Mergers and acquisitions with profound effect upon Bulgarian banks’ online reputation

by Petar Galev, Media Analyst, Perceptica

The aim of this study is to seek a correlation between a bank’s portfolio (in terms of consumer finances, such as consumer loans and mortgages) and the way its products were perceived on social media. The study features the ten biggest Bulgarian banks (in terms of the combined total of consumer loans and mortgages extended as of March 31, 2018) with significant social media presence.

All social media mentions of the consumer lending products (including credit cards) offered by those banks were subsequently analysed in terms of user sentiment. The final Social Media Perception Index (with values ranging from 1 to 10) is a combination between the overall volume of mentions (how popular the bank was on social media) and users’ predominant sentiment of their products. The study analysed a total of 2,633 comments made in the first half of 2018 on Twitter, forums, blogs, and public Facebook pages and groups.

One bank managed to distinguish itself as a leader not only in terms of extended loans but also within the social media conversation. In fact, DSK Bank is far ahead of all of its competitors, with only Central Cooperative Bank (CCB) attaining a similar Social Media Perception Index. DSK mainly achieved this thanks to the fact that it featured in pretty much every conversation about consumer lending.

Both CCB and DSK profited from their credit cards aimed at frequent flyers. The discounts coming alongside those plastics were the subject of numerous online conversations, helping those banks score higher in terms of social media perception.

Mergers and acquisitions had a profound impact on banks’ online reputation. United Bulgarian Bank (UBB), for example, suffered from its recent acquisition of CIBank. Former CIBank customers were highly vocal in decrying the chaos at the merged bank’s offices and the overall uncertainty they faced. Societe Generale, on the other hand, is about to become a part of DSK Bank, prompting its long-time clients to remember the good things their bank had to offer.

Fibank’s performance showed that the sheer volume of mentions was not always a good thing. It received a lot of hate and users evidently refuse to use its products because of the negative associations they make with its major share-holder Tseko Minev.

RANKING

DSK Bank

Social Media Perception Index: 8.7

Rank: 1st

DSK Bank was part of pretty much every notable social media discussion of Bulgarian banks. Its clients were willing to offer advice and share their positive experience in connection with every topic that had anything to do with consumer lending, be it credit cards, consumer loans, or mortgages. DSK Bank mainly won their hearts thanks to its e-banking, described as fast, easy to use, and a rare example of a system that is readily accessible to the visually impaired. Adding the Wizz Air credit card to their port-folio made the bank especially popular amongst people who love to travel and take advantage of the ever so popular low-cost flights.

Still, DSK could not escape the negativity of social media users, especially that directed at banks making major acquisitions. While DSK’s acquisition of Societe Generale Expressbank is yet to be finalised, clients of the latter have already gone to social networks (and Facebook in particular) to share their worries that DSK would not be able to provide the same high level of service.

Central Cooperative Bank (CCB)

Social Media Perception Index:  8.6

Rank: 2nd

CCB was the stand-out example for an otherwise smaller bank that was perceived extremely positively on social media, to no less extend thanks to their partnership with airline Bulgaria Air. Users praised their great service and superb mortgage offers. A number of consumers had opted to refinance

their mortgages with other banks via CCB, while others pointed out to the great conditions they offered to state employees in particular. Many were also happy to find out that, unlike most other banks, CCB was not trying to force life insurance on them alongside mortgages. The main concerns about CCB came in connection with phishing attacks targeted at their clients. The bank evidently failed to communicate its stance quickly enough, leaving some customers wondering if the e-mails they were receiving were legit or not. Another minor concern had to do with users worried that the bank is Bulgarian and has no mother bank to help in case it ran into trouble.

Societe Generale Expressbank

Social Media Perception Index: 6.4

Rank: 3rd

With news emerging that Societe Generale Expressbank was about to be acquired by DSK, clients flocked to profess their love for SG on Facebook and forums. Client service was a particular highlight in their praise. Users were especially happy with the way the bank dealt with theft from credit cards in a swift and satisfying manner. Many saw Societe Generale’s exodus from the country as a worrying sign for the Bulgarian banking system as a whole.

