World Finance Magazine: Interview with Petia Dimitrova, CEO and Chairperson of the Management Board, Postbank
World Finance Magazine, Summer issue
Thanks to solid economic growth, Bulgaria’s banking sector has seen stellar performance in recent years. Now, as it pushes ahead with digitalisation, it’s emerging as a titan in the region
Back in the 1980s, Bulgaria’s economy was based exclusively on the state owning all means of production. But by the early 1990s, the government began an all-important shift to a market-based economy. To do so, it introduced a programme for privatised ownership and restructured credit, banking and monetary institutions. A decade later, the large-scale privatisation of numerous industries had successfully taken place and annual inflation had been lowered. During that time, Bulgaria’s restructured economy had made remarkable progress, a situation prompted further by its accession into the European Union in 2007.
In the years since the global financial crisis, Bulgaria has shown further economic growth – an impressive feat given the precariousness of the global landscape. One key factor has been a vital increase in wages, which in turn has driven up domestic consumption as citizens splash out on new cars and household goods. Against this backdrop, Bulgaria’s banking sector continues to go from strength to strength, and shows signs of positive growth for the year ahead too. World Finance spoke with Petia Dimitrova, CEO and Chairperson of the Management Board at Postbank, to find out more about the sector’s ongoing success.
How did Bulgaria’s banking sector fare in 2018?
We can say that 2018 was very strong for the banking sector in Bulgaria and all data confirms it – the banks’ profits increased by a double-digit rate, all business segments are developing very positively, and the quality of the loan portfolio continues to improve. We interpret this as positive news, not only for the sector, but also for the economy. This is the result of higher consumer and business economic activity, and it shows optimism for the implementation of promising projects.
Last year was the most successful in the Postbank’s history – we continued our organic growth, we registered record-high financial results and growth that is above the market average. We owe it all to our customers, employees and the strong support by our shareholders, to whom I am especially thankful for their high professionalism and motivation.
What are your expectations for the Bulgarian economy in 2019?
We expect 2019 to be another good year for the Bulgarian economy and the first quarter data supports our optimism – the gross domestic product growth rate sped up to 3.4 percent on an annual basis and to 1.1 percent on a quarterly basis. The main driver of this growth was consumption and investments; some major infrastructural projects have been launched too. The financial sector is also contributing by lending to viable business projects, which supports all other sectors as well.
What can we expect from Postbank in 2019?
Postbank’s main priorities in 2019 once again will be to continue growing and to offer increasingly innovative products and services in order to meet growing consumer expectations. We are confidently following the road to digitalisation in order to provide the optimal level of customer satisfaction, which is the focus of our long-term strategy.
We are actively developing all of our digital channels as part of our digitalisation mission because the growth that their use generates is impressive. We are also working on interesting projects that will be launched this year and we expect our bank to be recognised again as the market leader in innovation.
How does Postbank hope to continue driving the Bulgarian economy forward?
Another top priority for us, as a socially responsible company, is investing in the development of value-added projects for society. We are implementing one of them in partnership with Endeavor Bulgaria – one of the most renowned global entrepreneurial networks. This programme provides comprehensive support for the scale-up of companies, through which we ensure know-how, mentorship and financing. In this way, we invest in the development of the business environment in Bulgaria.
We believe that this is the right path to grow together with Bulgarian companies and to make our economy more competitive globally. We will also continue to implement another strategic educational project jointly with one of the most innovative Academy in Bulgaria – SoftUni, with which we encourage the growth of future digital experts in Bulgaria and we reach out to them to help them realise their brave ideas with us.
At Postbank, we always set high goals; being able to achieve them and even go beyond them is a positive thing. This is possible because we have a vision, a strong team, extensive experience and most importantly – many customers who see us as a trusted and preferred partner in the realisation of their plans throughout their lives.