A vision for Emporiki

Emporiki Bank will stay listed on the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) and will remain a Greek bank under local management, but the introduction of foreign know-how will give it the edge over its competitors, said Jean Frederic de Leusse, head of international development operations and member of the executive committee of France’s Credit Agricole (CA), which acquired a nearly 70 percent stake in the Greek bank earlier this year. In an interview with Kathimerini, he said that the Greek market, with the great opportunities it offers, presents a challenge. De Leusse said the French group, one of the biggest in the world, is looking forward to participating energetically in the transformation of the Greek economy whose prospects are optimistic. Excerpts from the interview follow: After the completion of administrative changes at Emporiki, which sectors will the bank place emphasis on? What are your priorities? Right after the acquisition, we began a big effort aimed at consolidation. We set up cooperation for the transfer of know-how, the exchange of experiences and the adaptation of Emporiki’s structures to the requirements of the CA group. Our main aim now is to transform Emporiki so as to be soon able to offer the Greek consumer the best quality services possible. Our goal is to identify the requirements of consumers and cover them effectively… Our next priority is to instill this vision in the staff of Emporiki: a different approach, a new way of working… At the end of this process, which may last two to three years, when the changes are completed, I want Emporiki’s employees to be satisfied and proud that they are part of our organization. Human resources are the key to achieving our goals. It is claimed that interest rate margins in Greece are higher than in the rest of Europe. Do you agree with this finding and will there be changes in Emporiki’s pricing policy? The important thing is for the client to buy something at a good price. If the customer is happy with the quality of service and the products we offer, he will come to the bank. For me, the most important factor is not the interest rate margin or the size of the commission charges for the sale of a product but the quality characteristics of the products and services. In France, for instance, we work with very low margins but we manage to be a particularly profitable organization. This we achieve through the centralization of all procedures and high cross-sales. We sell many products to many customers, which means large economies of scale. On average, we sell 7.8 products to each customer. Cross-sales are the only way for high profitability at low prices. We shall strive to apply the same model gradually in Greece. Emporiki has a large number of subsidiaries. Are there any plans for restructuring? There is a great deal of talk about the future of the Phoenix insurance arm. Some of the subsidiaries are great opportunities for us. In recent years, Emporiki has made important moves in the Balkans, which are a very good base for our further growth. Through Emporiki, our group now has a presence in Albania, Romania, Bulgaria and Cyprus, markets which we consider particularly important and on which we shall place great weight. As regards Phoenix, we have made a public offer to acquire minority rights with a view to delisting the company from the Athens Stock Exchange. We are at the end of this process. After the delisting, we shall examine the future of the firm. It is a complex decision and we shall examine all alternative possibilities before we make a final decision. Nevertheless, I can say that the insurance business, beyond bancassurance products, is not the main area of activity for our group. In bancassurance, we have plans for the development of Emporiki Life, which is particularly successful in its field. You have said that Emporiki will remain listed on ASE. Are you at all considering the possibility of delisting? No. For the time being we are fully satisfied with our stake in Emporiki and I believe it is would be a plus for the bank to remain listed. A listed company has specific and strict obligations for transparency and, generally, of corporate discipline. This a framework which suits the general philosophy of the CA group. Our aim is for our Greek shareholders to be happy with our work and Emporiki’s results.