Episode 12: Financial instruments in changing times

Jam sessions episode 12

Main topics: Experts from the European Commission and the European Investment Bank join Jacki Davis, moderator at the FI Campus 2023 event, for an informal discussion on financial instruments in changing times.

A discussion with Jonathan Denness, Head of Financial Instruments and International Financial Institutions Relations Unit in the European Commission's DG REGIO, Oana Dordain, Deputy Head of Financial Instruments and International Financial Institutions Relations Unit in the European Commission's DG REGIO, Frank Lee, Head of the Climate and Social Advisory Division at the EIB and Emily Smith, Head of Unit for Climate and Urban at the EIB.

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Hi and welcome to a new fi-compass Jam Sessions podcast episode. This is our first fi-compass Jam Sessions podcast recorded in front of a live audience coming to you from the FI Campus 2023 event organised by fi-compass in Brussels in March. My name is Jacki Davis. I am moderating both this podcast and the event itself, and I'm delighted that you have tuned in to this podcast in which we're going to talk about the issues at the heart of our discussions at this event on financial instruments in changing times.

I'm delighted to welcome Jonathan Denness, Head of Financial Instruments and International Financial Institutions Relations Unit in the European Commission's Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy, better known to most of us in Brussels as DG REGIO. We have with us Oana Dordain, who is Deputy Head of the same unit in DG Regio. Warm welcome to you and a warm welcome also to Frank Lee, Head of the Climate and Social Advisory Division in the European Investment Bank and to Emily Smith, Head of Unit for Climate and Urban at the EIB.

So in the opening session of FI Campus 2023, Peter Berkowitz, Policy Director in the European Commission's DG REGIO reminded us that these are not only changing times, the title of our event, but also, as he put it, very challenging and very uncertain times.

Hristo Stoykov, the new Director of EIB Advisory Services, underlined and stressed the need for agility in the use of these instruments if we are to realise their full potential to meet the many challenges that we face, but also to seize the opportunities that they offer. The fact that around 500 people registered for this event underlines just how much this topic resonates across the EU Member States. We also have plenty of good stories which are being presented in the context of the fi-compass Showcase, a competition that gathers examples of successful financial instruments from across Europe and a variety of sectors used to address the challenges posed by a changing world. Lots of inspiration out there, lots of intense discussions on how to make the best use of these instruments and how to meet the challenges. Let's jump straight in.

Jonathan, a very warm welcome. We talk about challenging times. What have DG REGIO learned over the last couple of years about how these financial instruments can really support Member States in responding to the different challenges that they're facing?

Jonathan: Thanks, Jacki. Could I just say, to begin with, isn't it great to be back together again? I remember the last FI Campus back in December 2019, three and a quarter years ago, and it was a really good event. One thing you were talking about, the Showcase, one thing that really is etched in my memory is the delight of the winners of the Showcase award. I mean, they were really, really proud. I thought, Showcase, all of this is a bit odd, but it's a European award and it's actually quite significant.

And also great to be doing this podcast in front of a live audience.

Jonathan: What have we learned over the last two years? What we've learned is that financial instruments can really deliver on the ground. For example, over €7 billion of ERDF has gone into working capital over the past few years through financial instruments. When we looked at the figures for grants, the amount for financial instruments was about double what it was for grants. We've had some good examples from countries like Slovakia who put in place crisis instruments. But then, we now have the conflict in Ukraine, and that's led us to have even more challenges, both in terms of refugees and in terms of energy supply.

We've seen an increased use of financial instruments during COVID-19, during the pandemic. Why do you think that was?

Jonathan: Because they were there, and they were ready, and they were already operating. It was easy once the additional money came onboard from REACT-EU or just reallocated money from other activities. The amendments we made to the Common Provisions Regulation making it easier to offer working capital. It made going through financial instruments and just getting the money out through banks quicker than doing it through cumbersome grant applications. So they were there, we gave the flexibility, and that allowed the money to be delivered by the banks.

So really mobilising it very quickly to the real economy, getting it to the people who needed it most.

Jonathan: To the companies that were seeing their cash flow fall off a cliff, yes.

So that was in the midst of the pandemic. What about now? How do you see financial instruments fitting into the current landscape? You mentioned the war in Ukraine. We're now in that recovery process also from the pandemic. How do you see financial instruments in that context?

