José Carlos García de Quevedo Ruíz has been President of the Instituto de Crédito Oficial (ICO) since June 2018. He holds a master degree in Economics and Business from the Complutense University of Madrid and is a member of the Spanish State Economist and Trade Expert.
Before, the president of ICO Group has held positions of responsibility in the fields of investment and finance, foreign trade, insurance and pension funds, at national, EU and international level.
The positions which he has previously held included Executive Director of Invest in Spain of ICEX España Exportación e Inversiones; General Director of Trade and Investments in the State Secretariat for Trade of the Ministry of Economy; Head Economic and Trade Advisor at the Permanent Representation of Spain to the European Union in Brussels and General Director for Insurance and Pension Funds at the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
Throughout his career he has been a member of committees and the board of directors of several companies and funds. He has also published several articles about economics, finance, trade and investments, and has actively participated as a speaker at business and professional seminars and forums both in Spain and abroad.
The Instituto de Crédito Oficial has a track record of more than 50 years accompanying the self-employed, SMEs and Spanish companies in their projects. To situate the reader, what would you highlight about ICO’s current activities? What are the strategic priorities?
The ICO Group’s activity is carried out in accordance with the priorities defined in the 2022-2027 Strategy: business growth, digital transformation, sustainable finance and corporate governance. This roadmap takes as a reference, on the one hand, the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan and, on the European level, the European Union’s Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 and the Next Generation Funds.
ICO combines its role as a State Financial Agency and National Promotional Bank, deploying in public-private collaboration a comprehensive offer of financing aimed at boosting the growth of companies and their digitalization process.
From ICO, we are working intensively in collaboration with the private sector to contribute, from our scope of action, to the deployment of the Recovery Plan and the channeling of EU funds to projects of Spanish companies. All of this with the aim of contributing to boosting sustainable, green and digital economic growth.
“From ICO, we are working intensively in collaboration with the private sector to contribute, from our scope of action, to the deployment of the Recovery Plan and the channeling of EU funds to projects of Spanish companies. All of this with the aim of contributing to boosting sustainable, green and digital economic growth.”
How do you promote the internationalization of Spanish companies?
The promotion of the internationalization of Spanish companies is a strategic area for us. ICO is a leading institution in the promotion of the international development of Spanish companies and actively contributes to the Internationalization Strategy of the Spanish Economy 2021-2027.
In the last two years we have injected more than 2,200 million euros into businesses in the form of loans, endorsements and guarantees to promote the expansion of Spanish companies in third markets.
Our different funding programs are designed to cover the entire process of internationalization and activity of companies, both through direct funding programs (syndicated loans, project finance, guarantees and endorsements) as well as through mediation lines (Exporters Line, Internationalization Line and International Channel).
ICO has a great capacity for adaptation and innovation to meet the needs of companies. An example is the ICO International Channel. With this program we transfer the operating scheme of the ICO Mediation Lines to multilateral banks, national promotional banks or subsidiaries of Spanish banks in other countries. ICO funds these institutions, signing collaboration agreements with them. These institutions channel funds to Spanish companies and projects in the countries in which they operate, sharing their know-how and facilitating access to financing in local currency. This facilitates the application process for Spanish companies and incorporates the entity’s knowledge of the local market as an added value.
With the ICO International Channel line, we have signed more than 30 financing agreements with 17 counterparties, for an amount of more than 3.3 billion euros, so that the Spanish business community has the best options for accessing long-term financing. This program is especially active in LATAM and we are currently expanding it to the Caribbean and Africa.
“In the last two years we have injected more than 2,200 million euros into businesses in the form of loans, endorsements and guarantees to promote the expansion of Spanish companies in third markets.”
Sustainability is a key element in ICO Group’s strategy. Could you talk about ICO’s role as a leading player in the issuance of sustainable bonds?
Indeed, the ICO Group promotes sustainability in its three dimensions (environmental, social and governance) as the backbone of its 2022-2027 Strategy, both in its corporate financing activity and in raising funds in the capital markets and in its internal organization.
In this context, ICO, as one of the main national promotional banks at European level, has a fundamental role working in public-private collaboration in the development of sustainable finance, aligning its activity with the sustainability objectives established by the United Nations in the SDGs of the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Agreement and the European Union’s Green Pact.
The ICO Group’s Strategy 2022-2027 is a fundamental milestone in this commitment to the development of sustainable finance, being one of the strategic axes on which this roadmap is based. The ICO Strategy sets the objective that 40% of the volume of its new operations should be made under sustainability criteria over the period.
We are one of the leading issuers in the European sustainable bond market. Our objective is to contribute to the growth of this market and ensure the funding of projects linked to sustainability from a social and environmental approach.
ICO has already launched 15 issues (10 social and 5 green), with a total amount issued of 7,550 million euros. It channels the funds raised through these issues to the Spanish businesses through its direct financing programs, the ICO Mediation Lines and the funds managed by AXIS, its venture capital subsidiary.
With ICO’s first four green issues, it has already promoted 37 renewable energy and clean transport projects by Spanish companies, which have mobilized an investment of approximately 15,000 million euros and will avoid the emission of almost 900,000 tons of CO2 per year.
