Ping An is making inroads into green finance

As the climate change emergency accelerates, the global insurance industry faces unheard of challenges: from heavy rain in China’s Henan province to dramatic flooding in Germany and wild fires in northern California, much of our shared environment is at risk. Catastrophe insurance though is still seen as ‘optional’ for too many. Yet insuring for climate change risk – be it from extreme heat, rain or hurricanes – is a key part of the environmental, social and governance contract, or ESG commitment, for increasing numbers of businesses.

Rising to the challenge, Ping An Property & Casualty has overhauled and upgraded its green financial services portfolio, developing car insurance products for electric vehicle (EV) owners plus a brand new range of products that support the green energy industry with an emphasis on photo-voltaic, hydro and wind power.

“In the future we will introduce preferential policies and discount rates for green enterprises and projects to promote better economic and environmental development,” Michael Guo tells World Finance. This commitment to the environment – including discounted policies and incentives to eco-friendly companies and projects – is a radical departure for an industry still, for the most part, struggling to make sense of the long-term risk factors of an over-heating planet.

ESG principles at the heart of business
In other words, this Shenzhen-based property insurance company is putting green finance at the heart of its business – from operations to procurement, right down the supply chain – while financially incentivising other companies to change their behaviour for the benefit of all. “Through our digital transformation,” Guo says, “we continue to create a paperless work environment, settling claims online while many of our insurance policies are designed to encourage our clients to put their energy and carbon emission commitments first.”

Insurance companies have a responsibility not just to serve the real economy and stimulate overall economic growth, but to protect the environment

To bolster its ESG expertise and reach, Ping An Property & Casualty has built up a large team of experts with close, hard-won knowledge of natural disasters. In the background, so many businesses remain completely unprepared for the long-term effects of climate change. “In August this year,” Guo explains, “we built our first natural disaster laboratory in Sichuan, able to simulate 10 natural disasters, from storms to typhoons and earthquakes, all based on existing records of disaster and other socio-economic statistics.”

“Our experience,” Guo continues, “in assessing catastrophe risk not only helps risk industry quantification and actuarial pricing but, we feel, society more broadly.” Green and sustainable ways must always be advocated “to support green economic development,” he says, adding that “to achieve carbon neutrality has become a must-do for any insurer with focus on ESG.”

Online emergency response 24/7
Insurance companies have a responsibility not just to serve the real economy and stimulate overall economic growth, but to protect the environment. So how is environmental risk handled on the ground? If the carefully developed Ping An Property & Casualty system predicts heavy rain or flood risk, text messages to clients – from car and home owners to corporate and business customers – are sent, advising them of prevention measures to cut their risk exposure.

Ping An Property & Casualty also deploys these messages via Ping An Auto Owner app, the largest automotive service app in China, encouraging policy holders to move vehicles to a safer place. Backed by robust human emergency resources and a carefully honed disaster risk management platform, Ping An Property & Casualty schedules and organises rescue teams and vehicles to follow up all extreme incidents when catastrophe strikes.

In addition, the company has constructed a full-cycle risk management system for catastrophes with defined emergency processes to minimise and prevent further client losses. “When a disaster happens, our survey and claim team will respond, start rescue work, and stop losses,” says Guo. “After a disaster, our insurers will quickly take up their compensation responsibilities. We always ensure timely availability of claim funds through our rapid settlement and pre-claims systems so businesses can restart and get on with their post-disaster reconstruction, if needed.” Ping An Property & Casualty also works closely with government agencies to clarify liability exposure, alleviating dispute and civil conflict potential in post-disaster loss situations. This is especially important for businesses so that they can get back on their feet as quickly as possible.

Electric vehicle cover risk
Ping An Property & Casualty is optimistic about the development of electric vehicle (EV) insurance for EV owners as the global economy transitions to cleaner transport technology. However, the EV cover risk area remains technically immature. This sector hasn’t – yet – had time to develop reliable oversight of all risk and claim scenarios, despite there being around 350 million private cars in China.

“To better serve new energy car owners,” says Guo, “it is necessary to develop new terms and provisions and we’ve accumulated the historical underwriting and claims data of EVs compared with internal combustion engine vehicles so we can do this thoroughly.”

“We’re also,” he adds, “actively working with car makers and auto industry partners to carry out research on the specific risks of batteries, motors, and electronic control of new energy vehicles.”

While electric vehicle technology provides cleaner transport it adds technically ambitious autonomous driving tech possibilities, enhancing driver, passenger and pedestrian safety. While much of the legislation around it is in development, Ping An Property & Casualty says the long-term benefits will support customers – both in value and with the added on-the-road protection.

Accurate risk assessment and ‘big data’ at a granular level is also increasingly relevant, which can fundamentally change any insurer’s sense of vehicle risk. Collision avoidance systems, for example, are highly sophisticated. But data around these safety advances must be equally available across the risk industry for the sustainability of safety systems long-term. Guo believes cross-industry discussion and collaboration is vital and is committed to working with other industry players to support automated driving technology for the benefit of all. This may include, inevitably, some rationalisation of different automated technologies, which can be potentially confusing to customers, both in and outside the risk industry.

 

COVID-19 support for the most vulnerable
In July 2021, Ping An Property & Casualty, Shenzhen, collaborated with Bank of China to issue the first batch of digital RMB policies. Specifically it developed a pilot insurance programme for hospital workers in Shenzhen’s Nanshan District. This included RMB 300,000 ($46,850) compensation for death caused by COVID-19, a RMB 50,000 ($7,800) allowance for nurses diagnosed with COVID-19 and RMB 50,000 ($7,800) compensation for accidental death. Policyholders could also have preferential insurance rates if they used digital RMB wallets for payments. The introduction of these policies mark an extension of Ping An Property & Casualty’s digital RMB pilot programme for online settlement scenarios, boosting settlement convenience, speed and security for their clients.

 

From green engineering to superfoods
While the car industry is one industry undergoing seismic change, new ways of insuring risk abound – from agriculture to healthcare and heavy industry. The bottom line is innovation and carbon neutrality.

Innovation is nothing new for Ping An Property & Casualty, underwriting the extraordinary Three Gorges Dam ship lock mega project – an elevator capable of lifting cargo ships or cruise liners more than 100 metres – allowing vessels to cross the Three Gorges Dam.

Ping An Property & Casualty has since provided protection for increasing numbers of offshore and onshore wind farms as well as photovoltaic projects to help their clients diversify their long-term energy dependency. Extending its environmental governance, Ping An Property & Casualty has launched its first environmental liability policy and introduced ecological impairment liability cover. Gradual pollution and grassland cover is another area in which Ping An Property and Casualty is providing innovation.

Traceability for the food industry is also a major breakthrough: Ping An Property & Casualty has designed supply chain production insurance deploying blockchain technology. This tech monitors, for example, the production growth stages of goji berries – widely seen as a ‘superfood’ across Asia as well as the West – with real-time digital journals recording the harvesting process, end-to-end. “Every farm product has a unique traceability tag which shows its origin, processing, transportation, and cash value for farmers. The aim is to help improve agricultural production standards and create more eco-friendly and high-quality brands of farm products,” says Guo.

Planet protection underpinned
Behind all these efforts and innovations is a single-minded determination to make investment standards greener. “Environmental protection and green industry standards are the two core factors to consider when the company makes its investment plans,” says Guo. Ping An Property & Casualty has drafted evaluation standards for all green projects, underpinned by national guidelines. Based on strict environmental criteria for green companies, it also invests in publicly listed clean energy stocks, bonds and debt vehicles.

This is backed by a bespoke green finance office responsible for sustainability-related projects across insurance, services and investment. “Green Finance is more than just a concept but a viable approach to eco-friendly business growth,” Guo continues. The Shenzhen-based property insurance company’s advanced early warning laboratory system points to more wildfires, tornadoes and droughts, which will continue breaching the living conditions and livelihoods of many, despite the Chinese government’s commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. The point, says Guo, is to be prepared – and to innovate regardless.

