NBG hails plan success

A total of 1,506 National Bank of Greece employees agreed to accept the terms of a voluntary retirement program that will end up costing the bank 106 million euros. Top managers at the bank, Greece’s largest, said they were very satisfied with the results, although the number of voluntary retirees did not quite reach the desired goal of just under 2,000. Still, the program is the largest ever in the public sector and involves about one in 10 of the bank’s employees. The employees included in the program will retire gradually by the end of the year. They come both from the bank’s branch network (982) and the central offices (524). Of the total cost, 94 million will be spent on severance payments and the rest on a one-time injection of the bank’s pension fund, to compensate for lost employee contributions. The bank’s management has not yet decided on how to present the cost in the books. The preferred solution is to burden the current financial year and not amortize the cost over a number of years. The management says the move will ultimately be beneficial, resulting in annual savings of 70 million euros, in current prices. On the other hand, the bank will hire 450 employees. since it is nominally a state-controlled bank, the hirings will be through a competition supervised by the state hiring board (ASEP). These younger employees will cost 7 million euros annually and will all be employed at branches. Managers also said that the cost-to-earnings ratio will improve to 58 percent from a current 61 percent, while return on equity will rise to 21 percent, from 19 percent. Finally, National hopes to become more attractive for institutional investors. Presentations to investors will follow over the coming weeks, on the occasion of the issuance of hybrid titles worth 400 million euros.