is a major European country, and despite that its financial sector is less
"internationalised" than the ones from other countries, it still has some relevance
in global markets. In particular, few selected actors still play a central role
both in the country and in some sectors abroad, and primarily in Eastern Europe
(such as the Unicredit Group or the Generali insurance group). This is due to
the fact that several Italian banks got badly hit by the Argentinian crisis in
2001 and recently by the financial crisis affecting Europe.
the crisis Italian banks did not require proper bail outs, apart from some
limited public support in order to on-lend to small and medium enterprises, but
got significant access to ECB resources due to liquidity problems. At the same
time the value of all major Italian banks decreased significantly in the last
years. In particular, the capitalisation of the five major banks (among which
the two largest are Unicredit and Intesa San Paolo) is between 30 and 40
billion Euro, much lower than other European banking giants. It should be added
that the largest Italian bank at the moment remains a primarily publicly owned
one, not known to most of the people: Cassa Depositi e Presititi, which manages
every year about 200 billion Euro raised through postal savings and has a
capitalisation of about 240 billion Euro (including the equity participation to
key Italian multinational companies).
and popular banks have a long tradition in Italy; in particular, the
cooperative banks are widespread on the Italian territory. Banca Popolare Etica operates as the major ethical bank in the country since the beginning of last
decade. Still some experiences of local mutual lending (so called MAG) exist in
Italian financial sector is supervised primarily by the Italian Central
Bank. It is responsible for the
stablility of the Italian banking sector and operates independently, in
cooperation with the European Central Bank, to ensure price stability, a
shock-resilient financial system and strong and sound financial institutions
serving economic development in Italy.
to most other European countries, Italy does not have a proper authority for
financial markets, while the functioning of these is monitored and supervised
too by the Central Bank.
banks listed on the Milan stock-exchange are supervised by Consob, the
independent authority for the stock-exchange, as well.
Italian Banking Association (ABI) is still an influential player in the country
and in particular through the crisis played a very proactive role in
advocacting for measures in support of the sector as well as tried to influence
the definition of new banking regulation at European level (Basel III Accord revision).
policy on bank reform
Italian government urged in the last years the domestic banking sector to
provide easy access to lending for small and medium entrerprises, which produce
about 95% of Italian GDP. Through the crisis the government made available 8
billion Euro to major Italian banks to on-lend to SMEs at better terms, and
offered an unprecedented guarantee on 50% of the loans by the Italian export
credit agency (whose mandate has been changed at this occasion for the purpose
of operating within Italy). Loans have been made available to banks by Cassa
Depositi e Prestiti. More generally, the Italian government significantlty
strengthened the role of CDP with the intention of establishing a sort of
"Italian sovereign wealth fund" to support the Italian economy at home and
abroad. It should be noted that 30% of CDP is controlled by 66 banking
foundations, which remain an important shareholder in most Italian banks.
particular government inquiry has been promoted about the Italian banking
sector through the crisis, despite a large criticism by the domestic industrial
sector over the last years about
difficulties in accessing credit from the banking system.
sustainability and reform initiatives
recent years a number of sustainability initiatives - such as the "Protocol on
Sustainable Development for the Banking Sector" promoted by the Italian
National Banking Association and major trade unions in the banking sector - emerged
in Italy, however most of them remain questionable in terms of real impacts in
changing Italian bank practices.
Italian banking association promoted several working groups on sustainability
and SRI related issues. Independent and more progressive rating agencies gather
into the Forum on Sustainable Finance.
Fondazione Culturale Responsabilità Etica, part of the Italian ethical bank
group, promotes several initiatives and awareness raising campaigns on the
issue of sustainability as well, in this case with the more active involvement
of civil society actors such as Re:Common.