Piraeus Bank administration becomes field of interventions


The issue of changes at the top of the Piraeus Bank Group, one of the country’s biggest, remained open another day on Thursday.

Although sources insist that the departure of chief executive officer Anthimos Thomopoulos is simply a matter of days now, the main shareholder of the lender, the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (HFSF), on Thursday denied it had asked Thomopoulos to resign.

“The HFSF has proceeded with the assessment of the governing boards of the systemic banks. The assessment will take place with the support of an international consultant of acclaimed experience from February to June 2016,” the bank bailout fund said in a statement on Thursday. However, well-informed sources stress that a meeting was held between HFSF officials and Thomopoulos and the CEO was asked to facilitate changes to the group by handing in his resignation.

The changes to the Piraeus Group even cropped up in Thursday’s Eurogroup meeting of eurozone finance ministers, some of whom demanded information on any government intervention, thus reflecting the persistent lack of confidence in Greece. Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem went as far as to state on the record that the government should not interfere with the management of banks.

Bloomberg reported on Thursday that US investor John Paulson, one of the bank’s main shareholders, intervened in favor of Thomopoulos. Still, those in the know confirm that the changes to the Piraeus management are certain.

Besides the upcoming modifications at Piraeus Bank, the other three systemic banks are also set to experience administrative changes. In the next few days the HFSF will announce the special international consultant for the assessment of the governing boards of all lenders, which is among the country’s bailout commitments.

The assessment process, with its exceptionally strict conditions, is likely to lead to extensive changes to the management at all banks. The conditions require that the presidents of all bank board committees will have to have international experience of at least 15 years, at foreign banks that have not had a presence in Greece for the last three years and who have had no relation to the banks operating in Greece over the last decade.

Crucially, bank board members should not have been appointed to higher public office or have been a political party member in the four years prior to their appointment at the bank, while each board will need to include at least three experts as independent non-executive members with international experience.