Cyprus Mail

Hellenic ‘must stop being a debt collector’

By Stelios Orphanides and George Psyllides

Hellenic Bank Chairwoman Irena Georgiadou on Wednesday emphasised the need for the creation of asset management companies to enable banks to fulfil their role.

“The conditions must be created quickly to enable setting up vehicles or asset management companies so that banks can become banks again and stop being debt collection companies,” Georgiadou told the lender’s AGM.

Georgiadou said non performing loans (NPLs) were the biggest challenge for the island’s financial sector.

The enactment of the foreclosures law and the insolvency framework were a step in the right direction, she said, but they could not solve the problem.

Georgiadou highlighted the need for structural changes to be carried out soon so as to attract foreign investment on the island.

Georgiadou said the board focused on the correct and effective management of NPLs and increasing its market share.

“We are on the right path but at the same time we know well that the turning point is the change in mentality,” she said, adding that growth was impossible without change.

Also on Wednesday, bank workers union ETYK said it will refrain from escalating its conflict with Hellenic Bank, a day after Hellenic’s workers voted in favour of authorising their union to continue to handle the issue and take further industrial action if deemed necessary.

Christos Konomis, ETYK spokesperson who participated in a meeting with Hellenic Bank’s CEO Bert Pijls on Wednesday said that the two sides agreed to continue their talks early next week.

According to two persons with knowledge of the situation, who spoke on condition of anonymity, only one in five of the around 1,400 employees participated in the vote.

Komomis declined to comment on the turnout and added that that “under the circumstances, the turnout was satisfactory”.

The union official repeated allegations made last week by ETYK that the management of the bank “bullies” workers into working longer hours without extra pay.

It also criticised the lender for hiring four managers without ETYK’s approval and not adhering to the terms of an agreement concerning below market rate loans to employees. As a result, the union asked its members to refrain from overtime work.

“We told Hellenic Bank’s CEO that some department managers ask their subordinates to work longer and they are indeed paid for that,” Konomis said. “Some others, however, bully them saying that it is not the time for overtime. This is not happening in every department but it is widespread.

“We are not asking anything more than what is included in our agreements,” Konomis said.

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