Interviews

ANIF could be an incredible useful tool to bring international ESG standards into Armenia - Isidoro Lucciola

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ANIF could be an incredible useful tool to bring international ESG standards into Armenia - Isidoro Lucciola

YEREVAN, JUNE 27, ARMENPRESS.ANIF has already participated in several successful financing activities even though it’s only been four years since it was established, ANIF Member of the Board of DirectorsIsidoro Lucciolatold ARMENPRESS.

Mr. Lucciolajoined the Board of Directors of Armenian National Interests Fund (ANIF) as an Independent Member in 2019, the same year ANIF was launched.

ANIF’s mission is to support and empower Armenia’s economic development potentialby to consolidating and effectively managing the ownership of Armenian state-owned enterprises, promoting export growth and investments in Armenia by providing co-financing in large-scale projects at their initial stage of development.

Lucciola, a pre-eminent Italian banker and entrepreneur, told ARMENPRESS in an interview thatthere is still a lot that needs to be done but if ANIF and Armenia continue to follow this path, a lot of other great opportunities for new successful stories will open up in many more different sectors.

- Mr. Lucciola, please tell us, what is the connection between you and Armenia and, in this context, how did your cooperation with Armenian National Interests Fund begin? How did you become a member of the ANIF Board of Directors?

I have always been charmed by this part of the world and especially by Armenia. Its history, its culture and its people continue to be an incredible source of inspiration for me, when it comes to the cohesion and resilience of the Armenian community. During the course of my life, I have had the fortunate chance to know several Armenians around the world and to observe how smart, thoughtful and strong they are. Not to forget also the multiple historical and cultural connections between Armenia and my country, Italy. This is why I accepted without hesitations the proposal David Papazian made me in 2019. Joining the Board of Directors of the Armenian National Interests Fund has turned out to be an amazing opportunity to learn even more about Armenia and to do something really meaningful for this country. I suppose that my experience, both in managing an Italian development government-owned entity and in arranging investments of several international Sovereign Wealth Funds, has been a choice criterion to receive the invitation to join ANIF.

- How important is the role of sovereign wealth funds in the modern world for the economies of countries? Is it attracting of the investments, economic empowerment or something else?

Nowadays sovereign wealth funds play a fundamental role in modern economies. ANIF credibility and seriousness is evident when we look at all the amazing people Mr. Papazian has chosen to be part of this project. In this sense, the whole staff has clear in mind the goal of a sovereign wealth fund: to strategically develop and shape its own country’s economy while increasing the population’s well-being. To do this, some of the possible strategies include helping the country prioritize development clusters and shape the investment agenda, being an intermediate between the government and the investors and having a financial stake on the table. Following these steps is really helpful also in the case of potential foreign investors that still know little about Armenia.

- Mr. Lucciola, what investment opportunities do you think Armenia has? What kind of attractiveness and offer does it have from an investment perspective?

I really believe that investing in Armenia is a great opportunity in a plethora of sectors because, apart from everything else, your human capital is what makes you so much valuable. Starting from this powerful asset and considering the improvements in the political risk and in the economy, more visibility on the international investment environment could be the boost the country needs. In this sense, I strongly reckon that, project after project, Armenia will be recognized as a place to be.

- Within this context, what is the role and importance of ANIF in Armenia?

As I already said, one of the essential premises to secure ANIF’s role in Armenia is to showcase the country as a safe, promising and successful place to invest. Even though I may be taking sides, I strongly believe that several of ANIF’s projects can and will serve this purpose. On top of that, I must refer again to the incredible and highly skilled team who is helping ANIF paving the way for successful investments while always being a partner for foreign investors who seek professional expertise, support and the comfort of having the state’s stake in a joint venture.

- ANIF has been engaged in activities for some time and has already managed to implement successful projects. How would you rate ANIF's activities?

Even though we are talking about a quite brief period of time, ANIF has already participated in several successful financing activities. Just to mention one of them, Armenia is going to have its first industrial size solar plant developed thanks to the joint venture between ANIF and Masdar signed in 2020. Another fortunate project is Fly Arna, the national airline born in 2021 thanks to an agreement with Air Arabia furnishing the aircrafts. In these and in many more other activities, ANIF’s contributions has been enhanced by some of the smaller scale local businesses financing the projects who have brought international names to the country. Obviously, there is still a lot that needs to be done but I think that, if ANIF and Armenia continue to follow this path, a lot of other great opportunities for new successful stories will open up in many more different sectors (e.g. medicine and entertainment).

- The International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds (IFSWF) has awarded Armenian National Interests Fund the status of an associate member. What kind of opportunities will this give Armenia?

In answering this question, I must underline that Sovereign Wealth Funds, with direct assets under management exceeding 12.4 trillion US dollars, can now be considered the most influential institutional investors in global financial markets and their activism is growing. They have the main mission of developing the economy of their country and generating wealth for future generations. Being appointed associate member of IFSWF, a growing international influential institution, give not only visibility to ANIF and Armenia but also the opportunity to share best practices and create further connections for co-investments. However, the associate membership represents both a success and an obligation for ANIF to do even more to gain the full membership, continuing on the path taken by ANIF of sustainable and “impact” investments as the ones we mentioned before.

- There is also a sustainability event organized by the IFSWF ANIF attended last month in Italy and you were also present. Is sustainability important for the agendas of the sovereign funds?

It is, indeed. Just consider the IFSWF’s event topic: “The Sustainability Footprint of Sovereign Wealth Funds”. Sustainability is a real goal for the Sovereign Wealth Funds. They are the most active players in supporting initiatives to combat climate change globally, by reducing emissions and developing renewable energies and innovative technologies, and to improve the social impact through the adoption of increasingly selective investment criteria in terms of sustainability. The activity of sovereign institutional investors with a long-term vision, not innately attracted by the glitter fashion of greenwashing, it is leading them to be more effective than governments in terms of effective adoption of policy for the virtuous management of all ESG areas. ANIF is promoting sustainable investment and it is also committed to push and help the businesses it invests in to comply with the ESG best practice. I also believe that there is still a lot to be done in this sense, but I am also confident that ANIF could be an incredible useful tool to bring the international ESG standards into the country. The global supply chain scrutiny is becoming stricter and stricter on ESG topics and Armenian business partners need to catch up quickly in being compliant with the relevant criteria. For this reason, it is evident that ANIF’s responsibility in promoting and supporting the endorsement of sustainability for a better Armenia is huge but also possibly leading to an enormous success.

AREMNPRESS

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