Convoy is driving towards a greener future

Nearly all merchandise and commodities consumed in the US have been transported via ground at some point in their supply chain. According to American Trucking Association (ATA) data, the trucking industry hauls about two thirds of all freight, which equates to 11.8 billion tons. As a whole, the industry is estimated to be worth $800bn, representing 80.4 percent of the nation’s freight bill. The trucking industry employs approximately three million people directly and a total of about 37 million trucks are registered for business purposes running 175 billion miles annually to move truckload freight across the country. This leaves no doubt that the freight industry – primarily trucking – is the core of the US economy.

The breakdown in the supply chain
Yet as we are seeing on the news, the US supply chain is currently in a state of chaos. The major California ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have as many as 100 ships lined up in the surrounding waters for weeks waiting to unload thousands of containers. Much of the blame has been placed upon the trucking industry crisis – an acute shortage of truck drivers estimated to be about 80,000 by the ATA. This means that cargo, once unloaded, is not being moved out of the ports quickly enough, thereby contributing to the bottleneck.

Despite the trucking industry’s significance to the US economy, it suffers from a decades-old problem of inefficiency that contributes to the fragmented supply chain. Traditionally, shippers had two choices when it came to moving their freight. They could work with brokers who connected them to carriers for a fee. Or they could hire asset-based carriers who maintain their own facilities and truck fleets. Both systems operate with high rates of inefficiencies because the industry is largely composed of small trucking companies with six trucks or fewer.

Disrupting the trucking industry
In 2015, Convoy entered the marketplace with a clear vision of designing a revolutionary technology-based model in the trucking industry to seamlessly address decades-long inefficiencies. By focusing on waste and inefficiency reduction, Convoy envisioned reducing costs for shippers, improving the lives of truck drivers, and working to save the planet by ultimately decreasing carbon emissions. The trucking industry, in fact, contributes more than 87 million metric tons of carbon emissions in the United States annually.

Convoy’s goal is to continue to improve our technology deployment to serve the trucking industry more effectively

Convoy designed the first-ever digital freight network that leverages technology and data to streamline operations and ultimately optimise how millions of truckloads move around the US. Convoy’s network is an open, fully connected freight marketplace that uses machine learning, automation, and other software services to efficiently connect shippers and carriers. Convoy’s technology has introduced the notoriously inefficient trucking industry to a system in which trucks are better utilised, costs have come down, and the quality of services has greatly improved.

The Convoy effect
Since Convoy began operating, the trucking industry has witnessed a variety of improvements. In operating our efficient digital freight network, Convoy has automated the traditional freight brokering process including the matching, pricing, and scheduling of trucks to shipments. As a result, there have been multiple benefits for all players across the value chain. For example, as new carriers join the Convoy network, capacity increases, thereby enabling shippers to get lower costs to move freight. And as the volume of freight increases with each new shipper, the life of truck drivers has also vastly improved because they now have more options, better routes, fewer empty miles, and therefore can earn more.

As the marketplace utilising Convoy’s digital freight network grows, the company’s machine learning algorithms can simultaneously optimise thousands of live and drop loads, thereby providing drivers with bundled loads that reduce empty miles and dwell times, all of which occurs while automatically adjusting for changing conditions in the supply chain.

Using technology to address empty miles
Historically, the trucking industry was designed to operate in such a way that a truck is loaded for the trip from port to inland, but travels empty on the trip back to the port – thereby creating the challenge and disadvantage of ‘empty miles.’ Yet with Convoy’s Automated Reloads programme, participating carriers book multiple loads at a time, helping them earn more, minimise empty miles, and eliminate waiting time between jobs. Convoy algorithmically evaluates and optimises how loads can be grouped in real time without human intervention. This enables carriers to bid their rates or instantly accept pre-planned combinations of loads as a single job, ensuring they stay on the road pulling loads and delivering a high quality of service.

Our research shows that trucks run empty up to 35 percent of their total miles. This significantly impacts driver earnings, the cost of fuel and other expenses, and the environmental impact, making deadheading a losing proposition for all. Convoy’s Automated Reloads programme reduces empty miles from the industry standard of 35 percent to 19 percent simply by bundling shipments into a single job for a driver.

If the trucking industry as a whole could adopt the same efficiency improvements, Convoy estimates it could reduce CO2 emissions by 47 million metric tons. Convoy has, in fact, committed to reaching net-zero carbon emissions in its own business by 2040 – a full 10 years ahead of the goal set in the United Nations’ Paris Agreement.

Investing in a new future for trucking
Convoy’s mission of transporting the world with endless capacity and zero waste has attracted the attention of many notable individuals committed to environmental sustainability and disruption, including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and former Vice President Al Gore’s firm, Generation Investment Management. Other investors include Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Code.org founders Hadi and Ali Partovi, former Starbucks president Howard Behar, U2’s Bono, and many others who have contributed approximately $700m to the start-up.

 

The financial backing by these investors has helped Convoy with our ongoing product improvement and expansion strategy as we experience tremendous marketplace demand, while also positioning the company for longer-term growth and success. Convoy has been able to hire an incredible team to build the technology and scale the business nationwide, thus creating one of the most innovative and disruptive brands in the supply chain. Over the years, Convoy has attracted executives such as former Expedia Group CEO Mark Okerstrom who joined Convoy as President and COO, and CTO Dorothy Li who came from Amazon, both of whom are part of the company’s 1,000-person workforce.

Convoy’s goal is to continue to improve our technology deployment to serve the trucking industry more effectively. There are tremendous opportunities to automate and drive new efficiencies in trucking and it is our goal to deliver solutions that are not only grounded in technology and data science, but also benefit the environment by eliminating unnecessary carbon emissions whenever possible.

While the trucking industry is still in the early stages of a massive transformation, we have seen a number of competitors trying to replicate our business model. This is only validation of the value and importance of driving greater efficiencies to trucking and logistics. Ultimately the only competitor Convoy wants to eradicate is waste, which remains rampant in our supply chain.

MENA Investment and Development Awards 2021

Best Islamic Bank
Kuwait International Bank

Best Retail Bank
Arab National Bank

Best Commercial Bank
Khaleeji Commercial Bank

Best Bank for Customer Service Quality
Ajman Bank

Most Reliable Insurance Company
Gulf Insurance Group

Best Insurance Company for Customer Service Quality
Gulf Insurance Group

Best ESG Asset Management
GFH Financial Group

Best Investment Banking & Advisory
GFH Capital

Best ESG Investment Strategy
Diriyah Gate Development Authority

Best Investment Destination
Diriyah, Saudi Arabia

Best Online & Mobile Islamic Investment Platform
Wahed Invest

Best Real Estate Development
EMAAR Properties

Most Innovative Real Estate Company
Mabanee

Most Sustainable Desalination & Power Projects
ACWA Power

Excellence in Tourism Innovation & Development
Turkey Ministry of Culture & Tourism

Best Tourism Destination
Turkey, Turkey Ministry of Culture & Tourism

Best Convention & Exhibition Centre
Doha Exhibition & Convention Center

Lifetime Achievement in Islamic Banking
Sheikh Mohammed J. AI-Sabah, Chairman, Kuwait International Bank

Sustainability & Green Energy CEO of the Year
Paddy Padmanathan, CEO, ACWA Power

Banker of the Year
Mohamed Abdul Rahman Amiri, CEO, Ajman Bank

 

CSR Excellence & Dedication to the Community in:
Bahrain
GFH Financial Group

Kuwait
Gulf Insurance Group

United Arab Emirates
Ajman Bank

W&T Offshore represents a wealth of opportunity in the Gulf

An independent oil and natural gas producer, focused in the Gulf of Mexico in the US, W&T Offshore has weathered the pandemic and is well positioned in the market. Armed with over $250m in cash, an inventory of high-quality development and exploration opportunities, and a track record of making accretive acquisitions, the company is well placed to navigate a changing operating environment in the US. The Chairman and CEO at W&T Offshore, Tracy W. Krohn, discussed getting through a pandemic, incorporating ESG, and the future of the industry, with World Finance.