Jonathan: On Ukraine and energy. We've produced a model financial instrument on energy efficiency that we were talking about earlier this afternoon, which will enable financial instruments in the 2021-2027 programming period to be launched more quickly because there's a framework for managing authorities to use. They don't have to use all of it, it's a very flexible framework. They can use that to deliver financial instruments for energy efficiency, possibly even adapt it for renewables as well. I think there's a little bit of a myth that financial instruments are slow. They may be a bit more complicated, but they're not necessarily more complicated, than a grant. But I don't think they are slow. Sure, they take time to set up, but then once they're set up, the money can go out of the door very, very quickly, as we saw during the pandemic.

So building on that experience and showing people what can be done, absolutely crucial. Frank, from your perspective, does what Jonathan’s describing align with the EIB Group's experience over the last few years? Have you seen a similar pattern?

Frank: Yes, absolutely. In the sense that with the crisis, well the various crises that we've had over the last few years, we at the EIB—as the EU Bank—have also had to step up our game, respond much quicker than we have done in the past to these constant changes. We're obviously a policy driven bank, an EU policy driven bank, so clearly we follow what's going on in Brussels and the policy objectives and all these new announcements and initiatives that come out almost every day. Our job is to try and respond to that by providing more financing into the markets. What we've seen over the last few years is a bit of an oscillation between being a bank that's there just to provide liquidity to the market, so this is where the market needed just purely funding more, more money. This is what we saw at the beginning of the pandemic, for example. As we evolved through that process, the banks in the market were in a situation where they had abundance of funds, and then the demand on us was more about risk taking. You know, they wanted to share risk with us. They had a perception that the market was becoming more risky, which was justified. That's what I mean by oscillating between funding versus risk taking and back and forth. Obviously, we work together with the commission on all these different mandates to try and get the best combination of these different funds. Again, the number of these things has just exponentially grown in the last few years. It's difficult to keep track, really.

You talked about the EIB being the EU's policy bank, particularly in relation to climate and innovation. You call yourself now the EU's Climate and Innovation Bank. What does that actually mean in practice?

Frank: Starting with climate, which was I think the first the first one that we looked at seriously, and we did indeed call ourselves the EU Climate Bank. We've done a lot of work over the last 3 or 4 years now to develop a Climate Bank Roadmap, as we call it, the climate bank strategy, contributing a lot to the thinking going on in Brussels around for example, EU taxonomy, on what meets climate and environmental standards, etc. This essentially envelops all the services of the bank. We are all working towards this this common objective. And it's been more of a challenge than I suspect most of us thought it was at the beginning of the process. We set ourselves quite an ambitious target of reaching 50% of our lending volumes in the area of climate. We wanted to do this by 2025 and we wanted to reach, within the first ten years, €1 trillion of investment in climate. The good news is that, in 2022, we've already exceeded our ambition. More than 50% of our lending is already going into climate. Of course now, the focus is moving more into innovation. This is obviously as a result of things like the threat of other global forces, the Inflation Reduction Act, for example, that's come out of the US, essentially made us think more about how can we how can we keep Europe competitive and innovative. We're doing thinking now around how can we indeed do more in this space? And of course we see a lot of overlap between green and innovation. The two obviously come together very often with clean tech and various other demands. I suspect that going forward, climate and innovation will pretty much dominate what we do as a bank.

And in terms of as we look to that future, and you talk there about this partly as a response to the US Inflation Reduction Act and that concern that otherwise there may be a flight of investment to take advantage of the support for clean tech. What is new specifically for the bank now and in terms of your support?

Frank: I think the most recent thing that we've done, which was last year, is we announced a step up in our lending in support of the European initiative, REPowerEU. We committed as a bank to do, I think, another €30 billion of lending, on top of our normal lending operations, over the years 2022 to 2027. So, over a five-year period, €30 billion of extra lending, which will mobilise more than €115 billion of investments on the ground. So this was in response to the REPowerEU initiative, which, as you know, is focused very much on energy efficiency on the one hand and more use of renewables. You know, this is essentially already a response to the Inflation Reduction Act, which of course has come subsequent to that. And as a result of the Inflation Reduction Act, we are already thinking about, you know, going beyond those additional targets that we set ourselves just last year. We're thinking already of going beyond the 30 billion and again, waiting to see what comes out of Brussels in terms of new initiatives, new funding available. There's new ideas around a Sovereignty Fund, as they call it, Hydrogen Bank is something else that was mentioned the other day. So, yeah, it keeps us awake at night.

