National Bank of Greece, the country’s oldest, remains without a president, an issue that will be revisited in the coming days. At the same time, its main shareholder, bank bailout fund HFSF, is also effectively headless.
On Thursday evening, during an NBG governing board meeting aimed at ratifying the selection of Panayiotis Thomopoulos as the lender’s new president, the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund asked that the meeting be adjourned for three days.
The HFSF representatives stressed that all necessary measures would be taken to safeguard the fund’s rights – which sounded like a threat to convene an extraordinary general meeting to vote against the new president, who is not the HFSF’s choice.
The request for an adjournment followed the board’s decision to choose someone other than the HFSF’s recommendation for NBG president. The HFSF controls over 40 percent of National’s shares. In Thursday morning’s session the fund proposed Dimitris Tsitsiragos for president, but the NBG board members chose Thomopoulos by a big majority (12 against two).
Despite the HFSF’s veiled threat of a general meeting in the afternoon, the board went ahead with an evening session for the ratification of its new composition and Thomopoulos as its president. Still, the HFSF opposition remained strong, tensions mounted and the fund forced the adjournment of the session.
Besides the questions that arise as a result of this clash between the NBG board and the HFSF, it also seems strange that there was no prior communication to find a solution without all the noise, but that is likely explained by the administrative gap within the HFSF. Last summer both CEO Aris Xenofos and his deputy Giorgos Koutsos were forced to resign even though no one had been chosen to replace them. The only stable factor in the fund is chairman Giorgos Michelis, but he has no executive authority.
Therefore, along with that at National, there is also a serious management crisis at the HFSF, given that the new CEO, Vassilis Katsikiotis – announced last week by the government – has not taken over the running of the fund. According to sources, this is because the government and the country’s creditors (which hold the purse strings at the HFSF) have gone back on the agreement reached regarding his salary and the length of his mandate, which according to the Government Gazette expires on June 30 (i.e. after just seven months).
At the same time Piraeus Bank, Greece’s biggest in terms of assets, also remains without a CEO, as the process to that end has been repeatedly postponed since January, adding to the problematic picture in the credit sector.