvent yourselves! Be aware that, in HR, we’re in the driving seat of change, and everybody is looking up to us as role models. We definitely live historical times, with HR under the spotlight as a key strategic role. Therefore, it is the best time to be in our profession and to make a difference.”