Hellenic Bank announced on Wednesday relief measures for customers with a focus on low-income pensioners and those on minimum income.

Key points include an extension to the free single euro payment area limit (Sepa) money transfers to €5,000, reduced charges at the counter for clients over 65 years old, and special arrangements for those on minimum income.

Hellenic Bank Chief Banking Officer Phivos Stasopoulos acknowledged that inflationary pressures increased interest rates meaning that disposable income has tightened, while purchasing power has reduced.

He said in a press release that Hellenic Bank is an institution with heightened social sensitivity and is currently achieving increased profitability after many years of negative results.

Stasopoulos explained that assistance to clients must be carried out in a specific way, based on three key points.

The first, he said, is that assistance must be directed swiftly, and secondly must be targeted. The final point is that assistance should be granted for as long as necessary.

Therefore, free Sepa transfers through online banking will be raised from €1,000 to €5,000 from January 2, 2024. He explained that the free service is valid for online transfers in euros, within the EU, with a regular execution date.

As for pensioners, the Chief Banking Officer explained that pensioners with the bank who receive less than €800 per month, deposited into the bank’s savings account, are to benefit from a zero account maintenance fee for one year – effective from October 1.

For those on minimum income and have a basic account, he explained that they will continue to operate without charges, noting that their basic debit card will be able to carry out all basic banking transactions free of charge.

As for non-performing loans, he said the inflationary pressures have led to an increase although these are being closely monitored.

In further comments on interest rates, Stasopoulos said that at the Hellenic Bank – regarding loans governing disbursements – most of its clients were not impacted to the same extent as the average Cypriot or other Europeans. That, he said, is because the interest rate on disbursements is linked to the basic rate of the Hellenic Bank.

As for deposit rates, the Chief Banking Officer said that some movements have already been made, noting that in the wider banking system – due to excess liquidity – it is not logical to offer high deposit interest rates.

As for wider changes in banking trends, Hellenic Bank explained that 96 per cent of cash withdrawals are now through ATMs, with 85 per cent of deposits made through ATMs.