By focusing on the Gulf of Mexico for over 35 years, the company has developed the ability to operate efficiently and effectively in the basin amid various shocks like commodity price fluctuations and hurricanes. Currently, W&T is active in 41 producing fields in federal and state waters and has under lease approximately 611,000 gross acres, including approximately 424,000 gross acres on the Gulf of Mexico shelf and approximately 187,000 gross acres in the Gulf of Mexico deepwater. A majority of the company’s daily production is derived from wells it operates. Krohn commented, “Our focus on the Gulf of Mexico has been the key to our success. Due to our expertise, other operators seek us out when looking for partners. We have attracted and maintained an excellent technical team with deep experience in the Gulf. We have also developed good relationships with state and federal regulatory agencies and have an excellent safety record. All of these elements contribute to our leadership position in the Gulf of Mexico.”

For the oil and gas industry, changes and adaptation have been part of its evolution. In the Gulf of Mexico, W&T has witnessed significant changes to its peers in the basin. Years ago, the area was mainly a reserve of larger corporations that were focused on shallow waters. Those operators then transitioned to drilling to greater depths and in deeper waters. This was driven by huge amounts of capital and technology required to pursue those higher risk, higher potential opportunities. Today, the players are fewer and the large independents and majors are focused primarily on ultra-deep waters or onshore, and W&T has prospered as others exited the Gulf of Mexico. “Throughout our history, W&T has capitalised on opportunities that arose in the Gulf. We have built the company through a combination of two main strategies. First, opportunistic, accretive acquisitions and the successful exploitation of those acquired properties. And second, a very successful exploratory and development drilling programme. Moving forward, we will continue to look at both and the relative benefits each offers,” said Krohn.

Working together
New policies from President Biden’s administration have also presented changes for the oil and gas industry. In January, the administration announced a moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters (which was subsequently blocked by a federal judge in Louisiana in June). Despite such political challenges, Krohn is optimistic. He noted, “W&T has successfully operated during both Republican and Democratic administrations for decades. The officials and regulators we work with on a daily basis are good, pragmatic people. Rules and regulations change but we’ve always been able to find a way to work together.” W&T is not losing sight of the need to remain relevant amid widespread calls for changes to the energy mix in the US. When asked about the transition away from fossil fuels, Krohn offered a pragmatic perspective. “People will have different views on what our energy mix should look like in the future and how quickly we need to make changes to achieve that mix. However, any transition will take time and the oil and gas industry should play a role in managing that change successfully. That should not be a controversial statement. I do think there will be ramifications if renewable sources of energy can’t deliver on their promises and if proven, reliable sources of energy like oil and gas continue to be starved of investment to such a degree that they can’t make up the demand gap. Political leaders should consider the unintended consequences of that type of scenario.”

We have actually been successfully managing ESG elements for a long time; we just communicate about them differently today

Similarly, companies are now learning to navigate a growing focus on sustainability. The company understands that environmental, social, and governance (ESG) is becoming increasingly important to many of its stakeholders. To successfully access the credit or equity markets today, ESG is an important consideration. Krohn continued, “We have actually been successfully managing ESG elements for a long time; we just communicate about them differently today. For example, we have an excellent track record of operating in a responsible and safe way that respects the environment and protects workers. That didn’t start recently because of ESG. What has changed is that our processes and reporting are now more formalised and we are communicating more effectively with our stakeholders.”

W&T issued its inaugural ESG report this year and has demonstrated its commitment to improving its ESG performance and transparency by adding ESG targets to its executive compensation programme. The industry is recovering from the impacts of COVID-19 that ignited a collapse in prices, slowed activity and adversely impacted the financial position of numerous companies. W&T was able to work through the situation more effectively than most. “In the early days of the pandemic, when oil prices went negative, we adjusted our capital spending and temporarily shut-in properties that weren’t economic at very low prices. This wasn’t the first time we have seen a rapid and precipitous fall in prices. We knew what we had to do and quickly took action. Our properties are all conventional fields. They have shallower declines and we can reduce spending for a period of time without a major financial impact,” said Krohn.

Battling a hurricane
In November, the company released its third quarter results showing strong operational and financial results reflective of the improving economy. During the third quarter of 2021, the company saw an 85 percent increase in revenues for the quarter to $133.9m compared to $72.5m in the same period last year. Production for the quarter stood at 3.2m barrels of oil equivalent comprising 1.1m barrels of oil, 0.4m barrels of natural gas liquids, and 10.5bn cubic feet of natural gas. Production for the period was reduced by approximately 5,500 barrels per day as a result of deferred production related to Hurricane Ida, with approximately 80 percent of the company’s production shut-in at one point due to the storm. Fortunately for W&T, its assets and infrastructure did not suffer any significant damage. This emanates from the fact that the company has operated in the Gulf of Mexico for years and has seen – and dealt – with many hurricanes. “Hurricane Ida was the biggest weather event in the Gulf of Mexico this year. When it became clear that it was going to be coming into the Gulf and would be near our assets, we did what we always do in those situations: temporarily shut-in production, secure facilities to greatly reduce the potential of an environmental incident, and evacuate our employees and contractors. What impacted us the most was the lack of electricity onshore to refiners and processing plants who buy our production. They were down and we had to wait for them to come back online,” remarked Krohn.

The company announced that its cash position at the end of the third quarter of 2021 stood at over $250m, due in large part to a creative securitisation transaction with Munich Re in May. For many years, W&T used a reserve-based lending (RBL) credit facility that was underwritten by a bank group and secured by its proved reserve base. Over the years, the market for RBL facilities has become less attractive, particularly offshore. Due to losses occasioned by commodity price downturns, many banks have exited the market. The remaining few are now offering less flexible and more onerous commercial terms, which have generally become tougher and less appealing for oil and gas companies. Krohn commented, “Fortunately for W&T, one of our largest assets is our Mobile Bay complex. Those assets are long-lived and have shallow declines, which is a great profile for lenders. Using Mobile Bay as collateral, we were able to work with Munich Re to structure a first-lien secured term loan that appropriately valued the collateral at an attractive cost of capital. The transaction provided us a lot more financial flexibility and dry powder to pursue attractive acquisition opportunities and consider additional exploratory drilling.” When asked about the current state of the M&A market in the Gulf of Mexico, he explained, “The increase in commodity prices in the second half of 2021 has widened the bid-ask a little, making it slightly tougher at the moment. Broadly speaking however, it is a good environment for M&A. Many larger operators are rationalising their portfolios and for some of them, the Gulf is no longer a core asset. Other operators have balance sheet issues that they are trying to fix following the pandemic and a period of low commodity prices.”

Though doomsayers are forecasting the end of the oil and gas industry, the industry veteran believes the industry will continue to be around for years to come. Krohn stated, “Transitioning the energy mix to one that relies more heavily on renewables will take time. Natural gas in particular can play a really important role during that transition. There is no question that there will be changes, but I am confident in the ability of the people in our industry to adapt.”

A promising recovery means Greece is ripe for investment

The Greek economy is expected to grow 6.5 percent this year, according to the IMF – up from a decline of nine percent in 2020 – marking the start of a promising post-pandemic recovery that brings with it ample opportunity for investment; and not just for residents. As tourism and real estate rebound, new, innovative projects come to fruition (aided by a €33bn funding package under the NextGenerationEU programme).

With port infrastructure upgraded and the country making significant strides in renewable energy production, Greece offers an attractive package for international investors. It also offers one of the EU’s most coveted investment visa programmes – the Greece Golden Visa, issued to non-EU citizens who make a significant contribution to the country’s economy and offering five-year residency for investors and their families.

With all of that in mind, appetite for international investment is set to grow in the coming years – and catering to the demand is Eurobank, which recently introduced the first segment in Greece to be dedicated to international customers, as well as the country’s first bank branch to service Golden Visa holders and non-resident investors. To find out more about the bank’s new ‘one-stop-shop’ for overseas customers, World Finance spoke to Iakovos Giannaklis, General Manager of Retail Banking at Eurobank, who talked us through the country’s key investment opportunities, the remote services Eurobank offers and how the Greek economy is faring as it emerges in a post-Covid landscape.

