We are always glad to keep up with our members and follow their career development. In this regard, we had the opportunity to interview Ourania Ekaterinari, one of our committed Greek members.
Since we last interviewed her in 2013, Ourania's career led her to new paths: she became partner at EY, and more recently CEO and Member of the Board of Directors of the Hellenic Corporation of Assets and Participation (HCAP), a holding company aiming at grouping and managing a wide array of Greek State owned assets and participations.
In this interview, Ourania shares with us valuable insights on the current and future state of the Greek economy and on the role of the HCAP Fund for the country.
I believe we can create a strong investment story at a time that many investors are looking to invest capital.
Almost 10 years after the Greek recession has plunged the country into an unprecedented crisis, what is your vision of the current and future state of the Greek economy?
Greece has been at the international spotlights for a long time. As you said, it has gone through a very difficult period for many years, with huge fiscal adjustment programs and a GDP decline that has not been witnessed anywhere else in Europe since the World War II.
Today the country is clearly at a turning point. The challenge Greece is facing today is to attract long term investors for which one has to create a stable economic and business environment, build in trust and common interest.
Greece’s road to recovery passes also through the implementation of long required and necessary reforms. Very important is also the successful implementation of the privatization program.
At the same time, many Greek companies have proven how resilient they are and already done most of the required internal changes, while focused on careful cash flow management, at times when access to funding was scarce and expensive. They improved their operations, promoted efficiencies and overall became more extrovert and competitive. Combining these gains with a rich human capital, the excellent climate conditions, the improving infrastructure and geographical location, as well as the fact that Greece shares all European values and principles, I believe we can create a strong investment story at a time that many investors are looking to invest capital.
The Hellenic Corporation of Assets and Participation (HCAP) was founded in May 2016 as part of the Greek government’s new investment policy. Can you tell us more about its vision and its mission as well as its main objectives?
The Hellenic Corporation of Assets and Participations (“HCAP”) is a newly established holding company, operating in accordance with the rules of the private economy, in an independent manner, but for the benefit of the public interest.
Its long-term vision is to enhance the value and improve the performance of the assets under its management, by assessing and promoting the right strategies for asset exploitation and by targeting operational efficiencies. HCAP will also promote reforms of public undertakings, through restructuring if required, good corporate governance and transparency and by fostering accountable administration, social responsibility and innovation.
The ultimate goal of HCAP is to manage and exploit such assets to generate resources to contribute to the implementation of Greece’s investment strategy, as well as to the reduction of the sovereign debt of the Hellenic Republic.
In the above context, there are mainly 3 direct subsidiaries ‘’under its roof” and a fourth one (HFSF) in which HCAP has limited powers and control. The 3 main subsidiaries are:
- The Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (“HRADF”), being responsible for the implementation of the Greek privatization program.
- The Public Property Company (“PPCo” OR “ETAD”), being responsible for the management and exploitation of a large and diverse real estate portfolio that has come under its possession from the Greek State.
- The Public Holdings Company (“EDIS”), currently under establishment, which will practically hold the State’s shareholdings in different SOEs across different sectors.
How does the Corporation guarantee its independence and full transparency rightly expected from such a fund?
The Board of Directors of HCAP has been selected by the Supervisory Board, following an open international selection process, which was also supported by reputable international expert advisors. HCAP board members are professionals with long and successful careers abroad and in Greece, in large organizations and across different functions and sectors. Thus, the Board of HCAP has the breadth of experience and skills to carry out this mission and to act in an independent and professional manner, following best practices. This will be the aim for the Boards’ composition and the management of the subsidiaries of HCAP too.
How does it also guarantee its ambition to proceed according to a long-term perspective in the achievement of results?
Within the most important objectives of HCAP is the transformation of the public sector, including the introduction of a new culture and mindset. It is necessary to build a new environment of trust, commitment and accountability, by setting a common framework of corporate governance rules that enhance transparency, by empowering people and by fostering dialogue and communication. Change is usually not easy but it is the only way forward for sustainable growth, taking into account all stakeholders’ interests and supporting a more inclusive economy.
Within the most important objectives of HCAP is the transformation of the public sector, including the introduction of a new culture and mindset.
Which other guidelines will be followed by the fund when it comes to reforming public undertakings?
The Public Holdings Company (“EDIS”), which is one of the direct subsidiaries (currently under establishment) of HCAP, is responsible for a number of state-owned companies. It aims to introduce international corporate governance practices, appropriate financial planning and monitoring, operational efficiencies and a new corporate culture.
For the public undertakings that are offering services of general economic interest, these will have to be provided in accordance with EU law and the Union’s common values. This will require introduction of mechanisms that will define and monitor objectives, functional targets and performance indicators so that targets are met and the general interest is adequately served.
Furthermore, some of the public undertakings, facing different and pressing challenges such as economic, liquidity, funding, regulatory, technological, etc., will need to implement reforms, by taking all the appropriate actions to safeguard their sustainability, to optimize the use of resources and to adapt or restructure their business and operating models. To this end, good strategic and business planning, budgeting and reporting will drive efficiencies and create long term value for their shareholders.
Last but not least, what made you accept such a challenge and how do you think your previous professional experiences will help you fulfil your new role?
Without a doubt, it is a huge personal challenge but this is what makes the role attractive. With commitment, persistence, team work and by articulating a clear vision, I will dedicate every bit of my energy, knowledge and experience to succeed, especially since this is a mission of very high importance for the country.
I feel quite confident that my past professional experience will be very helpful to carry out what is required, having worked both in Greece but also internationally; also having worked for large organizations in the private sector as well as in the public & utilities sector. I believe I understand the challenges companies are facing today, not only in Greece but also in Europe, including issues of competitiveness, access to capital, digital disruption, changing customer needs, and many more.
I will dedicate every bit of my energy, knowledge and experience to succeed, especially since this is a mission of very high importance for the country.
In Greece, problems have been more harsh, particularly when it comes to liquidity and managing cashflows, in an environment where access to funding has been scarce. I believe there is great potential for improvements in the operating, technological and business model of many Greek companies. In the public sector, space for improvement is even bigger, where traditionally there was more resilience to change. Modern times require change, not only for the benefit of the shareholders, but also for the benefit of the consumers by offering better services at competitive cost, for the environment by optimizing the use of resources, and overall for the benefit of the economy and the society by promoting sustainable investments and supporting economic growth, together with accountable management and best corporate governance practices.