Petia Dimitrova: We Strive to Broaden Our Market Share Not Only Through Organic Growth, But Also Through New Consolidations
6 December 2021
Interview with Petia Dimitrova, CEO and Chairperson of the Management Board of Postbank for 24 Hours Newspaper.
Ms. Dimitrova, it is the end of the second year we have been living with the pandemic. What was 2021 like for Postbank?
We had another year with many challenges which we managed to successfully overcome, naturally turning into a trusted partner, employer and socially responsible company. Furthermore, we have established ourselves as an institution customers trust, giving them solutions for their future. This would not be possible without the efforts of our entire team. This is why, even at the beginning of the interview, I would like to thank all my colleagues, the customers, shareholders and strong international group that Postbank is part of.
Furthermore, this is the year we celebrated the 30th anniversary of our creation, a period in which we have proven ourselves as one of the most successful systemic banks in Bulgaria. The expression of success in digits shows that we are 3rd in terms of size of the loan and deposit portfolio, with a market share of more than 10%, we have more than 200 branches countrywide and have won more than 100 awards for our digital innovations and products, services and social responsibility policy.
Another acknowledgment of our achievements is the fact that the Bulgarian Credit Rating Agency increased Postbank’s long-term rating from BBB- to BBB, with a maintained short-term rating of A-3, also changing the perspective from positive to stable.
How did you at Postbank react to the changes and how did the products and services you offer change?
We offered our customers several next generation innovations: we are the first bank to introduce a Smart POS that makes a smartphone a POS terminal; the first certified bank providing instant payments; this year we launched the first metal credit card on the Bulgarian market. Among the innovations we launched this year we also have the unique new generation mobile wallet ONE Wallet, with which users receive even better customer experience. With it they practically have immediate contactless access to main banking services as they transfer the physical wallet to their mobile phone. With ONE Wallet customers can add all their banking cards and manage them freely and efficiently thanks to the rich spectrum of functionalities set in the app. These include contactless payment via phone at a POS terminal, managing cards in the mobile wallet like setting a limit for different channels (POS, ATM, online payments), options for adding loyalty cards from various stores and many others. Our customers have active flexible access to their funds 24/7, which is an irreplaceable convenience nowadays.
Furthermore, in the past two years we started a complete renewal of our branch network, investing in modern express self-service digital zones which were immediately recognized as a preferred alternative to banking at a desk. Thanks to the intuitive devices in these zones, our customers can carry out themselves quickly and easily the majority of main banking transactions by simply identifying with a debit or credit card, without having to be registered for the bank’s internet banking. Digital self-service zones are already functioning in 75 branches in 32 cities in the country and new locations and upgrades to the service are yet to come.
We are happy that our customers appreciate the advantages of digital banking channels, the speed and security with which they can manage their funds online. This is of course a process, and we are expecting it to continue, meanwhile we will be by their side, catering to their expectations of faster and more convenient banking.
The latest piece of news from literally just days ago is related to our deeper work with BORICA in the past months. As a result, Postbank is the first bank in Bulgaria, certified to offer its customers the modern digital service of instant payments in Bulgarian leva under the Blink Program of BORICA. Thanks to it, our customers will be able to carry out transactions from one account to another for amounts up to BGN 30,000 in up to 10 seconds. The service will be further developed in future and the customers of banks participating in this project will be capable of making payments in seconds in shops, buy with online merchants, pay communal services, pay taxes and fees, pay e-invoices.
I am certain that the customers testing this new service will be astonished by this new type of customer experience that we have the pleasure of being the first to offer on the Bulgarian market.
How will the recently announced cooperation with Doverie PAC help the customers of both institutions?
We signed an agreement for large-scale strategic cooperation with the leading Bulgarian pension-assurance company Doverie, part of Vienna Insurance Group, which will provide our customers access to the most innovative banking, insurance and pension-assurance solutions on the market. Our partnership will offer all customers who think about their future the option to join a voluntary and universal pension fund, providing a better standard of living in retirement age. Alongside all other advantages, supplementary pension assurance gives the opportunity to generate return on investment with a moderate risk level. Therefore, we will offer a special product with the chance for advantageous daily banking for Doverie PAC customers soon to enter retirement age. Furthermore, Doverie PAC customers and employees will be able to take advantage of the innovative financial products and individual solutions of Postbank.
In the last month yet another merger of banks occurred on the Bulgarian market. What are your expectations regarding the development of these processes?
I hope it does not sound too immodest, but Postbank was the institution that started the wave of consolidations on the market – initially with the deal for the Bulgarian branch of Alpha Bank in 2016, later on with the acquisition of Piraeus Bank Bulgaria two years ago which was finalized in the record-breaking four months which demonstrates the solid experience we have.
The strong international Eurobank Group we are part of also undertook a series of acquisitions of other banks in the region. Recently, the Serbian division of the group acquired Direktna Banka and in July the investment in the second largest bank in Cyprus – Hellenic Bank, was finalized. This is another step in strengthening Eurobank’s positions as a systemic banking group in Southeast Europe and is the result of the strategy of shareholders – Canadian and American funds – in broadening the presence in key markets like our one.
The strengthening of Eurobank Group’s positions here is also upcoming, following our natural aspiration to widen our market share not only through organic growth, but also through acquiring more strategic players on the market.
We closely monitor all options on the market and are ready to participate in other such deals. Implementing them would logically strengthen the position of Postbank among the leading banks in terms of assets as well, as with our excellent results we took the leading positions in lending and deposit portfolio.
What are your forecasts for 2022 regarding the direction of development of the banking sector?
The last years showed us that efforts at predicting the future in one field or another are a real challenge. Therefore, I will answer by quoting Alan Kay: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”
However, I believe in the future banking services will seek the balance between service digitalization and personal service – and we at Postbank bet on this balance. Our well-functioning model is to use the latest technological infrastructure in balance with the human factor, providing clean, fast, personalized and safe services 24/7 to serve all our customers – individuals, large, medium and small enterprises, and thus to contribute to improving the prospects for Bulgarian economy and society.