Bank brother to keep an eye on loans

Greece’s interbank monitoring system for creditworthiness, named after the ancient sage Teiresias, will soon be able to provide banks with a record of the personal and consumer loans and credit card history of each other’s customers. The list is aimed at cutting down on bad debts while also at providing good customers with lower interest rates. The executive committee of the Hellenic Banks’ Association yesterday evaluated the results of a pilot program that was carried out on 10 percent of customers who have borrowed from all banks. The results of the pilot program showed that between 10 percent and 13 percent of 1 million customers have taken out more than one consumer loan. This figure is not considered abnormal and does not constitute a danger to the credit system. Even so, these figures do not include loans that banks have issued through companies (such as those selling electric goods) for which there are no figures. The success of the pilot program showed that the system is ready to begin operating fully from September, or by the end of the year at the latest, so that 2003 can be the first full year of its operation. The Teiresias system, officials say, has taken into account all the points raised by the Authority for the Protection of Personal Data, a state-ordained privacy watchdog. Only banks and leasing and factoring companies authorized by the Bank of Greece will have the right to use the database of customers’ debts. Activating the system is expected to protect banks from bad debts, at a time of great credit expansion. It is also expected to lead to a more rational policy on the price of money for credit cards and consumer loans, which have been criticized for being too high. Banks note that with this «white list» of customers, they will be able to use a scoring system for each one. In this way, they will be able to deal with people who do not pay their debts while showing greater flexibility toward those who do pay off their loans, perhaps by offering them lower rates. Banks also believe that monitoring each consumer loan will help induce the central bank to lift its current restrictions on the issuing of such loans.

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