What impact has the pandemic had on the Greek economy and on international investment?
As a consequence of the pandemic, Greece lost nine percent of its GDP in 2020, and foreign direct investment flows dropped by 37 percent. As expected, movement restriction-vulnerable sectors such as tourism and retail trade suffered the largest blows, with manufacturing following due to weaker demand and disruption in international supply chains. Economic recovery in 2021, however, is expected to be significantly stronger. Tourism posted a robust recovery, with revenue reaching 78 percent of its pre-pandemic levels in August, and real estate prices maintained their upward trend even amid lockdown. The number of construction projects in the pipeline also hit a 15-year high in September, opening up new opportunities for investment in real estate as well as a raft of other sectors.

What key opportunities are there for international investors as the country recovers?
Greece is in the process of transforming its economic model through a solid growth plan comprising structural reforms and large-scale projects. Proportionally to its GDP, the country is one of the largest beneficiaries of the NextGenerationEU programme, created to help economies emerge stronger from the pandemic. Under the programme, Greece will receive nearly €33bn in grants and loans in the next five years to finance investments in green transition, digital transformation, R&D, innovation and infrastructure.

In recent years, the Greek government has gradually legislated a series of investment and tax benefit regimes to entice foreign investors

An additional €21bn will flow through EU structural and investment funds, while the European Investment Bank and the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development have already committed to back projects in excess of €7bn. All of this points to huge potential for growth and investment opportunities. Moreover, the government’s recent labour and social security reforms, corporate tax rate cuts, the digitalisation of the public sector and fast-track processes introduced to ensure quick absorption of the EU funds make Greece an attractive country to invest in.

Which areas in particular are ripe for investment and why?
With the potential for year-long solar and wind power and the country’s decarbonisation commitment to the EU, Greece presents a large potential for investments in renewable energy production. Owing to its position as the south-eastern gateway to Europe and its recently upgraded port infrastructure, the country also has the capacity to attract investment in logistics, turning it into a major regional and European trade hub. As always, tourism also remains a key area of focus. In addition, Greece offers a competitive advantage in other lesser-known sectors, such as pharmaceuticals, metals, software development and agri-food products.

How is Greece’s real estate market faring currently?
The Greek real estate market was severely impacted by the financial and debt crises. Between 2010 and 2016, commercial real estate prices declined by 30 percent, and residential apartment prices by about 40 percent, according to the Bank of Greece. Thanks to the gradual recovery of the Greek economy, this downward spiral has now reversed, with property prices rising by around 15 percent from 2017 to 2020. The upward trend slowed down but was not interrupted during the pandemic. Based on preliminary data, we expect it to continue into 2021, and even accelerate further over the next few years. The revival of holiday rentals, a predicted rise in disposable income and development prospects on the Athens Riviera will be among the key drivers of this growth.

Eurobank introduced a dedicated Retail International Customers segment in 2020. What does this entail?
The International Retail Customers segment is dedicated to servicing non-resident customers, Greeks and foreigners who reside abroad, for all their banking and investment needs in Greece. The segment also provides exclusive services and custom-made products for Golden Visa and tax-resident investors, such as foreign pensioners.

Why did Eurobank decide to launch a service exclusively for non-Greek residents?
In recent years, the Greek government has gradually legislated a series of investment and tax benefit regimes to entice foreign investors, and we have witnessed increasing demand for banking services from abroad as a result. Eurobank has a significant legacy portfolio of non-resident customers who have repeatedly expressed interest for specialised banking services and tailor-made products. This has become even more apparent as a result of the pandemic, with non-resident clients asking to enjoy our services from the comfort of their homes. Our focus has been on addressing these requests by developing a number of products and procedures in order to attract new non-resident customers as investor interest in Greece grows.

What perks do customers get?
Our customers benefit from remote banking services – whether that’s signing up to the bank or applying for a mortgage loan – meaning they don’t need to be physically present in Greece. Through the innovative v-Banking service, we also offer remote services for day-to-day banking transactions. Clients can meet their dedicated International Relationship Manager over video, a dedicated EuroPhone international helpline is also available seven days a week and of course via our award-winning Eurobank mobile app. According to their needs and risk profile, our clients also have access to a wide range of investment solutions, managed by Eurobank Asset Management, a leader in Greece in the areas of fund and institutional asset management, investment advisory and fund selection. Buying property in Greece is easier now than it was in the past, although one can still meet with obstacles along the way. We have developed infrastructure and products to facilitate our clients’ journey to buying their dream holiday home. Non-resident investors can now commence a banking relationship and apply for a mortgage loan with Eurobank remotely. Mortgages are offered in Euro currency to residents of most countries on particularly attractive terms.

You were the first bank in Greece to introduce a segment like this. How successful has it been so far?
We are proud to say that since the beginning of the year, we have received more mortgage applications from non-residents than we did in the previous five years, indicating the segment has been successful. The formation of the financial landscape, as explained previously, will attract a significant number of foreign investors, which, in combination with the tax incentives and the uniqueness of Greece as a destination, will considerably increase the demand for retail products customised for non-residents.

Eurobank was also the first bank in Greece to introduce a branch dedicated to servicing Golden Visa and non-resident investors. What response have you seen?
The international retail branch opened in February 2020. We are currently the only bank in Greece operating a branch dedicated to serving Golden Visa and non-dom investors, operating by appointment. As it opened just before the Covid outbreak, we saw a relatively low number of visitors in the first year. However, in 2021 we witnessed strong pickup in new clients, and although there has been a significant slowdown in new Golden Visa issues at a country level, the branch is experiencing rising interest in the products and services it offers.

You also offer services in tax consulting and real estate management; what does this entail?
Finding the ideal property requires significant time investment and the right partners. Navigating through a foreign tax regime and legal framework may also be a challenge for someone who is a non-resident. Eurobank has created an ecosystem that facilitates all of our customers’ needs and in cooperation with reputable partners, we offer a hassle-free, one-stop investment experience. We collaborate with leading tax consultants to provide our clients with tax and public admin-related services, whether that’s applying for Golden Visas, transferring their tax residence to Greece, obtaining tax numbers or paying income and property taxes. We have partnered with reputable agencies to provide remote, end-to-end management services. These include property and tenancy searches, sales contacts and lease agreements, property maintenance and valuations and technical and legal due diligence. We aim to cover all stages of the property investment process.

What other plans does Eurobank have in the pipeline, and what is your vision for the future?
Eurobank is currently going through a transformation that not only aims to create value for our customers, employees and shareholders, but also to help us become part of the wider national move towards sustainability. We aim to support the development of major infrastructure projects over the next ten years, while working with both small businesses and individuals to offer consulting and lending services. We are also investing in new technology and using it to empower our employees and customers. By embracing the digital world while simultaneously maintaining that element of human interaction, we believe we will thrive in the world’s future economic and social environment.

For more information about Eurobank’s services, go here:
https://www.eurobank.gr/en/international-customers

Global Insurance Awards 2021

With insured losses from natural disasters hitting $42bn in the first six months of 2021 – a daunting 10-year high – the global insurance industry must be wondering what waits in store for the next decade ahead. After all, a huge number of climate scientists predict there will be a marked increase in climate-triggered catastrophes. The role that the insurance industry has to play in alleviating fears in the face of immense and unpredictable risks is vital. The winners of this year’s World Finance Global Insurance Awards 2021 are the organisations willing to address the changing needs of their customers having performed impeccably throughout the year.

