Mrs. Petia Dimitrova, Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of the Management Board of Postbank: We change banking through innovation


Economic Magazine, 24.03.2021


Petia-Dimitrova-Int-1-optPetia Dimitrova is Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of the Management Board of Postbank. Her professional career within the organisation started in 2003 as Chief Financial Officer of the eight subsidiaries of Eurobank EFG Group in Bulgaria. She became Procurator of Postbank in 2005. Mrs. Dimitrova was appointed Executive Director and Member of the Management Board of DZI Bank in 2007. Following the legal merger of DZI Bank and Postbank she became Executive Director and Member of the Management Board of the merged bank. In 2012 Petia Dimitrova was appointed Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of the Management Board of Postbank. In less than three years under her management, in record time, the financial institution implemented two successful deals acquiring and integrating the Bulgarian Branch of Alpha Bank first and then Piraeus Bank Bulgaria. These were yet another step in strengthening Postbank’s position as a systemic bank in the marketplace and towards the expansion of its customer base.


Mrs. Dimitrova, Postbank is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2021. Which are the key aspects that played a decisive role for the successful development of the Bank during this period?
- There are more than one or two key aspects over these 30 years. The merger with DZI Bank in 2007, the integration of the Bulgarian branch of Alpha Bank in 2016, which laid the beginning of the last wave of consolidations, as well as the successful acquisition of Piraeus Bank Bulgaria in the record time of only 4 months in 2019 – these are just a few to mention. Since the establishment of the Bank in 1991 we witnessed significant economic events, both domestically and internationally, but every single day we prove we are an institution that the clients can trust, an institution that creates a universe of opportunities for their future. The success story of Postbank is told by its team, our customers and the strong international group we are a part of. We are now ranking third in terms of loan portfolio and deposit base, at the same time we are the fourth biggest bank in Bulgaria with a market share of more than 10%, we have more than 200 branches throughout the country and more than 100 awards recognising our digital innovations and products, services and socially responsible policies. These figures are backed by the trust and satisfaction of our clients, employees and partners. If I may also add to this the resolute support of our shareholders who boldly back up our plans for development and growth with the constant investments and acquisitions on the local market. Thanks to all this, we have proven to be one of the most successful banks in Bulgaria, an excellent partner, a good employer and a responsible organisation.


The competition at the banking market is though. What helps Postbank gain an advantage?
- Our biggest advantage is our unwavering proactive approach and the courage to set even more ambitious goals looking into the future. We make a difference thanks to our good business model and digital solutions implemented. We also implemented the cutting edge and most efficient Salesforce-based communication management solution – No 1 customer relation management cloud platform in the world. We developed and implemented new and useful customer services and products – such as EVA Postbank mobile application, we invested in a modern branch network offering digital self-service zones for express banking, which are now available in 32 of the Bank’s offices in 15 towns throughout the country. We implemented the Digital Office app to communicate with the team. We were the first to implement one of the largest scale sector innovations – we optimised 20 work processes within the “Loan Administration” Division, through Robotic Process Automation technologies, or the so-called “robots“. I am certain that all of these are highly appreciated by our clients and our employees and make us a preferred bank and employer. We will very soon offer our clients the unique new generation mobile wallet, which will enable them to use even more banking services via their phones and will be yet another innovation complementing the unique customer experience we provide them.


This doesn’t go unnoticed …
- Yes, our digital achievements received high recognition by the prestigious World Finance Digital Banking Awards 2020 contest of the respected World Finance Magazine. Our awards are in the categories “Best Consumer Digital Banks”, Bulgaria and the „Best Mobile Banking Apps”, Bulgaria. And only a few days ago, in the same elite contest, for the fourth year in a row – after 2018, 2019 and 2020 – Postbank won in the “Best Retail Bank”, Bulgaria category.


 What change is coming? Are we headed towards a completely cash-free society?
- The COVID-19 pandemic speeded up the use of e-payment tools, but we are still far from a completely cash-free society. Studies indicate that more than 50% of Bulgarians prefer card payments, and the projections are that card transactions will grow by 7% year-on-year over the next 5 years. We expect much bigger growth in digital portfolios, as Euromonitor forecast is that transactions with them will increase by more than 140% over the next 5 years. From the users’ perspective, their good financial literacy, their trust in the financial services and alternative payment methods are of decisive importance in building a cash-free society.


