Navigating his transition into the role of CEO at a critical time – just as Monaco Telecom acquired Vodafone Malta and the COVID-19 pandemic started in March 2020 – Támas Bányai was dealt what he terms ‘a triple change’ situation. But, together with his team, his focus has remained unwavering: leading a telecommunications operator that can deliver great quality and service, together with great value.

Today, Tamas Banyai describes his role at Epic as “mainly to drive and support the team to deliver on our mission, and helping people and businesses unlock their full potential through our telecommunications services,” and his journey to get here has been an interesting, albeit not straightforward, one.

After studying various subjects at university, including mathematics, English literature and philosophy, Tamas embarked on his first pivot: entering the world of retail banking in Budapest. Moving through the ranks, he was appointed Branch Manager before making his next major move, and joining the telecommunications sector when Vodafone launched its service in Hungary in 1999. “I started on the frontline, working in customer-facing roles and going on to work in various marketing and sales roles, until I moved to Malta seven years ago,” he recalls of those early years.

Here, he was responsible for marketing activities and customer operations within the consumer business unit. He took care of product development, brand communications and serving customers, before eventually securing the CEO role when Monaco Telecom acquired the business at the end of March 2020.

“The takeover with Monaco Telecom brought about a very new culture and re-energised the business, along with new challenges for me,” Tamas maintains, describing the integration of the Monaco Telecom team in March and the rebranding in November 2020 as landmarks that reflect a new vision, and focused on Malta’s need for an operator that could deliver great quality and service, together with great value.

Outlining Epic’s commitment to that vision, the CEO explains that “during the first year and beyond, everything we’ve done has been in service of this. We’ve launched new value propositions and expanded our roaming footprint; we’ve started to build our own fibre infrastructure and are now providing the fastest internet – in Mosta – at 2,000 megabits per second; we started rolling out a brand new mobile network and have upgraded a number of services. So, our vision is really to build a better future and help people and businesses unlock their potential.”

Looking back on his experience within the local telecommunications sector so far, Tamas says that much has changed in the seven years he’s been in Malta, with digital acceleration really skyrocketing in the past couple of years. “Data usage has increased, and people are living their lives, using services, working and studying in very different ways – and we need to adapt to this,” he maintains, adding that “as an industry, we have to have a robust infrastructure and understand our customers’ changing needs. We need to keep up, stretch ourselves and keep investing, bringing better products to market, and staying close to customers, so we not only cater for the present but also foresee what is coming in the future.”

Drawing on the company’s global expertise and how this is brought to bear on the Maltese market, the CEO highlights the benefits of forming part of a strong international network. “Through Monaco Telecom, we are not only linked with Monaco and Cyprus as a Mediterranean triangle, but we’ve got presence through our shareholders in Ireland, Switzerland, Poland, Italy, France, and other countries outside of Europe,” he explains, describing this as a unique and closely cooperative model that focuses not on creating recipes for the market so as to drive it in any one direction, but rather on always being focused on what the local market needs.

“This way, we can create products in a more innovative and efficient way. For example, the new Epic fibre box, which is providing 2,000-megabit internet speed, is a joint product that we are using in multiple markets, creating best-in- class technology coupled with an environmentally friendly design. These are the types of products that we can create in an international Group that collaborates so closely,” Tamas says.

Shifting focus to the pandemic, the onset of which coincided with his appointment as CEO, Tamas reveals that it affected the business in multiple ways, chiefly by proving its resilience. “The fact that everyone realised how critical the telecommunications infrastructure really is exposed the responsibility of our teams, and I’m really proud of how they handled it, while of course going through the same experience as everyone else on a personal level. That was our number one priority: to keep our people safe and to maintain the operation of the network,” he explains.

Meanwhile, Tamas continues, “with people travelling less, it did put our revenues under pressure. International roaming has decreased and that has impacted the revenues of telecommunications operators.”

Yet, perhaps, most impactful was the fact that the pandemic pushed people to use their services differently – both at home and on their mobiles. “There are new use cases both in voice and in data, therefore people’s needs for connectivity have increased and have become more demanding. Because of this, we have needed to invest more in our network, train our people better and employ new customer service processes – upping our game both in terms of infrastructure and customer service so as to keep up with the increased demand from consumers and businesses,” he reveals.

And, at a time of much change for the company, factoring in the new shareholders and dealing with the pandemic, Tamas also needed to navigate a personal change – his transition into the role of CEO. “It was a triple change, but I’m lucky to be surrounded by great people who I had known and worked with, so there was already trust there. For me personally, building on transparency is one of my core values and, even if it was challenging, this made it easier, all things considered. One of the lessons that we all learned is how important it is to stay in close contact and tighten communication lines so we can go through whatever we have to go through.”

Another way in which Tamas actively worked on bringing people together and combating the effects of COVID-19 was by setting up Charity Run Malta in 2021. Outside of work, the CEO is an avid runner, and the virtual run brings together hundreds of athletes for a good cause.

Delving into this project and the aims behind it, he explains, “it’s a digital project that encourages people to complete sporting challenges in real life – through these challenges, people can get motivated, form part of a team and even receive a medal at the end. It’s also an opportunity to contribute to a different cause each time they complete the challenge and, so far, more than 400 people in Malta have participated, overall contributing more than €4,000 to two charity partners,” Tamas smiles, hinting at more projects coming up in the next year.

As for prospects created for the business as a result of the pandemic, the CEO believes that opportunities have really arisen from our different ways of living and of consuming telecommunications services. “The fact that businesses have become more digital means that they need different services, so we have to understand how they are shifting and changing in serving their own customers or meeting their own business purposes. And that has brought about more complex strategies on how we can support businesses going through this transformation,” he says, describing it as a challenge and opportunity rolled into one.

Against this backdrop, the team at Epic, the CEO maintains, is now on a journey to take the business to the next level and raise the bar. “Our customers’ expectations are really high, and our plan is to keep delivering. In 2022, we will focus on the continued rollout of the brand-new mobile network with the fastest 5G speeds, which we launched in late 2021. We will continue to invest in our fixed fibre internet service and to expand the footprint, also giving people gigabit speeds at affordable rates. Our mission will continue to bring together great technology and great service, and make it affordable to everyone.

“After 2020 brought about the surprises of the pandemic, 2021 was more of a consolidation year – in that it was the first year of adaptation to a new situation. In the second year of the new business, the brand is stronger and people know what to expect from us,” Tamas continues, looking ahead. “We are still bringing about change and challenging the market to move towards more customer-oriented propositions and better technology, and that’s where I see Epic’s role moving forward.”

This article is part of the serialisation of 50 interviews featured in MaltaCEOs 2022 – an annual high-end publication bringing together some of the country’s most influential business leaders.

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