Which actually links back also to what Hristo said in his intervention about agility and that ability to adapt to those new challenges, but also new initiatives. Let me turn to Emily and Oana. I'll start with you, Emily. In terms of, that's the broad context, that's the big picture of not only changing times but challenging times. What does all of this mean for fi-compass?

Emily: I think we all heard earlier that advisory plays a really key role in the development and implementation of financial instruments. We heard about diagnostics, we heard about market assessments, the importance of sizing instruments and so on. I think good advisory support is an essential prerequisite for a good and successful instrument, and fi-compass plays a really important part in our delivery of that service. You mentioned agility, I think Hristo mentioned it earlier as well. I think when we begun fi-compass, managing authorities weren't as experienced as they are today. So a key challenge for fi-compass is that it obviously needs to respond to the evolving market conditions, the evolving policy conditions, but also the fact that actually our stakeholder community is actually hugely more experienced and advanced than we all were when we began. So it's all about evolution, I think.

This event, FI Campus, all about sharing lessons learned so far, sharing experiences, but also sharing challenges. And when you talk about that support, can you tell us a little bit more about the sort of support that you are providing?

 Emily: Well, we obviously have the event today and the rest of this week, which is a great example. Hopefully everybody is familiar with the website, the case studies, the factsheets. There's a huge amount of material on there. We spoke earlier about knowledge hubs and they are really useful forums in which we really delve into complex issues like state aid, selection, there'll be one on combination coming up, but I think one of the areas where fi-compass can perhaps provide more value added in the future is where we provide more Member State specific support. So that's where we might work with a region or a managing authority in a given Member State and really sit down with them, work on a very bilateral basis, organise workshops, trainings, carry out feasibility studies to actually understand is there a potential for a financial instrument in a given market, in a given sector. That's really useful for managing authorities who may not have created and implemented a financial instrument so far. It's also really useful when we're trying to examine new sectors, so push financial instruments in new areas.

So a wide range of support, Oana. It's really great that the Commission supports the platform in doing this support work. How do you see that support evolving in the coming years?

Oana: We are very happy with what is done under fi-compass and we are supporting it very much. I think it's a great achievement between the Commission and the EIB Group. I also think that we are benefiting from excellent expertise from the EIB, not only for technical banking aspects but also for communication aspects and fi-compass is a well-known brand now in the FI Campus world. You see so many people here today and during the previous sessions, and we hope to see many more in the next two days. This is the proof that fi-compass works and proves it worked during the last years. John mentioned earlier the pandemic and I would like to remind everybody how quickly we reacted under fi-compass to help Member States to benefit from the flexibilities under the CRII and CRII+ and the efforts to support Member States in understanding the new rules for the 2021-2027 programming period. We created all these podcasts and maybe that's why we are here today, we did the knowledge hubs, and did everything necessary online or in person in order to help Member States. We want to continue this, and we created also these models for SMEs, for equity, for energy efficiency, for New European Bauhaus. We did this with the EIB Group through fi-compass and I think we did it in a very timely manner. So looking to the future, I cannot agree more with Emily, that we continue the mainstream support and that we are also very much keen to develop the targeted advisory support for Member States. So, you saw we are fast, we are quick, we are professional, we have expertise, we are knowledgeable. So don't hesitate to come to us.

Can I just follow up on that issue of the models? Because you published model financial instruments for quasi equity, for energy efficiency and as you mentioned, New European Bauhaus as well. What do you hope to achieve through publishing the models? How do you see that working?

Oana: In the 2014-2020 programming period, we issued some guidance to member states, but we consider it to be a bit late. So this time, we did what was necessary to help Member States with implementation from the beginning. So what we wanted to achieve through the models was to help Member States to take on board these instruments, to start reflecting about this at the beginning of the programming period.

We also wanted to show Member States that it is possible and that they did already these instruments in the past. So it was very important for us to show that behind these new names, in fact, we based everything on existing financial instruments that worked well in the past. So Member States should not be afraid to take them on board. We wanted also to emphasise the big change which you have in the new CPR regarding the combination of financial instruments and grants and we wanted to show in practice how this would work. So these models are really toolbox in order to help Member States to take what is needed and to put them into practice. I also hope through these models that the Member States will come to us, to the fi-compass platform, to ask us any questions because we are happy to help them overcome these barriers.

