Petia Dimitrova: We will continue to develop Postbank’s huge potential
06 January 2017
Petia Dimitrova is Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of the Management Board of Postbank. She is a member of the Management Boards of the Association of Banks in Bulgaria, the Confederation of Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria, Borica Bankservice, the University Council of the American University in Bulgaria, Atanas Bourov Foundation, the International Banking Institute and the Young Global Leaders Forum with the World Economic Forum. She has won over 20 prestigious Bulgarian and international awards, including Mrs. Economy in 2015, Banker of the Year in 2015, etc.
With assets amounting to BGN 6.7 billion as of the end of June 2016, Postbank is the fifth largest bank in Bulgaria in terms of assets. The income of the financial institution increased by 22 percent compared to October last year, which makes it the most dynamic bank on the market. In 2016, under Petia Dimitrova’s leadership, Postbank managed to acquire Alpha Bank’s Bulgarian branch.
Ms. Dimitrova, this year Postbank is celebrating its 25th anniversary. What are the main goals in the strategy for the development of the bank after the key achievements in recent years?
The year was filled with many positive emotions for our team. We are proud of what we have achieved so far and it gives us confidence to continue to offer some of the best banking products and services. Our strategy is to continue working as a large systemic bank. We strive for to develop our business sustainably and to provide maximum convenience to our customers through innovative products that fully meet their habits.
When I look ahead, I see the Postbank’s huge potential, which we will not stop developing. We are one of the leaders in retail banking, one of the best corporate banks in Bulgaria; institutional clients prefer us because of our professionalism. At the same time, we play an important role on the local money market, the government securities market and investment banking. And above all, we work as an integral part of a large business community for the benefit of our customers, employees, shareholders and our society.
After acquiring Alpha Bank’s Bulgarian branch, you are managing one of the largest Bulgarian banks. How will that deal affect the bank’s operation and the market as a whole?
We are seeing the results and the benefits are for our clients above all, as they are feeling the advantages of a larger bank with more locations, modern products and quality service. With the acquisition of Alpha Bank’s Bulgarian branch, we have become a stronger universal bank and now we can achieve all this even easier. Such big deals do not happen often on the market and I am happy that we managed to finalize it in record time.
You know that larger banks have more opportunities for development, they can more easily meet the increased regulatory requirements and invest in new technologies, which has a positive impact on our economy. The world is becoming more dynamic and we need to move at the same pace.
How do you assess the current condition and the prospects of the Bulgarian economy at the moment? How would you comment on the phenomenon of negative interest rates and their impact on resource attraction, lending and economic growth?
The prospects for the economy are good. According to the revised NSI data, GDP increased by 3.6 percent last year, and now the Ministry of Finance forecasts that the economy will grow by 2.6 percent in 2016. The main contributor to growth is domestic demand – consumption and investment. Business activity is gradually increasing and there are enough quality projects for financing. The BNB data for the first nine months of this year also indicate movement in lending, although not at the levels we would like to see. Loans for the third quarter grew by 0.8 percent, or BGN 436 million, which supports the plans of households and businesses in the country.
Businesses and households continue to increase their savings in banks. The central bank reported that deposits at the end of September exceeded BGN 72 billion, having increased by BGN 1.3 billion in just three months. We have high monetary liquidity, even a surplus of free funds, so competition in the sector is stronger. This is the main reason why interest rates are at these extremely low levels and I expect that they will remain there and not just in the short term. And this benefits consumers who can take advantage of really good loan offers at the moment.
All economically active people in the country hope that the money will not stay in the banks, but will rather be used to support quality new projects in all areas of our economy. And we will witness higher economic activity.
Negative interest rates are indeed a phenomenon that has emerged after the the central banks exhausted their standard instruments for supporting economies. We will see the true reversal of the trend when the economies go up and larger-scale lending resumes.
Corporate lending is booming and more projects are being launched in the real estate sector. Are the bank’s terms and products changing in this regard?
On the one hand, many construction companies and companies producing materials for this sector, as well as investors and real estate agencies are our clients and partners and we are seeing an increase in their turnover and an increased demand for financing.
This is illustrated by the overall increase in property sales in Bulgaria. At the same time, interest rates on mortgage loans fell significantly. Right now, we are once again seeing that customers are very interested in buying housing, mainly preconstruciton. BNB data show that mortgage loans increased by BGN 37 million in the last quarter, reaching BGN 8.74 billion. In Postbank, we are seeing a 40 percent growth in the sales of mortgage loans for this period. I expect that this percentage will continue to increase and will be even higher in 2017. We also opened a number of specialized centers for mortgage loans in large cities, which are targeted specifically ate people who need advice and a suitable mortgage product. Very recently, we offered our clients better terms for applying for the “Savings Mortgage Loan” – a product of ours which has no analogue on the market and which has won us a number of international awards. Taking out a mortgage loan is one of the big decisions in life, based above all on mutual trust and support. This is what we strive to give our customers.
You have won a number of awards both for business achievements and for the role of women in business. You often say that leadership, emotional intelligence, and the ability to multitask are all part of female nature. Based on your experience, how would you comment on the implementation of these principles?
Picasso said that inspiration exists, but it can only dawn on us while we work. This is the recipe for me – a job I immerse myself in, which inspires me to move forward.
The awards are a good thing because they are proof of a job well done and recognition for the entire Postbank team – confident professionals who are not afraid of new things. What makes us a strong team is the overall energy, the work attitude and the responsibility before our clients.
Managing change is a top priority for everyone. As a member of the Young Global Leaders Forum with the World Economic Forum, what is your advice to business leaders?
My advice is to always draw inspiration from challenges and strive to move at the right pace. There are solutions whose positive effect is not obvious and requires perseverance and time to get a result. We determine how we will develop and how far we will go. It is important that what we do brings us personal satisfaction.