It’s a little over a year since Intesa Sanpaolo formed its new global strategic coverage team. The move was part of a drive by the bank for higher international growth under its business plan for 2018-21.
The whole idea of a team of excellence sitting across the different areas of expertise has been nurtured in the first place by Roberto Battaglia, head of Human Resources Department within the Corporate and Investment Banking Division, and fully supported by Mauro Micillo, head of the Corporate and Investment Banking Division, who both believed that an in-house swat team would help making Intesa Sanpaolo more competitive on the international stage.
Already the team, headed by Richard Zatta since the start of 2019, has contributed to some important deals closing, developed a notable pipeline and been part of multi-bank syndicates that have won several major international awards. This is impressive work, helping Intesa Sanpaolo swiftly develop its international investment banking business, which aims to become one of the EMEA’s top 10 debt houses.
“It’s a tough goal, but one I’m confident we can achieve,” says Zatta. “In the area of infrastructure and project finance loans we already rank among the top 10 banks in terms of volume and number of transactions.”
The bank’s secret? The team has developed an innovative, holistic approach that harnesses the depth and breadth of Intesa Sanpaolo’s advice and capabilities when it comes to corporate and investment banking products.
“When our approach is combined with our strong balance sheet – which is among Europe’s best as tested by the European Central Bank – we are able to put together outstanding, innovative and tailor-made solutions,” he says. “And this is done with the support of the bank’s industry experts, the Investment Banking teams and our friends in Solutions and Financing.”
Zatta explains that the team offers a broad range of experience not usually found in a single department, allowing it to devise and put together origination and best execution of tailor-made solutions and strategic deals. “We have people who have pursued careers not just in debt, but in investment banking and M&A. The team can also tap into credit rating expertise and more, allowing us to draw on far broader knowledge bases than is typical so we can develop highly informed, client-specific solutions,” he says.
Another important point of difference is that unlike traditional banks that keep their different departments and teams in silos, Intesa Sanpaolo encourages inter-team collaboration so they can extract value from each other’s knowledge.
“Since the first quarter of 2018, we have pursued a strategy of seeking out our in-house experts in the different industry and other investment banking teams, for example, using their knowledge to help put together solutions that might anticipate clients’ prospective needs,” Zatta says. “Global strategic coverage has become a lynchpin, the pivotal bridge between different departments, creating far more value for our clients thanks to a powerful flow of knowledge and experience.”
Unlike traditional banks that keep their different departments and teams in silos, Intesa Sanpaolo encourages inter-team collaboration so they can extract value from each other’s knowledge
The effect of this approach was apparent last summer. The bank won the advisory, bookrunner and co-ordinator roles in the €1.6bn bid by Mediaset and F2i to take private El Tower, the Italian tower company. The deal involved €750m of finance and saw the structured finance experts working closely with the bank’s debt-capital markets and advisory teams. As bookrunner, it also played a supporting role in last year’s €900m financing of NTV, a high-speed train deal.
Such work is hugely important to Intesa Sanpaolo in terms of its global standing and for enhancing future revenue-generation capabilities from cross-selling.
“The high-speed train experience is particularly important because we expect to see a wave of rail liberalisation across Europe soon. It positions Intesa Sanpaolo as an expert, an area where we can add value,” he says.
Beyond tapping into the knowledge accumulated by the bank’s different departments, Zatta’s team also looks to ensure clients get the best deal structure tailored specifically for them.
“We will analyse a group’s capital structure and work out how best it can arrange its debt. In the case of an international conglomerate with all its debt at the holding-company level, we might suggest it push that debt down to the operating level to enhance its potential leverage. When we presented this strategy to one international organisation, we had it accepted and are now working on similar new cases,” he says.
Zatta also works closely with Intesa Sanpaolo’s International Subsidiary Banks Division, which has strong representation across Europe including in Hungary, Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Romania and Russia, as well as with its international corporate hubs in London, New York, Dubai and Hong Kong. Together, Zatta expects to be able to participate in more dynamic and innovative deals, driving Intesa Sanpaolo’s international growth.
“Competition in lending is stiff – that’s one of the reasons why we set up the new team, to give us an edge. It’s already apparent that our particular way of working brings considerable value to clients.
“In fact, our success to date is what makes me confident that with the support of our International Department and Strategies and Marketing Department, which will help us keep a strong focus on our pipeline, we will help the bank meet its international growth strategy,” he says. That would be a huge achievement and go some way to helping Intesa Sanpaolo achieve its overall strategy for 2018-2021.
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