CFI.co Meets the CEO of Hellenic Bank: Bert Pijls
In late 2014, Bert Pijls arrived in Cyprus on a mission to entrench Hellenic Bank as a key player in the nation’s economy. Mr Pijls came exceptionally well prepared for the job at hand: his international banking career took him to Germany, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, and the United States. The Dutch-born banker brings both experience and energy to his role as CEO of a bank he says is uniquely positioned to capitalise on the opportunities ahead.
Educated in the Netherlands and the United States, Mr Pijls, took over Hellenic Bank in the wake of the March 2013 financial meltdown that brought Cyprus’ banking sector and the country’s economy close to the brink of collapse.
Two years after the crisis, Mr Pijls notes that considerable progress has been made on both fronts. Cyprus has implemented rapid structural reforms, returned to the international capital markets, and in the first quarter of 2015 registered its first growth in three and half years.
Hellenic Bank has mirrored the country’s progress, significantly strengthening its position in the market as it builds on solid foundations. “The bank is not under any regulatory restructuring programme, has ample liquidity, and has been recapitalised,” says Mr Pijls.
This track record has only served to reinforce his optimism for the future. Committed to working collectively with the board of directors, the management team, and all staff of the bank, Mr Pijls is focused on delivering further growth for the bank and, by extension, supporting the economic recovery of Cyprus. “I look to the future with renewed energy and optimism. We are uniquely positioned to support the recovery of the Cypriot economy as well as grow the bank.”
His strategy is two-pronged: “On the one hand, we must continue to proactively address non-performing loans, and on the other, we must increase the amount of new loans we provide to viable Cypriot businesses and households.”
This requires a rigorous approach to lending policy as Hellenic Bank continues to offer restructuring solutions tailored to clients’ specific circumstances while making new lending available based on clients’ ability to service the debt.
The first bank CEO to be approved under the newly established European Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM), Mr Pijls was born in Nijmegen, Netherlands, and studied Business Administration at the Dutch Nijenrode University and International Management at the American Graduate School of International Management (Thunderbird) in Phoenix, Arizona.
Mr Pijls started his career at Citigroup working in Germany, Belgium, and the US for ten years before moving to the New York-based Internet financial services start-up Moneyunion Inc. From there he went to Egg Banking Plc, first in London and later in Paris. After a stint at American Express in London, he returned to Citigroup in the Czech Republic, then went back to Egg Banking Plc in London. Before his appointment as CEO of Hellenic Bank, Mr Pijls worked for British Gas / Centrica.
Officially appointed CEO in January 2015, Mr Pijls is also a member of Hellenic Bank’s board of directors and chairman of Pancyprian Insurance Limited and Hellenic Alico Life Insurance Company Limited.