ECONOMY

Greek banks turn interest to immigrants’ special needs

Greece’s economic immigrants are estimated at 1 million people, about half of whom possess residence and work permits. They make a significant contribution to the production process, especially in farming, construction, tourism and even services requiring specialized knowledge. As a result they have become consumers, savers, small businessmen and therefore bank clients. Greek banks have recently begun attempts to cater to their particular requirements. National Bank The National Bank of Greece’s (NBG) director of on-line business, Maria Myzithra, says economic immigrants’ interest is focused on deposits and mortgages. Despite a surge in the first nine months of the year, immigrants’ applications for mortgages still amounted to only 1 percent of the total. Residence permits and proof of stable employment are basic requirements for the granting of a mortgage but NBG has generally shied away from granting credit cards to immigrants. Deposit accounts may be opened merely on proof of identity; residence and work permits are not required and cash cards are issued for use in ATMs. A holder of a non-Greek cash card can choose among four languages in using NBG’s ATM network (English, French, German and Italian), while Albanian-speaking holders of Greek cash cards, irrespective of the issuing bank, can conduct transactions through ATMs in their native language. EFG Eurobank Bank officials say demand for consumer loans among immigrants is still quite low but that for mortgage loans is on the rise. Lending criteria are no different from those for native residents. The main factors taken into account in evaluating immigrants’ creditworthiness are their years of residence in the country, their stability of employment and income, and elements indicating the degree of their integration, such as family residence in the country and children’s school attendance. Demand for business loans is small; requirements are the tax registration number (AFM), financial data and residence permit. All such loans granted to immigrants have been serviced without problems. Piraeus Bank Piraeus Bank has announced the granting of special mortgage loans and a package of bank products for economic immigrants as of Monday. The loans will be granted to individuals with a minimum income of 4,000 euros for the purchase, construction, completion or repair of a house, and will be for a minimum sum of 10,000 euros, to be repaid over 30 years so that the monthly installment will be low. The mortgages will carry a variable rate of 5.5 percent, but there are possibilities for fixed rates of 3.8 percent for the first year and of 5.8 percent for the first five years. The mortgage borrower may also obtain an open-ended loan of 3,000 euros at a low rate and a credit card free for the duration of the loan. The package of services includes deposit accounts, bank assurance products and the debit card Wincard Visa Electron. Most Greek banks have correspondents abroad for immigrants’ remittances. Piraeus Bank estimates remittances roughly double every year. Bank officials said on the whole, immigrants are consistent clients who create no problems.