NovaBank, the fast-growing retail bank, yesterday announced the opening of a branch in Halkida on the island of Evia early this week, bringing its network to 73. The bank, a joint venture between insurance group Interamerican and Portugal’s Banco Comercial Portugues set up just two years, said it plans to expand its nationwide network to 120 by 2003. Dimitris Kontominas, NovaBank president, said last month that the bank aims to boost the number of customers to 350,000 by next year against a total of 115,000 clients to date. Another ambitious goal includes doubling the bank’s capital to 293 million euros from 147 million euros. NovaBank’s success in the retail banking market could be attributed to fortuitous timing. The bank launched itself onto the Greek market at a time when lending rates were rapidly converging to eurozone levels in the runup to European Monetary Union membership. With private sector credit to gross domestic product at almost half of the European Union average, retail banking is expected to be the main engine of growth for the banking industry. Kontominas also announced NovaBank’s plans to branch out into other areas such as private banking, business banking and bancassurance, building on the skills and expertise of BCP in the latter. NovaBank signaled its intention to exploit opportunities in neighboring countries when it acquired insolvent Turkish bank Sitebank for an undisclosed sum.The bank expects to post its first profit in 2003.