Investing for Europe's future

Commentary by Wim Mijs, Chief Executive, European Banking Federation

Wim MijsBanks are helping to bolster Europe’s economy and spur growth. Since the dawn of finance, European banks have helped entrepreneurs, family businesses and local and multinational firms. For more than half a century, the European Banking Federation (EBF) has represented European banks, advocating the interests of European banking clients. Today, we have members in 32 countries and represent more than 4,500 banks.

Since I took over the helm of the EBF three years ago, it has been a pioneer in enabling digital transformation, led industry-wide efforts to build a European financial education platform, bolstered its role in bank supervision and tackled new projects such as green finance. In all our work, we are guided by the question: how can we best meet the financing needs of the economy?

Four-fifths of company financing in Europe comes from bank loans, supporting new investments and the growth of millions of companies. In the face of a difficult decade for the global economy, the European banking sector has proven to be strong and resilient; loans to non-financial companies have risen above €10trn last year and continue to show a positive trend.

And it is not just about loans. Whether it is for managing risks through complex products, supporting corporate restructuring or helping clients access capital markets, banks are there to help Europe’s companies every step of the way. In fact, given companies’ diverse needs, we see capital markets and bank lending as fully complementary. Hence we support the EU’s project of the Capital Markets Union to boost capital markets.

We strongly feel the need for SME growth – they are the backbone of European jobs and incomes. Small and growing companies such as those featured in this publication have a special place in the future of Europe. They need the full range of funding opportunities (including risk finance) as they go up the ‘ladder’ – especially if we want them to stay in Europe and create the world brands of tomorrow.

Banking in the 21st century requires a new approach. To shape the future, we are looking ahead. Our aim is to provide tailored, dynamic funding possibilities that bring together the traditional advantages of client and market knowledge and local presence with new digital solutions.

Providing the right capital means enabling all companies, including fast-growth SMEs, to hire talented people, invest in research and technology, and expand internationally. In the end, access to finance is about realising our potential to grow. True to their historical mission, Europe’s banks want to stay invested in the European economy and its citizens.