Банкеръ Weekly



It may seem a banality, but we'll recall that not a single bank can do a prosperous business without good managers. Therefore, the BANKER weekly has always laid the accent on the skills and talent of executives, managing credit institutions in this country. Throughout the years we have tried to avoid biased attitude and inform our readers about each success of the bank managers. But we have not passed over in silence the flaws and lapses of people, managing billions of levs. That is why for the eleventh time the BANKER weekly nominated those deserving the annual Banker of the Year awards, after severe competition between big, medium and small banks, between older and younger bankers, between managers of long experience and ambitious ones. Looking for its nominees among them, the newspaper's team could not but distinguish a man whose entire professional experience has been connected with a single bank. Moreover, this is not a matter of ten or fifteen years, of thirty eight. The banker in question began his career in it as an economist, passed through numerous administrative steps, and reached a senior management position. He is popular among generations of financiers by the aristocratic nickname the Earl. Presently, and for the last twelve years, Kiril Stefanov has been responsible for the credit activity of BULBANK, the bank, which has always had a reputation of a credit institution with a few bad loans and which has always succeeded to collect its money from debtors. BULBANK is currently the biggest creditor of Bulgarian economy as the total amount of loans allocated by it exceeded BGN1BN in end-September 2004. The institution participates as well in the financing of the biggest international projects in the country, such as the credit for the technical reconstruction and renewal of the Maritsa Iztok 3 thermoelectric power plant. The head of its crediting department Mr. Stefanov has indisputable contribution for that success. He began his career as an economist in the Bulgarian Foreign Trade Bank (BFTB), and afterwards - in its subsidiary Litex Bank in Lebanon. In 1973 he was appointed its deputy director and held the position till 1977 when he came back to the parent bank to head the Payments with Non-socialist Countries department. Seven years later (in 1984) Mr. Stefanov was sent to Vienna in order to head the bank's representative office in the Austrian capital. He worked there for six years and upon his return to Bulgaria Mr. became deputy chairman of the BFTB. In April 1992 he was appointed to the bank's Board of Directors and deputy of BULBANK's CEO Chavdar Kanchev. In the same year he became chairman of the credit committee. When BULBANK was sold to UniCredito Italiano in October 2000, Mr. Stefanov remained a member of its management board. He also heads the Management of Credits and Risk department and chairs the credit committee.A curious fact is that Mr. Stefanov has known the present owner of BULBANK since 1968. As a young expert he was sent then on an 8-month specialization assignment to the Rome-based bank Credito-Italiano. Twenty one years later it merged with four Italian credit institutions, establishing the UniCredito Italiano group. The BANKER weekly confers its Banker of the Year award to Kiril Stefanov for gaining the shareholders' and partners' confidence. Foreigners who manage banks in Bulgaria usually come and go. Most of them stay in the country for two or three years and that's all. They leave with remembrances about the pleasant stay, good remuneration, and freedom of operation, which they seldom enjoy in some westeuropean countries. However, there is a man who has been working on the Bulgarian bank market for twelve years and nobody thinks of him as a foreigner any more, although he was born almost 800 km away from Sofia. He has cast in his lot with our country forever, not only because he has married a Bulgarian, but because he is writing an economic history of Bulgaria. His name is Christos Katsanisthe manager who contributed for strengthening the positions of United Bulgarian Bank (UBB), the third largest bank in Bulgaria, moreover through a new special line - operations on the stock exchange. In addition to transactions on the stock markets, as of the beginning of 2004 Mr.Katsanis undertook as well the responsibility for corporate crediting. The bank gained good positions on the market of corporate loans and is presently the third largest creditor to companies operating in Bulgaria. It has extended to them credits worth BGN760MN. One of the most significant deals, effected under the guidance of Mr. Katsanis in 2004, was the allocation of a EUR15MN loan for rehabilitation of the Maritsa Iztok thermoelectric power plant. Mr. has negotiated with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) three credit lines for UBB - worth a total