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Even after some 1.3m new accounts were opened last year, around 40% of Poles still do not have a bank account. This scope for growth makes Polish banks more upbeat than their neighbours, as does the country’s distinction as the only EU member to avoid a GDP contraction during the financial crisis.
Although profits at Poland’s largest lenders fell last year, most predict a swift return to growth. Annual loan growth is expected to average around 10% in the coming years, driven by continued strength in household demand, including foreign-currency housing loans. This category ravaged balance sheets at lenders in Hungary and the Baltics, but in Poland, by contrast, foreign-currency loans have been less likely to turn non-performing than their zloty-denominated counterparts.
It’s not all smooth sailing, however. Corporate lending shrank in 2009, with a tepid recovery expected this year. An intense war for deposits has also put margins under pressure. Nonetheless, when Polish lenders survey the banking wreckage outside of their borders, it will remind them that it could be much worse.
Read more at Financial Services Briefing: “Looking up” (March 17th)