An interview with Stefano Marzeglia, the newly appointed Country Head of Italy

NatWest is growing its customer focussed corporate and institutional banking franchise across Europe, it is a core part of the strategy and will be integral to the business as it builds and grows.

What are your goals in your role as Country Head?

Our goal is to support our Italian customers, prioritising what matters to them and assisting them with their day-to-day activities at the same time. We want to deliver the strategic advice and expertise our customers need to grow quickly and confidently.

I’m honoured to have been appointed in this role. We have a great senior leadership team here in the heart of Milan, with the expertise and energy to add value and to support our customers to succeed. With Brexit, we’ve seen many excellent professionals, previously based in London, relocate to Milan and this has strengthened the team here considerably.

At NatWest, climate is at the core of our strategy and purpose. Is the fight to tackle climate change a big topic in Italy?

It is. Climate change is an important topic here. Italy was co-host of the recent COP26, in partnership with the UK, and hosted the Pre-COP26 youth event in Milan last September.

The Italian government has ambitious targets for transitioning the economy, and we welcome these targets at NatWest. Climate change is not only core to our strategy and purpose, but it’s also our ambition to be a leader in this transition. We are carefully looking at the financial instruments and projects that will be put in place to see how we, as a financial institution, can play an active role supporting our customers’ and Italy’s climate ambitions. We are very serious about economic, social and governance (ESG) factors and we want to embody a new type of bank and banker. Our place in society is very important to us and we intend to make a difference in Italy.

We want to stay close to our Italian customers during their transition to net-zero and give them access to all the great climate professionals and experts we have across Europe. It’s great to see that many of our customers share our focus on climate. Transitioning to a zero-carbon economy aligns perfectly with our goals.

What has NatWest achieved so far in respect of climate change in Italy?

We have provided financial institutions with access to primary capital markets, supporting them in requalifying their lending portfolio from brown to green and we’ve also played a key social role during the pandemic. 

For example, we have brought together Italian investors and European issuers across +150 virtual meetings in 2021, with the main focus, undoubtedly, being sustainability. This has allowed NatWest Markets to be one of the main players in the Italian ESG debt capital markets (DCM) space with banking, sovereigns and supranational mandates from Intesa Sanpaolo, Unicredit, BPER Banca, Banco BPM, Italy’s Ministry of Economy and Finance, Ferrovie Italiane and, of course, The Republic of Italy.

Our effort has not only been on the debt side. Our foreign exchange (FX) team have created and executed an innovative sustainability-linked FX derivative agreement for Enel, a multinational company global leader in the energy sector and a key customer of the NatWest Group.

We also received interest for ‘green’ private placements (structured and plain) from Italian financial institutions and we printed a private placement of EUROFIMA Green Program with a public official which is increasing its green investments share.

What opportunities and challenges lie ahead for Italian corporates?

Italy’s €191.5bn ’Recovery and Resilience Plan’ is expected to be a boost for the Italian economy through extensive investment and reforms. We want to be close to our customers during these changing times and continue to act as a partner for financing and capital markets initiatives.

In light of this, we have created a new senior corporate FX team in Milan to support Italian corporates with innovative FX products and treasury tools. We expect more capital markets issuance from Italian corporates with an ESG focus, and we intend to be at the forefront in lead managing such bond issues.

What are NatWest’s fintech ambitions?

We have a digital team serving the largest tech firms in the world. In 2021, we have, again, developed new automation tools to make our customers job easier, safer and more efficient and transparent.

NatWest wants to be leading financial innovation and we are staying close to our Italian customers with the latest trends in financial technology, from digital ‘blockchain bonds’ to FX sustainability-linked products. Our world is evolving quickly and so is the financial industry. We need to pioneer new trends so we can support our customers in the best possible way.

What are NatWest’s plans in Europe?

We have a comprehensive European proposition in place which is vital to support NatWest Group’s overall strategy, predominantly for our core commercial, corporate and institutional customers with significant requirements in Europe. We’re continuing to invest in our teams across Europe in line with our purpose to champion potential. Last year, we announced our plans to create a ring-fenced entity in Europe, which allow us to maximise our ability to support UK customers as they seek to increase economic activity and investment in Europe.

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