Revving up to conquer the world

Success on the track has been eclipsed by the business triumphs of former motorcycle racer Igor Akrapovič, whose company manufactures exhaust systems. Wishing to expand further, the Slovenian has enlisted the help of Intesa Sanpaolo’s subsidiary bank in his home nation

Andrew Davis


The story of Intesa Sanpaolo Bank’s partnership with Akrapovič, the world-renowned manufacturer of premium exhaust systems for motorcycles and performance cars, demonstrates the benefits of local banking relationships backed by the scale of a major international financial-services group.

Founded by retired motorcycle racer Igor Akrapovič in 1991, the company exports to more than 80 countries. It began with exhausts for motorcycles and since 2007 has supplied them for cars as well. But when in 2013 it was in the middle of a big investment cycle, looking to expand and update its manufacturing operations, it needed the right financial partner to support its growth.

That year, Akrapovič began conversations with Intesa Sanpaolo’s Slovenian subsidiary about funding for a plan to move its manufacturing operations to a new site in Črnomelj. This would enable the company to meet rising demand and introduce innovative exhaust designs, all of which would require additional investment. The first results of Akrapovič’s fledgling relationship with Intesa Sanpaolo Bank was a loan provided in August 2014 to fund machinery for the new plant.

This marked the beginning of a partnership that has expanded over the past few years as Akrapovič’s business has continued its rapid growth, says Drago Kavšek, head of SME and large corporate banking at Intesa Sanpaolo Bank in Slovenia.

“Every winning rider in this year’s World Championship used an Akrapovič exhaust system”

Igor Akrapovič, former motorcycle racer, now owner of Akrapovič company

“Nowadays we work with Akrapovič across a range of services,” he says. “We support their operations and investment programmes with current-account services, short and long-term finance and hedging against foreign-exchange risk. We are also discussing with them our Export Facile service for the Italian market as well as opportunities to use fintech marketplace platforms.

“This is a very successful, highly-rated company that is getting stronger every year. It has a clear business model and strategy and its international reputation is also very high thanks to the exceptional quality of its products.”

Soon after the start of the move to Črnomelj in 2014, Akrapovič launched a revolutionary exhaust design and unveiled further innovations the following year, showcasing its world-class skills with high-performance systems for different motorcycles and cars.

This period of intense innovation culminated in Akrapovič winning the international Red Dot: Best of the Best award for product design in 2014 for the Evolution Line (Titanium) exhaust system for the Ducati 1199 Panigale.

Akrapovič is a company with the glamour and buzz of the racetrack in its blood. “Ever since I was a boy I’ve loved motorbikes,” declares its founder. “I used to dream about riding in the world championship and fighting for the title.”

He did just that in a 12-year racing career that saw him compete at the top level. Having retired, he first set up a motorcycle tuning shop, but quickly became frustrated that riders in Slovenia could not buy high-quality exhausts.

So, with his wife’s encouragement, he founded Akrapovič. By focusing on quality products, he built close relationships with teams across almost every branch of motorsport – from motocross to road-racing grands prix – making Akrapovič the go-to partner for scores of leading motorsport outfits.

“We want to establish ourselves as the bank of choice for the most demanding and technologically advanced clients from all segments”

Drago Kavšek, head of SME and large corporate banking at Intesa Sanpaolo Bank in Slovenia

“To date, 119 racers have won world titles using our exhaust systems, including our first automobile world championship in 2012, with Audi,” says Akrapovič . “We supply five MotoGP factory teams, and every winning rider in this year’s World Superbike Championship used an Akrapovič exhaust system.”

The company supplies the leading motorcycle manufacturers and many automobile brands, as well as selling its exhausts through its own sales network to the aftermarket worldwide.

For Intesa Sanpaolo Bank, its partnership with Akrapovič is a great example of its ambition to support high-reaching companies in a country that has developed very rapidly since the Group started operating there in 2002. Intesa Sanpaolo Bank is now one of the biggest retail and commercial banks in Slovenia by assets, but plans further expansion in this export-orientated and business-friendly market, which is showing good economic growth, strong investment and rising confidence.

“We are expanding to other regions, particularly central Slovenia, where the market potential is very high,” says Kavšek. “We want to establish ourselves as the bank of choice for the most demanding and technologically advanced clients from all segments.”

As part of a major international banking group, Intesa Sanpaolo Bank can offer its corporate clients in Slovenia access to a wide network of banks and business centres in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as many other international markets.

This gives clients the assurance of a uniform approach to service and the availability of banking products whichever markets they want to focus on, says Kavšek. “Of course, the same applies to companies that are clients of Intesa Sanpaolo subsidiaries in other markets and would like to enter Slovenia,” he adds. “We believe this is one of our group’s biggest competitive advantages.”

It is an advantage that Akrapovič will continue to benefit from as it focuses on new areas for growth beyond its traditional markets. “Alongside our plans to continue growing in motorcycle and high-performance car exhaust systems, we anticipate that in the next stage we will focus intensively on diversifying into new areas,” says the company’s founder.

“We’ve got outstanding expertise in using composite materials and titanium that we can apply to other industries, such as medical devices and aerospace. We’ll try to find a market niche in every possible area where titanium and composites can be used.”

For both Akrapovič and Intesa Sanpaolo Bank, the race is far from over.

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