UniCredit Posts Strong Corporate Results, While Spearheading ESG Efforts

Interview

Albert Hulshof

The Budapest Business Journal talks with UniCredit Bank Hungary’s head of corporates, Albert Hulshof, about the lender’s corporate financing market results, ESG commitments, and more.

BBJ: First of all, congratulations to UniCredit Bank Hungary on being named “Best Service” provider and “Market Leader” in Hungary, according to the latest Euromoney Trade Finance Survey. What would you highlight regarding the solutions that allowed the bank to win these titles?

Albert Hulshof: I am honored that clients re-confirmed their trust in UniCredit in the field of trade finance. Our business philosophy is mainly defined by our efforts to serve our clients’ needs to the highest level possible whilst tailoring our product offering to individual client needs. Our most significant competitive advantage, as recognized by our clients, is that we provide such bespoke solutions according to their business needs. On the other hand, we put a strong emphasis on our advisory role. We support our clients from the beginning of their commercial negotiations until the closure of a successful deal. UniCredit is a pan-European commercial bank; therefore, we can support our clients’ cross-country business activities with high efficiency, help them step into new markets, and broaden their export and import activity while leveraging the know-how of UniCredit Group.

BBJ: How would you assess the bank’s results in the Hungarian corporate financing market in 2022?

AH: UniCredit delivered a record set of financial results as a group. In Hungary, 2022 was also very successful, and the same goes for our Corporate Division. The corporate loan portfolio increased by 21%, supporting our clients with working capital and investment facilities.

BBJ: The economy has been through some challenging times due to COVID and then the war in the neighborhood. This January, Minister of Economic Development Márton Nagy discussed the recently announced Baross Gabor Reindustrialization Program, a subsidized credit scheme for businesses, with several banking sector players, including UniCredit. How do you think this program will help revitalize the economy and businesses?

AH: Subsidized lending schemes always play an essential role in ensuring favorable and predictable financing, which is even more critical in an economic environment characterized by high interest rate levels. The success of the Baross Gábor Reindustrialization Program is apparent; the working capital part of it has already been oversubscribed, and we share the view of the Banking Association that it should be extended. Until it is decided, we are concentrating on the still accessible investment-type facilities of the program. It is worth drawing attention to the fact that, besides the usual loan purposes such as capacity expansion, there is a particular focus on efficiency improvements, technology modernization, and green objectives within the program. This is entirely in line with UniCredit Bank Hungary’s lending strategy.

BBJ: In February, 3Sun, part of Enel Green Power, signed a non-recourse financing agreement with UniCredit, partially backed by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), to finance the expansion of the largest solar panel factory in Italy. How involved is UniCredit in the solar energy sector here in Hungary? What products and support does the bank offer for sustainable energy projects in the country?

AH: This is a topic close to my heart, as I started my UniCredit career in the project finance department, financing renewable energy projects throughout Central and Eastern Europe. We committed ourselves to deepening our knowledge and focusing on ESG financing. This has resulted in UniCredit becoming a leading financier of green investments, especially for solar parks in Hungary. We are now a lending partner with considerable experience. We know this industry well, and my colleagues are among the best in the business. We want to be – and will be – the bank of the future for Europe, and renewable energy financing is an important pillar in this.

We are proud of the fact that our business policy has supported Hungary’s solar power capacity to grow at the fastest rate in the EU in recent years. We are now above 3,600 megawatts, thanks to which the proportion of solar power generation within the annual Hungarian electricity production is almost double the European average. We are ready to support both wind and solar investments, whether ground-mounted or rooftop solar projects, to support our clients’ energy strategies.

BBJ: What opportunities do you see for corporate banking in Hungary to further drive sustainability and ESG initiatives?

AH: We see a significant role for ourselves in educating and financing the ESG transition. We are privileged to be part of UniCredit Group and can leverage best-practice sharing from countries like Italy and Germany. We are training our colleagues continuously, which will give us the opportunity to understand the context more thoroughly. Through this, we will be able to identify individual client needs in each industry and ensure a transition to sustainability.

There are a number of highlights that showcase what UniCredit Hungary has been doing so far. During 2021, we successfully implemented a green bond program for UniCredit Hungary’s mortgage bank, and our Social Impact Bank program was awarded No. 1 in the „Opportunity creating business” category by Effekt 2030 Community Investment Award. In 2022, we procured 100% green energy and joined the Hungarian Banking Association’s Good Deed Bank-Green Heart program, planting 4,000 trees in the UniCredit “forest” by the end of last year. We look forward to rolling out further ESG initiatives to help drive sustainability.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of March 10, 2023.

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