Fostering growth in a challenging time

With one more difficult year just behind us, we cannot afford to grow complacent given the many, multi-faceted and important challenges that lie ahead in 2024. We're entering a fifth year of heightened uncertainty and instability in the financial system, following the pandemic, two ongoing armed conflicts, sanctions, the energy crisis, an inflation spike and a tightening of monetary policy by the European Central Bank. Meanwhile an unprecedented transformation is taking place, which includes the transition from fossil fuels to renewables, and at the same time we live in an era of technological revolution creating new opportunities while also posing new challenges.

To tackle the new challenges, our economy must remain on a robust foundation and continue to grow through sound management and investment, both from the private sector and the state. Besides, we cannot afford to disregard the significant impact of external factors, as our country is a small, open economy that is sensitive to economic and political events overseas, located in a region beset by long-lasting conflicts. Cyprus also has to deal with a long-running political problem that has significantly delayed any economic benefits from the exploitation of offshore hydrocarbons, or the opening up of the skies, waterways or new markets that would grow trade and tourism.

Given the particularities of Cyprus and its economy, it becomes all the more important that we properly manage domestic factors which depend on our own actions and decisions. It's up to us to make sure that our country is governed by a modern legal framework and rules that are applied universally, fairly and speedily through efficient judicial, state and independent mechanisms. It's also up to us to safeguard fiscal discipline and restore our country's good name, particularly after its tarnishing by the haircut on deposits in 2013 and Cyprus' subsequent linking to foreign interests implicated in unlawful activities and who are subject to sanctions.

At Bank of Cyprus, having experienced the disastrous effects of 2013, we know first-hand how important it is to maintain one's good reputation, how important it is to keep the trust of customers, investors and our own staff. We've experienced first-hand the Danish proverb that goes: "Reputation comes on foot and leaves on horseback."

Thanks to hard work, an across-the-board restructuring of business, careful management of operations, strict adherence to the laws and regulations governing our operations, and some tough decisions to suspend services that entailed high risk - even where this resulted in the loss of clients and revenue - today we have become the Bank which individuals and businesses alike trust the most with their deposits. We've also earned the trust of investors - as demonstrated by the high interest from reputable foreign investors in participating in debt issuances in 2022 and 2023.

As always, our chief goal is to help the Cypriot economy grow. During the first three quarters of 2023 we issued €1.6 billion in new loans to households and businesses, in this way supporting private housing, consumption and of course new investments. We think it is these investments that will ensure jobs in the future, in a technologically different world, allowing young university graduates to remain in the country and create value.

Buttressed by an increasingly strict regulatory framework, our commitment to effectively identify and manage risk is the cornerstone of maintaining trust in Bank of Cyprus. We've invested in making the most of tech and digitisation, for optimal management of the risks and the volatility lurking in the global financial environment.

At Bank of Cyprus, we're on a mission to constantly innovate and roll out new quality products and services adapted to modern-day demands. At the same time, we have preserved and boosted our presence and leadership in the market, in digital transition, and in the drive to transform Cyprus into a sustainable and environmentally responsible, modern economy. We want to build a bright future, full of prospects and prosperity for our country and its people.