Petia Dimitrova: The banking digitalization is our mission
20 March 2018
Ms. Dimitrova, what is the question you have been asking yourself lately as a banker?
- The question that is on my mind is not just one. However, perhaps the most important question at this time is whether this year’s economic growth and lending will continue at the same pace as last year. I also wonder how much the new regulations will really change our business and increase our costs. Or how technology will continue to change the environment and what investments we should plan for innovation. I only know the answer to the last question: bigger and bigger.
Innovation is your favorite topic. But what is the role of fintech companies in the change? Do you believe that banks face the risk of being displaced from their key position in the market?
- Innovation should be everybody’s favorite topic, because it is the present and the future. And yes, fintech companies may be defined as more flexible than us, but it will not be so easy for them to displace us. We often talk about how many regulations there are in the banking sector, but they have their purpose and advantages. The fact that banks are highly regulated gives great security to our customers when it comes to deposits, transfers and payments or financing.
Perhaps the biggest challenge right now is the new PSD2 payment directive, which opens up new opportunities for fintech companies. It allows third parties to offer services related to customers’ bank accounts. In essence, this means positioning yourself between the customer and the bank. On the other hand, this way the competition shifts to the level of quality of products and services. I would say that in Bulgaria, fintech companies are “healthy competition” and sometimes even partners. They apply innovative practices and if we develop them together, customers will be the ones to benefit. By partnering with fintech companies and borrowing good practices, a bank like ours, committed to user experience and innovative banking models, will be in a good position to provide a wide range of personalized financial services. This way we will be able to better respond to the changing trends in consumer demand.
Consumers change their attitudes now faster than ever before. What do they expect at the moment from your bank?
- Expectations are not only different, but also higher. Households and businesses tend to test and even proactively look for new products. Banks are required to be more flexible. Of course, all this does not mean that standard products will soon become obsolete and disappear. But consumers today expect a secure and fast “digital experience” from their bank. They are looking for solutions that are easy to use and fit seamlessly into their daily lives. Shopping should be one click away, without unnecessary steps. The “digital” user is intelligent and seeks quick solutions. People pay with cards and telephones and visit the bank office increasingly rarely. We are already talking about digital wallets, virtual assistants, chat bots, cloud solutions, voice-enabled platforms, biometric data and artificial intelligence. And this is not the future, but the present.
Which of the innovations in Postbank are “in the right place at the right time” according to the extent to which customers are interested in them?
- Personal contact is still important for us, but in all our new products we strive to save customers time, to be available at any time and through all channels. Most importantly, we strive to bring them extra amenities whenever they need them. We rely on non-standard and individual approach. The implementation of digital services and smart solutions is at the heart of our development strategy. We were the first in Bulgaria to offer consumers another completely new service and now they can receive Western Union transfers directly at our ATMs. Very soon we will present to our customers more modern products for their convenience, but for now I will keep these a secret.
Amid these very dynamic changes, how do you find the right pace of change for Postbank itself?
- We are moving at the pace of our customers, but we also strive to be one step ahead of them. They are the most secure engine for development. In today’s business, things happen fast, we cannot afford to be “catching up” or “lagging behind”. Our clients’ plans are constantly evolving and it is up to us to accompany them as a trusted business partner throughout this process.
The business expects you to offer “tailored” banking. What exactly does this entail now?
- From our point of view, tailored banking has always been a good business idea, regardless of which sector and how big a company it comes from. Currently, banks offer loans at record low interest rates in all segments. In my opinion, however, it is not good for a business model and its plans to be built only on the low cost of loans. We all know that the level of interest rates is the result of the economic cycle and the first signs of the end of record low interest rates can already be seen. My team at Postbank and I use every opportunity to consult our clients on this topic. We help them understand how important it is for their individual business model to be built on a foundation that can meet a variety of challenges. Fortune favors the bold, but goes to the ones who are prepared.
And in terms of the expectations of our corporate clients – we know that they work in a dynamic environment that requires strategic thinking and a good navigator. That is why the “tailored banking” we can offer them includes an adequately selected mix of consulting and flexible solutions for their finances.
Could you name an event, a fact, a result that brought you the greatest fulfilment in the last one year?
- 2017 is one of the most successful years for Postbank and the results we achieved confirm it. During the year we reported an increase in company loans of over BGN 450 million, or 15 percent. We reported an over 50 percent increase in sales of housing loans, and our portfolio increased by BGN 110 million. As a result, our revenues went up over the past year, and our profit is extremely good. We continued to create modern banking products and services that are unparalleled on the market, giving real added value to customers. We invested in an entirely new brand for innovative consumer lending, Momento, which we will continue to develop in 2018. And, most importantly, our customers still trust us. As I have already shared, the Employer of the Year award in the competition for the best employer brand of b2b Media has brought me the greatest fulfilment. Also, it is a great honor for me to receive the Atanas Bourov Foundation Award for Banking and Financial Management for 2017.