Emporiki on the move

Important administrative developments are expected in Emporiki Bank this week. The new board of governors after the bank’s acquisition by France’s Credit Agricole (CA) will be finalized at a meeting on Friday, with Odysseas Kyriakopoulos in the post of president and Dimitris Krontiras as managing director. The bank will also present part of its new organizational structure. The developments are seen starting the countdown to Emporiki’s more forceful entry into the competitive banking market. However, the long period of preparation for the administrative changes and the selection of people with no previous banking experience have given rise to criticism. Senior banking officials charge that the French should have prepared the successor managerial scheme before moving for a 3-billion-euro investment. Such criticism, nevertheless, does not appear entirely innocent. It mainly emanates from officials of domestic banks, which, for reasons of competition, would wish to promote a picture of inertia and uncertainty for Emporiki in the hope of augmenting their own market shares at its expense in this transitional period. To date, for various reasons, no foreign bank in Greece has moved aggressively in retail banking, leaving the field almost free for domestic operators. But CA’s acquisition of Emporiki ushers in an entirely new situation; its considerable experience and know-how in retail banking, in combination with Emporiki’s extensive presence throughout Greece, has the potential of bringing a realignment in market shares. It is certain that CA will soon enrich its Greek subsidiary’s arsenal with very competitive products and many are doubtful of the ability of the other Greek banks to resist the French onslaught. Sources say that CA’s strategy is for mortgage and consumer credit to spearhead Emporiki’s counterattack. Considerable weight is also expected to be placed on investment banking, where the French seem to believe that there is a great lack of competitive products for the broad public. Emporiki’s acquisition, therefore, will be an interesting experiment in the ability of foreign banks to penetrate the local market and will show whether the dominance of Greek banks is the result of good work or the absence of competition.