World Finance Global Insurance Awards 2021

Argentina
General – MetLife
Life – MetLife

Australia
General – QBE
Life – Tal Life

Austria
General – UNIQA Group
Life – Vienna Insurance Group

Bahrain
General – GIG Bahrain
Life – Bahrain National Life Assurance

Bangladesh
General – Nitol Insurance
Life – Popular Life Insurance Company

Belgium
General – KBC
Life – Belfius Insurance

Brazil
General – Bradesco Saude
Life – Sulamerica Cia Saude

Bulgaria
General – Insurance Company Lev Ins AD
Life – UNIQA Life Insurance

Canada
General – RBC Insurance
Life – Sun Life Financial

Caribbean
General – Sagicor
Life – Sagicor

Chile
General – ACE Seguros de Vida
Life – SURA

China
General – Ping An Property & Casualty Insurance Co
Life – New China Life

Colombia
General – Liberty Seguros
Life – Seguros Bolívar

Costa Rica
General – ASSA Compañía de Seguros
Life – Pan American Life Insurance

Cyprus
General – General Insurance of Cyprus
Life – Eurolife

Czech Republic
General – Komercní banka
Life – Allianz pojišt’ovna

Denmark
General – VIG
Life – Topdanmark

Egypt
General – Allianz Egypt
Life – Allianz Egypt

Finland
General – Fennia Mutual Insurance
Life – Fennia Life

France
General – Covéa Insurance
Life – CNP Assurances

Georgia
General – Aldagi
Life – Aldagi

Greece
General – EuroLife FFH
Life – NN Hellas

Honduras
General – Ficohsa Seguros
Life – Pan-American Life

Hong Kong
General – China Taiping Insurance
Life – Sun Life

Hungary
General – Allianz Hungária
Life – Magyar Posta Életbiztosítás

India
General – ICICI Lombard
Life – Max Life Insurance

Indonesia
General – Sinarmas
Life – FWD Life Indonesia

Israel
General – Phoenix
Life – Clal Insurance

Italy
General – UnipolSai
Life – Poste Vita

Japan
General – Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance
Life – Nippon Life Insurance Company

Jordan
General – Middle East Insurance Company
Life – Arab Orient Insurance Company

Kazakhstan
General – Nomad Insurance
Life – Kazkommerts-Life

Kenya
General – CIC Insurance Group
Life – Britam

Kuwait
General – Warba Insurance
Life – Warba Insurance

Lebanon
General – AXA Middle East
Life – Bancassurance

Luxembourg
General – AXA Luxembourg
Life – Swiss Life

Malaysia
General – Berjaya Sompo Insurance
Life – Hong Leong Assurance Berhad

Malta
General – GasanMamo Insurance
Life – HSBC Life Assurance Malta

Mexico
General – GNP
Life – Seguros Monterrey New York Life

Netherlands
General – A.S.R.
Life – A.S.R.

New Zealand
General – Tower Insurance
Life – Asteron Life

Nigeria
General – Zenith Insurance
Life – FBNInsurance

Norway
General – Fremtind Forsikring
Life – Nordea Liv

Oman
General – OQIC
Life – OQIC

Pakistan
General – Adamjee Insurance
Life – EFU Life

Peru
General – RIMAC Seguros
Life – MAPFRE

Philippines
General – Standard Insurance
Life – BPI AIA

Poland
General – LINK4 TU SA
Life – Warta

Portugal
General – Allianz Seguros
Life – Grupo Ageas Portugal

Qatar
General – Qatar Insurance Company
Life – Q Life and Medical Insurance

Romania
General – ERGO Group
Life – Allianz-Tiriac

Russia
General – AlfaStrakhovanie
Life – Renaissance Zhizn Insurance

Saudi Arabia
General – Al Rajhi Takaful
Life – MEDGULF

Serbia
General – Generali Osiguranje
Life – Generali Osiguranje

Singapore
General – AIA Singapore
Life – AIA Singapore

South Korea
General – Hanwha General Insurance
Life – BNP Paribas Cardif

Spain
General – Grupo Mutua Madrilena
Life – Zurich

Sri Lanka
General – Continental Insurance
Life – Ceylinco Life Insurance

Sweden
General – If.Skadeforsakring
Life – Folks

Switzerland
General – Helvetia
Life – Swiss Life

Taiwan
General – ShinKong Insurance Company
Life – Fubon Life Insurance

Thailand
General – Navakij Insurance
Life – Thai Life Insurance

Turkey
General – Zurich Sigorta
Life – Anadolu Hayat Emeklilik

UAE
General – Oman Insurance
Life – Oman Insurance

UK
General – AXA UK
Life – Legal & General

US
General – Mylo
Life – Lincoln Financial Group

Uzbekistan
General – Kafil-Sugurta
Life – New Life Insurance

Vietnam
General – Bao Viet
Life – Bao Viet

Energy Awards 2021

The capital markets are seen as bankrolling the European Unionís goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, a target that Brussels estimates will cost approximately $556bn in additional investment a year for the next decade. It has become startlingly clear that we are all on the precipice of great and necessary change within the energy industry to help mitigate climate change, eliminate carbon emissions and also address our increasing energy needs.

The World Finance Energy Awards 2021 celebrate the companies that are well aware of the challenges and that have a plan in place to transform not just their sector, but also the world.

World Finance Energy Awards 2021

Best Independent Oil & Gas Company

Africa
Seplat Energy

Asia
Pharos Energy

Eastern Europe
Irkutsk Oil Company

Latin America
PetroRio

Middle East
Genel Energy

North America
W&T Offshore

Western Europe
Neptune Energy

 

Best Fully-Integrated Company

Africa
OANDO

Asia
PTT Plc

Eastern Europe
Gazprom

Latin America
PETROBRAS

Middle East
ARAMCO

North America
Exxon Mobil

Western Europe
TotalEnergies

 

Best Drilling Contractor

Africa
ODENL

Asia
PV Drilling

Eastern Europe
KCA Deutag

Latin America
DLS Archer

Middle East
Foresight Offshore Drilling

North America
Independence Contract Drilling

Western Europe
COSL Drilling Europe

 

Best EPC Service & Solutions Company

Africa
Sonamet

Asia
Dyna-Mac

Eastern Europe
SAIPEM

Latin America
Estaleiros do Brasil Ltda

Middle East
Enppi

North America
KBR

Western Europe
Worley

 

Most Sustainable Company

Africa
Axxela Group

Asia
Bangchak Corporation

Eastern Europe
MOL Group

Latin America
Grupo Dislub Ecuador

Middle East
Qatar Energy

North America
Lotus Bio Energy Solutions

Western Europe
REPSOL

 

Best Nuclear Energy Project

Middle East
Barakah Nuclear Power Plant (by ENEC)

 

Best Nuclear Energy Company

Middle East
Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation

 

Best Downstream Company

Asia
Thaioil

Africa
Puma Energy

Eastern Europe
Tatneft

Latin America
Petrobras

Middle East
ENOC

North America
PBF Energy

Western Europe
OMV

 

Best Exploration and Production Company

Africa
Zenith Energy

Asia
PGN Saka

Eastern Europe
Rosneft

Latin America
Karoon Energy

Middle East
ADNOC

North America
Total E&P USA

Western Europe
Wintershall Dea

 

Best Upstream Service & Solutions Company

Africa
Grupo Simples

Asia
Bumi Armada Berhad

Eastern Europe
BENTEC

Latin America
SBM Offshore

Middle East
Offshore International (OFCO)

North America
Schlumberger

Western Europe
Solstad

 

Best Energy Law Firm

Africa
Centurion Law Group

Asia
Ashurst

Eastern Europe
ALRUD

Latin America
Canales Auty

Middle East
Shahid Law Firm

North America
Babst Calland

Western Europe
White & Case

 

Best Solar Energy Company

Africa
Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN)

Asia
UNITED RENEWABLE ENERGY

Eastern Europe
Enel Green Power

Latin America
Atlas RenewableEnergy

Middle East
ENERGIX

North America
Clearway Energy

Western Europe
X-ELIO

 

Best Solar Energy Project

Africa
Noor Ouarzazate Solar Power Station (by MASEN)

 

Best Wind Energy Company

Western Europe
SSE Renewables

Wealth Management Awards 2021

The late-2021 release of the Pandora Papers has increased pressure on wealth managers to ensure they invest clients’ money, particularly politicians and public figures, in impeccable assets. This has never been a problem for those at the very top of the industry, and the winners of the World Finance Wealth Management Awards 2021 reflect the expert characteristics of those who are disciplined in structuring and planning wealth for investors.

