Fibank: More jolts in Bul­garia's bank­ing sys­tem un­likely in near fu­ture

Top 100 See - - Top 100 Banks - By Borislava An­dreevska

The Bul­gar­ian bank­ing sys­tem, Fibank in­cluded, faced se­ri­ous chal­lenges in mid-2014 as one bank was put un­der spe­cial su­per­vi­sion by the cen­tral bank, while Fibank suf­fered a run on de­posits prompted by illinten­tioned ru­mours. Do you think the mea­sures that were taken to sta­bilise the bank­ing sys­tem were ad­e­quate, and what else can be done? Is there a risk of sim­i­lar shocks be­ing re­peated in the near fu­ture?

Bul­garia's bank­ing sys­tem, Fibank in­cluded, went through a real stress test af­ter one bank was placed un­der spe­cial su­per­vi­sion. Fibank was the tar­get of a crim­i­nal at­tack and illinten­tioned ru­mours at a time of hy­per-sen­si­tiv­ity to the op­er­a­tion of all of the coun­try's

in­sti­tu­tions. Fibank, and the bank­ing sec­tor in gen­eral, demon­strated un­equiv­o­cally with its calm and ma­ture be­hav­iour that it is sta­ble, well-cap­i­talised and has strong liq­uid­ity, keep­ing the con­fi­dence of its de­pos­i­tors. Fibank, as a rule, main­tains high cash liq­uid­ity and that al­lowed it to pass this stress test. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion and the com­pe­tent Bul­gar­ian author­i­ties have de­scribed the at­tack against Fibank, which was also an at­tack against the en­tire bank­ing sys­tem, as a crim­i­nal act, caused by fac­tors ex­ter­nal to the bank.

Any­one can see that two months af­ter the at­tack against the banks, cus­tomers' con­fi­dence in the bank­ing sys­tem has been re­stored and both the banks and their clients are bank­ing as usual. I thus be­lieve that the mea­sures that were taken were ad­e­quate. Our so­ci­ety now is bet­ter in­formed about the sig­nif­i­cance of the bank­ing sys­tem for the func­tion­ing of a coun­try's sovereignty, and that banks should be used by ev­ery­one for bank­ing pur­poses only. For this rea­son I do not think that such a sit­u­a­tion could hap­pen again in the near fu­ture.

Does Fibank plan fur­ther steps to re­gain its cus­tomers' con­fi­dence?

Fibank has a very close re­la­tion­ship with its cus­tomers which it has been build­ing over the years, and has con­se­quently re­ceived a num­ber of dif­fer­ent awards. Of these, we value the most the Bank of the Client award, which we tra­di­tion­ally re­ceive. The win­ner of this award is named by clients in a di­rect on­line se­cret vote. Our clients know why they have cho­sen to be with us and they trust us. At the be­gin­ning of the year, Fibank ac­quired the for­mer Union­bank and as a re­sult in­creased its cus­tomer base. The ma­jor­ity of Union­bank's clients have never be­fore worked with Fibank and do not know what it can of­fer them, nor what to ex­pect of it. Now we are get­ting to know each other and head­ing to­wards build­ing a strong pro­fes­sional bond.

Dur­ing the re­cent cri­sis in the bank­ing sys­tem some cus­tomers made early with­drawals on their de­posits. They fell for the ma­nip­u­la­tion, which is only too nat­u­ral as ev­ery­one is con­cerned about their sav­ings. We con­sider them too to be part of Fibank and we will win back their trust. We have a lot to do in this di­rec­tion.

The main in­gre­di­ent in the for­mula for a suc­cess­ful bank is trust; this is why we are the sec­ond largest bank in terms of in­di­vid­ual de­posits in Bul­garia af­ter DSK Bank.

What are your ex­pec­ta­tions re­gard­ing the bank's lend­ing ac­tiv­ity in 2014? What is the sit­u­a­tion on the cor­po­rate cred­its seg­ment?

It is al­most the fourth quar­ter of 2014 now and as al­ways this time of the year we are in the midst of an ac­tive re­tail lend­ing cam­paign – for mort­gage and con­sumer cred­its and credit cards. In ad­di­tion to the chal­lenges in the bank­ing sys­tem, the year will also be re­mem­bered for the chal­lenges to con­sumer con­fi­dence. Peo­ple have been cut­ting down on their ex­penses for the pur­chase of a home, house­hold ap­pli­ances and goods. On the other hand, com­pa­nies are also very cau­tious when it comes to tak­ing de­ci­sions about in­vest­ments and new ex­pen­di­tures. I be­lieve next year will bring us more op­ti­mism.

What steps could be taken to boost lend­ing? What are your ex­pec­ta­tions re­gard­ing the de­vel­op­ment of Bul­garia's credit market in 2014?

Cred­it­ing is the lit­mus of a coun­try's econ­omy. Pre­dictabil­ity and calm­ness in Bul­garia's pol­i­tics and econ­omy will give an im­pe­tus to in­vest­ments, in­clud­ing lend­ing. A sta­ble bank­ing sys­tem helps a coun­try's eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. Banks and the econ­omy are in­ter­de­pen­dent. Only if we have a sta­ble bank­ing sys­tem can we push the econ­omy into growth, have lo­cal com­pa­nies and lo­cal pro­duc­tion de­velop, and open jobs.

The mea­sures that were taken to sta­bilise the bank­ing sys­tem were ad­e­quate.

What are the high­lights of your de­vel­op­ment plan for 2015?

We are stay­ing true to our prin­ci­ples, which have made us a pre­ferred bank for peo­ple's sav­ings. We will con­tinue to in­vest in im­prov­ing the qual­ity of our prod­ucts and our cus­tomer ser­vice. We will also con­tinue to de­velop our cus­tomer ser­vice plat­form The Right of Choice, where cus­tomers can de­sign them­selves the char­ac­ter­is­tic fea­tures of the prod­ucts and ser­vices they need. Small and mid-sized en­ter­prises will once again be in the fo­cus of our lend­ing ac­tiv­ity next year. In this re­gard, we con­tinue to sup­port the Best Bul­gar­ian Com­pany of the Year com­pe­ti­tion, which has grown into a tra­di­tion, with a grow­ing num­ber of Bul­gar­ian com­pa­nies, mainly from the small and mid-sized seg­ment, gain­ing con­fi­dence to par­tic­i­pate. We will also in­tro­duce a new elec­tronic plat­form for mo­bile bank­ing.

Cred­it­ing is the lit­mus of a coun­try’s econ­omy.

Vasil Hris­tov, CEO

First In­vest­ment Bank (Fibank) as­pires to con­tinue to be one of the best banks in Bul­garia, recog­nised as a rapidly grow­ing, in­no­va­tive, cus­tomer-ori­ented bank, of­fer­ing out­stand­ing prod­ucts and ser­vices to its cus­tomers, en­sur­ing ex­cel­lent ca­reers for its em­ploy­ees, and con­tribut­ing to the com­mu­nity. The bank shall con­tinue to de­velop high-tech­no­log­i­cal so­lu­tions pro­vid­ing its cus­tomers with op­por­tu­ni­ties for bank­ing from any place around the world at any time.

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