"The liquidity of Greek banks may have improved, with plans to reduce non-performing loans gradually being implemented and perhaps some Greek banks even presented profits, but there are no doubts that the country's credit system remains the 'sick man' of Europe," Mihalis Sallas, chairman Lyktos Group, said during a seminar on Wednesday organised by the Institute for International Affairs of the Panteion University.
"Greek banks have been trying for years now to recover from a crisis, which we know they did not create, but are forced to recycle, trying to exit the crisis a decade after, but this exit unfortunately is not arriving at a cost to the economy," he said.
Commenting on non-performing loans, Sallas noted that although NPLs were gradually falling, they still remained at very high levels - 81.8 billion euros at the end of 2018 from 107.2 billion in March 2016. The four systemic banks presented a ratio of NPLs/total loan portfolio that was 12 times higher than the EU average (41.2 pct from 3.2 pct, respectively), which meant that despite improvement, maybe the necessary action was not taken and immediate solutions were needed.
The Greek banker noted, however, that deposits rose to 150 billion euros lately, still low compared with the pre-crisis levels, but stressed that "after all, we all are poorer compared with those levels". Sallas referred to another problem facing the Greek banking system, the e-payment/transaction kingdom with less bureaucracy, faster times and obviously lower cost.
Greek banks face a double challenge: to restructure operations and strengthen themselves and on the other hand to harmonise rapidly with the conditions of a new era.