HIGHLIGHTS: The future stigmatized by 3 “P”: PEOPLE, PASSION AND PERFORMANCE

Winning investment strategies in the NPL market, in the Cover Story dedicated to Pierluca Bottone, CEO of Europa Factor.

Interview with Pierluca Bottone, CEO of Europa Factor

Curated by Gianpaolo Luzzi, Editorial Director of Credit Village Magazine
Pierluca Bottone , CEO of EUROPA FACTOR

Pierluca Bottone, can you tell us something about yourself and the career path that led you to your current role?
P.B. 25 years have passed since, still a young university student, I began my experience in the world of home collection in Citifin, then the first financial company on a global scale. That path, undertaken “from scratch and with zero resources”, led me to first take care of management and, subsequently, to broaden my horizons towards the purchase of credit. Among the professional obstacles I faced in the development path of the company I founded, the real entrepreneurial turning point coincided with the transformation of Europa Factor into a supervised financial intermediary. A challenge won and an important milestone reached, an awareness of one’s own possibilities that allowed the construction of the second financial intermediary: Credit Factor.

You are both Servicer and Buyer, how do you reconcile these two different business lines within a single reality?
P.B. Servicing makes sense not only if it generates adequate economic margins but also when, by keeping performance constantly at the top, the deep trust of client companies is gained. The experience gained in management plays an important role in the knowledge of the market and in the search for the best opportunities for courageous investments. This important element of synergy between the two businesses is an integral part of the DNA of Europa Factor and permeates the strategic pillars aimed at creating value at all levels: customer satisfaction, availability towards debtors, trust on the part of assignors and professionalism of our people allow us to “close the circle”.

Most Debt Buyers acquire portfolios by structuring securitization transactions, while Europa Factor acts directly as a financial intermediary. Are there specific reasons for this choice?
P.B. Compared to the classic investment schemes that place a “cold” securitization vehicle at the center of the transaction, the approach of Europa Factor and its subsidiary Credit Factor favors the direct involvement, and in total transparency, of the investor. Furthermore, since there is a substantial identity between the investor and the servicer, compliance with ethical and deontological principles becomes a prerequisite I would say almost natural, and increasingly appreciated by the originator companies.
Our two entities have the ability to act as an acquisition – each on their own “potential” reference markets – guaranteeing a strong combination between the quality of management and the operational approach that marks the collection activities aimed at safeguarding fairness both towards of the Assignors, both towards the assigned customers-debtors, without losing sight of the effectiveness and speed of results.

from left Valentina Lolli Extraordinary Finance and valuations, Veronica Pace Commercial Development, Federica Bottone Head of General Affairs, Fabiana Fusi External Field, Ornella Pacelli Commercial Development, Raffaella Ardolino General Affairs

What type of credit are you currently focused on and which will you focus on in the future?
P.B. Europa Factor is a leader in the management and purchase of impaired loans in the Utilities and Telco market. He is also a top performer in several qualified sectors dedicated to the management of bank NPEs. Our market positioning with the subsidiary Credit Factor focuses on investing in small and medium ticket portfolios of UTP and NPL mainly unsecured originating from the banking sector, consumer credit and the leasing market.
Our proposition, which focuses on significant and granular masses, characterized by high numbers and small unit sizes, will be the driver of significant growth in terms of market share.

The management of heterogeneous asset classes and originations often requires different structures and skills. What type of operational organization have you structured to maximize performance?
P.B. In twenty years our company has formed and chosen to build “closed circuit” collector groups, that is, dedicated to individual orders. This approach has definitely favored the specialization of the resources who have developed a valuable experience in the various reference markets and in the invoicing processes of the assignors, allowing us, on the one hand, to establish ourselves permanently at the top of the performance rankings drawn up by our customers and, by ‘other, to achieve double-digit ROE as an economic return generated by our investments in NPE.
Our Phone and Home collection structures, entirely based in Italy, are recognized as excellence in terms of size and quality of processes and professionalism, flanked by a qualified Master Legal sector, which is growing rapidly, and by a very professional governance structure that guarantees a data analytics approach that makes the difference.
The intuition for me was, from the beginning, to invest in the training and involvement of my most direct collaborators who over time have become real “travel companions”, as well as talents. Working with them side by side is a real honor for me, as well as a daily pleasure.
Europa Factor has always placed technological development at the center of its strategies, well aware that, together with human capital, the real driving force for the future will come from this factor.
In 2020 we implemented a “distributed” organizational model that also includes decentralized collection platforms, present in the territories of the Center-South with a greater professional vocation, capable of expressing a job offer characterized by considerable availability and significant skills.
The satisfactions associated with this development process have just begun.

