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Hellenic CEO back and pursuing bank’s targets

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By George Christou

Hellenic Bank CEO, Oliver Gatzke, after a two-month absence from his post, returned to the helm 10 days ago determined to deal with all pending issues facing and proceed with the transformation plan for the bank.

Bank sources said there was unity in the bank, with “the board, management, personnel all looking ahead with the aim of achieving all strategic targets, along a common path, for the good of the group, customers and shareholders.”

The 53-year-old German CEO, who was appointed in March last year, was asked to abstain from his duties in early October, after the board decided to investigate allegations made against him at the bank’s AGM in September.

The CEO of a large shareholder, Demetra Holdings, had said that Gatzke told staff to buy Hellenic shares as they were undervalued. He described this as ‘unacceptable’ behaviour, leaving the board with no choice but to investigate. The findings of the investigation were sent to the Securities and Exchange Commission which decided no offence has been committed.

On his return, Gatzke’s priorities are the renewal of the collective agreement with staff and the completion of the Transformation Plan for the Bank, which would further upgrade the alternative channels and boost investments in digitalization and ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance).

The need for a more effective organizational structure, simplification of procedures and a modern operational regime, was highlighted by Gatzke in the past. This was imperative now for facing future challenges which many are expected in 2023.

This year, despite some industrial unrest over the voluntary exit scheme, proved a good one for Hellenic Bank.

In November it announced that 450 employees would be leaving as part of the scheme, reducing the workforce by 17 per cent and the annual payroll by €30 million. The cost of the scheme was in the region of €70 million and will have an impact on this year’s results. It also restored the wages of the staff that it employed from the Cooperative Bank.

Hellenic Bank announced profits of €76.4 million for the first nine months of this year, a 263 per cent increase on the corresponding period for 2021. It also improved its balance sheet, by buying a healthy loan portfolio from RCB, which terminated its banking operations, valued at €556 million. It also reduced its Non-Performing Exposures through the sale of a portfolio of NPEs.

As confirmation of Hellenic’s good prospects, was the decision of Eurobank, a top Greek bank, to double its shareholding. Eurobank had bought a 12.6 per cent shareholding in 2021 and another 13.5 per cent a few weeks ago, becoming Hellenic’s biggest shareholder with a 26.1 per cent stake.

With all these positive developments and Gatzke’s return, 2022 closes on a high note for the Hellenic Group and prospects for 2023 are looking very good, with the CEO determined to continue the transformation drive.

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