Wanted: a CEO willing to hold Greek banking's "poisoned chalice"

Tue Feb 21, 2017 4:47am EST
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By George Georgiopoulos

ATHENS (Reuters) - Wanted: a chief executive to run Greece's bank-rescue fund. Job description: work hard and pray for a miracle.

    Greece has failed to find a boss for its Hellenic Financial Stability Fund since July, when its three-member executive team resigned. A new CEO, offered the job in late October quit a week later. His predecessor, an interim boss, had lasted two months.

The fund, financed by euro zone and International Monetary Fund loans, has not explained its failure to find a new leader, but a source close to the recruitment process said the role was challenging and "less enticing than initially thought".

Former fund executives describe it as one of the most thankless jobs in banking. One called it a "poisoned chalice".

The failure to find a new CEO means the fund lacks a strong leader to push banks to make painful reforms, such as tackling bad loans. Their huge burden of bad debt, totaling 106 billion euros ($113 billion) or about half of all loans, inhibits them from providing credit to the shattered economy's vibrant firms.

The CEO's role is to use the fund's leverage as a major investor in three of Greece's four major listed banks to help push through banking reforms designed by the European Union, the European Central Bank and IMF and to eventually divest its stakes, returning banks to private hands.

The job now comes with an annual salary of up to 270,000 euros ($290,000), perhaps low by the international standards of senior bank executives, but higher than two years ago when then-finance minister Yannis Varoufakis capped it at 132,000 euros.

Moreover, the boss has to answer to several masters who are currently at loggerheads over the broader question of Greek reforms.   Continued...

People make their way past the National Bank of Greece headquarters in central Athens, Greece, February 19, 2017. Picture taken February 19, 2017. REUTERS/Michalis Karagiannis