Hellenic Bank announced on Wednesday at their Annual General Meeting for 2020 that the appointment of the new CEO Oliver Gatzke is awaiting the approval of both the European Central Bank and the Central Bank of Cyprus.
Polykarpou reviewed last year for the bank, and replied to questions by shareholders about the lack of a dividend.
A shareholder questioned the bank’s decision to give bonuses and raises to employees in the previous year, while no profit was distributed to shareholders.
“In terms of profitability, I do not think the amount of profit we have posted during a Covid year is anything to scoff at. Our number one priority over the past nine years was to not increase NPLs and to avoid adding more of them to the number of legacy NPLs,” Stasopoulos said.
“Certain effects of the pandemic might be felt in the next year or two so we remain cautious. At the same time, yes, the sharing of the bank’s wealth in regards to stakeholders, staff and shareholders has to change, but this is not something that can be done overnight. We hear your concerns and we will move to address them in the future,” Stasopoulos added.
“In terms of profitability, there are no excuses and there are things that must be done swiftly, while other things are already in the process of being implemented. We must not forget that this bank was recently a small one that has grown swiftly. This sharp growth entails certain issues which need time to be resolved, although I will concede could have been resolved in a swifter manner,” Polykarpou said.
“2020 was an unpredictable year with many challenges. The bank’s administration and management moved swiftly to deal with these challenges in order to serve Cypriot society,” Polykarpou said.
“The bank exhibited true resilience, demonstrating its solid position and capacity to support all of our viable customers,” he added, while mentioning the fact that the bank saw earnings of €89.3 million in the first quarter of 2021, and a profit of €12.9 million after tax.
Phivos Stasopoulos, the group general manager at Hellenic Bank and the acting CEO for the past ten months, expressed optimism about the future of the economy, particularly due to the positive signs in the Cyprus economy following the government’s ongoing vaccination campaign.
“We have surpassed the 60 per cent vaccination rate in Cyprus which allows us to resume normality and we hope that we leave the pandemic behind us in 2021”, Stasopoulos said.
“Despite the effects of the pandemic, the recovery effort is already underway, with certain sectors already showing signs of bouncing back,” he added.
Stasopoulos also outlined the bank’s vision and objectives for the future, reiterating the bank’s profitability as well as the ongoing efforts to improve the bank’s portfolio.
“Despite the effects of the pandemic, the quality of our portfolio remains stable and practically unaltered from the previous year,” Stasopoulos said.
“Our strategy is based around five core principles. The improvement of our asset quality through organic and non-organic NPE reduction, to enhance the profile of our loan book through sustainable growth and diversification, the improvement of customer experience, the management of high liquidity from household deposits, as well as the management of a high cost base through active cost management in all areas,” he added.
“We have come all this way with a lot of effort but we are not resting on our laurels. In terms of staff, again, we can only do certain things through technology. These efforts take time but I feel like the board has put the bank in a positive direction,” Polykarpou added.