First Investment Bank (Fibank) was our first partner bank. What was the reason for you wanting to join WeltSparen? What were your expectations when you decided to offer your products to German customers?
Fibank is a young and innovative bank in Bulgaria. We have always had an interest in products that attract a younger population. The average age of our clients is 38, well below middle age, and more than 20% are under 30 years old. The proposal of WeltSparen was in line with our innovative approach to the market. Furthermore, we wanted to present our savings products to the German market in order to see what the response of users in the country would be. We wanted to get our bearings as to how competitive our savings products were internationally. With the attracted funds we finance companies in the Bulgarian market which actively participate in the development of the Bulgarian economy.
From the very beginning, we saw in WeltSparen an important potential partner as their high quality and innovative approach to clients matched our own. They were the first to offer a platform where Germans could choose deposit products from around the world, and we were the first bank to enthusiastically join that platform because this type of work corresponded to our way of thinking.
WeltSparen gives us the unique opportunity to gain a foothold in the German market without having to build a costly branch network in Germany, allowing us to significantly reduce the cost of attracting funds. That is why we are extremely pleased with our partnership with WeltSparen and believe that the synergy of our joint work will generate additional opportunities for our customers in Germany.
First Investment Bank became active in Bulgaria just over 20 years ago. Today it ranks among the three largest banks in the country and is of systemic importance for the Bulgarian banking system. You have been part of the management team since the early days. What are the secrets of your success?
Over those over 20 years we have travelled a long and challenging road to reach the position we hold today. We are in the top three in terms of assets, our direct competitors being the Italian giant Unicredit which owns Bulbank in Bulgaria, and the Hungarian OTP, represented in the country by DSK Bank. In terms of deposits by individuals and households, as well as in terms of corporate loans, we rank second.
The focus of our policy over the years has been on providing an individual approach and building relationships with customers. We have recognized the importance of providing services of the highest quality, knowing our clients and understanding their needs so that we can offer them the most suitable products and services. This has distinguished us in the Bulgarian market and helped us to win the trust of over 1 million customers, representing about 20% of the adult population of Bulgaria.
I joined the Bank in 1995 as director of the newly formed International Department. There were 32 banks in Bulgaria at the time and Fibank was a small boutique bank. I started to actively work with correspondent banks from around the world in order to attract funding from abroad. For this purpose, the Bank had to build transparency and a good image in international markets. Later on, in early 2000, we directed the development of the Bank to also involve the retail segment, which in turn required opening a large but tight branch network, with staff to offer the best service in the country. As of today, if you ask any Bulgarian, they will tell you that Fibank has the best customer service.
My motto in life and work is: “No pain, no gain!” It is not always easy, but the ultimate success matters more than anything.
Next week we will speak about Bulgaria in the EU and the fast growing economy in your country. Thank you!