Thank you very much indeed. I'd like to go out to the room now, take advantage of the fact that we are live. We have an audience with us. Not for questions at this stage, but if any of you are willing to share with us your experiences in terms of the use of financial instruments to address the challenges we've been discussing, whether it be during the pandemic, post pandemic in the recovery, and in the current context of Ukraine, cost of living crisis and whatever. That point about the Common Provisions Regulation, we've been talking a lot about agility and flexibility. Maybe you can also share with us whether you're using those flexibilities or not.

Inga: Hello everybody, my name is Inga Beiliuniene and I'm representing the National Promotional Institution of Lithuania, which is called INVEGA. I'm going to be a speaker in two panels at FI Campus tomorrow and on Wednesday. We have quite a long standing experience in implementing financial instruments and finance from structural funds as well. The programming period of 2021-2027 is going to be the first period for us where we are going to use structural funds money for financial instruments. The amounts allocated for financial instruments are constantly increasing from one period to another and of course the COVID-19 situation and Ukrainian situation influenced our instruments very much. For the COVID-19 situation, we used mainly national budget money, but, for example, in the case of the Ukrainian situation, we introduced specific advantages for Ukrainian citizens who are going to establish companies in Lithuania, and this instrument was submitted for Showcase award. I hope this will help Ukrainian people and you know that Lithuania is supporting Ukraine very much and we are really putting a lot of efforts for that. As I told you, we are implementing a financial instrument which is financed from structural funds of 2014-2020, which has an advantage for Ukrainian people.

Inga, if I could just quickly follow up, because with all the experience you've got in using these, you said it's the third period in which you're doing it, any advice for people about how to really make them deliver? What for you is a key? You talked about your showcase project, what is the key to success?

Inga: Listen to the market, listen to the private players. Talk to the Commission and don't be afraid. Don't be afraid to implement financial instruments because we are very much in favour of those instruments and we really have a lot of experience. I can tell you, we saw bad and good times. We had various issues with auditors. We were implementing various types and we are implementing various types of financial instruments. Just do it.

Anybody else want to share an experience or a piece of advice? Lessons learnt from what they're doing. Can I draw anybody else into our discussion? Maybe then just a quick reaction. I don't know if any of our speakers want to react to that in terms of, feel the fear, address it, just do it. Don't be afraid. Anybody want to come back? Frank.

Frank: There's another special ingredient I would say. You really do need to have the public sector in its entirety behind what you're wanting to do. We heard a lot about that today in the margins of the discussion about this sort of grants vs financial instruments competition. One thing that absolutely kills the success of a financial instrument is if you have some sort of competing grant instrument out there that's somehow being launched and run by, dare I say, a competing ministry, for example, using some other forms of funds, because this definitely leads to, you know, to an unsuccessful deployment of a financial instrument. So, being joined up and coordinated and committed at the government level, I think is also very important.

Did you want to add something, Jonathan?

Jonathan: I would endorse everything that Inga said. Don't be afraid, it's not as bad as you think it's going to be.

Anyone from the audience who is willing to join our conversation? Share an experience. Share a thought?

Abel: Hello, my name is Abel Mascarenhas. I'm the President of IFRRU 2020 in Portugal. We have a lot of experience in financial instruments. Our financial instrument is for European rehabilitation. We have at the moment €1.5 billion of investments contracted, already 200 buildings that are renovated, and another 250 in the process of  being renovated. So we are having very good results. I want to launch a challenge to our colleagues here at the table. So on our right, we have the EIB, and over there, we have the Commission, and I know they have a lot of knowledge in financial instruments. The question is, we now have a major challenge. Do you think you have the technical capacity to help and design European financial instruments to help the reconstruction of Ukraine?

Anyone want to pick up on that? Lots of pondering and thinking. Anybody who can I lure in? Jonathan.

Jonathan: It's an idea. We weren't thinking about it before, about a minute ago. Maybe we are now thinking about it. I think all the traditional advantages of financial instruments can apply to Ukraine. It's a little bit more complicated and it's not yet a Member State. There would be some complications about lots of expenditure on loans. The EIB can lend outside Europe, so perhaps Frank can talk about that.

