Visa Europe is a payments technology business owned and operated by member banks and other payment service providers from 37 countries. Krassimira Raycheva heads Visa Europe in Bulgaria operations in the last 11 years.
Would you outline the main trends on the card payments market in Bulgaria? Do you see these trends as common for the whole region of Southeast Europe (SEE)?
The electronic payments market in Bulgaria has been marked by a steady growth over the last few years. The basic trends, which Visa is observing in Bulgaria, showcase that Bulgarian citizens are becoming more and more prone to using their bank cards both for big shopping activities and small everyday purchases. A solid proof for this is the total consumer POS spend on Visa cards, issued by Bulgarian banks and financial institutions, which rose by 24% on an annual basis, according to Visa Europe 2014 annual results for Bulgaria. POS payments at retail sites for 2014 recorded a 25% increase compared to 2013.
This tendency in consumers’ behavior has been brought about by the rollout of the new Visa service, which makes payments faster, more convenient and just as secure – the contactless technology. Another advantageous trend typical for the Bulgarian market is its openness to innovation, which makes the penetration of Visa payment solutions easier and flawless. Such tendencies can be observed in the other East European countries as well. As a whole the region has grown in terms of card acceptance, especially in the SME segment, which is key to reducing the shadow economy sector as its largest share is concentrated there.
How many Visa cards are issued in Bulgaria? Does the cards usage grow?
The total number of Visa cards issued in Bulgaria exceeds 3.5 million and their use by consumers marks a significant increase. The 2014 financial results of Visa Bulgaria showed 26% growth in the number of POS transactions per card, while the debit POS transactions increased by 31%. Furthermore, 1 in every 20 euro in Bulgaria is spent on a Visa card with the average transaction value equaling 37.9 euro. The results indicate an increased use of Visa cards with the debit segment being the largest and fastest growing on the local market. Consumer credit cards also show steady growth after POS spend in 2014 increased by 16% on annual basis.
On which market segments do you see the biggest growth potential?
The segment with the highest growth potential is by all means the Visa commercial cards sector as the Bulgarian market is still underpenetrated even though it is going through a period of vigorous development. In 2014 POS spend by Visa commercial cards grew by 37% year-on-year while the gross spend surged by close to 50%.
Another sector where we witness significant growth is e-commerce. Online spending on Visa cards accepted reached almost 70% growth compared to the previous year. The stable increase in e-commerce is among the most significant ones in Europe for the aforementioned period and is due to the mass adoption of electronic payments among Bulgarian consumers and online merchants.
How do you see the development of the digital payments market in Bulgaria?
We live in a digital world. More and more consumer activities nowadays take place in the digital space, which imposes the need for new and improved payment solutions. All necessary prerequisites for the digital payments to thrive are already there – technology, big players, consumer demand, partnerships and investments. Various innovative Visa payment solutions are making their way in Europe with leading mobile brands being at the forefront.
The Bulgarian market follows all main aspects of Visa Europe innovations. Visa in Bulgaria and its member banks work hard to achieve the needed market maturity to build digital ecosystem and offer innovative services. After introducing contactless technology the cutting-edge services Visa Direct and mobile payments are on their way in the foreseeable future.