With the first eight issues of social bonds, the ICO has financed more than 69,000 projects of the self-employed, SMEs and companies, which have contributed to generate or maintain more than 444,000 jobs.
The EIB, based in Luxembourg, is an essential partner in financing projects according to sustainable criteria. Can you mention some of the latest operations developed by ICO in collaboration with the EIB?
The European Investment Bank (EIB) is the lending institution of the European Union, which provides long-term financing for investments that contribute to achieving the European Union’s policy objectives. Indeed, our common objectives allow us to join forces and make us regular partners in areas such as supporting the financial needs of SMEs to promote economic, social and territorial cohesion in the European Union.
Likewise, the EIB and ICO work together to strengthen the energy transition, promoting energy efficiency investments in the Spanish market to meet the objectives of EU policy.
Among the latest operations carried out by the ICO in collaboration with the EIB are the operation signed between the EIB Group, ICO and BBVA to provide EUR 1,260 million in new financing to support SMEs and energy efficiency in Spain, and the joint EIB-ICO loan of EUR 500 million to Endesa to support the development of the company’s solar and wind energy projects and help accelerate the EU’s energy transition and promote the REPowerEU program to end dependence on fossil fuel imports.
Together with the EIB and other European partners such as CDP Italy, KfW Germany, BGK Poland, CDF France, we participate in joint programs such as the “Joint Initiative for Circular Economy” or the “Clean Ocean Initiative“. With these initiatives, we support the financing of sustainable projects that promote the green transition.
This collaboration extends to the entire ICO Group. For example, Axis, our venture capital subsidiary, through Fond-ICO Next Tech, is participating with 1 billion euros in the European Tech Champions Initiative (ETCI). This initiative will provide funding to the most innovative start-ups in Europe to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem that will enable the development of cutting-edge projects with global potential. ETCI has commitments of 3,750 million euros, with the participation of Germany, France, Italy, Belgium and the EIB Group, in addition to Spain.
“Among the latest operations carried out by the ICO in collaboration with the EIB are the operation signed between the EIB Group, ICO and BBVA to provide EUR 1,260 million in new financing to support SMEs and energy efficiency in Spain, and the joint EIB-ICO loan of EUR 500 million to Endesa to support the development of the company’s solar and wind energy projects and help accelerate the EU’s energy transition and promote the REPowerEU program to end dependence on fossil fuel imports.”
What is the role of ICO as a channeller of EU funds and in the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan?
In 2020, ICO began its accreditation process as an Implementing Partner of the European Commission, with the aim of being able to offer Spanish companies the best conditions for accessing European funds.
This accreditation process was successfully completed in 2021 and since then ICO is contributing to the channeling of EU resources through various initiatives such as the Invest EU guarantee program or the Next Generation funds.
In this regard, ICO has played a very active role in the Connecting Europe Facility program, contributing to ten projects of Spanish sustainable mobility companies accessing a grant of 32 million euros. ICO has completed this subsidy with blending financing, injecting more than 263 million euros in several sustainable mobility projects for electric cars and hydrogen for urban public transport, among others.
The good results of this first experience encourage us to continue working to participate in this call for proposals. In fact, we are presenting projects of Spanish companies to the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Facility (AFIF) that is currently open (within the MFF 21-27) with a budget of 1,500 million euros.
In addition, we have signed an agreement with the European Commission under the InvestEU guarantee program for up to €75 million. This guarantee package will help channel ICO financing of up to €150 million into sustainable infrastructure investments across Spain and other Member States. ICO will use this guarantee agreement to mobilize investment for infrastructure projects that enhance the green transition.
As regards ICO’s participation in the Government’s Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan, in the first phase ICO has launched some products, together with the corresponding Ministries and agencies, which complement with financing the initiatives included in this roadmap. This line of work includes products such as the ICO Digital Kit or the sustainable mobility and building rehabilitation programs launched with MITMA.
The role of the ICO Group in the deployment of the Recovery Plan will take on greater relevance in its second phase. The ICO has been entrusted with channeling more than 30,000 million euros in loans in the Addendum presented by the Government, which will be used to promote, in public-private collaboration, investments by the self-employed and companies in environmental projects in renewable energies, energy efficiency, circular economy and digitalization, among others. They will also promote investments in the audiovisual sector and actions with a positive social impact, such as the construction of social housing for rent.
In this way, companies will be supported in their adaptation to the new framework of economic sustainability, and in strengthening their competitiveness and access to new markets.
In your opinion, what challenges will the Spanish economy face in the coming years and how can ICO help its business network to face them?
In an international context marked by uncertainty and a complex economic environment, the data allow us to highlight the good performance of the Spanish economy and to have confidence in its good development in the near future.
Spain is performing well thanks to the reforms and investments of the Recovery Plan, the measures adopted against inflation and the dynamism of the foreign sector.
The Recovery Plan and the Next Generation funds represent a great opportunity to boost the growth and digitalization of SMEs and the self-employed. Our goal is that Spanish companies have the best options for accessing these European resources to gain size and competitiveness and to promote, in public-private collaboration, innovative and sustainable business projects that contribute to digital transformation and generate quality employment.
“Spain is performing well thanks to the reforms and investments of the Recovery Plan, the measures adopted against inflation and the dynamism of the foreign sector.”