The first and only Intesa Sanpaolo branch in Turkey is in Istanbul, the country’s metropolitan centre and largest city. Trying to keep pace with the fast-moving world of Turkish business banking is no mean feat, especially for a boutique bank, with just one branch, in an over-banked country.
So when the Intesa Sanpaolo Istanbul branch was asked to be part of a $1bn investment deal with Turkcell – the leading telecoms operator in Turkey, with operations in nine other countries – it was testament to just how hard the Istanbul team had worked to build Intesa Sanpaolo’s reputation in a new territory.
In July 2015, just over a year since the full-service Istanbul branch had opened, the bank, under the leadership of general manager Marco Trevisan, was invited to contribute $200m to a five-way deal to help Turkcell advance technologically and pursue growth abroad.
“We had been waiting eagerly to operate fully in Turkey for so long that the expectation from the new organisation was tremendous,” says Trevisan. “So it was great news to be part of the $1bn deal after only one year of starting operations.”
Having sealed this deal, the bank is in good company; the other four investors are major international banks and all have operated in Turkey for more than 20 years – informally they are known as the “Ivy League” of the Turkish banking world.
So how in just one year did the underdog get to play with the big shots, called upon by a giant customer to be part of a high-value, forward-thinking deal? Trevisan puts it down to focusing on building strong client relationships, rather than relying on the product alone.
“Keeping a low-scaled relationship with a client segment of industry leaders was not an attractive option for us, a bank with ambitious goals”
“We created a team with a great enthusiasm and confidence so that we could deliver a flawless service for top customers.”
The strategy for growth in the country was all about providing top-notch service to customers, but Intesa Sanpaolo Turkey is a boutique bank, so Trevisan and his team had to determine exactly what they were able to offer, and avoid over-promising to clients to win business.
This, combined with a commitment to giving the levels of service that big clients need, allowed the team to build an unparalleled level of trust with its clients, something that underpinned the deal with Turkcell.
“They know who we are, they believe what we say and this is why they trust us,” says Trevisan. “We also bring competitive terms and a sense of ease in our daily activities and dealings with the client. That brings the business,” he adds.
Although “relationship building” rolls easily off the tongue, in practice servicing such a high-profile client in such a big deal is a demanding task – one that has required tireless work from Trevisan and his team.
“With this deal we were facing one of the most demanding client in the country,” says Trevisan. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy to finalise.”
“Now I’m happy to confess that we all experienced a stressful three weeks preparing the deal, as timing was of the utmost importance for Turkcell."
“But we got through the initial difficulties smoothly and maintained composure with the client, closing the deal at the scheduled time. Co-operation between the Istanbul team and industry experts in Milan was also crucial.”
The hard work has paid off: its role in this landmark deal has opened up a number of additional opportunities for Intesa Sanpaolo and Turkcell, which are bolstering the client relationship yet further.
One success leads to another because, as a -newcomer bank in a new territory achieving such a huge success, Intesa Sanpaolo Turkey has established itself positively, attracting yet more big deals.
“Turkcell is one example of the right way of doing business in a growing and competitive market,” says Trevisan. “We have now another mandate for a transformational deal, and we’re about to close it very soon.”
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