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Italy’s UniCredit selling art collection to fund multi-million social impact investment programme

60,000-strong collection includes old masters and contemporary artists

UniCredit, Italy’s largest bank by assets, is in the process of selling some of its extensive art collection to support a multi-million social impact investment programme across Europe, with initial proceeds of around €50m.

UniCredit’s art collection is composed of about 60,000 works, ranging from ancient finds, masterpieces and contemporary artists. It includes pieces from Austrian symbolist Gustav Klimt and German surrealist Kurt Schwitters.

The art sale is to bolster UniCredit’s Social Impact Banking initiative that supports social businesses through lending and educational support.

The initiative, which began last year in Italy, saw €72.9m of impact financing loans and micro-credit approved to over 2,000 organisations and a programme of financial education for over 15,000 students.

Following its first successful year, the Milan-based lender, that recently reported its best underlying profits in a decade, plans to roll out the scheme to ten European countries and finance this through the sale of UniCredit’s local art collection in Italy, Germany and Austria.It comes as the art market last year rose in value by 4.3%, according to market research firm Artprice.

Jean Pierre Mustier, UniCredit, CEO said: “Our Social Impact Banking initiative has achieved great results so far in Italy and we are now extending it to other markets with the same cores purpose of looking beyond economic returns in our investments to achieve a tangible positive impact on society. We will gradually sell our art collections to support this initiative, giving some of our art pieces to local museums and investing in younger artists.”

Following the trial in Italy, the countries that will be supported by the Social Impact Banking initiative are Germany, Austria, Serbia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Social Impact Banking initiative aims to help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with a focus on Goal 4: quality education, Goal 3: good health and well-being, Goal 5: gender equality, Goal 8: decent work, and Goal 10: reducing inequalities.