World Finance Wealth Management Awards 2020

Best Wealth Management Companies

Argentina
Andes Wealth Management

Armenia
Unibank Prive

Austria
Schoellerbank

Bahamas
RBC Dominion Securities

Belgium
BNP Paribas Fortis

Bermuda
Butterfield Bank

Brazil
BTG Pactual

Canada
RBC Wealth Management

Chile
BTG Pactual

China
Credit Ease Wealth Management

Colombia
BTG Pactual

Denmark
Nordea Asset Management

Finland
Taaleri Wealth Management

France
BNP Paribas Banque Privée

Germany
Berenberg

Georgia
TBC Wealth Management

Greece
Hellenic Asset Management

Hong Kong
Nomura

Hungary
Hold Asset Management

India
ICICI Securities

Indonesia
Bank of Singapore

Italy
BNL BNP Paribas

Japan
Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Asset Management Co

Kuwait
NBK Capital

Lithuania
INVL

Luxembourg
BGL BNP Paribas

Malaysia
Affin Hwang Capital

Mauritius
Bank One

Netherlands
ABN AMRO MeesPierson

Nigeria
FBN Quest Merchant Bank

Norway
Nordea Asset Management

Oman
Bank Muscat

Philippines
BDO Private Bank

Poland
CITI Handlowy

Portugal
Santander Wealth Management and Insurance

Qatar
Qatar National Bank

Saudi Arabia
SABB

Singapore
Nomura

Spain
Alantra Wealth Management

Sweden
Carnegie

Switzerland
BNP Paribas Wealth Management

Taiwan
Cathay United Bank

Thailand
Phatra Securities

UAE
Rakbank

US
Merrill Lynch Wealth Management

UK
Schroders

Vietnam
SSI Securities

 

Best Multi-Client Family Office, Liechtenstein
Kaiser Partner

Best Real Estate Investment Company
SFO Group

Most Innovative Wealth Manager, Europe
XSpot Wealth

Best Wealth Management Software Provider
Comarch

Investment Management Awards 2021

The past 18 months has been all about looking at the bigger picture, and if there is one additional skill that asset managers have needed to hone, it has been the ability to better analyse these shifting trends so that they can serve a modern investor who is digitally literate and operating in a much-changed landscape amid the devastating effects of the pandemic and now a renewed focus on climate change.

The winners of the World Finance Investment Management Awards 2021 are those who have been able to adapt best to this rapidly changing environment and tailor their service offering accordingly.

 

World Finance Investment Management Awards 2021

Bahrain
SICO BSC

Belgium
KBC Asset Management

Brazil
Bradesco Asset Management

Chile
BCI Asset Management

China
Ping An Asset Management Company

Colombia
Sura AM

Greece
Piraeus Asset Management

Mexico
BBVA Asset Management

Philippines
BDO Unibank

Saudi Arabia
Alistithmar Capital

Singapore
UOB Asset Management

Thailand
UOB Asset Management

Turkey
Ak Asset Management

UAE
Mashreq Capital

Vietnam
Phat Dat Estate Development Corporation

Innovation Awards 2021

Innovation has been a buzzword for some time now, and it’s always been easy for companies to make claims in that direction when actually they are just following a trend.

However, the winners of the World Finance Innovation Awards 2021 include trend-makers in their respective industries, those who are working on cutting-edge innovation and initiatives, whose R&D consistently yields results and whose operating methods shift to new and transformational models. We celebrate those who truly encompass the word ‘innovation’ and are enjoying well-deserved success as a result.

World Finance Innovation Awards 2021

Most Innovative Companies, by industry

3D Printing
Desktop Metal

AgTech
AgriCircle

Beauty
Busy

Biopharmaceutical
Annexon

Biotechnology
TurtleTree

Building Products Suppliers
Egyptian German Industrial Corporate

Carbon Capture Technology
Calix

Chemicals
Lake Chemicals & Minerals

Coffee
Kaffe Bueno

Diagnostics
Medicortex

Digital Health
Haima Health Initiative

Electronics
Fairphone

Energy-Efficiency Technology 
Seppure

Energy Storage
Energy Exploration Technologies (Energy X)

Financial Services Tools
QuickFi by Innovation Finance

FinTechChannel
Vas Channel

Food
Frulact

Healthcare Biotech
CHAIN Biotechnology

Hydrogen Technology
ITM Power

Irrigation Systems Technology
CMGP – CAS Parc Industriel

Logistics
Convoy

Medical Devices
OrCam Technologies

Microfinance
Letshego

Nanotechnology
Perpetuus Carbon Technologies

Outdoor
Kona

Renewable Energy Technology
PNE

Security
Cloudflare

Solar Energy Technology
Okra Solar

Sustainable City Development
Diamond Developers

Telecommunication
Arpuplus

Transportation
Mosaic Global Transportation

 

Digital Banking Awards 2021

It can be universally agreed that the ëshift to digitalí is well underway, catalysed by the global pandemic. In the wake of volatile conditions caused by the health crisis there has been a panoply of innovative apps and services arriving just in time to support customers in these difficult times. The World Finance Digital Banking Awards 2021  recognises those looking to secure a brighter future and a more connected world as the great recovery begins.

 

World Finance Digital Banking Awards 2021

Best Mobile Banking Apps

Andorra
MoraBanc App

Brunei
b.Digital Personal

Bulgaria
m-Postbank

Costa Rica
Banca Movil BAC Credomatic

Dominican Republic
Banreservas

El Salvador
Banca Movil BAC Credomatic

Germany
DKB-Banking

Ghana
Absa Banking App

Greece
NBG Mobile Banking

Honduras
Banca Movil BAC Credomatic

Indonesia
OCTO Mobile

Mexico
BBVA Mexico

Nicaragua
Banca Movil BAC Credomatic

Nigeria
SC Mobile Banking

Panama
Banca Movil BAC Credomatic

Qatar
QIB Mobile

Saudi Arabia
alrajhi bank

Singapore
SC Mobile Banking

South Africa
ABSA Abby

Sri Lanka
People’s Wave

Turkey
isCep

UAE
mashreq neo

UK
Barclays Mobile Banking

USA
Bank of America Mobile Banking

Zambia
Atlas Mara Zambia Mobile Banking

 

Best Consumer Digital Banks

Andorra
MoraBanc

Bulgaria
Postbank

Costa Rica
BAC Credomatic

Dominican Republic
Banreservas

El Salvador
BAC Credomatic

Germany
Deutsche Kreditbank

Ghana
Absa Bank

Greece
National Bank of Greece

Honduras
BAC Credomatic

Indonesia
PT Bank CIMB Niaga

Mexico
BBVA Mexico

Nicaragua
BAC Credomatic

Nigeria
Standard Chartered

Panama
BAC Credomatic

Qatar
Qatar Islamic Bank

Saudi Arabia
Al Rajhi Bank

Singapore
Standard Chartered

South Africa
ABSA Bank

Sri Lanka
Peoples Bank

Turkey
IS Bank

UAE
Mashreq Bank

UK
Barclays

USA
Bank of America

Zambia
Atlas Mara

Clean energy for Nigeria and beyond

With huge potential to diversify the Nigerian economy from other fossil fuel alternatives, domestic industries are embracing natural gas as Gaslink Nigeria Limited (Gaslink), a subsidiary of domestic energy group Axxela, steadily expands its natural gas pipeline network into the nation’s transformative industrial clusters.

Today, Gaslink operates an exclusive natural gas distribution franchise in the Greater Lagos Industrial Area (GLIA) through its 100km-plus pipeline network with a throughput capacity of about 140 million standard cubic feet a day (MMSCFD). It is a testimony to the demand for clean and reliable energy that Gaslink accounts for a large proportion of Nigeria’s domestic gas distribution to industrial and commercial users. This number continues to rise with the latest total at 185 industrial customers.

