Meet Cyprus' Newest Bank - Exclusive Interview with Yiannis Loizou, CEO, Ancoria Bank

29 April 2016
Yiannis Loizou, CEO, Ancoria Bank 
Ancoria Bank, the first bank to receive a banking license after the crisis of 2013, is the creation of the Swedish national Sievert Larsson who was determined to contribute to the recovery of the banking sector in Cyprus. He first started doing business on the island in 1987 and became a strong supporter of the Cypriot youth, believing it the potential of the country’s human resource base. The bank aims at redefining banking in Cyprus and will follow an ethical banking strategy, by engaging the customer, forming strong bonds and bringing to the market affordable products and services. At its core it will focus on providing prudent guidance and financing to young entrepreneurs to foster economic growth.
BIU: Ancoria Bank Limited is the first bank to receive a banking license after the crisis. What were the factors that influenced its founder, the Swedish national Sievert Larsson, to choose Cyprus for the opening of the bank?
Yiannis Loizou: Cyprus has an important geostrategic position; it is the closest European Union country to the Middle East, a safe location in a region in turmoil with great prospects for growth, to which the discovery of gas reserves is considered to be a major contributor.
The founder of Ancoria Bank, Sievert Larsson, comes from Sweden and his relationship with Cyprus started many years ago when he set up an insurance company here, in 1987. Because of the 2013 events, he was adamant in his will to contribute to the recovery of the Cyprus economy especially of the banking sector, which was greatly affected. Sievert has always been a believer in the strong human capital base of Cyprus and wanted to offer his support with clear actions.
Post-crisis, Cyprus has done a good job at attracting major international names and an influx of foreign capital to recapitalize the banks, implementing stronger regulations in line with both the European and American standards.
When we applied for the license in 2013, there had been a loss of trust of the public in the banking system and for us the granting of the license from the Central Bank of Cyprus was a vote of confidence. We went through a very thorough and rigorous due-diligence process, but at the end of a challenging journey, one year later, in 2014, we received the license. It took one more year for the bank to become fully operational, which is a testament to how swiftly things can progress in Cyprus, despite the backdrop of a stressful economic situation.
BIU: How many employees do you have now?

Yiannis Loizou: We are sixty people now, with the vast majority employed in September 2015. The core team that was in charge of the licensing application process and opening of the bank was comprised of not more than fifteen people.


BIU: Which will be the sectors of interest for you and what is your priority as a new bank coming to the post-crisis market?
Yiannis Loizou: Ancoria Bank, recognising the current challenges and those ahead, is prepared to contribute to the recovery of the banking sector and to offer its support in rebuilding Cyprus’ future. The objective is to promote the entrepreneurial spirit in various sectors as an important driving force for a successful economy.  
We have conducted our own studies with regard to the development sectors that we can add value to and we feel that there are prospects even in some sectors that have been neglected over the years. Very important for us is to provide prudent guidance and financing to young entrepreneurs given the large percentage of highly educated local youth. Here at Ancoria Bank, we very much believe in supporting the younger generations, something that our founder has long been doing through The Sievert Larsson Scholarship Foundation.
We aim to redefine banking and act as our clients’ financial partner to ensure a better and more sustainable banking for us all. Banking, in our vision, means sitting down with the clients, building trust and rewarding relationships by understanding their needs and then providing products and services accordingly, with full transparency in terms of the costs and their affordability. Our commitment, honesty, integrity and transparency will be evident in all that we do.
Finally, our goal is to offer competitive interest rates and charges and to maintain them low for our clients. This will be a further contribution of Ancoria Bank to the recovery of Cyprus’ economy and future growth.
BIU: What is your assessment of the banking sector in Cyprus for the years to come?
Yiannis Loizou: Cyprus’ banking sector has been recovering steadily since the 2013 events with the results being better than initially anticipated. The process has been challenging especially in terms of restoring the public’s confidence in the banks and regaining credibility in front of foreign investors. Cyprus banks should remain persistent and follow a strict schedule to continuously improve their capital position.
Despite the challenges, the current situation is evidently more stable and promising as Cyprus, by applying the right policies and reforms, has seen its credit rating upgraded and is attracting once again foreign investments. In addition, the lifting of the capital controls, the recapitalization of the banking sector, the positive results of the stress tests, as well as gaining access to international capital markets have been significant milestones for the recovery of the sector and essential stepping stones towards economic growth.
We are confident that the banking system will recover and it will eventually become once again one of the major pillars of the economy.

Yiannis Loizou started his career in finance in 1983 in New York. In 1989 he moved to Akelius Insurance Ltd, Cyprus where he became member of the Board of Directors in 1991 and President in 1994. He is currently the Non-Executive Chairman of Ancoria Insurance Public Ltd, where he served as Executive Chairman between 2007 and 2014. Yiannis was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Ancoria Bank Ltd. in early January 2015. He received his BA in Accounting, Information Systems and Economics at Queens College New York and an MBA in Financial Analysis at The Bernard M. Baruch College of the City University of New York. Yiannis is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in the States of Colorado and New York and a Certified ISO consultant.

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