50 years: working together, looking to the future
Since its creation in 1971, Instituto de Crédito Oficial (ICO) has worked to provide added value to the financing of the Spanish business network and respond flexibly to the needs and challenges created by different economic scenarios, all with the aim of contributing to the promotion of economic growth and job creation.
With this vocation, ICO currently carries out its activity in three different roles: national bank for business financing, instrument of economic policy and State financial agency.
Due to its triple role, ICO has played a significant role in exceptional economic situations over the past fifty years, such as the one generated by the COVID-19 health crisis.
It is currently managing various programmes on behalf of the State, including the Guarantee Second-Floor Facility. These programmes allow the mobilisation of a large quantity of resources thanks to public-private collaboration for companies and the self-employed. The Second-Floor Facility was launched in record time and has provided a total of 114,647 million euros of financing to the self-employed and Spanish companies between March and December 2020, to meet their liquidity needs. In this period, 944,588 loans were approved for a total of 591,535 companies, of which 99% were self-employed and SMEs.
The speed and efficiency in the deployment of the Guarantee Second-Floor Facility has been supported by the work carried out by ICO and the financial sector in recent years to pool resources to boost business financing, allowing public private consolidated collaboration systems in the current circumstances to exist. These systems have enabled the agile mobilisation of resources to support the liquidity and investment needs of the self-employed and companies.
At the same time, ICO has strengthened the different financing instruments that the Institute makes available to companies and made them more flexible, in order to promote the recovery process and the transition of the Spanish economy towards a more sustainable and digitalised growth model.
ICO was created in 1971 as the entity responsible for coordinating the existing public banks at that time. Its structure and operation were regulated in Law 13/1971, of 19 June, on the Organisation and System of Official Credit.
The 1988 Law on General State Budgets modified ICO's legal nature, and the Institute went from being an Autonomous Body to becoming a State Company that was considered to be credit institution. The Institution gained the title of official Public Bank, which at that time also included: Banco de Crédito Industrial, Banco de Crédito Agrícola, Banco de Crédito Local and Banco Hipotecario de España, with Banco Exterior de España also having a significant sharehold. From then on, it stopped receiving exclusive financing from the Treasury and began to finance itself, mainly on the capital markets.
The reform of Public Banking in May 1991 had two immediate consequences. One of these was the integration of all Public Banks into the Spanish Banking Corporation, Argentaria, which was created as a commercial bank with the objective of gradual privatisation. The second consequence was the maintenance of ICO, independently and separately, as the State Financial Agency and Public Bank. From that moment, the Institute began a new stage in its activity, assuming the promotion of the real economy, in compliance with the purposes established in its statutes that were approved in 1999, as its main objective.
1993 marked one of the most significant moments in ICO's history: the launch of the ICO-SME Second-Floor Facility, the first of the well-known ICO Second-Floor Facilities. For the first time, a financing product conceived under a public-private collaboration scheme with financial entities was made available to the self-employed and companies with the aim of financing the business activities and investment projects of the self-employed, entrepreneurs and companies, as well as their internationalisation process. The commercialisation of ICO's Second-Floor Facilities through financial institutions gives these products a great capillarity, which has made it possible for ICO to have financed nearly 3,200,000 operations with these lines since they began, despite ICO not having its own commercial network.
Due to its countercyclical nature, ICO played a significant role in responding to business financing needs and alleviating the effects of restrictions on access to credit during the international financial crisis that began in 2008. During those years, ICO was a key instrument for economic recovery, maintaining a very active presence, providing liquidity to the different financing products available for providing credit to companies. Over those years, ICO's work as a State financial agent was also notably reinforced, with it managing new mechanisms such as the Suppliers Payment Fund or the Autonomous Liquidity Fund.
The promotion of new products and financing channels that meet the needs of companies has been key to ICO's work throughout its history. In this area, the 2013 launch of Fond-ICO Global in particular stands out. This "fund of funds" aimed to promote the creation of private venture capital funds that invest in Spanish companies in all their development phases, which has been key in the growth of the venture capital sector in Spain. Thanks to its versatility, Fond-ICO Global has established itself as an instrument that adjusts to the needs of the entrepreneurial ecosystem at all times.
In the field of business financing, the support for the internationalisation of Spanish companies stands out as one of ICO's priority axes of action in the last decade. The activity it has carried out in this area has positioned ICO as a benchmark in financing the activity of Spanish companies on third markets. The international product catalogue includes three fundamental lines of action: credit to promote exports for any duration; financing for making investments abroad; and finally international guarantee instruments.
In terms of attracting resources in international markets to finance its activity, there are numerous milestones that ICO has reached, but that reached in 2015 is of particular importance. That year, ICO launched the first social bond for the amount of 1,000 million euros issued in Spain. Since then, ICO has established itself as a fundamental player in this market at the European level, with nine sustainable bond issues (7 social and 2 green) amounting to a total of 4,550 million euros. The funds of this type of issue are used to finance operations that generate a positive social or environmental impact.
ICO in 2021
With the aim of contributing to economic growth and providing added value to all sectors, companies and the self-employed in the economy, ICO is currently focusing its strategy on promoting activities that contribute to the transformation of the production model by promoting innovation and business digital transformation, internationalisation and environmental and social sustainability.
In addition, ICO is working to enhance its role as a catalyst for EU funds towards Spanish companies with new instruments and modalities, through collaboration with the EIB and the European Investment Fund or in the InvestEU programme within the European Union's new 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework, combining different modalities, from financial credits to joint ventures, guarantees or capital. At the same time, it continues to strengthen its collaboration with its European counterparts and the European Investment Bank on projects such as the "Joint Initiative on Circular Economy".
Currently, for the ICO Group, made up of ICO, Axis and the ICO Foundation, contributing to a model of recovery and sustainable growth in all its actions is a priority, in line with the guidelines set out by the government in the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan of the Spanish economy that reflects the priorities established in the European Next Generation EU programme and the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework.