This week, we chat to Daniela Popnikolova, Branch Manager in Varna City in Bulgaria. She likes a challenge, never stops learning and is keen lover of shoes. Find out more!

2:00 min

Who are you, what do you do at UniCredit and what did you want to be as a child?

My name is Daniela Popnikolova, a.k.a Dani. I am proud to live in Varna City, the beautiful sea capital of Bulgaria. I am also proud to be the manager of the Тsar Simeon branch there.

I started my career as a trainee at UniCredit Bulbank in 2007, and that’s when my dream came true. I was selected for the Unbound project and other such programmes for young professionals with outstanding performance and potential to be future managers.

On these programmes I gained solid working experience in Retail Banking in both Individuals and Small Medium enterprises segments as а relationship manager, and as result I soon felt ready to become a leader. I started as a Commercial activities manager and have been a branch manager since 2014. As part of my continuous growth, I participate in group projects to implement and develop bank products and services.

I like to challenge myself every day.  So, I take part in the Social Impact Banking initiative as a guest lecturer in high schools to help students improve their knowledge of economics and banking.

So, can you guess what I wanted to be as a child?


What do you enjoy most about your job and what is the proudest moment or greatest achievement of your career?

My colleagues are the centre of my work. A great team means satisfied customers which is crucial for our business. The only way to achieve the best customer experience and sustainable results is taking good care for people. My team and I try very hard to deliver the best service. We work with passion and this is always appreciated by our clients. My greatest challenge as a manager, a leader and a coach is my team’s motivation. It’s a great achievement and I enjoy it.


And what is the hardest part?

The hardest part in our job is to be flexible. One of the hardest moments for us was March 2020. This was the start of the COVID pandemic, and at the same time I started with a new team in the modern and newly opened branch in Varna City. We had to manage serious challenges and achieve the required level of digitalisation and fast. Thanks to the strong commitment and hard work of my team, we made this journey for our customers as pleasant as possible and less stressful. 


What advice would you give your younger self or somebody considering this role as a career?

I attended an international MBA programme at Bologna Business School which gave me the opportunity to work on different business projects and develop an international network from experts in their fields. So, I would like to advise young people to gain different experiences and to choose to do what they enjoy the most. Of course, it is very important to gain solid theoretical knowledge. Never stop learning!

How do you balance your professional and personal life?

I wouldn't call it balance exactly but I do try very hard. As a rule of thumb, I try not to read e-mails and take work calls after banking hours. I also set a very strict schedule each day and prioritise my tasks.


What do you like to do to relax after a hard day at the office?

I relax by doing yoga at least twice a week and a daily workout activity. After a really hard day, you know those “exhausting days” that we all have, the best pill for me is to buy new shoes. This is my weakness. I have over 200 pairs of shoes.


What would your perfect day look like when you are not working?

Every day is perfect with a smile and great people around me. There are so many small things that make me happy. So, the perfect day can be very ordinary, spending time with my family, meeting friends, having a good chat with them, watching a movie, going for a walk, or shopping. Generally, we finish with a nice glass of wine and delicious food. I also have a new hobby - making cakes. Even making a chocolate cake is the perfect day for me.


What was the last book or the last movie you loved? And why?

I am still at that stage of my life where I prefer to read books for personal development. I would like to recommend “Surrounded by idiots” by Thomas Eriscon. The book starts with a question from a reporter to an owner of a very successful company “Who hired these idiots?" It’s all about communication, flexibility, and people management.