CEE banking: Looking on the bright side
After a lot of provisioning and restructuring, CEE banks have returns on equity that others can only dream about.
In recent years, the mood at Euromoney’s annual Central and Eastern Europe Forum – held in Vienna in mid-January – has often been on the sombre side.
Since the financial crisis, the region has been seen as increasingly irrelevant in a global context. International investors of all stripes have dismissed it as a collection of small and complex markets, tainted by their association first with the eurozone and, subsequently, with Russia and Ukraine.
So it was a pleasant surprise to find delegates at this year’s event in a remarkably cheerful mood. Sustained and stable economic growth across central and eastern Europe, coupled with buoyant capital markets and out-performing local currencies, seemed to put a spring in the step of everyone from central bankers to fund managers.
Regional bankers were in particularly high spirits – and with good reason. After nearly a decade of painful provisioning and radical restructuring, CEE-focused groups are in excellent shape to take advantage of returning credit demand across the region.
Despite persistently low interest rates across central and southeastern Europe, the big three – Raiffeisen, Erste and UniCredit – are all seeing returns on equity of 13% to 15% from their regional networks.