Todor Petkov (EMBA’20): Time Your EMBA Correctly
Todor Petkov (EMBA’20) is a successful business leader with truly international experience in the field of finance. Currently the General Manager of the KBC Shared Services & Digital Development Center, he completed the AUBG EMBA Program in 2020. We spoke to Todor to learn more about his successful career and hear his thoughts and advice on the EMBA Program.
How did your career start? How has it progressed since?
My career started almost 20 years ago at the World Trade Center in Amsterdam, where Barclays Global Investors had their offices. This was the first real job that I landed right at the heart of sophisticated asset management – learning about ETFs and Alpha Tilts.
After that, I worked for 11 unforgettable years at Achmea – the largest Dutch insurer. There, I learn a lot and grew as a personality. Thanks to my drive to learn and develop, amazing colleagues and a lot of hard work I grew organically from a junior analyst to a CFRO. There I also learnt the insurance trade inside out. During the last six years of my tenure, I was expatriated to a number of countries and worked in Paris, Sofia, Moscow and Bucharest – a rich cultural experience full with exhilarating professional challenges.
Then I decided to go back to Bulgaria together with my family, where I continued to explore the depths of Finance and Management, by joining two separate international greenfields in Financial Services. Unfortunately both investors eventually decided to leave the Bulgarian market, which was a clear sign for me to pivot outside of big corporate into freelance consulting. This worked better than expected until two years ago when KBC – a Belgian Bank owner of UBB and DZI - offered me to join their team. They tasked me with setting up their new Shared Services Center – nearshoring back-office processes to Varna. This was such a success that since February 2021 I was promoted to General Manager of the newly formed Digital Development Center – another new exciting investment of KBC on the Bulgarian market.
Why did you decide to enroll at the AUBG EMBA Program? In what ways has the EMBA enhanced your personal and professional experience?
One of the main reasons was networking. Since I spent most of my career outside of Bulgaria, the AUBG EMBA was the only natural choice. The EMBA met me with some great people – both colleagues and faculty -- and I am sure I made the right choice by joining AUBG, which is consistently the top university in Bulgaria. Personally, it enhanced my skills by having to work together with colleagues and peers from very different walks of life. Professionally - by getting back in sync with new academic trends and taking the time to reflect on them.
What did you find most valuable about the program? What was most challenging?
There are many positives of doing an EMBA at the right time of your career. The high quality of the faculty and the diversity of the colleagues were very important. What was most challenging was combining the EMBA with my work and personal life. For the duration of the program I almost didn’t have a free weekend – I was either busy with classes of having to prepare for classes. So the biggest credit really goes to my family – for their support and understanding. I honestly wouldn’t have made it without them.
Beyond the academics, what role does the program play in building friendships and professional connections? Are you still in touch and collaborating with other AUBG alumni, and in what ways?
With some of my colleagues, we became good friends and this is great especially when you grow older and don’t easily befriend new people. With these colleagues we are constantly in touch and enjoy each other’s company - not just for a drink, but also when discussing politics, new technologies, professional challenges and many more. In other words – we know where to find each other.
What were some of your favorite classes at the program, and why?
I honestly enjoyed most of the classes. Still if I have to single out a few, I personally enjoyed most the lectures of Prof. Akbar, Prof. McGuire and the Leadership class of Prof. Jezycki. They all challenged me intellectually, were delivered in an involving and exciting manner and contributed to my overall development.
What would you advice a person who is considering to enroll in the program?
To absolutely go for it – because it is a top MBA program. But also to time it correctly. I think you shouldn’t rush to enter the program before you’ve gained the necessary professional experience. It is difficult to quantify and might vary from person to person, but the EMBA is a unique experience and you have to be ready personally and professionally in order to make the most of it.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Spending time with my family, hiking, playing tennis, snowboarding and quietly reading a good book.