The rare negative comments mainly concerned a technical issue that denied clients access to their e-banking for a couple of days in May. Some clients also alleged that the bank had stopped offering adequate interest rates on mortgages, immediately after news of its upcoming acquisition broke out.

Raiffeisenbank

Social Media Perception Index: 6.1

Rank: 4th

Raiffeisenbank Bulgaria received favorable reviews for its e-banking services which recently went through a complete redesign. The new version is seen as slick and easy to navigate. Additionally, users liked the cashback and limits of credit cards offered by the bank. Service was the single most negative aspect of Raiffeisenbank’s online image. Users decried the incompetence of bank employees as well as the way they tried to convince clients they were required to get life insurance with their mortgage.

Allianz Bank

Social Media Perception Index: 5.7

Rank: 5th

Allianz Bank was one of the rare examples of a bank that users viewed mostly in a neutral manner, lacking extreme criticism or praise. As a whole, the bank was rarely involved in online discussions. Its clients described it as a good place to secure a consumer loan, provided one had a high official income. The negativity was even rarer and mostly resulting from a story involving leaked data of Allianz Bank clients which was subsequently used to secure quick loans.

Postbank/Eurobank

Social Media Perception Index: 5.6

Rank 6th

Postbank offers one more example of the way mergers and acquisitions between banks have a negative effect on clients. Although Postbank acquired Alpha Bank back in 2016, clients of the latter still remember the experience and warn customers of banks facing acquisition of what is to come. Elsewhere, existing Postbank customers were also unhappy with the way the bank had changed the reference rate on mortgages from SOFI-BOR to Prime, without providing any information on the methodology behind Prime. On a positive note, social media users talked up the substantial discounts on purchases in IKEA stores made with Postbank credit cards.

UniCredit Bulbank

Social Media Perception Index: 5.0

Rank: 7th

Bulgaria’s biggest bank, UniCredit Bul-bank, attracted a significant amount of user attention comparable only to that around DSK Bank and Fibank. Negative and positive comments were evenly split, with consumers finding it especially hard to reach a consensus on whether UniCredit’s e-banking was actually good or not. Users acknowledge the positive attitude of UniCredit employees, especially in comparison with that offered by other banks. However, Bulbank should also be wary of losing mortgages to other banks which are more flexible when negotiating a reduction to interest rates.

Piraeus Bank

Social Media Perception Index: 3.7

Rank 8th

Piraeus Bank was not particularly popular with social media users. What is more, the rare comments on its consumer lending portfolio were predominantly negative, especially when it came to the fees they levied upon credit card transactions. Some users did like the bank’s TV ads for consumer credits featuring actor Leonid Yovchev.

United Bulgarian Bank (UBB)

Social Media Perception Index: 3.5

Rank 9th

UBB was the biggest casualty of social media’s hatred for bank acquisitions. Thus, in spite of holding the second largest combined portfolio of consumer credits and mortgages, UBB also had the second- lowest Social Media Perception Index. The chaos emerging from the acquisition of CIBank, led to a wave of users announcing their intention of switching from UBB to another bank. According to the predominant view, UBB’s best employees had left, post-acquisition and the ones that remained were incompetent and blatantly unfamiliar with the bank’s products.

Fibank

Social Media Perception Index: 2.3

Rank: 10th

Social media perception of Fibank was heavily influenced by the controversial reputation of its major shareholder Tseko Minev. Even when noting that the bank offered adequate services or products, many users concluded they would choose another bank, citing political or other concerns around Fibank’s ownership.

Some users are further worried by what they describe as a substantial portfolio of nonperforming loans, giving them pause when considering a credit with Fibank.

 

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Perceptica (www.perceptica.com) is a team of professionals specialised in creating innovative in-depth reports based on online media analytics. Mapping brand perceptions among customers provides valuable insights for helping brands, individuals and organisations thrive.