EU leaders made history in agreeing to a coronavirus recovery fund. The harder part may be putting that €750 billion to work.
Governments should look to insurance companies for help in moving that money into the economy, Assicurazioni Generali Chief Executive Philippe Donnet said in a pitch for an industry role in choosing investments.
As politicians pledge to direct the funds to goals including fighting climate change and promoting digital business, they must also select sound financial investments — at speed.
“Im ready to sit together with the Italian state to design that,” Donnet said in an interview.
“We could help. We could help accelerate the timing and help to select the right targets,” he said by videoconference from Generalis Venice outpost. “My proposal is that member states should leverage the know-how of their institutional investors.”
Wearing a plaid sport coat and open shirt collar, he described working out of the Palazzo Morosini at Santo Stefano in the San Marco district of Venice as more practical for social distancing than the headquarters tower in Milan.
The comments come as governments work to draw up their economic recovery plans, with the three-year fund still subject to ratification by national parliaments before money can begin flowing in 2021.
Asked if the offer to help is just a self-serving push for more business, Donnet argued that insurers are already investing €11 trillion of customers funds.
“Its an incredible firepower,” Donnet said of the industrys assets under management. “Our job is to manage this money, but I think that our responsibility is to be part of the recovery dynamic.”
Europes new path
In the September 3 interview, Donnet said the EU recovery fund — to be financed with unprecedented joint borrowing — should be more than a one-off crisis compromise, as it has been described by more reluctant backers including the Dutch government.
He called for it to become a permanent way for the EU member countries to support each other.
“Citizens from all over Europe will feel that Europe is bringing something substantial, something real, something positive,” he said.
The comments go with Donnets stance in favor of tighter European integration across the board, including ideas such as a eurozone minister of finance.
National capitals should accept more sharing of power not just with the EU but local authorities, he said.
Tax is part of the integrationist push. Donnet called for a move toward leveling of rates around the bloc — with higher-rate countries such as France, Italy and Belgium needing to move downward.
“We need to decrease the average” level of taxes, he said, for the sake of making Europe more attractive to investors. But he cast the issue in terms of European unity.
“We also need to decrease the discrepancies and go towards more convergence and homogeneity of the tax rates,” he said. “I think this is quite inevitable.”
Donnet, 60, is a French native who joined the Italian insurer in 2013 and has been chief executive since 2016. Generali is the EUs third-largest insurance company, after Allianz of Germany and French rival Axa, where Donnet began his career and rose to regional CEO posts in Southern Europe, Asia and elsewhere.
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