The Business Year

Massimo Falcioni CEO, Etihad Credit Insurance UAE (ECI)

UAE - Economy

Massimo Falcioni

CEO, Etihad Credit Insurance UAE (ECI)

Bio

Massimo Falcioni has over 30 years of solid business experience in the private and public sectors. He has held various CEO and directorial positions for multinational companies including Exxon-Mobil, Philip Morris International, Volkswagen Financial Services, Euler Hermes (Allianz), and Coface. A graduate of business and managerial economics from Sapienza University of Rome, Falcioni has received several prestigious awards for successfully leading trade credit insurance operations for top-tier multinationals in Middle East and Africa region. In 2017, the President of Italy conferred him with the Knighthood of the Order of the Star, and in 2019, Falcioni was ranked 13th as Forbes’ most influential executive heading local company.

The national export credit agency of the UAE, ECI works to reinforce the country’s economic diversification programs as well as support its export and international trade and investment activities.

As the trend to build a sustainable economy in UAE develops, how is ECI expanding its offerings and its vision to support this?

ECI is a federal company, internationally rated AA- (Fitch), which operates as the Export Credit Agency (ECA) of the UAE. It started just four years ago with a clear mission to be a catalyst of sustainable economic growth and support the diversification the economy in the UAE, under the leadership of our first Chairman of the Board the late His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, at the time UAE Minister of Finance and Deputy Ruler of Dubai. Everything that we do in terms of insurance, guarantees, supporting trade, or project financing supports our mission. We now have a clear 50-year plan in the UAE with 50 principles, 50 objectives, and 10 principles for federal companies to be accomplished in the next 50 years. SMEs are important because they need to grow and represent 94% of the total companies and institutions operating in the UAE and contribute more than 50% to the country’s non-oil GDP. We are not only a facilitator and a stabilizer in tough times, but also an accelerator. We can accelerate SMEs to grow but in a sustainable way. The company was awarded in 2019, 2020 and 2021 as the most innovative and fastest-growing ECA in the Middle East and Africa by several specialized reviews (Cfi.co) and most recently Export Credit Agency of the Year 2021 by Global Trade Review for its strategy, dynamism, and growth trajectory.

Support extended by ECI to non-oil sectors jumped 128% in 2021 to AED11.4 billion. What opportunities does this surge in trade provide for ECI?

We provided access to 106 countries for UAE exporters and re-exporters, though they need to have a minimum local content of 20% in the UAE. First, they exported Made in the Emirates items to foreign countries, selling their products with open credit terms, and not cash payments or letters of credit. We supported all those who were active and created a payment mechanism so they wouldn’t experience any cash flow issues and were able to hire more employees. The total non-oil trade value supported in the period 2019-2021 is AED19 billion, of which 50% were exports (1% of total UAE exports). We also boosted the exporters local trade within the country, and their raw material supply, which was important, especially during COVID-19 to secure availability of food and beverage, pharmaceutical products among the others. These companies needed to insource and pay their suppliers. We also secured financing through commercial banks. 80% of ECI portfolio are SMEs, from more than 16 sectors.

What is your current assessment of the development of the SME sector moving forward?

The UAE through the central bank injected approximately more than AED490 billion in liquidity. The targeted economic support scheme (Tess), which gave banks AED50 billion to directly inject liquidity specifically for SMEs, was successful, as were all the other initiatives and policies put in place. SMEs need to learn how to become international and pay an open creditor. The government has put in place many federal and local initiatives such as promotional agencies, the Dubai Industry & Export, the Abu Dhabi Economic Department, and the Chamber of Commerce of Abu Dhabi, and SMEs should be more diligent and use the tools provided. There is a fantastic sustainable initiative program for women called SheTrades supported by the Dubai Industry and Export, and ever woman in the UAE should register, even if they are not entrepreneurs. They learn how to open a website and handle the accounting for their business. This ensures all businesses learn how to be sustainable. SMEs are extremely important. There cannot be a diversified and sustainable economy in the UAE unless SMEs are taught to become more resilient, stronger, educated, and competitive. They need to do one important thing: set aside time for education.

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