“It’s tough for us to be competitive with these local giants, but we have the advantage of flexibility and in the fact that we are a small team, so we can react promptly when a customer needs us to,” he says.
That approach helped the Tokyo operation secure one of its biggest deals to date – a syndicated structured finance deal with SoftBank, a Japanese telecommunications business. SoftBank is part of the SoftBank Group, a huge operation that has shareholdings in a variety of international companies and brands, including a 29.5 per cent stake in e-commerce giant Alibaba and a 15 per cent stake in Uber.
The Tokyo branch worked closely with colleagues on Intesa Sanpaolo’s project finance desk in Hong Kong to facilitate the complex deal. This is an advantage of Intesa Sanpaolo’s international footprint: offices work together to provide the specialist services larger businesses sometimes require.
Future expansion for Intesa Sanpaolo Japan is likely to stem in part from the bedding in of the EPA, which will make Japan more attractive to European business. The Tokyo branch is well placed to help more Italian brands exploit Italy’s reputation for quality and culture among Japanese consumers.
At the same time, the branch is also exploring the possibility of exploiting the liquidity of Japan’s capital markets to expand Intesa Sanpaolo’s investment banking business.
“We are now considering, together with Banca IMI (Intesa Sanpaolo’s investment banking arm), whether to expand this business and solutions that can enlarge the market coverage here. Not through a branch, because that would go against regulations, but through a securities house,” says Pedicini.
Other international banks have set up securities businesses in Tokyo with considerable success. For its part, Banca IMI already has a presence in New York and London, and Tokyo might be an obvious next step. “It’s still an idea at the moment, and very much at the preliminary stage, but where there are markets and regulations that support them and the opportunity exists it is a possibility. And the size of the Japanese investor market is huge.”
That’s for the future. In the meantime, Intesa Sanpaolo’s Tokyo branch will continue to forge a path in a highly competitive market by exploiting its agility and speed alongside local knowledge and international reach.