Vassiliki Lazarakou

CHAIR OF THE HELLENIC CAPITAL MARKET COMMISSION

Greece 2022  I  Economy  I  Interview

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_BIOGRAPHY She is a lawyer, admitted to both Athens Bar (Supreme Court Lawyer) and New York Bar, USA. She is an expert in capital markets, banking and finance law as well as in M&As and has led a large number of international and domestic business transactions. She also has a J.S.D. and LL.M. from the New York University School of Law and Bachelor in Law from the Athens University.

“GREECE OFFERS POLITICAL AND SOCIAL STABILITY, A COMPETENT SCIENTIFIC STAFF, FUNCTIONAL AND MODERN INFRASTRUCTURES, A GOOD INVESTMENT ENVIRONMENT AND GREAT EXTROVERSION.”

RECENTLY YOU HAVE BEEN APPOINTED TO THE BOARD OF THE EUROPEAN SECURITIES AND MARKETS AUTHORITY. IF YOU COMPARE GREECE’S CAPITAL MARKET SECTOR TO OTHER EUROPEAN COUNTRIES, WHAT IS YET TO BE DONE TO REACH ITS FULL POTENTIAL?

 

It was a great honor to be appointed to the Management Board of ESMA whose role is to ensure that ESMA carries out its mission and performs the tasks assigned to it in accordance with the ESMA Regulation. The know-how gained by the management aspects of ESMA, such as the development and implementation of the multi-annual Work Programme, can also be useful at the national level. One of the major challenges that all EU regulators have, which is even more demanding for HCMC, is the digital transformation and the better management of data. At the HCMC, one of our achievements was that our Organization has been accepted to receive funding from the Recovery and Resilience Fund (RRF) in order to proceed to its digital transformation. Thus, such transformation is expected to take place in the next 5 years and will allow HCMC to better use the supervisory data received and reach its full potential.

 

WHAT ARE YOUR MAIN PRIORITIES AND OBJECTIVES FOR 2022/23?

 

There are many profound changes with respect to the capital markets sector that are taking place currently. Furthermore, there are changes which reshape the capital markets landscape and provide also great challenges especially in connection with financial and technological innovation, new business models and supervisory convergence. Our new priorities – apart from proceeding with our digital transformation - also include supervisory convergence, focus on ESG issues and compliance by the market participants to the relevant EU regulations and work on putting forward proposals for the development of new products in the Greek market while embracing all initiatives for the adoption of new products at an EU level. Also, within the context of ESMA, we seek to contribute to the development of the single rulebook in the area of digital finance.

 

AS THE CHAIR OF HCMC SINCE 2019. CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR MAIN CHALLENGES AND ACHIEVEMENTS?

 

The objectives and priorities set in 2019 were based on the triptych a) enhancing prudential supervision, b) leveraging new technologies and c) contributing to the revision of national legislation, in alignment always with EU best practices. To be noted that Greek capital markets legislation is mainly an EU one, based on EU regulations and directives and thus such revision is required only in relation to specific pieces of national legislation, such as the corporate governance law or the adoption of new products.

 

Since then, HCMC succeeded in proceeding to major changes in relation to all aforementioned priorities. As an example, the HCMC put forward in 2019 a proposal for the amendment of corporate governance law in an attempt to remedy problems and inefficiencies encountered in practice until then. Following such proposal, Law 4706/2020 on corporate governance law for Greek listed companies mainly, was adopted in July 2020

 

As an example, such framework aimed at strengthening internal and external company audit mechanisms, increasing the efficiency of the companies’ boards of directors, establishing more independence criteria for independent directors and ensuring their meaningful intervention in a company’s operations, as well as improving and streamlining the organization of the companies themselves, in order to fully cover transparency requirements and enhance the rights of minority shareholders. Until the enactment of the law in July 2021, the HCMC, in the context of enhancing prudential supervision, proceeded to the issuance of regulatory Decisions and Guidelines on more specific matters provided for by said law, of Q&As in relation to interpretation issues and informative newsletters, etc. in order to assist the companies for progressing with their compliance with the respective rules. Furthermore, such law provides for a special type of alternative investment fund - in the form of a mutual fund – an option that was not available in Greece until today as well as the clarification from the tax point of view of the operation of alternative investment fund managers. The aim was, on one hand, to allow the creation of AIFs in Greece and, on the other hand, to support the operation of AIFMs even if their funds are established in other jurisdictions.

 

Also, HCMC issued a number of regulatory decisions simplifying the process of approval of prospectuses in case of IPOs, or rights issues or listing of corporate bonds in order to speed up the approval process. Also, prospectuses can now be also submitted in English in an effort to assist combined offerings in Greece and other jurisdictions.HCMC further supports all Capital Market Union as well as ESMA initiatives and in coordination with the other national competent authorities work systematically in this respect.

 

 

“MORE THAN €6 BILLION WERE

RAISED ON THE ATHENS STOCK

EXCHANGE THROUGH EQUITY

CAPITAL RAISING AND

BOND ISSUANCES.”

 

WHAT IS YOUR PERSPECTIVE FOR GREECE'S ECONOMY AND INVESTMENT POTENTIAL?

 

The economy in Greece is being transformed during the last couple of years and provides major opportunities for investments. This was also indicated in the Moody’s report that was published some days ago. The outlook of the Greek banking system was considered positive while it was estimated that the GDP growth will be 3% for year 2022 and 4.3% for 2023 based on the recovery of consumer loans and the strong performance of the tourism industry. It is worth noted that that estimation is being given during difficult times due to the war in Ukraine and the inflationary pressures. The same trend seems to be applicable for the Greek capital markets. Capital markets in Greece, following Greek economy, have showed a clear sign of growth during the last couple of years and especially in 2021.More than €6 billion were raised on the Athens Stock Exchange through equity capital raising and bond issuances (5 times larger than 2020 and 2019 and many more times larger than the previous years). Also, a significant increase occurred in the assets of Greek mutual funds. Actually for the first time, the investments in Greek mutual funds have increased in a larger ratio than those in foreign funds offered in Greece, which shows a parallel increase of trust by Greek investors in the Greek market.

 

HCMC is working hard in order to put forward structural changes that will enhance the operation of the market while at the same time investor protection and transparency are safeguarded as well as ensure that the market participants are observing the applicable EU and national rules and regulations. The HCMC is confident that the capital market can contribute substantially to the growth of the Greek economy, by providing funding to essential business needs and meaningful investment plans for the real economy, which may be deployed in the future.

 

In general, the aim of the initiatives that have been taken by HCMC, and currently are at various stages of elaboration, is to participate in reforming the national framework, wherever necessary, through the formation of the appropriate strategy for the Greek Capital Market, which will contribute to the creation of a regime that will be attractive and, at the same time, safe for all market participants.I am totally convinced that Greece can become a bigger financial center in Europe. Our mission as a regulator is to ensure transparency and compliance in alignment with EU legislation and at the same time to have a financial Greece fit of tomorrow’s challenges and strong on the EU and international environment.