Frank: It's an interesting challenge, as you say Abel. We went through this thinking actually one year ago when the crisis broke. I think the issue that you need to really bear in mind in a situation like Ukraine is that, and this comes back to the challenge of when is it good to use grants and when is it good to use financial instruments, and we almost had a thought process and this is unfortunately because of our own DNA as EIB, we always think in terms of loans. So we always thought, how can we go in and lend them more money? And of course, that's not necessarily what they need, right? So, you know, I think there's a process where you say you need grants, you need a support mechanism to get them through the immediate crisis. Then it's about how do we rebuild, how do we support enterprises and economic activity, and that's where financial instruments comes into play. So our response in a sense was to have that transition focus and to say, all right, at the beginning, let's see how we can help them with grants or on balance sheet financing where we have very long term repayment sort of obligations. Then as things start to recover, we can then start to introduce more sophisticated, let's say, instruments, financial instruments, repayable forms of support. So yeah, we'll see if that if that works.

So watch this space. Oana, if I could ask you, as we are talking about the future and looking ahead now, what are your ambitions for financial instruments in the future? Let me put it this way. If everything goes well and according to plan, where do you think we'll be? What do you think we'll see over the next five years?

Oana: Some of you maybe know me, I'm a very ambitious person, but also a very down to earth person. So I know how difficult it is to have all these projects implemented and I see the efforts from all the participants here today to get it done. So my first ambition, maybe it is not so ambitious, is to see all the financial instruments which are planned now at full speed of implementation in five years times. I also hope that we will have more allocations and commitments to financial instruments in the next five years. And,  as you said, Jacki, not because of a future crisis because, as John said, financial instruments are good when there is a crisis, but that this increase will be due to the reconstruction, to the fact that the financial instruments which are now on the ground are working well, and to the fact that Member States are ready, are not afraid, as Inga said, and they are ready to explore new areas.

Talking of new areas, New European Bauhaus, we've heard a little bit about it, there's going to be a session dedicated to it during FI Campus 2023. Why is this so important for the Commission?

Oana: It's important for the Commission, but I think it should be more important for each of us, for public authorities, for local communities, because the places where we live have an impact on our lives, on our health, and on our wellbeing. The purpose of the New European Bauhaus is to bring a tangible change in the daily lives of citizens in the built environment, so through the buildings, the public spaces, but also in the non built environment. To make a change that puts together the sustainability with a good design and to create affordable housing and affordable spaces for all. The Commission believes that the financial instruments we had for urban development—and I am happy to see here our colleague from IFRRU—worked well. So that's why we wanted to take them to the next level and to bring them to New European Bauhaus standards, to current times. So you can call this New European Bauhaus financial instruments JESSICA 3.0 if you want. We created this model on NEB in order to remind to everybody that most of you did these financial instruments in the past, and now you can use the grant component in order to be able to fulfil the core values of the New European Bauhaus.

Thank you. Jonathan, coming back to you and looking to the future, we've been focusing in our discussions a lot on how the response to the pandemic, and then now to where we are in the difficult situation we find ourselves, but looking more long term. How do you see cohesion financial instruments fitting in with other EU priorities? We've had sessions at this event on the green transition, we're talking a lot about innovation, which we touched on earlier. How do you see this all fitting together?

Jonathan: Can I just pick up a little bit about what Oana was talking about, about the New European Bauhaus? I have to admit, I was sceptical about it as an initiative when it was first launched. But the response, and in particular from young people, has been really, really positive. Clearly the idea of having things that are inclusive, sustainable and beautiful sort of resonates with citizens on the ground. So, please use the model because this is something that European citizens want and so on.

Looking to the future, and I'm preaching to the converted here, but I mean, financial instruments work. They are sustainable, they lead to more rational investment decisions, the reflows provide revenues to back to managing authorities and ultimately to governments. There's a lot of grant money, but that grant money is going to disappear in the end. I think the idea of using cohesion policy money through financial instruments, sustainable investments, reflows, which you can then use to continue on the investments after that. The basic principle for financial instruments still stands, they work and we need to work a little bit on synergy with all of these other instruments. But everything is possible.