How are you managing the Covid emergency?
P.B. The Company was able to respond almost instantly to the work and organizational needs imposed by the health emergency. Remote work has been a concrete reality for Europa Factor for a couple of years already; we therefore moved promptly, with a proactive attitude. The effectiveness of our model was fully confirmed by the recent results obtained: the turnover of Europa Factor in fact recorded an increase of over 25% in 2020 compared to 2019.
As for the delicate management of the relationship with customers-debtors, we quickly made our mindset evolve by formulating specific campaigns in the name of an accentuated willingness to listen compared to the past, focusing on expanding the proxies of write-off and installment payments granted to our collector.

In a market that is increasingly concentrated, what are your strategies for the years to come?
P.B. Stock market listing is certainly one of the options on the table. Europa Factor owns assets in NPL portfolios for 2.6 billion euros from which it will be able to generate prospective collections of 90 million euros over the next few years, through a collection process carried out mainly “in house”.
Furthermore, in 2019 we created an ambitious joint venture with Banca IBL, creating, with the CEO Mario Giordano, Credit Factor SpA (also a supervised financial intermediary) to develop an important investment plan through the purchase of UTP exposures. and unsecured NPLs, originating mainly in the banking and financial sector.
The initiative is giving excellent satisfaction: in 2020 the year closes with a turnover of 7.3 million euros, an Ebitda of over 4.3 million and an investment capacity of 80 million euros in the coming years.
The combined turnover of the 2 intermediaries – Europa Factor and Credit Factor – exceeded 35 million euros in 2020.

from left Pierluca Bottone , CEO EUROPA FACTOR , Stefano Sagripanti , Head of Finance and Markets EUROPA FACTOR

You have carried out mini bond issuance programs in the past years. What kind of response did you get from the financial market? Do you anticipate further emissions?
P.B. The response from the debt capital market and from investors interested in Europa Factor was surprising for us, both in qualitative and quantitative terms. Having positively reached the listing of the two Mini Bonds issued on the Extra Mot 3 segment of Borsa Italiana represents, in addition to an undeniable satisfaction, a new perspective for the funding policies of our company. This first positive experience leads us to continue along the path, intensifying our presence in the DCM market.

How do you see the credit market in the coming years, both investor and servicer and what role do you see for Europa Factor?
P.B. The strength of those who work in this market will increasingly be the result of the effective combination of advanced analysis skills of market segments with their opportunities and a powerful “collection machine”, with strong adaptability, efficient and scalable in a short time .
Designing clear and detailed strategies, in the name of concreteness and continuity, will allow us to better interpret the future scenario. From this point of view, Europa Factor is a player that boasts robust industrial capabilities, diversified references and skills that meet the current and prospective market needs.
I see Europa Factor and its young subsidiary Credit Factor well focused and oriented towards a future stigmatized by 3 “P”: people, passion, performance.

Europa Factor has always placed technological development at the center of its strategies, well aware that, together with human capital, the real driving force for the future will come from this factor.

What are the projects in the pipeline for the next two years?
P.B. Further expand the market shares reached up to now, consolidate the position as leader in the Utilities and Telco market, grow rapidly in the banking, leasing and consumer credit sector. Continue to invest in technology and, at the same time, identify new talents to complement the current ones. All following priority logics of social responsibility based on sustainability.

Could you give us some more details in relation to the following
data?

  • Cumulative Total Ownership Portfolio Purchased: € 3.7 billion; 7.4 million positions
  • Portfolio outstanding at 31 December 2020: € 2.6 billion; 5.5 million positions
  • AUM managed on behalf of third parties: € 2 billion
  • Total AUM: € 4.6 billion
  • Revenue volumes: € 27.5 million (the cumulative figure with the subsidiary Credit Factor reaches € 35 million)
  • Ebitda: € 6.9 million
  • Net profit: € 1.6 million
  • Any notes on subsidiaries / associates:
    CREDIT FACTOR S.P.A.

