The Catalan Institute of Finance (ICF), the entity that will finally guarantee the bonds that the Constitutional Court demands from former high-ranking government officials, a public financial entity, owned by the Generalitat, and who aspires to obtain a bank card.
Your CEO, position he currently holds Victor Guardiola, is elected by the Catalan government. Previously and during a period of 10 years it was Josep-Ramon Sanromà who in an interview with 20minutos He explained to us what the ICF is.
We are the great unknown. Our name itself can lead to confusion since being the Institut Català de Finances, it seems that we are dedicated to doing market research, and nothing further.
The ICF is the public bank at the service of the growth of entrepreneurs, the business and economic fabric of Catalonia to complement and add value to private financing. We also help startups, which is the future knowledge economy. We help companies grow, the entrepreneur … to add, to add growth to the founder.
How is it different from private banking?
In our DNA. We are public banks, our shareholders are all Catalans because through the Government and the Parliament we are supervised and managed. We are also classified by Eurostat. We invest and provide alternative and complementary financing to that provided by private banking to companies, entities, freelancers and public-private projects.
It is a subtle issue, but we do not depend on the public budget, that is, when we present our figures, they do not impact on debt or deficit. We are going to seek the money in the markets and with that money we finance the business world. We do not need money from the public budget nor do we generate deficits. We are also members of the association of European public banks, of which I have been a member of the board of directors since 2014.
The ICF does not depend on the Generalitat’s budget, but it does share the strategy. How important is a public bank in development, in this case in Catalonia?
For us it is key to have a public bank in Catalonia that can act in these moments of high difficulty because it allows complementing the measures that the Spanish State can take, which normally takes them through the ICO and which only provides guarantees.
In our case, it is direct liquidity, that is, economic energy in the vein, complementary and without conditions for SMEs and the self-employed. In other words, at times like this, in an additional and complementary way, public banking is necessary and essential.
But the concept of public banking is not very well seen …
At times there have been very confusing messages from the world of politics. He thinks that in Europe this type of public banking is normalized, also in private banking such as Triodos Bank for example.
It is true that large companies do not need us, but entrepreneurs, freelancers and SMEs do, with them we can add.
Do they participate in public-private projects?
Of course, we participated in the project of the new advanced trains of the Barcelona metro lines where we invested 50 million us, 50 million ICO and 150 million the European Investment Bank, the three entities of a public nature.
Also in strategic country projects. We have a project with CECOT to install photovoltaic panels so that companies have energy capacity through alternative energies.
Or in research companies that are working on post-covid, to prepare for possible epidemics that may come, and that we can treat them more efficiently from a health point of view. They are strategic projects for Catalonia in which the role of the public bank is essential.
You have submitted the request for a banking license to the Bank of Spain
At the end of May, the ICF announced that It had submitted the application for a banking license to the Bank of Spain and was preparing to operate as a public bank in Catalonia, by obtaining the endorsement of the Government to create the company ICF Banc.
The ICF then revealed that at the end of March it had already formally requested the request for a banking license to the Bank of Spain, that it must validate the request and issue the corresponding report to the European Central Bank for approval, and estimated that obtaining the license as a credit institution could take up to 12 months.
Obtaining the bank card it is a historical objective of the parties that make up the Catalan government.
In fact, the regional executive had set 2015 as the date for the ICF to have a bank card and could thus become a Catalan public bank, one of the “State structures” contemplated in the stability agreements sealed between CiU and ERC at the end of 2012.
Last year, and due to the Covid-19 crisis, the ICF provided financing – in the form of guarantees or loans – to SMEs and the self-employed amounting to 1,328.9 million euros, double the amount in 2019.
The ICF group reported a profit of € 5.4 million in 2020.
Although throughout its history the ICF has provided financing to large companies such as La Seda or Spanair, A decade ago it decided to reduce its exposure to large companies and focus on financing SMEs and the self-employed.