A new member joins our team as Head of Growth – Georgi Penev. He’s responsible for our international markets and marketing locally and abroad. He’s coming from the Bulgarian Fintech Association and LogSentinel – a Bulgarian fintech in the RegTech space.
In this article, we are eager to share with you an interview we recently had with him where he shares his perspective on Open banking, why he chose IRIS Solutions above all other 150 fintechs in Bulgaria, and much more.
Q1: Let’s start from the beginning – what did you study, what brought you to the fintech world and how did you find out about Open banking?
G.P: My path to the fintech world is not so straight – I studied International Relations and Management in Bulgaria and the UK then came back home and for about a year worked as a business consultant in the heavy industry in Bulgaria. I knew it was not my thing, so I switched completely and spent half a year in a fintech startup, followed by 3,5 years as the Director of Bulgarian Fintech Association. During this time, I got specialised in Fintech Sales and Marketing at both foreign and local markets.
I met for the first time with IRIS’s CEO Galya Dimitrova in 2019 at my former employer’s office when we were trying to find a common ground between blockchain and Open banking (OB). Ever since then, I have been fascinated by this new evolution in the financial sector called OB and the endless opportunities it brings. Later, I came across Open banking as part of the regulatory work we have been doing at Bulgarian Fintech Association and the work on PSD-2 implementation in Bulgaria. Probably somewhere around this time, I realised the role of third-party providers in the development of the OB infrastructure in our country. At the same time, I got acquainted with the crucial need of support we need from banks and other financial institutions to make this work.
Q2: As part of the Bulgarian Fintech Association, you had access to a fair share of the Bulgarian Fintech ecosystem. What made you choose IRIS Solutions as your next career step?
G.P: That’s fully correct – at BFA, daily, I was communicating with dozens of Fintechs - SMEs, large corporations, foreign and locally owned companies, etc. However, what I was looking for are two things: 1. A business environment where I could grow outside of my comfort zone; and 2. To have a strong and resilient team with whom we would be able to achieve anything we wanted. The two could be easily spotted at IRIS Solutions, so I was not taking any second chances and jumped straight to the open role at the company. Now, a bit over a month and a half after I started, I know I made the right choice - I feel at home surrounded by a strong, supportive team but at the same time challenged by my daily work.
Q3: What is your role at IRIS Solutions? What are your responsibilities and where can we expect to see you in the near future?
G.P: At IRIS Solutions I am heading two strongly interrelated departments – sales in foreign markets and marketing. For the Sales side, I work with our sales representatives and BDO to help the product development and draw and implement Go-to-Market strategies in markets such as Romania, Greece, Croatia, etc. When it comes to Marketing, I am responsible for brand awareness and lead generation of IRIS Solutions, together with our Marketing specialist.
I would conclude that the work is very, very challenging and I have much to learn about the market and our products and services. Still, I feel what I do is very rewarding and makes me happy 😊
Q4: What do you expect for 2024? What is the message you want to leave to our readers about the future of Open banking in SEE region?
G.P: 4 years after the initial introduction of PSD-2 in Europe and Bulgaria we can proudly say that in our country we see 93% availability of banks' APIs, the second best in the SEE region after Greece (97%). The APIs’ performance is boosting the creation of new OB products and services – take for example companies such as PossePay, ViziWealth, BoroBit, etc. In parallel, when we teach fintech with the Bulgarian Fintech Association we see students are more and more interested in OB. They talk about new solutions starting and being tested in Bulgaria and then scaled up across the EU Single Market. Regulatory speaking, in 2024, we expect PSD-3 to improve the latest regulation in the Open banking sphere, which undoubtedly, will be another push of the market. We, at IRIS Solutions, we make so Bulgaria will from it in the best possible way.
To sum it up, I believe 2024 will bring us lots of new opportunities in OB, as well as put on to the market test all existing ones. I am more than glad to be part of this exciting journey.