Room for growth in retail banking
Following three years of disappointing earnings - and plummeting stock prices - leading Greek banks hope 2003 will be a turnround year. Their hope is based on a firm foundation absent elsewhere in Europe: strong loan growth underpinned by a growing economy and a largely under-leveraged household sector. Tapping that customer base should finally boost their bottom line.
"I am optimistic that profits will recover this year," says Apostolos Tamvakakis, deputy governor at National Bank of Greece, the country's largest commercial bank in terms of assets. "Retail banking will be the primary source of growth."
Other bankers are also expressing the hope that earnings will rebound this year. "I hope we are at the end of this downward earnings cycle," says Marinos Yiannopoulos, executive general manager and CFO at Alpha Bank. Most of the bankers and analysts who are optimistic about a profit recovery this year agree that retail banking will be the main contributor to Greek banks' top-line growth in 2003 and perhaps 2004.