Introducing new clients to the bank is a huge source of pride

Neil Derfler enjoys building relationships for the long term


Having worked in China and the U.S., 36-year-old Neil Derfler joined Intesa Sanpaolo’s New York hub as a Relationship Manager in 2015. He develops business with new and existing clients in the oil and gas, infrastructure, and power and utilities industries across the Americas.

What do you enjoy most about your role with Intesa Sanpaolo?

There is so much potential for client development in the markets I cover! Intesa Sanpaolo challenges its Relationship Managers to develop deep industry understanding, and to use energy and creativity to find the right clients and the best opportunities for them.

I take pride in introducing the bank to new clients. The bank is building its brand in key industries – oil and gas, infrastructure and power and utilities ­– and I have the privilege to showcase our strategies and prove the bank’s expertise, strengths, and capabilities.

How do clients view Intesa Sanpaolo?

New clients generally have little exposure to Italian banks and are interested in learning more. As Italy’s biggest international bank, and one of the strongest in Europe, we need to make clients comfortable with who we are and how we operate.

The companies I cover are the key players in their respective industries and they ask sophisticated questions. You have to be incredibly well prepared for client meetings.

Most importantly, clients want to know that you can deliver – whatever is thrown at you. That keeps me on my toes.

Using my creativity in a business context to find and develop new opportunities is very satisfying
Photo: Neil Derfler, Intesa Sanpaolo Relationship Manager

What is special about Intesa Sanpaolo?

Intesa has a great depth of expertise and specialist knowledge around the world, and we can move fast to find innovative solutions for clients. Our goal is to develop dynamic, mutually-beneficial relationships and build on business opportunities for the long term.

Representing the most stable Italian bank is significant. Market upheavals present uncertainty, but they also create opportunities. For example, after the 2008 financial crisis in the U.S., some banks struggled, but others emerged stronger. I try to convey to clients that Intesa Sanpaolo is extremely well-positioned to be a winner in the long term.

What drew you to work for Intesa Sanpaolo?

The opportunities for increased responsibility, an international outlook, and smart colleagues. Additionally, the bank is growing in the industries I know.

After graduating in government with international affairs and China studies from Hamilton College, New York, I went to China for three years. I studied Mandarin, taught English and worked for a consulting company, developing my oil and gas experience.

Upon returning to the U.S., I worked for Star America, US Bank, and Dahlman Rose and Co, on both corporate and investment banking teams in energy and infrastructure.

What has been your best experience?

At the end of 2016, we closed our first corporate loan with a borrower in Colombia. It was not a huge dollar transaction, but it was significant in terms of our ability to accept risk in a new geography. It is the beginning of a platform from which to find other companies with whom we can do business in Latin America. For the moment, Colombia and Peru are particularly exciting, and I look forward to working with Intesa’s Americas Structured Finance team to find the best opportunities for the bank.

We have also opportunistically taken advantage of the changing dynamics of the U.S. oil and gas industry by purchasing high quality loans in the secondary market. These tend to be fast moving situations, and in this regard the bank has had great participation from colleagues in Milan, product partners on the Syndication desk, and Credit officers.

Where would you like to be in your career in five years?

I want to develop existing clients into tier 1 borrowers as well as bringing us up to a tier 2 bank with more new clients.

Additionally, it would be exciting to participate in an international rotation. New York is an endlessly exciting city – a run through Central Park is a great way to unwind after work – but it would be interesting to get another perspective on our institution.