Costas Michaelides

CHAIRMAN OF THE NATIONAL BANK OF GREECE

Greece 2019  I  Economy  I  Leader

BIOGRAPHY he received an MBA from Columbia Business School, a doctorate from the University of Denver and an undergraduate degree from Ripon College. Previously, he was COO and Managing Director at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette International (UK), COO at Credit Suisse Securities (USA), Regional COO at Credit Suisse, Global Head-Strategic Change at UBS and Treasurer for Exxonmobil UK. He became Chairman of NBG in 2017. 

“ONE OF THE FOUNDING VALUES AND GUIDING PRINCIPLES OF NBG THROUGHOUT ITS HISTORY HAS BEEN ITS CONTRIBUTION TO THE PROGRESS AND PROSPERITY OF GREEK SOCIETY.”

YOU HAVE BECOME THE CHAIRMAN OF NBG IN 2017, WHEN GREECE SHOWED SIGNS OF ECONOMIC RECOVERY AFTER A PROLONGED ECONOMIC CRISIS. WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR MAIN CHALLENGES AHEAD OF THE BANK?

 

I joined the Bank in 2017, a very challenging period for the Bank and for the Greek economy. We had gone through eight years of crisis and challenges so there was trauma and fatigue. One of my first priorities was to motivate our executives and involve them with the plans and vision for our future. I believe that empowering people and giving them a sense of ownership is the best way to achieve great results. I am a natural optimist so it’s not very difficult for me to believe that there are solutions to problems, no matter how difficult. We gathered a great team at NBG, highly experienced, and ready to make a difference by applying their creativity and innovation. 

 

The Bank did not go through any serious transformation for a number of years so many areas were accommodated and operating under older assumptions about the economy and the world. We are changing all that and the group of executives have the opportunity to think through the key challenges for the Bank, such as more demanding customers and digital transformation. After the crisis, the Bank was left with a lot of questions. How do we deal with the disruptors with the new business models that come to us? How do we deal with an economy with a lot of non-per-forming loans? And how, in the middle of several constraints, we can come up with concrete thoughts and ideas, that can become concrete plans and can deliver results? 

 

Our Bank has always been a pioneer and shaped the banking sector in Greece. The first King of modern Greece, established the Bank in 1841 and gave us the original charter. As Greece expanded as a nation, gaining more and more territories from the old Ottoman Empire, the Bank followed. We were the only currency issuing Bank for a very long time, from 1841 to 1928. There is a very strong symbiotic relationship between the Bank and Greece’s history. We have always been a key bank in Europe and we want to regain that place. I believe this gain will only be possible if we embrace the digital transformation of our products and services. The challenge is to bring the Bank, with its rooted traditions, to a more modern time. 

 

We have established the NBG Transformation Programme 2019-2022, a strategy based on six strategic pillars of transformation. Each one of them has initiatives and then sub-initiatives. We brought our young talent to participate and give us their ideas. 2019 is a pivotal year where we will capitalize on balance sheet strengths, make significant progress on improving operating profitability, and reduce NPEs. The transformation programme will be based on a restructuring of the Bank’s balance sheet by using all available tools to further raise the performance in all group activities. We plan to adopt practices that improve the Bank’s services to clients, along with a technological and digital upgrading and strengthening its regulatory behaviour.

 

“2019 IS A PIVOTAL YEAR WHERE WE WILL CAPITALISE ON BALANCE SHEET STRENGTHS, MAKE SIGNIFICANT PROGRESS ON IMPROVING OPERATING PROFITABILITY AND REDUCE NPES.”

 

GREECE HAS RETURNED TO GROWTH WITH OPPORTUNITIES IN MOST SECTORS OF THE ECONOMY. HOW THE BANK WILL BENEFIT FROM THIS PROMISING BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT?

We are privileged in the sense that, over the years, we are the leading Bank to major corporate clients and individuals on the retail side. So our bankers are very close in financing the growing sectors of the economy such as energy, tourism, logistics and agroindustry. As the country grows and more strategic projects are implemented, we have to be there to finance and provide support to our clients. 

 

We have our traditional clients and we are open for business and ready for new opportunities, including supporting small and medium-sized entreprises. We are also dealing with the non-performing loans by removing them progressively using our reserves and additional profits we make. It’s a very challenging road but we are progressing. I believe we are much more prepared today than before and we have become more agile to adapt to new opportunities. 

 

As a result of the crisis, I believe that Greek companies are much better prepared to deal with challenges. The Greek economy is much stronger today and has learned from its mistakes and changed old habits. As a result, we are seeing a lot of growth coming from our clients who are eager to advance and to create new projects and they can count on us to be their partners in this journey. We are operating in Greece for 178 years, we want to continue the channels we have cultivated throughout our history and continue to maintain a strong presence on the retail segment. We want to bring more services to the retail, by applying a holistic approach to the needs of our clients, including digital service to the younger generation. 

 

THE BANK IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT SUPPORTERS OF SOCIAL PROJECTS IN GREECE. WHAT ARE THE MAIN OBJECTIVES OF YOUR CSR STRATEGY?

 

One of the founding values and guiding principles of NBG throughout its history has been social inclusion. Its contribution to the progress and prosperity of Greek society shapes the Bank’s long-term and sustainable business success. The Bank has always been a patron of arts and culture and our aim is to continue our support to these important areas of society. We will also advance our support and respect to human values, the welfare of the community, entrepreneurship, the preservation of Greek culture, and environmental protection.