Users should probably be educated?
- This will be one of the key improvement areas in order to raise customer awareness and to build their trust. The fast growth of e-commerce will be another factor encouraging the users and the business to transition from cash towards more convenient and faster card payments. As I mentioned, this is why we offer our customers digital zones and an innovative mobile wallet – but these innovations are extremely intuitive. With them, banking is made easy, pleasant, very quick and saving both time and, last but not least, money, since digital operations fees are lower.


Banks were considered to be too conservative, but recently we have witnessed fast change. What factor did the pandemic turn out to be?
- The pandemic played the role of the unexpected but much needed accelerator for the digital transformation in the sector and it showed us it is time for real action. The past 2020 was challenging for all, but opulent in lessons. It taught us to be faster in implementing innovation in order to make things convenient for the clients. It is innovations that give the energy needed to overcome the challenges and change banking. We as banks reassessed out business models and made them more digital, and work processes were reorganised very quickly in order to create the much-needed speed and convenience for the customers and for our employees alike.


What is your idea of the bank of the future in ten years’ time?
- The pandemic taught us how difficult it is to predict the future. No one can say what banks will look like in 10 years’ time, but assumptions can be made based on the emerging trends. McKinsey Consulting Firm says that the bank of the future will live in connected devices, which will be an integral part of the lives of each and every one of us. Thanks to big data and artificial intelligence opportunities the bank of the future will know its clients really well and will offer them extremely personalised services and products based on their behaviour and preferences. Banking will be possible practically everywhere, through any connected device in our smart homes, however we choose – via voice activated applications, biometry and more novelties which are still to be invented. User experience itself will be as intuitive as possible thanks to the added and virtual reality.


- But, in your opinion, what will remain unchanged in the future?
- The client wants a personalised approach – to have access to his or her money at anytime and anywhere, to receive personalised offers and to feel special. This will remain constant in the constantly changing world.


There were claims that fintech will steal a large market share off banks. What does such a perspective look like today?
- The pandemic, accelerating the digitalisation of the banking sector, has largely neutralised the technological advantage of the fintech companies. People will continue to prefer banks as a place to keep their financial resources, as they recognise us as a reliable and stable partner. And this is not by chance, since over the years, banks have been subject to a number of domestic and international regulations aimed at meeting various criteria.


You have been Chief Executive Officer of Postbank since 2012. If you are to take a quick stock of your achievements in that position, what would it be?
- I am one of the lucky people who have been with Postbank during times that were extremely important to the Bank. Years of many successes. But to me, my greatest achievement is the team we built, kept and significantly expanded over the years. We maintained the highest level of trust from our shareholders, we enjoy their strong support and international know-how, thanks to which we can grow and invest in innovations. We enjoy the trust of our customers to whom we are a preferred partner as proven not only by our results but also by the many awards we have received in different fields of business. People are the driver of the business, and not vice versa. We are moving forward stepping on a 30-year experience and relying on the strength of our great team – these are the ingredients of the “fuel” we generate our energy from. The fact that we were named “Bank of the Year” in 2020, this most challenging year for all, is recognition for the exceptional professionalism and quality of service which we offer together. This is why most of all I thank our employees without whom these successes would not have been possible.


Will you crack the door to your personal life open? Please, share something about your hobbies and interests, how do you keep your spirit high all the time?
- Constant learning and communication with other people keep my spirit high. Live conversations, time with close family and friends is extremely valuable to me. I am blessed with a wonderful family – my husband and I have two sons and we love traveling together, discovering new destinations and actively relaxing, going skiing for example. I like discovering other perspectives by reading books and listening to podcasts. I have a favourite phrase by Edgar Cacey: „Dreams are today’s answers to tomorrow’s questions”. I do not just like to dream, I like to see my ideas brought to life and I like to add new ones.