Helping SMEs Set Sail: EIF Signs InnovFin Guarantee with ProCredit Bank

Today the European Investment Fund (EIF) signed an InnovFin Guarantee with ProCredit Bank in Thessaloniki, Greece, with the aim of supporting its financing of SMEs throughout Greece. Pier Luigi Gilibert, CEO of the EIF, spoke openly of the ‘uncertain global prospects’ and ‘important social challenges’ facing many countries of the EU, causing most to turn increasingly to SMES and entrepreneurs as an important source of economic growth.

“Against this backdrop, appropriate access to finance is critical to enable these businesses to invest and create jobs,” Gilibert said. “The EIF, as part of the European Investment Bank Group, is pleased to support the active engagement of ProCredit Bank in setting up the foundations of a new entrepreneur-friendly business climate.”

‘InnovFin – EU Finance for Innovators’ is a joint initiative launched by the EIB and EIF in cooperation with the European Commission under Horizon 2020.

The Guarantee was signed on behalf of ProCredit Bank by Rena Peicheva, ProCredit Bank EAD, Bulgaria, and Borislav Kostadinov, Member of the Management Board of ProCredit Bank Holding. The Greek branch of ProCredit Bank Bulgaria opened for business in Thessaloniki in November 2015.

Borislav Kostadinov, prior to signing the Guarantee, spoke extensively of the need for better access to quality banking and finance for SMEs in Thessaloniki and Northern Greece and of his appreciation of the hard work and ‘wisdom’ of the experts in the EU Commission who orchestrated the framework under which the financing facilities function.

“Just borrowing more finance is clearly not the answer,” Kostadinov said. “More finance can be detrimental. It is the right amount of debt, with the right purpose and the right structuring, that makes a difference for an SME, and even this not enough. Responsible banking is only possible when delivered by well-trained qualified personnel. Now that the umbrella agreement with the EIF has been signed, we are happy to report that we have both the right staff and the right facilities.”

The signing and B2B event is being attended by over 500 business people from Greece, Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, Serbia, Albania, Kosovo, Romania, Bulgaria, and Bosnia & Herzegovina. Attendance from the Georgian side saw 18 companies and 27 business clients of ProCredit Bank while Greece boasted 109 business persons in attendance, expecting to attend over 600 B2B meetings.

“The more than 500 business people present have come here today because they want to find out what is beyond the horizon and whether they can compete there,” said Kostadinov. “To sail beyond the horizon, one needs to learn first how to build a good ship, and to learn from the successes and failures of others; to learn and share with others; join forces with others. ProCredit will be there to provide the soundest and most pragmatic advice to stretch the financial prospects of SMEs in the most responsible way. But we don’t build the ship, our clients do. That’s what Pro-Credit is here to achieve in order to help the region to fully realize its potential.”

In the six months of staff training at the new Greek branch, ProCredit says it has met many a resilient local company.

“Only a resilient and focussed, not overly rich, business can withstand the vagaries of the fast-changing climate,” said Kostadinov. “Northern Greece has both successful and confident SMEs and passionate business-people. Greece has survived the difficulties of the past years and has not stopped dreaming. These people have been able to imagine and reimagine; create and recreate and now I hope they’ll benefit immensely from the ProCredit approach.”

InnovFin consists of a series of integrated and financing tools and advisory services offered by the EIB Group, covering the entire value chain of research and innovation (R&I) in order to support investments from the smallest to the largest enterprise.

Horizon 2020 is the largest EU Research and Innovation program ever. With nearly 77 billion Euros of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020), it promises more breakthroughs, discoveries and world-firsts by taking great ideas from the lab to the market. Horizon 2020 is seen as a means to drive economic growth and create jobs.

Katie Ruth Davies

09 May 2016 15:24