Violina Marinova has been the Chief Executive Officer of DSK Bank since 2005. Under her leadership, the bank has become a modern financial institution, a leader in terms of trust among consumers of financial services and one of the most preferred employers by students in the country.
Following the acquisition of Societe Generale Expressbank by DSK Bank in 2019, Mrs. Marinova was elected Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of the Management Board of the newly merged bank. In 2013, she won the Grand Prize of our media - Mrs. Economy 2013, as well as the Manager of the Year award of Manager magazine. In 2019 she was awarded the prestigious Banker of the Year award by the Banker newspaper. The many awards are a recognition of her leadership qualities and among them we would like to highlight the fact that she is the only banker in Bulgaria, who has been awarded the highest national award - Stara Planina Order , first degree.
Mrs. Marinova, we are discussing once again the new normal that the crisis is creating. In your opinion, what are its outlines now?
Yes, indeed, the challenges in the context of the global spread of coronavirus are completely different from the difficulties we have faced so far. In general, this crisis has transformed the lives of all of us in just a few months. And here I am not only talking about the changes of a personal nature, but mostly about the changes that the business had to deal with in this environment. We all had to react in an extremely short time and adapt our activities to the new normality. In an unprecedentedly short time, we made and implemented decisions that ensured the safety of our customers and employees.
How did DSK Bank react in this complicated situation?
I believe that in this situation our work is also extremely important to ensure the peace of mind of individual clients and companies. We need to ensure that their funds are in a safe place, that we will act understandingly if they have issues repaying their loans, that they will receive the best digital services, so they have access to their money anytime, anywhere. This situation has brought out the best in us, so that we would be able to offer modern and sophisticated services to the benefit of our customers, services best adapted to their needs in this specific situation. In all this I personally find the outlines of the new reality - a flexible business environment that is managed and adapted to the factors that influence it,whether internal or external.
DSK Bank acquired Societe Generale Expressbank and the integration was successful. What is new in the new DSK Bank?
The integration was successful, that sounds short and precise. Actually, the journey we have taken over the last year or so to get here has not been so easy. We have made every effort to make the transition as smooth as possible for both our customers and our employees. We made in-depth analyses of the current practices in the two banks, compared the approaches, services, products and selected the best ones. Consequently, we opened doors on May 4, 2020 as a united and new DSK Bank, which offers innovative and modern products and services. I hope that we really managed to implement the best of both banks, but also to demonstrate our ambition for future innovations, which our customers will soon learn about.
The last stage of the merger took place during the pandemic and the state of emergency. The leadership showed strength and courage, but what is the "cost" of this effort?
The price is dozens of sleepless nights for hundreds of employees of both banks, who managed to rise up to the challenge and unite two of the largest banks on the Bulgarian market. A task that, I'm sure, cost them quite some time stolen from their family. That is why, through you, I would like to once again thank all the colleagues who brought this endeavour to a successful conclusion, in the conditions of a pandemic.
You have walked the difficult path of a merger and you are now called "A bank like the people". What do you achieve through the two banks in one model?
Our new positioning aims to show that we are the bank which, serving over 2.5 million customers, can definitely stand behind the statement that it knows people and is like them. In addition, in the merged DSK Bank we combine the experience and knowledge of two leading teams in the banking sector, enabling us to provide more added value to our customers and proving our worth.
What do some of the numbers related to the new DSK Bank indicate?
After the merger, DSK Bank is the financial institution with the largest branch and ATM network, a leader in the amount of deposits and loan portfolio in Bulgaria. According to the BNB data for the two banks as of March 2020, the merged DSK Bank would occupy a leading position in terms of assets, having a market share of 20.5% in customer loans and 19.8% in deposits. Undoubtedly, the biggest positive effect of the consolidation is aimed at the clients of the two banks. Our strategic goal continues to be how we can be even better in the service we provide and how to offer modern banking services and products to our individual and corporate clients in the various business segments and through the various banking channels we are developing for them.
How did you select the people in the teams?
All managers at the bank's headquarters, including the regional directors across the country, went through a serious process of evaluation and selection, including with the help of established external consultants. Each of us has confirmed or taken their place after proving they are the most suitable for this position.
How many people have become redundant?
I would not say that someone has become redundant. All employees have received and continue to receive sufficient opportunities to upgrade their skills, gain knowledge and choose the direction in which they want to develop.
How did the client profile and portfolio change with the acquisition of the seventh largest bank?
You know, even before the acquisition of Expressbank, DSK Bank was among the leaders on the Bulgarian financial market. The merger has given us even more strength and resilience, so that we can offer customized solutions as per specific needs and specific requirements, becoming a trusted partner to our customers.
What also distinguishes us from our rivals on the market is the colourful palette of non-banking services (insurance, leasing, investment, travel), which we offer our clients to provide them with complete and all-encompassing solutions for reasonable, easy and efficient management of their financial means.
