CYPRUS: BoC appoints CEO from own ranks, as Hourican steps down

Bank of Cyprus, the island’s premier lender, has appointed a new CEO from among its own ranks, after turnaround chief executive John Hourican said he would step down later this year.

The bank’s board appointed Panicos Nicolaou, until now head of the major corporates division, to fill Hourican’s shoes, who leaves having helped rescue the bank from total meltdown caused by the 2013 financial crisis and the forced merger that ensued with Laiki Popular Bank, including depositors seeing their money disappear into thin air.

Having announced some positive news with first quarter profits of about EUR 95 mln, Nicolaou’s main challenges will be further reducing the non-performing loans (NPLs) and returning to lending to local businesses, many of which continue to struggle with little or no access to liquidity.

The bank’s outgoing chairman, Josef Ackermann, who is expected to leave after the next shareholders’ annual general meeting, said that Nicolaou was chosen after a thorough international search process.

Dr. Ackermann added in a statement that, Panicos has emerged from a strong field as our choice to lead the Group in its next chapter. Panicos comes from the Bank of Cyprus family, with a long and successful career and notable contributions in strengthening business relationships with our major corporate clients. My board colleagues and I are fully confident that the Bank of Cyprus will remain in good hands with Panicos at the helm.

The new CEO’s appointment is subject to ECB approval.

Nicolaou joined the bank in 2001 and has been mostly active in the Corporate Banking Division and became its Director in June 2016, in addition to managing the Corporate Banking Centres throughout Cyprus, the International Corporate Banking Centre and International Operations, as well as the bank’s Factoring Unit. He is a graduate of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) School of Management, the National Technical University of Athens (Metsovio), Greece and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Nicolaou is also an Associate Member of the UK Chartered Institute of Bankers since 2004.

In March, the bank notified the London Stock Exchange that Hourican would step down in September after working a six-month notice.

The island’s best paid banker will take on a UK opportunity returning to the country’s corporate scene after a six-year absence and navigating his troubled bank to safer waters.

During the bailout crisis, depositors saw the absorption of Laiki Bank, taking on the collapsed bank’s clients who saw almost half of their uninsured deposits turned into equity.

Hourican’s contract was renewed last year until the end of 2020. He cited family matters as a key reason for his departure and said the bank’s strong balance sheet is a good moment to consider his succession.

According to Sky News, Hourican is to be named chief executive of NewDay, a consumer finance provider which runs co-branded credit cards with retail giants? including Amazon, Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group, Debenhams and the tour operator Tui Travel.

The Dubliner CEO of the Bank of Cyprus, was paid Euros 2.1 million in 2017, putting him among the best-paid Irish bankers in the world, The Times reported last year.

Hourican, who made his name at Royal Bank of Scotland, enjoyed a 27% rise in salary in 2017. Bank of Cyprus announced a net loss of Euros 104m for 2018.

Source: The Financial Mirror