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The Greater Bay Area: a bright new horizon for European businesses

Intesa Sanpaolo set up a roadshow to introduce Italian and UK business to the opportunities on offer in the Greater Bay Area – a region whose GDP will double in the next 10 years

18/12/2019

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Future-minded companies are keeping a keen eye on China and its surrounds for business opportunities. That’s why Intesa Sanpaolo, in conjunction with Elite – part of London Stock Exchange Group – recently set up a roadshow for clients in Hong Kong. Its aim was to introduce Italian, British and other European businesses to the ecosystem of the area and, in particular, the opportunities of the Greater Bay Area – a region that takes in Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau.

Alessandro Vitale is head of Intesa Sanpaolo’s Hong Kong branch and its Asia-Pacific hub. He hosted the roadshow and stresses how great an opportunity the Greater Bay Area represents. “The area has the same GDP as that of Spain or Australia. The peculiarity of this region is that GDP is going to double in the next 10 years. That’s a big element of growth in this region of the world.”

“We need as a bank to think horizontally and find new ways of doing business, thinking about how we can stay relevant” - Alessandro Vitale

Through research, Intesa Sanpaolo discovered that simply telling people about the region is not enough. Businesses from overseas need to be in touch with key players in the Hong Kong ecosystem. The bank has developed relationships with partners including InvestHK, Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Much more than just connecting businesses with new revenue streams, this is about encouraging innovation and cross-cultural connections that will help businesses thrive.

Vitale notes how understanding what keeps a client awake at night – and addressing those challenges – is the responsibility of a good bank today. Introducing new markets and ways to innovate is king. “The business environment is changing at an incredible pace and this is happening for banks as well,” he says. “We are challenged by players that years ago were not even in the market. We need as a bank to think horizontally and find new ways of doing business, thinking about how we can stay relevant.”

The roadshow was organised in conjunction with Elite, which specialises in connecting companies with each other and with capital. Carolina Avanzini and Mauro Iacobuzio from Elite explain that the roadshow included workshops to encourage companies to think about their own business processes in relation to new territories – something they see as a key part of growth.

Neosperience chief executive Dario Melpignano was one of the people who attended the roadshow. His company provides AI experiences for digital marketers and sees an opportunity to offer its services to digital marketers in China and the Asia-Pacific region. “We believe that thanks to the partnership with Intesa Sanpaolo and Elite, there is the opportunity to be quicker and more selective in finding the right partner – and therefore to be generally more effective in developing our market strategy in that space,” he says.

The Greater Bay Area is a fertile and dynamic place for European companies to do business, says Vincenzo Antonetti, head of promotion and development of Innovation – International Network at Intesa Sanpaolo’s Innovation Center.

While cultural differences certainly exist, Antonetti suggests that working with them can pay off for ambitious companies. “China is becoming a great competitor in terms of manufacturing and design, where in the past European companies had a competitive advantage.

“So we need to find the right balance between co-operation and market opportunities between the two countries.”

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