So far, we have talked mostly about the positives, but what were the consequences of the crisis for DSK Bank and some of the clients?
Indeed, the merger of the two banks coincided with an unprecedented period of economic crisis rapidly gaining momentum as a result of the global pandemic, which caused considerable damage to our economy. The most affected were export-oriented industries, transport, tourism and the restaurant industry as well. The period of isolation had a negative effect on consumption and put us in a new socio-economic reality. But with the gradual easing of anti-epidemic measures and prevailing optimism, I believe that the lowest point of the economic collapse is already behind us. This means that we must be far-sighted and flexible enough to face the challenges of the environment.
We, as a financial institution, realize the importance of our mission in this period, standing as a trusted partner close to our customers. We strive to find the best solutions for them through constant communication and individual approach.
In every bad situation, there is always something good, - what is it in this case?
If we are to look for something positive in this period, it would be the social and branch union, which was fundamentally manifested in the banking sector. You know that the Association of Banks in Bulgaria proposed a mechanism for deferral and settlement of liabilities through the so-called private moratorium, which was also approved by BNB. In this regard, since the start of the campaign we have postponed nearly 7,300 loans according to the set criteria. We, along with many other Bulgarian banks , participate in the national guarantee scheme of the Bulgarian Development Bank (BDB) in support of micro, small and medium enterprises. We also joined BDB’s other program - concerning interest-free loans to individuals. With a certain dose of optimism, I am looking forward to the coming months, which will be a period of return to normalcy. It is now important to employ more flexibility in the business environment, to make additional efforts to implement innovations and develop digital technologies.
During the crisis many seize new opportunities. What opportunities did you find for the bank?
Whatever the negatives of the spread of the coronavirus, there are certainly positive effects as well. For some sectors of the economy, the pandemic has been the catalyst for their rapid digitization. There is also a clear trend towards a change in the behaviour of consumers, who are increasingly replacing cash payments with much more secure and convenient card payments through a POS terminal. Interest in the use of mobile and online banking is clearly increasing, which ultimately, in addition to allowing for remote management of personal funds, is also cheaper than traditional banking.
Positive changes after the coronavirus can be seen even from a purely human perspective. We began to appreciate much more the closeness with our loved ones and our freedoms, even the freedom to be able to take a walk in the park.
DSK Bank has had special products targeted at young people for years, and now it is even more open to them. What do you offer your young clients?
DSK Bank has a long-term vision and a special focus on young people. It has always been important for us to invest in their development, to provide them with quality products, with personal solutions that meet their needs. Years ago, we developed youth and student packages especially for them. They provide access to electronic and mobile banking, a combined DSK ISIC debit and student identification card, a youth debit card, a virtual card, as well as various discounts when shopping in retail stores. In addition, in the last two years we have been targeting an even younger audience. One of the focuses in the corporate social responsibility policy of DSK Bank is the topic of children's financial literacy. We believe that the topic of rational personal finance management is extremely important to them. In this spirit we have created the second edition of our own financial education program National Finance Olympics, whose finals will be held in the fall. This year our campaign was supported by popular teenage ambassadors and in addition to giving younger children the opportunity to participate, we will grant a total of 6 scholarships worth BGN 10,500.
What are some of the key elements of your vision for the development of DSK Bank in the future?
In the short term, our activities this year will undoubtedly be influenced by the coronavirus, the economy’s recovery from the effects of the crisis, as well as the change in consumer behaviour. At the same time, DSK Bank is part of the fastest growing banking group in Central and Southeast Europe - OTP, which sets high criteria and standards for the quality and level of services we provide. Therefore, we will focus on expanding the range of modern financial products and high-tech solutions for everyday banking. We will continue to focus on encouraging the use of online and mobile banking. These channels are not only faster and more efficient, but also significantly cheaper than office operations. We will also further develop our policy for sustainability and responsibility to society. I believe that in today's world we all need to focus on doing business that brings added value not only for the present but also for future generations.
What is the secret ingredient in the formula for a successful career in your opinion?
In my opinion, hard work, discipline and patience are the main pillars for building a successful career. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work on various challenging projects, while "climbing up" in the hierarchy. More importantly, I had the opportunity to get to know in detail all the specific processes in the bank. Having gone through all the levels and knowing the fine details helps me a lot in my professional life, when I have to make quick, effective and responsible decisions.
Your personal and professional world, summarized in just a few sentences:
In my work I apply several basic principles - constant pursuit of knowledge, sharing experience and delegation of responsibility. And in my personal life I strive to be a good mother, wife and grandmother, who despite the busy daily life manages to make time for her loved ones.
What would you wish Mr. and Mrs. Economy Awards for our 30th anniversary?
I wish you to keep up this extraordinary endeavour for many years to come, as it has become a guideline for the business in Bulgaria. To all participants I wish success and to never stopmoving forward, because awards should not be an end in themselves, but a motivator for us to improve and surpass ourselves every year.