RCB Bank stands willing to assist in the new initiative of the Department of Studies of “Phileleftheros”, in collaboration with the University of Cyprus and with scientific advisor Professor, historian Petros Papapoliviou, for the correct, academic inventory and detailed presentation by various media is managed by Phileleftheros, all the historical companies of the place, which will be the “Golden Companies of Cyprus, from 1800 until today”. These are large companies in displacement, with a history and uninterrupted supply of many decades: Companies with a name – synonymous with the development of the Cyprus Business, which will be presented successively by the group, as part of the history and evolution of the place.
On the occasion of the support offered by RCB to this effort, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of RCB Bank, Christakis Santis, speaks to “Phileleftheros” about this decision of the bank, which, as he states in the following interview, was taken with joy, as “the history of these successful companies must emerge and be a source of inspiration for the entire business development of our country”.
The first presentation of the “Golden Company of Cyprus” will take place in the Sunday edition of June 13.
How important is it, Mr. Santis, for RCB to support the effort of “Phileleftheros” to highlight the companies with the longest history in Cyprus, from 1800 until today?
This is a commendable initiative of “Phileleftheros”, which we are happy to support, because the history of these successful companies must stand out and be a source of inspiration for the entire business development of our country. There are companies that are active with great success even before the founding of the Republic of Cyprus and are just brilliant examples of the Cypriot business “demon” that characterizes our people. For us at RCB Bank, supporting our customers and businesses in general is an integral part of our corporate culture. After all, we proved it in both recent crises that the country faced, since we were next to our customers from the first moment.
As a major sponsor of this initiative, what do you think the history of Cypriot business and companies with a leading presence of decades in the economy of our country teaches us?
First of all, we Cypriots have a vision, we are hardworking, we know how to open roads and we have the human resources and the executives to successfully implement our business plans. So these visionaries started their activity in adverse conditions and at times when the academic level of the Cypriots was not at its highest point. They proved in practice that even in difficult times we can and they proved it after the successive crises that this place was called to face. The 175 companies that will be presented by “Phileleftheros” also show that these organizations evolved, adapted to the growing demands of each era and from small family units became pioneering companies, representing Cyprus in the business scene, both in Cyprus and abroad, with an enviable success story. They are, if you will, the healthy units of the economic life of the place and we must promote them but also support them. You promote them and we support them!
Important entrepreneurs contributed to the construction of our place, to the provision of jobs and were a model for their time and a lesson for the new generation. What can be the secret to their success? And you, as a banking institution, what do you focus on when entering into business relations?
First of all, we do not see companies simply as customers, but as our strategic partners. The relationship we develop is not just based on narrow customer frameworks but extends to a full understanding of their business plans, the environment in which they are called to operate and the goals they set both in the medium and long term.
So if we focus on something, it is in the most important pillars of the Cypriot economy and consequently in those healthy business units that have the bases, the vision, the business plans and the capabilities to implement them. The important businessmen presented by “Phileleftheros” are the epitome of those who have managed over the decades to succeed with chains and significant positive actions in the Cypriot economy and society itself. It is in this ingenuity and the excellent ability of the entrepreneurs that the prosperity of Cyprus was based and it should be based in the future as well. As strategic partners of these units, we contribute in various ways to the continuous development, the supply of new products and the transition of the market and society to the new digital age, with products and services that support business and the economy in general.
The successive severe crises (invasion, financial crisis of '13 and pandemic) dealt serious blows to Cypriot companies. But some have endured and endure. What do you think should be the role of banks in times of crisis, in terms of business?
I mentioned earlier that we at RCB Bank see our role as a strategic partner. This role therefore becomes even more important in times of crisis where either emergencies arise or support needs to be extended in order to give the company time to deal with the crisis. If we take tourism for example, last year due to the pandemic was almost non-existent and our customers found themselves in an unprecedented situation, where the most important industry in the country could not function. He was also not at all sure that this year would be a normal year for tourism. For this very reason, we at RCB Bank, contacted each of our customers individually and stated “present” to any needs that have arisen or will arise this year.
When you know your partner very well, you know the prospects he has and you show the solidarity needed to manage a crisis. RCB's trust and customer-centric approach combined with excellent customer service are the cornerstone of the bank's success and the driving force behind its growth. Undoubtedly the pandemic has accelerated changes in terms of technology, changing the traditional way businesses operate, including banks and the economy in general. Banks need to support sustainable businesses that at the end of the day will pull the country out of the crisis and create jobs.
Access to business loans was and remains a demand for companies in the implementation of their development plans. Is this access offered in Cyprus and, if so, in what forms?
There is very good access to lending and in fact with very good financing terms. It is enough to have a clear repayment capacity and a viable business plan. Also, the programs of the European Investment Bank (EIB) have significantly supported the Cypriot small and medium-sized companies and medium-sized companies in recent years as well as innovative companies in Cyprus, mainly in areas that the country owes, either due to European or international obligations trends to invest and grow. In addition, the draft state guarantees for business financing should proceed immediately. Also, the utilization of the EU Development and Sustainability Fund. is an important opportunity to promote reforms that will correct distortions over time and strengthen the economy, with an emphasis on digital transformation and green growth. RCB Bank has significantly increased lending to Cypriot companies and remains committed to further supporting the Cypriot economy and the companies that make up its cells.
Should personalities of that time, who did not have the media and modern knowledge of today, be projected more as role models for the new generation of entrepreneurs?
Unintelligible, as they are among these pioneers who with insight but also prudence in the development of their business plans that built the current Cypriot economy and market. There are, therefore, many examples to imitate, both in terms of the vision but also the ethos and values of these important personalities from which young people can draw inspiration and move on to tomorrow, their own and that of Cyprus.
In what areas do you think tomorrow's economic model should focus? Could Cyprus open up to other sectors and attract investment?
Cyprus has the infrastructure, human resources, experience, a favorable tax model and a strategic position that allow it to attract foreign technology companies that are in line with the new digital age but also from other sectors that could be based in the our country. There are already several examples of companies that moved their base to Cyprus and opened new prospects for employment and growth that did not exist in the past. We also see huge potential in renewable energy sources and we believe that Cyprus could be in the top positions in terms of production and use of renewable energy sources.
At the same time, the prospects for existing pillars, such as tourism, shipping, the pharmaceutical industry, education and medical services, are enormous and must be exploited. These traditional sectors of the economy should adopt more sustainable business models and together with the development of new sectors create a diversified economy that will be more attractive for productive investment. It is extremely important to have companies that can compete internationally by taking advantage of our country's competitive advantages. We already have such companies that show the way. We consider it our duty to support them because we believe that it is the best way to help the real development of the place.