    • Total cumulative purchased portfolio: € 577 million; 364 thousand positions
    • Portfolio outstanding at 31 December 2020: € 532 million; 339 thousand positions
    • Revenue volumes: € 7.3 million
    • Ebitda: € 4.3 million
    • Net profit: € 3.1 million

Do you resort to outsourcing? If so, with what strategies?
P.B. The outsourcing of collection services covers approximately 10% of the cash flows generated by Europa Factor. The strategy today provides exclusively for targeted credit lines aimed at serving specific needs, through the use of loyal agencies that guarantee the required quality standards. The structures on the market that are able to deal with even the most laborious recovery of NPLs that can become authentic partners with whom to share strategy and results are welcome.

Could you give us some details in relation to your partnership with IBL Banca?
PB The joint partnership allows Credit Factor to project itself into the reference market with the financial strength of the Bank and the operational liveliness of the Europa Factor servicer. The development plan of the joint-venture will, in a short time, make Credit Factor a subject that will enjoy a clear, strong and recognized market positioning.

And now, to conclude, if you allow me, I ask you a somewhat frivolous question… If you can choose to invite anyone in the world, who would you like as a dinner guest and why?
P.B. Adriano Olivetti and my Father. Olivetti was an ante litteram supporter of a responsible and socially sustainable business model, an example that today needs to be recovered to invest as companies and as a country system. While my father was my father, and to him I owe the values ​​that guide me today in my daily choices.

(Download the interview in PDF format)

M&A in the Credit Management Industry: acquire, be acquired or aggregate?

From 2014 to date, approximately 50 M&A transactions have been completed in the Italian credit management industry.

They mainly concerned acquisitions of debt collection servicers by foreign operators. If the prevailing purpose in most cases was to guarantee investors immediate operation on the market, today a new phase is opening up.

By now the consolidation and maturity reached in the sector and above all the expansion of the ecosystem generated around distressed credit, represent the driver that will guide a new season in the field of M&A.

The interest of the players from beyond the Alps is still strong and Italy always remains: “The Place To Be”, but this new evolutionary cycle necessarily requires new strategic aggregations, acquisitions and integrations of niche specialists, partnerships and JVs between servicers and credit management investors with players from other sectors, such as Real Estate and Tech.

The event aims to offer an overview of M&A activities in the credit management market, deepening their sectoral dynamics.

A unique opportunity, the first in the sector, to seize the great opportunities that the sale, acquisition and aggregation operations are able to offer indiscriminately to all players in the new evolutionary cycle of the Credit Industry.

As always, there will be the opportunity to participate in  networking moments  and organize  one-to-one meetings.

 

COCKTAIL AND SPOT SPONSOR:

Credit Fair 2022 – INNOVATION

“Nothing is created, nothing is destroyed, everything is transformed.”
Credit and Innovation: the 2022 duo at the Fair.

The third edition of  Fiera del Credito , the first exhibition in Italy that brings together the entire supply chain of the credit sector, will be held in  Milan , on  14  and  15 June 2022 , at the MiCo (Milan Convention Center) and Europa Factor and Credit Factor will be present at the Fair at stand no.22

For the 2022 edition, Fiera del Credito opens up to the world of Innovation , a fundamental prerequisite for the development and continuation of business in every area. Innovation as a renewal, evolution and extension of conscious progress.

There are many areas of possible application of the term. Lavoisier’s law draws the line of the journey that Fiera del Credito takes to implement profitable exchanges of energy, power and work.

“Innovation becomes the figurehead of the ship that crosses the horizons of credit, discovering its limits and overcoming them, transforming the processes that upset the global economy into favorable winds for travel.”

Visit the official website of Fiera del Credito

8th CVSPRINGDAY | Milan 1 April 2022

NEXT GENERATION NAME //

SPONSOR BADGE //

europafactor_newcredit_factor

THE ROLE OF DISTRESSED CREDITS IN PNRR

Two years after the start of the pandemic, the main players in the credit industry will meet  on 1 April 2022 for the CvSpringDay to be held in Milan at Palazzo Mezzanotte,  headquarters of the Borsa Italiana. At the center of the day will be the long-awaited wave of non-performing loans: after so many estimates and uncertainties, we will finally come to understand what its true magnitude will be and how it will be managed by the credit industry.

