Report from the jubilee edition of the Investment & Finance Forum

The 10th edition of Investment & Finance Forum took place on May 29 at The Westin hotel in Warsaw. Digital revolution in the Polish financial sector, global M&A trends, and the possibilities of cooperation between start-ups, large corporations, and business angels – these are just some of the topics discussed by the invited experts.

The event was opened by a speech given by Paweł Borys, President of the Polish Development Fund. The speaker presented some good and bad news about the Polish economy in 2019. On a positive note, we are now experiencing the best investment growth in a decade in terms of the dynamics and growth rate of GDP, which is forecast at a high level of approx. 4.5%. The bad news concerned the poor condition of the capital market, which is manifested, among others, through the outflow of net funds from open pension funds and investment funds. However, actions have already been taken to me sure that by 2020 there will be a group of investors with large capital, which may break the bad streak from recent years.

The first discussion panel, concerning the digital revolution in the Polish financial sector, was moderated by Michał Pawlik – Founder and CEO, SMEO. His panelists were: Mariusz Gajewski – Sales Director in Central and Eastern Europe, FIS Technology Services; Michał Góra – President of the Management Board, Alfavox; Karolina Kalkowska – Quality Management Director, PIKA; Prof. dr hab. Włodzimierz Szpringer – Head of the Department of Administrative and Financial Corporate Law, Collegium of Business Administration, Warsaw School of Economics; Andrzej Tymecki – Vice President of the Management Board, Biometriq; Ewa Wernerowicz – President of the Management Board, Vivus Finance. At the beginning the speakers agreed that the Polish banking system, which was built relatively recently when compared to, for example, the British system, is very modern. It is additionally supported by the consolidations of banks, which regularly take place on our market. Another interesting phenomenon is the competition between banks, fintechs, and neobanks (fintech with a banking license), which may give rise to new solutions. These include, for example, voice biometrics, thanks to which a simple command can be used to check the account balance or transaction history. The panelists also emphasized that large technology companies (GAFA) entered the financial market. They possess immense knowledge of their clients and experience in collecting data, which may prove invaluable in this market.

After a short break, it was time for the second panel, the topic of which was investing in the future. The moderator was Radzym Wójcik – Attorney, Baker McKenzie, who invited the following panelists to participate in the discussion: Paweł Borys – President of the Polish Development Fund; Rafał Benecki – Chief Economist, ING Bank Śląski SA; Robert Ługowski – Managing Partner, CobinAngels; Bartosz Łyskawiński – President of the Management Board of SAFLI; Tomasz Stamirowski – President of the Management Board, Avallon. The first discussed topic was the need to adapt to changes and market requirements so as not to fall out of circulation. The examples provided included the green certificates and limiting non-recyclable materials required from manufacturers by IKEA. According to Rafał Benecki, the development of electromobility and sharing economy is too slow, even though together they can bring important social advantages – popularization of carsharing can accelerate the commercialization of electric cars. The discussion also concerned the role of business angels, who mainly support companies at a very early stage of development. More and more professionally active managers with experience and contacts become business angels, as they leave corporations and look for new business challenges. Unfortunately, the lack of adequate infrastructure that would easily connect business angels with startups constitutes a barrier.

The last discussion panel was moderated by dr hab. prof. SGH Rafał Tuzimek – Associate Professor, Capital Markets and Financial Theory Unit, Institute of Finance, Warsaw School of Economics. The panel was focused on the subject of M&A transactions, which are currently in the crosshairs of investors. The panelists were: Andrzej Mierzwa – Managing Partner, 21 Concordia; Łukasz Kosonowski – Partner, Head of Transaction Advisory Practice, MDDP; Adam Pantkowski – Member of the Management Board, Vortex Energy Holding AG; Jacek Pogonowski – Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Konsalnet Holding, Partner Value4Capital. The participants of the panel agreed that the most attractive sector for investment is the services sector, which is growing very fast, has interesting companies and efficient entrepreneurs, and can be easily consolidated. Following this lead, consolidation is not just about Poland, but also other countries. Investors analyze every market individually in search of its specializations. For example: Bulgaria has become the center of the EU textile industry. The same is true of Spain, where the production of toys is slowly coming back from China. The series are shorter, the quality is higher, and logistics takes much less time. Poland, on the other hand, has no specialization, but its strength in the region is the size of the market, thanks to which companies operating in Poland are much larger players than others in our region. All this, however, is nothing when compared to the most important factor from the perspective of future investors – the human factor. A weak team and a weak leader are an obstacle that cannot be overcome, even with a good product.

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