One of the most recent customers for Axxela’s clean energy is Rite Foods, a fast-growing food and drinks manufacturer that was connected to an 18km-long natural gas pipeline in Ogun State in the south-west of Nigeria earlier this year. From the moment Rite Foods switched over to the pipeline, it began to record significant savings in energy costs.

The commissioning marked yet another milestone for Axxela, which is continuing to develop the pipeline system, known as the Sagamu Gas Distribution Zone (SGDZ), to provide natural gas to companies in the region.

Through its subsidiary, Transit Gas Nigeria Limited (TGNL) and long-time partners Nigerian Gas Marketing Company (NGMC), Axxela has been delivering natural gas in the Sagamu corridor since 2019 to a wide variety of companies such as Apple & Pears Limited, West African Soy Industries Limited, Emzor Pharmaceuticals, Celplas Industries FZE and Coleman Technical Industries Limited.

All of these powerhouse companies play a vital role in the state’s economic development, but until recently their operations had been constrained by the total reliance on more expensive alternative forms of energy. However, with the expansion of the Sagamu pipelines in Ogun State, these companies can now enjoy more energy efficiency and plan for a bigger future in Nigeria.

And there’s more to come. As Axxela’s Chief Executive Officer, Bolaji Osunsanya, explained to World Finance: “Our present positioning enables us to significantly increase our industrial and commercial client footprint across the south-western corridor. The natural gas advantage enables the development of self-sustaining industrial clusters to bolster Nigeria’s industrialisation and socio-economic empowerment.”

Addressing energy needs
Most of Axxela’s customers are large users of energy whose price and reliability underpin their success. One of Africa’s biggest cement companies, BUA Cement, has “significantly lowered ex-factory prices,” according to its chairman, as it meets fast-rising demand for new infrastructure right across Nigeria. The latest projections for cement are an increase in demand by over three million metric tonnes a year, a target that will fundamentally depend on the right kind of energy.

Customer preference, especially among commercial and industrial users, is rapidly shifting from diesel to natural gas

Similarly, Dangote Sugar Refinery, the country’s biggest producer of household and commercial sugar, boosted revenues in the first half of 2021 by nearly 28 percent and gross profit by 37.3 percent. Once again, lower energy costs can only have helped the bottom line. Confident in its natural gas supply, Dangote Sugar is now aiming for a global market. The natural gas advantage, as Osunsanya describes it, is now widely recognised. “Customer preference, especially among commercial and industrial users, is rapidly shifting from diesel to natural gas,” he said.

“Customers are continuously assessing how to achieve cost savings within their operations because power is often their largest cost centre. The switch from diesel to natural gas is a no-brainer.” The numbers tell the story. On average, customers save up to half of their fuel costs with natural gas compared with other fossil fuels. And some save more – one heavy user of energy in the Sagamu region slashed its fuel bill by nearly $250,000 a year. Clean piped natural gas also offers advantages in delivery – the costs of storing and hauling diesel, for instance, are considerable. Another problem with fossil fuels in the past has been the variety of methods by which it is misappropriated, and this has bedevilled sustainable and cost-effective utilisation of the alternative petroleum products in Nigeria.

Transforming gas distribution
With a background in banking and a master’s degree in economics, Osunsanya has steered Axxela through a transformational period since 2007, when it was known as Oando Gas and Power. He launched his career as a consultant with Arthur Andersen in Nigeria where he acquired expertise in banking, oil and gas, and manufacturing, which was fundamental in helping him spearhead Axxela’s pioneering role in gas distribution. He started with the erstwhile parent company, Oando plc, in 2001 and moved quickly up the ranks to Chief Marketing Officer responsible for nationwide commercial sales.

When Osunsanya took over the top job, Axxela was unable to attract the right kind of debt funding. “A great deal of our early growth was project financing from the local markets,” he told the international magazine, The Business Year. However, as the group steadily proved its capabilities, the financial markets came to the party, providing support through lower-cost debt. “With the advent of new investors, we are now reaching out to larger international markets and development finance institutions,” he said.

By 2019, the group had invested $500m in gas infrastructure and since then has continued to finance its expansion through lower coupon rates. The overall result has been greater credibility for Axxela and, most importantly, higher-quality energy for Nigeria’s pivotal industrial clusters.

The Sagamu Gas Distribution Zone in Ogun State is just the latest project for Axxela. Through its subsidiaries and partners, the group has been pushing clean gas into industrial zones for many years. In the process, it has been plugging a gap in Nigeria’s energy infrastructure by coming to the nation’s rescue at a time when the government has withdrawn from investment in industrial-scale infrastructure and invited the private sector to take on the task. “Government can’t do everything,” Osunsanya said.

Today, Gas Network Services Limited (GNSL) delivers compressed natural gas (CNG) through virtual pipelines in the form of trucks. From a Lagos-headquartered hub dispensing 5.2 MMSCFD, the natural gas is compressed into mobile tube trailers and shipped to customers who use it as their primary or alternative fuel.

In a highly sophisticated operation, the Italian-made compressors deliver the CNG at 250 barg (a measurement of gauge pressure) to energy-hungry customers within a 250km radius. Right from the start, the service met a need with customers signing up in droves, including brewers, food manufacturers, logistics and ceramics groups.

The quality of the gas is fundamental to the take-up. The hub, which does not depend on the national grid for its own power, is dried and scrubbed before delivery so that it is clean and moisture-free.

Safety first
And it has all been done without mishaps. By embedding industry best practice throughout the network, Axxela has not recorded a single accident or damage to either its assets or the environment. The group operates under three ISO standards covering health and safety, environmental management, and quality control. In the interests of employees, contractors, business partners, customers and other stakeholders, strict protocols are enforced throughout the group on such issues as permit to work, routine audits and inspections in all daily activities.

Another subsidiary, Central Horizon Gas Company (CHGC), a joint venture between Axxela and the Rivers State government, runs a 17km network into industrial clusters located in the thriving Greater Port Harcourt area.

Another subsidiary, Transit Gas Nigeria Limited (TGNL), is developing a mini-LNG plant in Ajaokuta in partnership with Nigerian Gas Marketing Company (NGMC), which will provide another network of pipelines into Northern Nigeria. Upon completion, the Ajaokuta mini-LNG project will provide the same affordable clean energy to industrial clusters in the North as Axxela does elsewhere in the country. The project is already at an advanced stage.

Axxela is not resting on its laurels. Also on the drawing board is the provision of natural gas to remote communities through a floating storage and regasification vessel, one of the most cost-effective forms of providing energy. And looking further afield, the West African Gas Pipeline offers promising opportunities, particularly so in the wake of the 2018 trade deal, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement, that promises to boost economic activities in the region.

The 681km-long pipeline links up the gas-rich Niger Delta with neighbouring countries Benin, Togo and Ghana. “Growth for our businesses across Nigeria and Africa will be driven by rising demand for natural gas for electricity, transportation, heating and processing,” Osunsanya explains. “This is due to improved living standards, population growth, rapid urbanisation and a larger industrial sector.”

The numbers look impressive. Axxela estimates demand for natural gas in those countries alone to grow at a compound growth rate of five percent over the next 20 years. “The West African Gas Pipeline is very important to our long-term business plans,” Osunsanya predicts.

Ultimately, Axxela has big ambitions for its energy provision. Current expansion is taking the group beyond Nigeria and into regions along the west coast of Africa. In the meantime, its gas-to-power projects are slated to deliver about 50 megawatts of power to customers in the medium term, with substantial opportunities for further growth. And it all started 20 years ago with the simple conviction that Nigeria’s industries needed cleaner and cheaper fuel.