But the CvSpringDay will be above all the first, real opportunity to look forward and try to understand what the roles, opportunities and responsibilities of these markets will be in the context of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR) and, more generally, in the program. Next Generation EU, which inspired the title of the event  “NEXT GENERATION NPE. The role of distressed credit in PNRR “ . Indeed, the adoption of the measures envisaged by the PNRR seems to be the unmissable opportunity to make the distressed credit market more attractive and competitive.

Reform of justice, digitalization, technological innovation, centrality of the person, sustainability, green and real estate  are issues that involve all the players in the credit industry and will be at the center of panels, speeches and interviews organized during the event alternating with moments of sharing and networking.

Great attention will also be paid  to the issue of digital transformation  and the impacts and opportunities that the latter is bringing to the sector. From digital market places, to the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in credit assessment and management processes, from blockchain applications in securitisations to big data: the most active Technology Providers will present their solutions for the market by discussing and sharing them with experts and decision makers.

An event not to be missed, a  think tank of excellence, which for years has been a point of reference for banks, investors, advisors, law firms, servicers and infoproviders .

More details in the event brochure, visible at this link: 8 ° CVSPRINGDAY – 1 April 2022.

6th edition “Credit Management & Collection Awards” | Milan 9 March 2022

The final of the annual appointment is approaching, which rewards the excellences of the world of credit management and recovery, credit management, commercial information and private credit investigations. 

The jurors have established for each sector the four excellences that will be awarded. The choice was difficult, as there are many Italian companies and professionals who work every day with quality, success and passion in the Credit Management sector.
The appointment is for  March 9, 2022  at the Hotel Meliá Milano , to find out who, among the  Excellencies , will receive the award, a symbol of acclaimed professionalism, recognized dedication and results achieved in the past year.

Award Credit Management
Credit Manager PA Supplies sector : Maria Rosa Crotti – Bio-Rad Laboratories Srl; Gerardina Di Pietro, Airliquide; Massimo Monbrini, B. Braun Milano SpA; Enzo Tanzi – Smith & Nephew Srl

Commercial Credit Manager:  Lucia Galasso – Red Bull Srl .; Claudio Marsano – Nestlé SA; Claudio Pedrinazzi – Pieralisi Maip SpA; Fabrizio Pallini, Hilti Italia SpA

Financial sector Credit Manager:  Riccardo Mariò – Banco Desio SpA; Domenico Rapolla – Banco BPM SpA; Annamaria Russo – Findomestic Banca SpA; Lucia Savarese, Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA

Credit Manager of the Leasing sector:  Filippo Turri – De Lage Landen International BV Milan Branch; Giovanni Barbieri – Credemleasing SpA; Marcello Dall’Aglio – Credit Agricole Leasing Italia Srl; Roberto Puricelli – Alba Leasing SpA.

Credit Manager Utility sector:  Emanuela Gatteschi – Edison SpA; Giancarlo Lanzavecchia – Enegan SpA; Nadia Pesce – Eni gas and light SpA; Luca Terrible – ENGIE Italia SpA


Credit Management and Protection Award

PA sector credit management and protection agency:  Alfa Credit Recovery Srl; Cardogna Srl; Nivi Credit SpA; Officine CST SpA

B2B credit management and protection agency:  3C Credit Management Srl; Hexa Srl; Advancing Trade SpA; Innolva SpA

NPL sector credit management and protection agency:  Cerved Credit Management SpA; Covisian Credit Management SpA; Cparmi Credit Management Srl; Fire SpA;

Financial sector credit management and protection agency:  Certa Credita Srl; Covisian Credit Management SpA; General Management Credits Srl; Hoist Italia Srl

Credit Management and Protection Agency Utility and Telco sector:  Creden SpA; Europa Factor SpA ; Fides SpA; MBCredit Solutions SpA

Credit Management and Protection Agency in the Leasing sector:  Axactor Italy SpA; Fides SpA; Finarc Srl; Service Credit SpA.

