COMPETITION AMONG BANKS CONTINUES ON THE HUNTING FIELDS
Managers of the French Rotschield bank and the ACCESS insurance company visited Bulgaria in the very beginning of 2004. Apart from talking with Bulgarian politicians, they also planned to enjoy hunting in the local reserves, financiers comment. Details about their chase exploits remained secret, but hunters in the Bulgarian banking community say the Frenchmen remained delighted with the experience they had and the trophies they carried back home. Another foreign financier addicted to hunting in Bulgaria is Sandor Csanyi - Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Hungarian OTP Bank, which acquired DSK Bank last October.Hunting, as well as playing tennis and golf, has long been one of the favourite relaxation methods for wealthy people around the world. Maybe because this hobby enables them to contact people, to negotiate, and to make deals.In Bulgaria, too, hunting becomes attractive to business people. Some of them get so addicted that they go shooting almost every week. Some hunting groups include very impressive members indeed. Assen Assenov, Head of the Customs Agency, Valentin Zlatev, General Manager of LUKoil-Bulgaria, Dimitar Zhelev, CEO of Allianz Bulgaria Holding, and Momchil Andreev, Chairman of Raiffeisenbank (Bulgaria) Management Board, go hunting together. Last summer that group tried to stir the enthusiasm of the then deputy finance minister Krassimir Katev.Dimitar Zhelev, for example, is proud of being the owner of the biggest buffalo trophy in Bulgaria. I shot it in a Namibian reserve in 1995, he recalls.Emil Kyulev, owner of the DZI-ROSEXIMBANK financial group, likes to go hunting big game alone. Mr. Kyulev is as ambitious in sports as he is in business. Lately, he has been entering the hunting territories of the manager of Allianz Bulgaria Holding. On January 17, he got a chance to shoot a 69-kg wolf. In about two months, the owner of the financial group has managed to shoot four wild animals - a wild boar, a wild goat, and two bears, for which he deserved a gold medal. Nothing compares to the feeling one has when chasing big game, Mr. Kyulev says. It's the same as in a big financial deal which you may either lose or win.The search for big game is probably the most dangerous part of the hunting. Even when the animal is seriously hurt, it may gather all its strength and attack the hunter before it dies. A week before I went hunting, someone told me about a seriously injured bear that attacked the German man who shot it as he inattentively went close to its body. The Bulgarians who accompanied him saved him in the last minute, but the sharp claws of the bear removed almost all the skin from his face. So we have to be extremely careful, Mr. Kyulev explained.Mr. Kyulev was awarded a gold medal for his trophy and in order to keep it, he paid USD50,000.Some of Mr. Kyulev's colleagues prefer hunting more safely. Andrey Nikolov, Head of UBB's Crediting Department, goes out for shooting winged game almost every weekend.This is the season for shooting ducks. One recent Saturday I was sailing along the Danube with some friends. We shot twenty ducks, Mr. Nikolov told the BANKER weekly. He became a hunting enthusiast in 1994, while he was chairman of the board of directors of the now extinct Serdika commercial bank. In all those years he kept his passion for the hunting alive.Beautiful nature, fresh air, nice company, great experience - that's hunting, Andrey Nikolov says. Dimitar Dimitrov, Chairman of the Incentive Bank Management Board, likes the calm hunting, too, and says he doesn't chase trophies for a gold medal.I have been a hunter for five or six years, but I do not do it for the game shooting. I do it for the nature and the nice company, he laughs. The stories which hunting bankers tell are endless and as exciting as the deals they make. Their sporting behaviour is often, if not always, indicative for the approaches they apply in their work - some are calm and tempered, and others - ambitious and aggressive.