That issue of synergy, absolutely crucial. Frank how do you see when we look ahead, I mean, how are you advising Member States now on the use of financial instruments and how do you see that evolving?

Frank: In order to advise Member States today, it's actually more complicated in a way than it was in the past because the challenge is a different one. I think Emily was also referring to this at the beginning. When we started fi-compass, for example, we were working with a community that was relatively uninformed, let's say, or needing a lot of capacity building support to understand the basics of financial instruments. I think due to fi-compass, but also obviously due to a number of other initiatives and the development of the community at large, we've moved on. However, now the challenge is a different one, the challenge is how do we now combine all of these different EU funds and how do we decide which ones to prioritise and for what? As advisors we try to give the best advice to managing authorities on what they should do. I suppose it's about using the different EU funds available to them in an optimal way. Again, easier said than done. I think a good example, as we've been talking about today and which we'll carry on talking about, is this combination topic, this idea of bringing together grants and loans. I said it before, it's a game changer. I think the reaction, even in this half day of starting FI Campus has demonstrated that managing authorities have picked up on this game changer opportunity. This is I think the best advice is to just go for it, as Inga was saying, you know, take the risk. Get the grants and the financial instruments together because you can do so much more with that combination, whether it's through the New European Bauhaus that Oana was mentioning or whether it's just helping to do deeper renovation when it comes to energy efficiency or whatever the issue is, it allows us to achieve better and higher impact if we can combine these resources in that way.

Jonathan: And reach people that you can't reach with financial instruments alone.

So, Emily, we've been talking about these model financial instruments and how they work and this idea that they use to pave the way for the development of new joint products, providing this additional firepower for Member States to achieve greater impact in their regions. Let's concretise this, let's put it very practically. Can you give us a very practical example of how it is working or might work, and the sort of advice that practitioners can ask the EIB for?

Emily: Sure. I'll start with the last question first. So I think we can provide a real range of advisory support throughout the design and set up and implementation process of a financial instrument. So a practical example would be, we've got a study underway at the moment in Romania, looking at the potential for a financial instrument in urban development, building on the New European Bauhaus model and building on the energy efficiency model in a number of regions. So that's an active assignment at the moment. We've carried out ex-ante assessments in a number of Member States and regions. A practical example of that would be one that we did for the Occitanie instrument which was presented earlier. We have provided support in relation to funds set up and structuring and the selection of financial intermediaries. And a practical, concrete example of that is the support we provided to the Fund of Funds in Bulgaria, which then resulted in our flag colleagues successfully creating their instrument and also EIB complementing that instrument with some additional financial firepower, which is a great example.

The design and set up is only part of the story and I think that's something that we've really grasped more latterly. We also need to give a lot of attention to actually supporting the effective implementation of financial instruments. So we have a great example at the moment of an assignment in Malta, where we are working with the financial intermediaries, the managing authorities to really try and help them deploy the instrument on the ground to help them grapple with eligibility. We've created an online web tool to help them assess the energy savings and the eligibility of the projects on the ground, with a view to speeding up and facilitating deployment. There is a full spectrum of advice and support available that can accompany managing authorities, A to Z through the start to finish of a financial instrument. We would we can only encourage you to approach us if you have good ideas and you want help and support.

Of course, one of the key objectives of the FI Campus event is not just to share experiences, but also to identify where those needs are, to let you all know what the practitioners actually need from you and where more support is needed and then you adapt and show that agility we were talking about in order to respond to it.

I'm going to come out to the room again to see if there are any more questions, particularly perhaps on the issue, because we had a session this afternoon on the green transition with a lot of focus on energy efficiency. I don't know if anyone has any questions or comments?

Edit: Hello, my name is Edit Lakatos and I'm from Housing Europe, the Federation of Social, Public and Cooperative Housing Providers. I just wanted some information on the advisory services because as the Lithuanian company says, you shouldn't be afraid, but I think it's more of a question of how you set up financial instruments. So capacity building is key. The EIB has some advisory services available for that, right?

Thank you very much. And indeed, that issue of capacity building was raised, uh, in our session today. People saying that may be one of the big barriers to taking it up. Who can help us in terms of the support for capacity building? Emily, please.

