ECONOMY

FBB wants to branch into retail banking

In its third year in business, First Business Bank (FBB) aims to expand into retail banking and expand credit to small and medium-sized enterprises. Currently specializing in credit to shipping and hotel firms, FBB is now offering a mortgage on competitive terms (3.9 percent interest for the first year and variable interest, tied to the European Central Bank’s main rate, thereafter) and will also offer an account for company personnel with an overdraft facility and a 3 percent interest rate. At present, FBB has just seven branches. It wants to expand its network to 35. Through its partnership with state-owned Agricultural Bank, which owns a 44 percent share, FBB clients have access to Agricultural’s network of 570 ATMs. The bank’s 89 million euros in own capital allows it to implement its goals without needing to raise capital. The bank’s expansion into mortgages and consumer credit, two of the most profitable products due to their large spreads, will not be too aggressive, a top manager says. Rather, it will be part of its strategy to attract small and medium-sized industries and commercial enterprises. At present, the bank’s portfolio consists of credit to shipping (40 percent), credit to hotels (40 percent) and credit to small and medium-sized enterprises (20 percent). At the end of a five-year period, in 2009, the bank aims to be generating 40 percent of its income from retail banking and the rest from corporate lending. Despite the fivefold expansion in branches, the number of employees will only expand to 350, from 150 currently, because the bank’s retail branches will follow the current trend for a small branch with less than five employees. FBB was founded in November 2001 and acquired the branch network, along with the portfolio of clients in the shipping and hotel sector, of Canada’s Bank of Nova Scotia.