“Italy an example for market solutions to the problem of distressed loans”

Riccardo Serrini, CEO of the Prelios Group and Prelios Credit Servicing, at the Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry into banks

According to market estimates, the second wave of distressed loans at Italian banks will be “between 60 and 100 billion euro in the next 3-4 years” said Prelios Group CEO Riccardo Serrini, at a hearing before the Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry into banks on December 1. “The Italian market should be taken as an example, given the effective market solutions it has found to the question of distressed loans. At the end of 2015, Italy had NPLs totaling 200 billion euro, with UTPs for an additional 130 billion: an overall amount of more than 330 billion.” In the first quarter of 2020 “the stock of distressed credit had been significantly reduced to 68.4 billion euro of NPLs and 61 billion of UTPs. A major contributing factor were NPL sales with the GACS State guarantee, which helped large portfolios to be transferred from the banks’ books to investors and servicers,” observed Serrini. “Community regulators are looking not only at the GACS guarantee – which has given fresh impetus to securitization transactions that had been at a standstill for almost 10 years – but also at solutions for the growth of the secondary market, digital platforms like the BlinkS system developed by the Prelios Group and cited as a benchmark by the EU Commission, the ECB and the EBA.”

“Furthermore,” continued the Prelios Group CEO, “a number of European governments are certainly following what we’ve done in Italy: a mechanism very like the GACS is used in Greece, and in some ways implements solutions that are even more innovative, because the guarantee not only covers NPLs as in Italy, it has also been extended to UTPs. The German government too appears to be examining similar mechanisms. There is no doubt that the Italian banking system could benefit greatly from the extension of the GACS to UTPs, since the probable defaults affect the ‘live flesh’ of the country system: companies that could be put back on a performing basis, saved from insolvency, with obvious benefits for jobs and allied industries.” The Prelios Group, said Serrini, “will have put 400 companies back on to a solid footing by the end of 2020, despite the Covid19 emergency.”

Riccardo Serrini then turned to the efficiency of the justice system, describing the particular nature of the situation in Italy to the parliamentary committee. “Providing the market with the tools to sustain the development of a sector that is already very competitive and efficient is important to meet the new wave of distressed loans. It is absolutely vital that this is backed by simplification and a more efficient justice machine. The average time taken in Italy to close insolvencies and procedures in general is more than double and in some cases more than triple the European averages, even compared with countries like Spain and Greece. This translates into very high costs for the banking system, because the value of NPEs (i.e., all types of distressed loans) is also a function of the financial cost of time, and there is a clear inverse correlation between the growth of a country's GDP and its NPE volumes.”

Sull’efficienza della macchina della giustizia, infine, Riccardo Serrini ha presentato alla Commissione parlamentare d'inchiesta sulle banche la peculiarità della situazione italiana. “Dare gli strumenti al mercato per supportare lo sviluppo di un settore già molto competitivo ed efficiente è importante per affrontare la nuova wave di crediti deteriorati. Questo deve assolutamente essere supportato da una semplificazione e una maggiore efficienza della macchina della giustizia. I tempi medi italiani per la chiusura di fallimenti e procedure in generale sono infatti più che doppi, e in alcuni casi più che tripli, rispetto alle medie europee, anche di Paesi come Spagna e Grecia. Questo si traduce in un costo molto alto per il sistema bancario, perché il valore degli NPE (non performing exposures, ovvero la somma di tutte le tipologie di crediti distressed) è anche una funzione del costo finanziario del tempo, ed esiste una chiara correlazione inversa tra la crescita del Pil di un Paese e le masse di NPE”.