Emily: Certainly there is advice and support available. So if you have a good idea, we're very happy to have a discussion with you and understand to what extent would it be feasible to help you and carry out a market assessment, carry out some market testing with the market to understand what are the needs on the ground, what is the supply on the ground and what the gap might be in the existing provision. Then, once we've established that gap, how might that gap be best addressed? Could it be something that could be supported by a financial instrument? Could it be something that actually needs grants? Could it be something, as we've discussed, that actually needs a combination of those forms of support? It might also be that it's something that actually needs a good chunk of advisory support and technical assistance to help build the project pipeline and to oil the wheels of the implementation. So very happy to have a discussion with you.

Thank you very much. And another one there.

Nikos: Hi there, my name is Nikos Mantzoufas and I'm heading the Greek Recovery and Resilience Agency. In Greece, we have developed and delivered a number of financial instrument products in the past and currently and very successfully. What I would say, given that experience that I do have, is that having the European Commission and the European Investment Bank joining forces is a very powerful combination. So I would urge everybody to take advantage of this combination, it can bring tremendous results.

Thank you very much indeed for sharing that. Any other thoughts, experiences to share questions to our speakers?

Oana: Maybe I can add to the question about affordable housing. I think the stakeholders involved in affordable housing should also contact the managing authorities because there is technical assistance available in the programmes for this particular case. So you should not hesitate to contact the local decision makers for structural funds.

Thank you very much indeed. Any more questions or are you happy for me to come back to our panel and go on grilling them? So I'm not going to ask any difficult questions now I'm going to ask you a very simple one. We are now at the end, this podcast is being recorded at the end of day one of FI Campus, we have another day and a half to go. For each of you, what are you most looking forward to over the next day and a half and what do you hope will come out of this event?

Oana: I'm very happy, really happy to see so many people here in person, and I look forward to hearing about their experiences. The session we had already was very interesting and I learned myself a lot of things and I am also very open to feedback, So I am really hoping that it will have active participation and active feedback. We had hard work during these last two years, and I hope that this event will be also an opportunity to celebrate what we achieved together and to have some fun.

Absolutely, and being together in and of itself is such a delight. People also enjoying themselves and networking and recontacting people they may not have seen for a long time. Frank, what are you looking forward to and what do you hope will come out of it?

Frank: I guess it's something similar to what Oana was saying, and also Jonathan mentioned it at the beginning of this podcast. We're happy to be back physically meeting people again. It's been a long pandemic, as it were, where we had to do a lot of stuff online. So I think the main benefit for me really is to be able to see people physically again, to be able to have these sort of chit chats in the corridors that we haven't been able to have, because invariably that's where you learn a lot. That's where you get inspired a lot from others that are doing the same sorts of things that you want to do. Where you can have open conversations about what the challenges are and discover new solutions that people are implementing somewhere else. It's one thing to hear from us, the Commission or EIB, we stand up and preach the regulation and what have you, but the reality on the ground is something very different. We're aware of that. The reality on the ground is in the room today and at the event. I think that's the best thing we can hope to get out of this three days of being together.

Thank you very much, Emily.

Emily: It's been said, but for me it's all about reconnecting. There's already a real buzz around the event, so that's great. And we had some really good questions in the first session as well, so I hope that that continues. And takeaway, I would personally like to hear more from participants about combination and how they're going to take forward practically the new flexibilities that Commission colleagues managed to secure for us all, because I do, as Frank said, think that is a real game changer and I hope that everybody leaves the event really grasping the art of the possible as far as combination is concerned.

That issue, of course, also the focus of another knowledge hub that's being planned for managing authorities. So looking for ideas on what sort of conversations need to happen. Jonathan, you have the last word.

Jonathan: I would like to talk about the other C word: continuation. I want to hear from managing authorities and others about how they're planning to roll their financial instruments from the 2014-2020 period into the 2021-2027 period. We think we've made it very easy for you, but I'd like to hear what you're planning. What am I most looking forward to? The expressions on the faces of the Showcase winners.

What a lovely note to end our podcast on. Will you join me in thanking our speakers very much indeed for a great discussion and thank you to you for your great comments and questions.

We hope that you will find this an interesting addition to the fi-compass Jam Sessions Podcast series. We do encourage you to subscribe to the podcast on the main podcasting platforms so that you can catch future episodes and you can find out more information on our podcast series on fi-compass.eu/podcasts. Thank you so much for joining us to those of you in the room and thank you for listening. Goodbye