Greek banks focus on the present
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BANKING

Greek banks focus on the present

The country seems to be turning a corner: there are hopes its economy might return to growth this year. Local banks think they’re in good shape for the European Banking Authority tests and that there might even be opportunities in non-performing loans.

Low compensation prompts banker exodus fears

Greek present iStock-envelope

At the height of the Greek economic crisis, a depositor in one of Athens’s wealthier northern suburbs strode into his local bank and demanded to withdraw his life savings on the spot. As these amounted to more than €1 million, it took a while for the bank’s staff to gather the cash together. But the depositor was eventually ushered into a small room where several bundles of €50 notes had been neatly piled in accordance with his instructions. Having cast a cursory glance at the cash, the depositor told the startled bank tellers to put it back. He had simply wanted an assurance that the bank still had his money in its vaults.

Crisis-born stories are often apocryphal, but Athens-based bankers concede that this sort of thing, which is said to have happened a number of times in 2011 and 2012, is no urban myth. Unfortunately, not all Greek depositors shared this particular individual’s pragmatism, nor his patience. Between December 2009 and the end of 2012, Greek banks lost 48% of their deposits. Some €77 billion fled from the system in three years, much of it flowing into London’s inflated real estate market, where Greek buyers were reportedly eclipsed only by their Russian counterparts.


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