450 Hellenic Bank staff choose exit plan

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Some 450 Hellenic Bank employees have selected the exit button opting for early retirement with €200,000 compensation each.

The bank launched its voluntary exit scheme to reduce its staff by around 500 employees by the end of November.

Initially, the bank had appeared adamant about going ahead with redundancies, breaking with the established practice of banks giving compensation to those who chose early retirement.

Its decision led to a labour crisis in the banking sector, which was only averted after Hellenic Bank was forced to take a step back from its plans to reduce staff with redundancies without compensation.

News site Stockwatch quoting a Hellenic source, said the majority of the 450 early retirement petitions have been approved, with employees already informed of the decision.

The bank is going over the last few applications, which involve staff perceived to be vital to the bank’s smooth operations, as they carry out tasks requiring a specialised skill set.

According to the source, HB may need to reshuffle its staff, reassigning employees to other positions to cover any gaps created by the exit scheme.

Most employees pushing the exit button are aged between 50 and 60 and are entitled to the maximum compensation of €200,000.

Additionally, under the agreement made with the unions, the departing employees will continue to enjoy medical coverage through their supplementary health fund for two years.

The provision of medical care will also cover the existing dependents of the employees already registered in the fund.

Compensation will be deposited into employees’ current accounts.

They will also be paid the balance of annual leave from previous years.

As was the case in previous exit schemes, employees will retain for a period of time the low-interest rate on housing and student loans they had taken out with the bank.

The cost of the redundancy scheme is estimated in the first phase to be between €80 and €100 mln.

As in the Bank of Cyprus’ case, this will be the last voluntary retirement scheme with a €200,000 maximum compensation.

As announced by both banks, employees will fall under the government’s compensation scheme in future.

Hellenic Bank saw its annual profits increase in the first half of 2022 to €55.4 mln from €21 mln last year, reducing its non-performing loans further and sticking to its transformation roadmap.

The island’s second-largest lender said that during the first six months of the year, €556 mln of new loans with healthy risk-return profile were granted, compared to €388 mln in the same period last year, up 43%.