Banking on an international future

Massimiliano Cattozzi, Intesa Sanpaolo’s head of international network, tells Giulia Rhodes how the bank’s internationalisation is helping Italy do business with the world.

Giulia Rhodes


As head of international network at Intesa Sanpaolo, Massimiliano Cattozzi is proud to declare his bank is “in expansion mode”.

He is well placed for a wide-ranging perspective on the group’s international position. Now based in London, Cattozzi arrived from New York. Alongside Dubai and Hong Kong, these cities make up the group’s international hubs, overseeing operations and branches in their respective areas.

The network is helping to develop the international reputation and perception of the bank, Cattozzi says.

“We are certainly still seen as an Italian bank, but one which has moved from simply providing trade and export finance, structured export finance and support to Italian clients to one targeting the key players and largest deals in the key industries.”

This growing international standing is thanks largely to an innovative structure based on such industries – oil and gas, power and utilities, automotive, telecoms and media, infrastructure, and luxury and consumer goods – allowing invaluable global industry expertise to play alongside local offers of corporate and investment banking in the appropriate currency and language.

“We have a head office really focusing on increasing the portfolio share of our group with our biggest clients while the network can work on developing new clients, ultimately helping them grow to a size where they too are ready to be moved to industry coverage,” explains Cattozzi.


Photo: Massimiliano Cattozzi, Intesa Sanpaolo’s head of international network.

Digitalisation may break down many frontiers, but physical presence, he believes, remains crucial.

“You have to be there to know the dynamics, the drivers of business in each place as well as having industry expertise.”

Ensuring that service, reliability and quality of products – which differ according to area demand – are consistent across the group is a priority, says Cattozzi. “We are setting a clear mission for all the team that is 100 per cent in line with the target of growing abroad.”

As the business in each hub develops, Cattozzi’s medium-term goal – by 2020 – is to make them self-funding. “We want to fund all the transactions, targeting selected investors in each place to deposit or buy money-market products with us, ensuring the right level of liquidity in each hub.”

He highlights infrastructure as an industry sector with huge international potential for the group. “In North America, London and Asia this is driving what limited growth there is. There is – and will continue to be – a general demand, needing investment, across the world.”

The bank’s role, he explains, is vital in boosting the international growth so necessary to an Italian economy in early post-recession. “At this moment in time our country needs foreign direct investment.

We are a bridge between the markets in which we are operating. We need to bring investors to Italy and help Italian investors looking overseas.”

This means helping Italian companies to become more attractive to international investors, he says. The small average company size, the effects of recession and the country’s modest share of the European market – less than 2 per cent – are all factors making cross-border expansion a challenge.

Intesa Sanpaolo’s international presence and its heritage as a domestic retail bank are key to its success in this field. “We want to be perceived as the bank that helps no matter the size, the need or the industry,” says Cattozzi.

The group is able to advise Italian clients looking to run acquisitions or – more commonly – green-field investments abroad (the latter account for around 95 per cent of Italian corporate overseas investment). It can provide them with local funds and offer support before – a stage Cattozzi describes as critical – and after the transaction.

For these customers, working with an Italian bank is of huge significance – and not merely for the important fact of overcoming language barriers.

“In the US, for instance, an Italian corporation without a credit history there would not have access to credit from local banks,”
he explains.

“To go abroad today is not simply about having the right product. The most attractive markets require significant investment – for real estate and so on – and strong organisation.”

Depending on a company’s circumstances, Intesa Sanpaolo can help with business-plan definition, contacts and credit. “We also support them with our other products and services, taking some of the risk and helping them offer a good after-sales service,” adds Cattozzi.

Internationalisation for both the group and the Italian economy may present challenges, but Cattozzi is undaunted. “At the end of the day we are a very strong bank. We are good at solving financial problems.”

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