The Association of Banks in Bulgaria celebrated the Banker’s Day on the 6th of December with a conference dedicated to the economic and social conditions in which banks will operate in the coming year, as well as the new trends in banking that are developing in the financial services market.

Representatives of the banking community, the financial sector, the executive and legislative authorities, academia and media attended the event, which is traditionally organized annually by the Association. The conference was opened by the Chairperson of the Executive Board of the ABB – Mrs. Diana Miteva and was held in two panels: “New realities – macroeconomic factors and regulatory environment” and “Looking forward – banks and their customers”.

Diana Miteva, Chairperson of the Executive Board of the ABB

“Despite the complex geo-political context and the economic difficulties caused by it, the banking sector in Bulgaria has proven to be a stable partner for households and businesses and has distinguished itself by maintaining a solid capital and liquidity position, as the confidence in the banking system remains high.

The increasingly dynamic and accelerated course of changes in the economic and social environment also conditions the development and transformation of banking products and services, which is also carried out at a rapid pace in order to respond to the new realities.

One of the topics that societies and businesses are increasingly focusing on is the topic of sustainable finance and the transition to a “green” economy. Naturally, the topic is also a priority for the activity of banks in Bulgaria, and they increasingly consider the influence of this factor on their business activity.

In this regard, a large number of banks in Bulgaria already follow internal policies and goals supporting the development of an ecological and sustainable economy, actively working to offer products and services supporting the “green” transition and the sustainable way of doing business.

The processes of digitalization of banking products and services were catalysed by the pandemic and other heterogeneous factors, as well as by customer expectations, which are increasingly moving in the direction of the bank being located on the screen of the mobile device, and not in the bank branch. Speed and flexibility, improving the customer experience and services adapted to the customer’s needs, together with a high level of security and the possibility of banking operations from anywhere, at any time of the day, are the main priorities for banks when developing digital products and new solutions for their customers.”

Boyko Atanasov, Chairman of the Financial Supervision Commission

“Regulators must place emphasis on those regulations that enable businesses to make informed and ethical decisions in a changing environment. We must create new principles that are adequate to the new reality. The understanding that the regulators are the anchor of the ship that is sailing is incorrect, we are the compass that protects it from hitting underwater rocks, we are partners of businesses and investors.

My vision for the FSC is not the one of hibernation, but rather for a proactive strategic position in which to look for challenges, both at the macroeconomic level and at the operational business level.

I believe that, regardless of the new economic reality and geopolitical situation, today, we all declare our readiness to work together for the stability and future of the Bulgarian economy, timely observing the global digitalization, the European green deal and the upcoming entry into the Eurozone – trends that provoke us to be united in order to be sustainable, on the one hand, and on the other – to face any change boldly.”

Lyudmila Petkova, Deputy Minister of Finance

“I would like to congratulate you on behalf of Minister Velkova and myself on today’s celebration and wish you even greater professional success and that the banking sector continues to occupy its rightful place in the country’s economy, preserving and guaranteeing its financial stability.

The Bulgarian government, including the Ministry of Finance, continues its targeted efforts to prepare Bulgaria for the Eurozone according to the target date of the 1st of January, 2024. I can assure you that the Ministry of Finance is in daily contact with the Bulgarian National Bank and the Financial Supervision Commission, as well as with our European partners, with whom we jointly coordinate activities and steps in the preparation for the adoption of the euro. Today’s good news about the Memorandum of Understanding signed in Brussels on the production of the euro coins is the result of these joint efforts.

The institutions in the country follow the adopted National Plan for the introduction of the euro in the Republic of Bulgaria. The plan was adopted in May 2022. Along with other activities, the Ministry of Finance has a leading role in preparing the regulatory framework for the introduction of the euro. The preparation of the draft Law on the introduction of the euro in the Republic of Bulgaria, which will regulate the legal framework for the introduction of the euro, is proceeding according to the previously set plan. A concept of the Eurolaw which outlines the basic principles, rules and procedures for the introduction of the euro as a national currency is in a process of preparation.

