Bank Pekao backs London as post-Brexit gateway to Poland

Polish Bank Pekao Backs London to remain top financial centre in Europe

Poland’s biggest corporate and investment bank officially backed London to remain Europe’s top financial hub as he targets increased investor interest in the growing Polish economy.

Michal Krupinski, chief executive of Pekao Bank, unveiled a new London office in Mayfair to serve the large British investor community looking for Polish assets, as London-based FTSE Russell upgrades Poland to developed economy status in its indices.

The former head of Merrill Lynch’s global banking and markets activity in Central and Eastern Europe is presiding over an internationalisation strategy following the bank’s return to Polish hands last year. A consortium consisting of a state-backed insurer and a development fund bought the bank from Italian giant Unicredit.

Mr Krupinski said that “We want to expand and make sure we are the bank of choice for UK-based financial and strategic investors, but also what we are seeing is a growing interest from our corporate clients, Polish companies that want to expand into the UK market”.

In a strong sign for Brexit Britian, Mr Krupinski said that London remains “Europe’s premier financial hub. Most of our investors sit here, including portfolio investors who are invested in our stock. We also see increased interest from both London-based private equity and strategic players in Poland.”

He added: “I think regardless of what is going to happen [after Brexit] London will remain the main hub for sponsors and portfolio investors. I do not anticipate that we will have a lot of our clients moving to other cities. The UK market is an attractive one.”

Although the London office is not currently licensed as a subsidiary, Pekao is considering applying so it can deliver services directly from the London office as well as taking deposits. The bank will take a decision in the first half of next year, when there is more clarity on Brexit, Krupinski said.

Meanwhile, the bank is considering options for a new digital bank in the UK aimed primarily at Polish expats, with the Office for National Statistics estimating a population of more than 900,000 in Britain. The bank would build its own retail banking technology rather than snapping up a fintech firm or smaller rival, Krupinski said.

Pekao, which had offices around the world before the Second World War, including in London, is “coming back to our roots” of serving cross-border business. The bank is also investigating new offices in Paris, Frankfurt, and New York.

Krupinski said he aims to open 400,000 new current accounts in Poland in the next year, with double-digit growth of the overall business the target in the next two years, although he warned that he expects global growth to stutter by 2020.