Tsvetan Krastev is co-founder and manager of Access Finance and member of the Management Board of Management Financial Group (MFG). Access Finance’s most recongnised brand is the international payment and shopping credit card White Card (Biala Karta). With its brands White Card and AXI Card the company operates in four European markets – Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, and as of February 2021 also in Spain. In Bulgaria the company employs more than 230 people who service close to 200,000 active cardholders. Access Finance’s vision is to provide access for a convenient financial instrument to more and more people disregarding their current financial and social statuses. Focusing on its clients’ needs, Access Finance enforces some of the most innovative work and client service solutions building strong long-term relations with its customers.
Access Finance is best known for White Card and AXI Card credit cards but what other services and products do you offer?
Within Access Finance product portfolio, we also have consumer loans, as well as “boutique” credit cards for the loyal clients only. Furthermore, we are very proud of our co-branded products offered through a partnership with a telecom. We established a successful business model with A1 in the last three years and we currently offer consumer loans and credit cards under the brand of A1 through their customer network. Stepping on the experience we have from this quite beneficial for both sides partnership, we are currently actively researching potential telecom partners in the other markets where we operate so we can export the model abroad.
We also recently started selling insurance products to our clients. Also, the plastic payment cards we know so well, will gradually disappear and this is inevitable. Thus, one of our top priorities is to create an entirely digital product for the European and US markets, as well as to fully digitalise all our current products.
Access Finance entered Spain in February. Do you plan to continue to expand to other markets?
Of course. Our launch in Spain proves to be very successful so far. The product we managed to build and offer to the endcustomer called AXI Card is very well recognised by the Spanish market, which resulted in over 90,000 client requests so far.
Our operational presence in Bulgaria, Poland and Romania gives us full confidence for further expansion in two more Western European markets in the very near future. We have already opened an office in San Francisco, the U.S., aiming to launch a business there in the course of 2022.
Ambitious plans, I admit. But as a manager and businessman I strongly believe that when you have a good idea, you shouldn’t wait but go out there and make it happen. We are actively scouting for potential partners so that together we can scale the business multiple times.
What scalability goals are you striving to achieve?
Our business model and technologies provide us almost unlimited opportunities for market growth. We replicate and expand fast on foreign markets – it takes us approximately six months to achieve market penetration. That is the reason for our constant search for investors and telco partners so we can join forces and, adding their experience, scale up additionally our current growth. Our goals in the next three years are again ambitious but very realistic – to launch a new entirely digital brand, exceeding 1 million clients globally, developing strong business on the US market and covering 80% of EU markets.
Could you give us more details about your business model based on partnerships with telcos?
As every successful business model, our aim is to build and provide an exceptional set of products and services to the telecom clients we reach out to. We have established a positive working relationship with telecoms which benefits both customers and partners.
Our operational teams manage the entire process, incl. funding and credit risk assessment, which allows any telecom – with zero investment and efforts – to provide privileged financial services to their customers, which brings better retention and satisfaction to them.
The Covid pandemic gave a strong boost to the digitalisation of companies across the board. How is this shift impacting your operations?
Yes, the Covid pandemic has changed a lot of things in the customer behaviour. Currently, according to our analysis, 31% of all transactions are related to on-line trade. The share of on-line transactions has increased significantly due to the worldwide limitations we faced. On the other hand, we notice that clients from every age group have accepted the model of on-line shopping which until a few years ago was used only by the younger part of the customers. But the digital transformation is an entirely natural process that happens not only in fintech of course. We are currently focused on eliminating the plastic cards entirely, which – as I mentioned above – is inevitable anyway.
What key trends do you see shaping up the fintech industry in the short term?
The anticipated digitalisation path will change the industry in the next years. As I said, we forecast that all plastic cards will be replaced by digital ones which will make them much more competitive and effective in the customer “hands”. The banking industry has also started to transform and the branches should be considered mostly exotic, rather than official service centres.
What are the pillars of your business strategy until 2030?
Digitalisation and geographical expansion. One of our goals is to expand our telecom partnership network and attract new investors to join us on this journey to boost our growth in the right direction. As the main pillar in the future, we have to focus on the clients’ preferences and develop a competitive and flexible products and services. This business strategy has already produced positive results for our customers, giving them the most functional and innovative products, they are looking for.