Banking for the Tech Sector

Interview with Harris Pistos on BoC’s IBU Tech Hub Aiming to support the daily banking needs of the several international tech companies that have chosen Cyprus as their base, the IBU at Bank of Cyprus recently launched a specialised information technology management unit, located in Limassol and aligned with the Government’s plan to further develop the island’s tech sector. Harris Pistos, Director International Banking at Bank of Cyprus, spoke to GOLD about the bank’s latest initiative. By Artemis Constantinidou

Bank of Cyprus recently announced the launch of an IBU Technology Hub, making it the first bank to have created a dedicated unit to assist international ICT companies based in Cyprus. What led to the implementation of this initiative?

We had identified the need and potential of the specific market and proceeded to create the IBU Technology Hub to better understand the industry specifics and thus be able to better support Information and Communications Technology companies’ daily banking needs. Many international ICT firms have already moved to Cyprus, along with high-level management and staff, and this trend was further bolstered by the incentives announced by the Government last October, which will enable the further development of the sector.

What exactly will the IBU Tech Hub offer its clients, and what are some examples of the specialized services available?

International ICT companies constitute a very fast-moving market segment that needs high expertise in understanding and responding to their daily banking customer needs. Our specialised team has a better understanding of these customers’ business needs and can thus offer tailored value-added propositions.


How important is the state of a country’s banking system in a company’s decision to relocate? Where does Cyprus stand in this compared to other countries?

The state of a country’s banking system is very important to these customers in terms of trusting a local bank with their business. The banking system has changed significantly since 2013, and today we are ready to compete with large international banks. At the same time, country attributes like quality of life, high quality of professional services, high-calibre and multilingual employees, a stable legal system, tax incentives and good infrastructure, are additional attributes that are important and attractive when choosing a jurisdiction.

As you have noted, the Government recently announced a series of incentives in an effort to further boost the tech sector in Cyprus. How would you assess these measures, and to what extent do you expect them to positively affect the sector?

These tax incentives, as well as the ease of setting up a new business and relocating employees to Cyprus, are very important and a determining factor in boosting the momentum of international ICT companies moving to Cyprus. These incentives, together with the country attributes, are expected to bring a significant number of large international companies to Cyprus.

In the last year, several tech-related associations have been set up in order to create a community and a voice for the tech cluster in Cyprus. Is Bank of Cyprus involved with any of these associations?

We are in contact with a number of these associations and our common goal is to develop this sector together for the benefit of Cyprus and the Cyprus economy.

Given your longstanding experience with the Bank’s international clients in Cyprus, what do you see as the main challenges when conducting their business operations in Cyprus?

Probably the biggest challenge is handling an increasingly high transactional volume in areas where, until now, we’ve had limited cooperation. This could be both because of volume vs price or because of our risk appetite and the understanding of the specifics of particular market segments. Today we are proud to be building a sustainable International Banking Unit, by applying the highest international AML standards, avoiding reputational risk and being a credible partner with our correspondent banks. It is in this context that we would similarly like to build our cooperation with international ICT companies.

In your opinion, what else could be done in order to attract more international tech companies to Cyprus?

The Government’s latest package of incentives, combined with Cyprus’ other attributes, is very attractive to international ICT companies thinking of relocating to Cyprus. Business professionals and the public sector should work together in delivering this promise, i.e. by ensuring the ease of establishing a new company in Cyprus and of relocating staff,  and providing a very good experience to these foreign investors.