Greek bankers on Monday highlighted the opportunities stemming from the recovery of the Greek economy but also warned of the challenges facing their sector during a panel discussion at the 20th Annual Capital Link “Invest in Greece Forum” held in New York.
Christos Megalou, CEO of Greece’s largest lender, Piraeus Bank, said that the “management of the Non-Performing Exposures (NPE) remains the most important challenge for the Greek banking system.”
The panel discussion on “the Greek Banking Sector — Strategy And Outlook” was one of the highlights of the Forum organized in cooperation with the New York Stock Exchange and major global investment banks.
It featured government and business leaders from Greece, Europe and the United States, as well as top executives from the investment, financial and business communities.
Panelists included Artemis Theodoridis, Deputy CEO of Alpha Bank, Francesco Drudi, Principal Adviser of the European Central Bank, and Nikolaos Karamouzis, Chairman of Eurobank Ergasias.
Julien Petit of Goldman Sachs, Paul Mylonas, CEO of the National Bank of Greece, and Christos Megalou, CEO of Piraeus Bank S.A. also appeared on the panel.
Participants discussed current trends and developments in the Greek banking and financial sector including cost issues, liquidity, upcoming “stress tests” and growth strategies.
Megalou, the CEO of Piraeus Bank, noted that the conclusion of the bailout era “generates significant opportunities and challenges for Greece.”
He said that the Greek banking system is actually stronger, following a major consolidation. “Both liquidity and funding have improved substantially, while deposits are gradually increasing.”
“Greek banks have accelerated their efforts in reducing their NPEs and focus on sustainable profitability returns. Nevertheless, the management of the Non-Performing Exposures remains the most important challenge for the Greek banking system,” he stressed.
Artemis Theodoridis, of Alpha Bank, stated that “a lot of progress has been made in the reduction of the NPE stock of Greek Banks,” acknowledging, however, that there is much more to be done. “A systemic solution could greatly help towards this direction,” he said.
Goldman Sachs’ Julien Petit noted that while banks are proactively managing their NPE exposures, “the priority should be to give them further means to deal with their legacy issues. This will ultimately allow them to turn their focus to providing their support to economic recovery.”
Paul Mylonas, of the National Bank of Greece, highlighted the improved conditions in Greece following the “timely exit from the Third Program.”
“Employment trends continue to improve and residential real estate prices have been recovering, driven by tourism-related demand,” he noted.