By Elias Hazou
LAIKI Bank, once the island’s second largest lender, has ceased to exist after its customer base and electronic systems were merged with Bank of Cyprus (BoC) over the weekend.
The migration process, begun months ago, was completed by Monday morning. The transfer involved around 1.1 million customers of ex Laiki; the figure includes individuals and corporations, Cypriot and foreign, as well as guarantors. A little under 1 million account holders with ex-Laiki were transferred to BoC.
As of yesterday, when banks reopened after the long weekend, customers of ex-Laiki were not assigned special queues when visiting a BoC bank branch.
Charis Pouangare, BoC’s Director of Consumer Banking and SME, said the transition was smooth, with the merger of the bank’s electronic systems completed by Monday morning. By then, Laiki’s internet banking service (ebank) – access to which was interrupted over the three days – was transferred to the BoC’s 1bank service.
From Friday to Monday, ex-Laiki customers were able to access BoC ATMs with their old Laiki credit and debit cards, but only to view their accounts and make cash withdrawals from their primary account. Transfers between own accounts were not possible during this time.
Pouangare said the replacement of ex-Laiki credit cards has not yet begun and that the process would take a little over a month.
It’s understood that the issuance of new cards – which will be tied to new account numbers – will be completed by the end of the summer. Ex-Laiki customers need not change their PIN on obtaining the new BoC cards.
Ex-Laiki plastic will continue being valid until the designated expiry date, but will be voided once a customer uses the new BoC card for a transaction.
BoC will not automatically issue new chequebooks for ex-Laiki customers. Cheques with the Laiki logo will continue to be accepted until the end of the year. BoC will not automatically issue new chequebooks for ex-Laiki customers.
For more information, customers can contact BoC’s call centre at 8000 2000.
BoC was forced to absorb certain Laiki assets following an EU decision in March 2013 to shutter the island’s second-biggest lender, a condition for a 10bn bailout.
Since then, clients had to either be served by a separate section in the same branch or find an outlet that processed Laiki transactions, all, confusingly, under the BoC brand.
BoC itself was forced to seize 47.5 per cent of clients’ deposits exceeding €100,000 to recapitalise when international lenders refused to inject cash into the bank.
BoC was also in the process of reducing the number branches to 130 from just over 200, under a restructuring and downsizing plan.
The bank now has 130 branches. Prior to integration, the two banks combined had around 310 branches islandwide, and a combined 6,000 staff.
Following full integration, BoC currently employs some 4,300 staff. A bank spokesman said the numbers are in line with the restructuring plan.
No further early exit schemes are on the cards, the spokesman said, adding that retirements occurring “naturally” until the end of the restructuring plan (2017) would meet downsizing targets.