Raiffeisen Bank International AG joined AVCO in early 2023. Learn more about one of Austria’s leading corporate and investment banks from Johannes Geberth, Head of Institutional Investors & Fund Hub, with whom we had a chat…
Can you briefly introduce yourself (background, past and current positions)?
I am Head of Institutional Investors at Raiffeisen Bank International AG and also leading RBI’s Fund Hub. Besides that, I’m a member of the supervisory board of Valida Plus and Valida Pension, the second biggest pension fund in Austria, owned by the Raiffeisen Banking Group.
I joined RBI in 1996 and have more than 25 years of experience in the banking industry – on the Corporate side as well as on the Financial Institutions side where I’m currently responsible for all Non-Bank Financial Institutions such as Insurances, Asset Managers, Pensions Funds, Brokers and Alternative Investment Funds with a special focus on Private Equity Funds. I’m holding a PhD in economics from WU Vienna and am lecturing finance, controlling and financial accounting at various universities and academies in Vienna.
What is your company’s activity, what is its competitive edge?
With RBI’s Fund Hub, the bank not only offers traditional LBO financing like many other banks on the market, but we have also successfully developed into a niche market providing a variety of banking services targeted towards the needs of Alternative Investment Funds. The Fund Hub is a one-stop-shop throughout the whole fund life cycle – from cash management solutions during fund setup to fund finance, FX hedging, M&A, acquisition finance, ESG-Advisory and even growth financing for tech portfolio companies. One of the Fund Hub’s flagship products is fund financing where we offer capital call, NAV and GP/ManCo credit facilities to a broad range of Alternative Investment Funds. The vehicle was launched by RBI in January 2022, has a dedicated relationship management team and also has a local presence in Poland, which is the strongest market for the Fund Hub in the CEE region.
In that sense, what gives us the competitive edge is definitely the dedicated relationship management team understanding the business models and structures of Alternative Investment Funds. The same for our product teams, bringing years of expertise in the Western European and CEE markets. Additionally, we understand the Alternative Investment industry not only from the financing perspective but also from the investors‘ perspective (with RBI being one of the anchor investors in the Austrian Growth Capital Fund).
Another fact, that supports our competitive edge is that there are only few international banks in the fund-financing niche whereof we are the only one based in Austria, also overlooking the CEE region. When it comes to fund financing specifics, we are very flexible in facility sizes that we can offer, unlike other big international banks – meaning that our spectrum covers everything in between EUR 10m-150m, taking into account the smaller fund volumes we come across in CEE countries.
Moreover, our already established cooperation with business administrators in Luxembourg helps in facilitating cash management of the fund.
What are your main projects/targets for 2023?
There are three main goals of RBI’s Fund Hub for 2023:
The first one is to grow our client portfolio in the CEE and the DACH region, which RBI considers as its core markets. Since financing on fund level is frequently used by funds focusing on established markets but is not that common in CEE, RBI, as a CEE pioneer for over two decades, wants to transfer more of this knowledge to the CEE region.
Besides that, one of the main goals is product diversification in fund financing. Since fundraising slowed down in 2023, the emphasis from capital call facilities (secured against the uncalled investor commitments in the fund), being a standard product until now, shifted to NAV-facilities (secured against the assets in the fund), where we now see a growing demand. Therefore, by nature we’ll look onto more NAV deals.
Another area of focus is the topic of ESG. On the one hand our goal is to further expand our support in ESG-Advisory with regards to the development of funds‘ sustainable strategies, on the other hand ESG-linked facilities are getting more popular with funds professionalizing their ESG-reporting. And as a benefit of that funds are getting a pricing benefit by reaching their ESG KPIs with us linking the financing to it. Furthermore, Raiffeisen Research offers ESG risk scoring for fund portfolios, specific industries or countries, depending on clients‘ needs and the availability of specific data. For fund managers active in the CEE region, our broad research represents a clear advantage.
When it comes to UCITS funds, the Fund Hub provides fund managers with access to Raiffeisen Capital Management’s investment funds, including ESG funds that apply a specially developed, unique sustainability investment process – confirmed by independent rating agencies and awarded numerous international awards.
In an ideal situation, what would you change or improve in the current VC/PE market?
I would like to improve the market conditions in Austria and CEE region, especially considering new fund setups. Since the world is constantly changing in order to incorporate the difficulties linked to climate change and digital revolution, it is important to create a market with the ability to innovate. This region has a lot of potential to stay on the competitive edge with other European regions and on global scale if we create market conditions that are favorable for innovation.
Which one of the following topics inspires you most and why?
If I have to pick one topic, it would be education as I think it is truly the base of everything; from personal growth & well-being to social behavior and even development of the economy as a whole. Without education, there is no innovation.
Education isn’t only linked to a formal university degree. Education is all about creating an open environment, which enables people to thrive and excel not only by teaching, but also encouraging creative ideas and critical thinking. Creating a space in which people can experience the true power of education is the only way to really make a positive difference in the long run.
If we take the Austrian school system as an example, 9 years isn’t long enough to get a good basis of education. In my opinion, teenagers are too young at the age of 14 to know with certainty what they want to do in the future. Therefore, adopting something similar to other educational systems where pupils, after the first 11 years of education, are given the opportunity to pursue an apprenticeship might be a better option. This way, they are confronted with the reality of working environments they choose to venture in, while learning the required skills simultaneously.
Thank you very much for the interview!