Visa Europe sees sta­ble growth of its op­er­a­tions in Bulgaria

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Would you out­line the main trends on the card pay­ments mar­ket in Bulgaria? Do you see these trends as com­mon for the whole re­gion of South­east Europe (SEE)?

The elec­tronic pay­ments mar­ket in Bulgaria has been marked by a steady growth over the last few years. The ba­sic trends, which Visa is ob­serv­ing in Bulgaria, show­case that Bul­gar­ian cit­i­zens are be­com­ing more and more prone to us­ing their bank cards both for big shop­ping ac­tiv­i­ties and small ev­ery­day pur­chases. A solid proof for this is the to­tal consumer POS spend on Visa cards, is­sued by Bul­gar­ian banks and fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions, which rose by 24% on an an­nual ba­sis, ac­cord­ing to Visa Europe 2014 an­nual re­sults for Bulgaria. POS pay­ments at re­tail sites for 2014 recorded a 25% in­crease com­pared to 2013.

This ten­dency in con­sumers' be­hav­ior has been brought about by the roll­out of the new Visa ser­vice, which makes pay­ments faster, more con­ve­nient and just as se­cure – the con­tact­less tech­nol­ogy. An­other ad­van­ta­geous trend typ­i­cal for the Bul­gar­ian mar­ket is its open­ness to in­no­va­tion, which makes the pen­e­tra­tion of Visa pay­ment so­lu­tions eas­ier and flaw­less. Such ten­den­cies can be ob­served in the other East Euro­pean coun­tries as well. As a whole the re­gion has grown in terms of card ac­cep­tance, es­pe­cially in the SME seg­ment, which is key to re­duc­ing the shadow econ­omy sec­tor as its largest share is con­cen­trated there.

How many Visa cards are is­sued in Bulgaria? Does the cards us­age grow?

The to­tal num­ber of Visa cards is­sued in Bulgaria ex­ceeds 3.5 mil­lion and their use by con­sumers marks a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease. The 2014 fi­nan­cial re­sults of Visa Bulgaria showed 26% growth in the num­ber of POS trans­ac­tions per card, while the debit POS trans­ac­tions in­creased by 31%. Fur­ther­more, 1 in ev­ery 20 euro in Bulgaria is spent on a Visa card with the av­er­age trans­ac­tion value equal­ing 37.9 euro. The re­sults in­di­cate an in­creased use of Visa cards with the debit seg­ment be­ing the largest and fastest grow­ing on the lo­cal mar­ket. Consumer credit cards also show steady growth af­ter POS spend in 2014 in­creased by 16% on an­nual ba­sis.

On which mar­ket seg­ments do you

see the big­gest growth po­ten­tial?

The seg­ment with the high­est growth po­ten­tial is by all means the Visa com­mer­cial cards sec­tor as the Bul­gar­ian mar­ket is still un­der­pen­e­trated even though it is go­ing through a pe­riod of vig­or­ous devel­op­ment. In 2014 POS spend by Visa com­mer­cial cards grew by 37% year-on-year while the gross spend surged by close to 50%.

An­other sec­tor where we wit­ness sig­nif­i­cant growth is e-com­merce. On­line spend­ing on Visa cards ac­cepted reached al­most 70% growth com­pared to the pre­vi­ous year. The sta­ble in­crease in e-com­merce is among the most sig­nif­i­cant ones in Europe for the afore­men­tioned pe­riod and is due to the mass adop­tion of elec­tronic pay­ments among Bul­gar­ian con­sumers and on­line mer­chants.

How do you see the devel­op­ment of the dig­i­tal pay­ments mar­ket in Bulgaria?

We live in a dig­i­tal world. More and more consumer ac­tiv­i­ties nowa­days take place in the dig­i­tal space, which im­poses the need for new and im­proved pay­ment so­lu­tions. All nec­es­sary pre­req­ui­sites for the dig­i­tal pay­ments to thrive are al­ready there – tech­nol­ogy, big play­ers, consumer de­mand, part­ner­ships and in­vest­ments. Var­i­ous in­no­va­tive Visa pay­ment so­lu­tions are mak­ing their way in Europe with lead­ing mo­bile brands be­ing at the fore­front.

The Bul­gar­ian mar­ket fol­lows all main as­pects of Visa Europe in­no­va­tions. Visa in Bulgaria and its mem­ber banks work hard to achieve the needed mar­ket ma­tu­rity to build dig­i­tal ecosys­tem and of­fer in­no­va­tive ser­vices. Af­ter in­tro­duc­ing con­tact­less tech­nol­ogy the cut­ting-edge ser­vices Visa Di­rect and mo­bile pay­ments are on their way in the fore­see­able fu­ture.

Kras­simira Ray­cheva, Coun­try Lead of Visa Europe in Bulgaria

Visa Europe is a pay­ments tech­nol­ogy busi­ness owned and op­er­ated by mem­ber banks and other pay­ment ser­vice providers from 37 coun­tries. Kras­simira Ray­cheva heads Visa Europe in Bulgaria op­er­a­tions in the last 11 years.

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