Dimitrios Mantzounis

Greece enjoyed a magical year in 2004. It was marked by the exceptional hosting of the Olympics as well as the completion of infrastructure projects. Hence there were worries and questions about the prospects of Greece after the Games. Now, after the end of the first post-Olympic year, the ominous forecasts have been proven wrong and growth rates remain rapid in an international environment affected negatively by issues such as the oil price rise and terrorism. The banking sector has proven it can expand and profit domestically and in the broader region of Southeastern Europe through systematic work and long-term strategy, competing with the big European credit corporations and without state support. Greek banks in particular have strengthened further thanks to regional expansion, which has now taken the form of constant and continuous growth either through acquisitions or through autonomous expansion. More and more Greek companies are discovering the potential of several sectors in those economies. At the same time the development of banks domestically has continued and so it will for the next few years, with private consumers and small companies as priorities. Several more years of continuous growth in credit expansion are needed for Greece to reach the European loans average as a percentage of the gross domestic product. There also are fiscal products like loans secured on property with which Greek clients are not yet familiar. Greeks own considerable real estate property, with 80 percent of houses inhabited by their owners. All this property could be used as guarantee for loans for long-term consumer spending. Greece is gradually becoming an attraction for holiday homes or permanent residence of wealthy Europeans. This, along with the Olympic fame and the new infrastructures, will lead to more investment activity in housing outside the cities. It is high time we realized that the stability of the banking system is one of the strongest comparative advantages Greece has in the context of globalization and stiff competition and must be safeguarded by all means. Dimitrios Mantzounis is CEO at Alpha Bank.

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