In addition to this basic legal act, the Ministry of Finance also coordinates the preparation of other legal changes that are directly related to the process of joining the Eurozone, and here I will note only some of the bills with higher priority that have been prepared and published for public discussion and whose approval by the Council of Ministers and submission to the National Assembly is expected in the coming days. These are the bills for amendments and supplement to the Bulgarian National Bank Law, the Insurance Code and the Law on Anti-Money Laundering Measures.

There is still a lot of work ahead of us in connection with the preparations for the adoption of the euro in Bulgaria, but the political will is there, and the previously drawn steps are being implemented according to plan.

I would like to thank the representatives of the Association of Banks in Bulgaria and the banking community, who are also providing the necessary support and taking appropriate actions so that the country can be prepared for this significant change in the economic, social and financial life of the country.

I think it is rightful to say that the banking community in the country is one of the best prepared for the accession of Bulgaria to the Eurozone.”

Atanas Pekanov, Deputy Prime Minister for the Management of the EU Funds 

“In the current challenging environment, the Bulgarian banking system will continue to be that important source of security for the Bulgarian society that we need, thanks to the professional and prudent management and supervision. The effective cooperation established at the beginning of the pandemic between the government, the BNB, the Association of Banks in Bulgaria and their customers also deserves credit for this. Banks will catch on time the structural changes in the consumer attitudes of their customers, under the pressure of inflation.

The mechanisms introduced in recent years have made the European Economic and Monetary Union stronger and closer to the idea of an optimal currency area. Along these lines, they also made it more meaningful to include new members. In addition, on the 6th of December, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed with the EC and the Eurogroup on the future minting of euro coins, the initial test coins, as well as regarding the choice of the Bulgarian symbol for the euro coins. These steps are key and will give the opportunity to continue working towards Bulgaria’s entry into the Eurozone, which will be an additional incentive for both the Bulgarian banking sector and the Bulgarian economy. Joining the Eurozone will be that anchor to help us face the coming days of high uncertainty better and more confidently.”

Tsvetanka Mintcheva, Deputy Chairperson of the Executive Board of the ABB:

“I would like to emphasize the digitization of the sector and the role of the technology in automating processes. Our customers took the step to mobile banking very quickly, even skipping some stages of the natural development of digital channels, similar to the introduction of bank cards, for example, we skipped the stage of using checks as a payment instrument. This is not the end, as digitization is everywhere, outwards to the channels connecting us with customers, but also inwards to the processes that make banks efficient and easier to work with. Banks have a commitment to keep pace with the rhythm at which technology is entering every other area of our lives.

Banking has not lost its appeal among young people, but it is important to note that banks are changing and the profile of professionals we are looking for is now very diverse. The demography of the country obliges us to be active and present to young people the excellent career opportunities that the banking sector offers.”

Miroslav Vichev, Chief Executive Officer of “Borica” AD:

“The possibility of developing new business models, introducing new banking services and increasing the competitiveness of banks in the market of financial and fintech services are only part of the factors determining the need to introduce, develop and expand the scope of instant payments in our country. That is why one of the most important strategic projects that “Borica” AD is working on is aimed precisely at instant payments. The project, launched in 2020, is developing at an extremely fast pace, with instant payments already covering 61% of the market, and by mid-2023 100% adoption of instant payments is expected to be achieved. This is a fundamental service for the next services that “Borica” AD plans to implement – payments by mobile number and merchants’ payments.

Our country has also made serious progress in terms of remote e-identification, which also contributes to the digitalization of services not only in the financial sector, but in other spheres of the economy. More than 1 million customers in our country benefit from remote electronic identification, and it is about to be introduced in all institutions.

In 2023, the migration of budget payments in BGN in BISERA 6 from MT format to SEPA standards is coming.”

Pictures from the event:

Photos: Banker