of EUR35MN, which the bank uses for releasing credits to small- and medium-sized enterprises, to agriculture and for financing projects for improving the energy efficiency of companies. Christos Katsanis, born in Athens in 1956, is among the few foreign bankers who can claim they know the Bulgarian market fundamentally. In 1992, as the head of the Xiosbank Sofia branch (Xiosbank was acquired by Piraeus Bank in 2000) he witnessed the emergence of private banking in Bulgaria. Back then he was occupied with financial transactions, privatisation deals and greenfield investments. Besides, he is among the main participants in the signing of the agreement for selling Zagorka brewery to the Belgian Interbrew.In 1995, Mr. Katsanis started working for the Global Finance investment fund. As a regional manager, he took part in the deal for the acquisition of two glass-producing plants, STIND-Sofia and Druzhba-Plovdiv, as well as of Pleven Cement (by the Greek Titan company). Mr. Katsanis is among the managers who prepared the investment in the establishment of the Goody's fast food chain. He stopped working for Global Finance in Bulgaria in 1997. In the meantime, until 1998, he was the chairman of the Bulgarian International Business Association (BIBA).He joined the National Bank of Greece in 1997 and was immediately appointed director responsible for the countries in the Balkans. All bigger investments of the bank in the peninsula passed through his hands.I watched the development of the bank privatisation in Bulgaria and discussed with the NBG headquarters in Athens the possibilities for acquisition of a large bank in the country. In the end of 2000 we saw a chance to buy UBB and we managed to take it despite the competition of UniCredito, Mr. Katsanis told a BANKER weekly reporter. From then on, he cast in his lot with UBB.For Mr. Katsanis's activity in establishing UBB as a leader on the Bulgarian banking market and his contribution to the expansion of its market presence, the BANKER weekly awarded him the annual Banker of the Year prize.In the current competitive situation, it is not so easy for a bank manager to take a credit institution out of the group of the unnoticeable and make it rank fourteenth in terms of assets. Moreover, he did it without the help of a powerful international investor or a corporate empire. Some people might say that his ambition has been exaggerated and the risk unreasonable. Anyway, a manager proved he could fulfil an obviously unfeasible task.The manager we are talking about graduated from the economic university in Lodz, Poland, in 1981. Initially, he decided to devote himself to science and was conferred a research associate second degree in the Institute for International Economics and Market Issues. The democratic changes in Bulgaria prompted him to try his hand at the emerging financial market. That is why he established the Bromak exchange bureau and the Fina - S financial house.Tsvetan Vassilev entered the banking sector in 1995 as head of the Foreign Exchange Operations department in Central Cooperative Bank (CCB). At that time CCB was run by Stoyan Alexandrov. In 1997, Mr. Vassilev was already a member CCB's management board. He left the bank after Stoyan Alexandrov quit in 1999 and became the head of the Markets and Liquidity department of Bulgaria Invest Bank (later renamed into Allianz Bulgaria).However, Mr. Vassilev did not enjoy the position of a hired employee. In 2000, he was among those who arranged the acquisition of one of Bulgaria's small credit institutions - Corporate Bank. In July 2000, he became chairman of its management board. Four years later he was already a major shareholder and head of the supervisory board. But it is of greater importance that Mr. Vassilev managed to transform Corporate Bank from an institution as large as a mid-sized financial house into a bank that more and more financiers and businessmen must take into account. Thanks to the policy he conducts the institution grew very fast and its assets currently amount to BGN310MN, up from BGN15MN in June 2000.Mr. Vassilev is not a slave to ready banking schemes. He did not vacillate to the consumer credit expansion registered on the Bulgarian market in the past three years, but preferred launching corporate credits instead. I think that when a bank knows its customers well and works for their prosperity, launching corporate credits hides smaller risks and brings more profits than consumer crediting, he says. This policy is what helps Corporate Bank grow fast.Due to his ambition to strengthen the positions of the Bulgarian credit institution within the growing competition of European giants that stepped onto the local market, the BANKER weekly awards Tsvetan Vassilev the Banker of the Year prize for dynamic bank management.

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