Post-pandemic surge for healthcare, banking and infrastructure sectors

Dimitris Kantzelis is CEO of XSpot Wealth; the innovative, technology-driven wealth management company he co-founded to provide convenient, transparent, low-cost and flexible wealth management solutions to people at every level of income. In the first video from our interview with Dimitris, he discusses how the markets responded to the slow pandemic recovery of 2021. You can also watch him explain how XSpot Wealth has adapted and evolved through 2021, and outline the company’s new offering for institutional investors.

World Finance: Dimitris, obviously 2020 was a year of incredible volatility; how have the markets responded this year, as we inch closer to recover?

Dimitris Kantzelis: Yes, it was a quite bumpy ride, especially in March 2020, when we saw the stock markets dropping more than 30 percent, and oil prices at some point trading at below zero levels. So that was a very difficult situation for investors, as they were dumping everything and getting cash, preparing for a lifetime catastrophe.

Now, we saw that governments and central banks were very well prepared to support the system, with trillions in stimulus packages. This is now bringing some fears of hyperinflation lasting for the next couple of years – this is the main theme of discussion for these current months and the next year.

The counter-argument for that is that these stimulus packages went to support households and businesses to get through the pandemic, as we saw record levels of savings all around the world. We believe those savings will help as we go out of this pandemic; we believe we will be going out very quickly, and we will be looking at the face of mature growth in the global stock and bond markets.

World Finance: And what sectors do you expect to perform well as life slowly returns to normal?

Dimitris Kantzelis: Well, we’re looking at some sectors specifically. I would mention the health sector, because the MRNA technology helped a lot – not only in the COVID-19 vaccines, but also in the entire research and development around vaccines for the future. So that’s a sector we’re focusing in.

The banking sector is another very important sector. The banks were very well capitalised this time, and we believe that with increasing interest rates they will be very profitable, so that’s another sector we’re focusing on.

Real estate is another sector – we’re seeing people buying houses, turning to real estate for safety after the global pandemic. And also infrastructure, as we’re trying to change the way we commute, and we live in cities.

So, these are the main sectors we’ll be focusing on.

World Finance: And which geographies do you expect to be outperforming?

Dimitris Kantzelis: We believe the US will keep outperforming the global stock and bond markets. We see some worries in China – we still believe China is going to be the next big thing for the next decade, but with the Evergrande situation and the debt issues of many companies, the overregulation that Beijing is trying to bring in, we believe that it might grow at a slower pace for the next couple of years.

Now Europe will also grow and get out of the pandemic, but the issue is the big energy crisis that is unfolding at the moment. So we believe this will be lagging the US as well.

World Finance: Dimitris, thank you very much.

Dimitris Kantzelis: Thank you so much.

XSpot Wealth technology and transparency will empower institutions

Dimitris Kantzelis is CEO of XSpot Wealth; the innovative, technology-driven wealth management company he co-founded to provide convenient, transparent, low-cost and flexible wealth management solutions to people at every level of income. In the third and final video from our interview with Dimitris, he discusses XSpot Wealth’s new institutional offering. You can also watch him outline prospects for growth as the world recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, and explain how XSpot Wealth has adapted and evolved through 2021.

World Finance: Dimitris, this year XSpot has expanded the services you provide, and started offering your technology to institutional investors?

Dimitris Kantzelis: That’s correct Paul. We worked a lot during the pandemic, we expanded and upgraded our systems a lot. So we’re reaching a point where we’re discussing with people from the industry, and they will tell us that the system we have, the smart technology and AI, would be so helpful to them: so they can offer better services to their clients, and expand their books. Which is now something they cannot do: it would take very long, and they wouldn’t have the assets to invest in such technologies as well.

So we said, why not license the technology? Expand our global reach, help the investor get more robust and more transparent investment services. But also empower these companies to give better advice and services for their clients, and also expand their books.

World Finance: I know the foundation of XSpot Wealth has always been your smart technology; what sets it apart?

Dimitris Kantzelis: It could be summarised in four main sectors, which are scalability, security, efficiency, and transparency.

So, scalability: we’re working hard with the latest technology infrastructure to accommodate big data, big numbers of clients, while at the same time we give very low latency.

Security is of paramount importance; we’re implementing a lot of security layers before that point, but also security encryption is a very important feature, and we already have that in our system.

Efficiency: the wealth management and banking sectors are very complex sectors. You need a lot of things from the back office, the middle office, the front office, connections with fixed engines; and we’re covering all that.

And finally the transparency. With strong reporting engines, we can give all the information to the client, but also real-time information through our CRM. So they have all the details they want to value and assess their investment.

World Finance: And does it integrate easily? How does the partnership work?

Dimitris Kantzelis: It’s actually one of the big advantages, that it can integrate so easily, and it’s ready to go with any company. We’re very flexible – they can choose parts of the system, from the back office, middle office, reporting lines, the fixed engine connecting them to the global stock and bond markets with some of the biggest counterparties. We provide full support of course, for the entire engagement. And it comes in very competitive packages.

World Finance: And what are your hopes for this side of the business?

Dimitris Kantzelis: First of all expanding our global reach in many countries outside our normal retail space. So, all around the world.

Helping, empowering clients who can now take advantage of these transparent services. Helping other companies and other institutions; expanding their books, offering better services to their clients.

And this will result for us to keep investing and upgrading the technology even more. So hopefully become one of the global key players in the wealth technology space.

World Finance: Dimitris Kantzelis, thank you very much.

Dimitris Kantzelis: Thank you.

XSpot Wealth launches ESG plans and prepares to expand to Middle East

Dimitris Kantzelis is CEO of XSpot Wealth; the innovative, technology-driven wealth management company he co-founded to provide convenient, transparent, low-cost and flexible wealth management solutions to people at every level of income. In the second video from our interview with Dimitris, he discusses how XSpot Wealth responded to the trends of 2021, and its roadmap of future growth. You can also watch him explain the company’s new offering for institutional investors, and outline prospects for growth as the world recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

World Finance: Dimitris, how has XSpot Wealth responded this year to the macroeconomic trends you’ve described?

Dimitris Kantzelis: Yes, from the beginning of the year we had some transitions that needed to take place. The Biden administration coming in, and the fears for breaking down the big tech shifted some of our portfolios from technology stock to value sectors as our economies were opening up again – travelling, going out, real estate, banking, as we discussed before. Health sectors. This is where we had to change efficiently, quickly, and that was a key point where our clients saw that we made the correct decisions.

But we believe we’re doing nicely; the way of passive investments, and being able to be extremely diversified, more aggressive but also more conservative approaches, depending on the risk profiles of the clients, proved very, very efficient.

We also launched our ESG plans, we see a lot of people interested in ESG investments. So now we have the thematic ESG funds, which are targeting different kinds of investments in global stock and bond markets. So that was a quite successful launch as well.

World Finance: And what feedback have you had from clients, as you’ve adapted and evolved?

Dimitris Kantzelis: They were very happy, because with the passive way we’re investing, with the big transparency, they can always see what we’re doing. And that’s why they feel comfortable. And this is the reason why they’re bringing us a lot of referrals. And we also see them bringing deposits from different institutions over to us.

World Finance: As the world has opened up, you must have been able to interact with your clients in better and more engaging ways?

Dimitris Kantzelis: Yes of course – being digital doesn’t stop us, because at the same time, we’re hybrid. So we always have our private wealth managers ready, and our customer support, to help solve any questions and advise our clients in a better way based on their individual goals and what they have in mind, yes.

World Finance: When we spoke last year you mentioned your ambitions for 2021 of entering two new countries and reaching 10,000 clients; how far along are you on your roadmap?

Dimitris Kantzelis: We’re very close actually; we believe we can hit that by the end of this year. But COVID-19 delayed us a bit – I believe it did most companies. We’re launching our Dubai office very soon, and we believe by next year we’ll be in another European location.

So by 2023 we will have expanded our reach all around south-eastern Europe and the Middle East. So we’re on track for our next target, which is the 100,000 client mark. But also with the institutional offering we now have, we believe we can expand all around the world.

World Finance: Dimitris, thank you.

Dimitris Kantzelis: Thank you Paul.