Credit Purchase Company:  Banca Ifis SpA; Credit Factor S.pA. ; illimity Bank SpA; MBCredit Solutions SpA

Master Legal:  Gattai, Minoli, Partners Studio Legale; La Scala Service Srl; iQera Italia SpA; Perno & Cremonese, Radice & Cereda, Associated Law Firms

Client:  Amco SpA; Compass Banca SpA; Enel SpA; Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA


Private Credit Investigations Award

Best Private Credit Investigation Agency:  AZ Info and Collection SpA; Business Defense Srl; Creditvision Srl; Federalpol Srl


Commercial Information Award

Best Commercial Information Agency:  Cerved Group SpA; Crsi D&B Srl; Innolva SpA; SevenData SpA


Innovation Awards

Innovation:  Reviva (La Fenice Srl); Sydema Srl; Yapily Lyd; Younited SA

Digital Transformation:  Alebro Technologies Srl; Fairfield Srl; Intellisync Srl; Manteia Srl

Discover the jury who decreed the finalists.

edited by Angelica Birti
of CreditNews.it

New issue of Minibond for 5 million euros

Europa Factor SpA , a leading financial intermediary in the credit management and purchase segment in the Utilities and Telco sectors, is one of the main players in the banking NPE sector, has issued a 5 M € bond loan, which the company will use to support of its organic growth and for the development of the industrial plan, centered on the acquisition of loan portfolios on the NPE market and on the subsequent enhancement activity.

The issue, listed on the Extra Mot PRO3 market managed by Borsa Italiana, was subscribed by institutional investors, has a duration of 6 years and recognizes a fixed rate of 4.50%.

The issuer was supported in the transaction by Anteos Capital Advisors SpA , which played the role of financial advisor and listing sponsor.

The lawyer Emanuela Gagliani Caputo of Chiomenti held the role of deal counsel.

Pierluca Bottone , founder and CEO of Europa Factor, commented“… with this second issue on the segment dedicated to institutional investors of Borsa Italiana, Europa Factor completes a three-year funding plan aimed at consolidating its strong positioning on the performing and NPL credit market, originating from the main national banks, utilities and telcos … l he current financial, technological and know-how endowment is offered by Europa Factor and the subsidiary Credit Factor, active in the purchase of bank NPE credits, at the top of the sector. Europa Factor today occupies a very important position in the NPE market as a private and independent entity, ranking among the top 7 for EBITDA and the top 8 for revenues … we are in fact preceded in the ranking only by the large companies in the sector, belonging to banking groups or to the public sector “ .

Strategic partnership between Europa Factor SpA and Convecta StA for the management of Non-Performing Loans

Milan – 11 November 2021 – Europa Factor SpA and Convecta StA have signed a collaboration agreement for the management of NPL credits.

The collaboration stems from the development plan of Europa Factor, a company that carries out management, collection and purchase of impaired loans.

The objective of the partnership is to be able to rely on a highly specialized reality, able to manage the judicial phase of the credit recovery activity and ensure high quality and efficiency, as well as optimal performance levels, in line with the collection expectations.

Convecta StA, a new player in the credit collection market that arises from the partnership between Dentons and SPGlegal, thanks to its legal background and a team of lawyers expert in judicial recovery, represents the ideal partner for starting the project.

The partnership allows Europa Factor (also in relation to its subsidiary Credit Factor SpA ) to offer its customers an even more performing credit collection service, with the aim of making the most of their assets.

14th Edition of the CVDAY

Credit Village Day: dematerialization, digitization and quality of work in the future of the Credit Industry

Female employment in our country continues to be far from the levels of the most advanced countries and, even if in recent years there has been a growing trend in most of the gender diversity indicators, we are still far from the parity threshold of 40- 60%. In Italy, less than a third are women among the managers of Italian companies. Yet, the data now attest to it, when the management has a percentage greater than 30% of women, better performances are recorded in terms of gross operating margin (+ 18.5%), lower injury rate (-40%), profiles of lower risk and a 138% higher incoming turnover rate than male-led companies.

These are some of the data presented  in the opening speech  of the  14th edition of CreditVillageDay which was held on November 24 in Milan, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in San Donato Milanese and for which Europa Factor and Credit Factorthey are sponsors. The event, which since 2008 represents the most important occasion that brings together the entire Credit Industry sector, has allowed a great return to networking in presence and professional relationships and has put at the center the value of female skills which, in a a delicate moment like the one we are experiencing, could help set a new normal, bringing greater efficiency, productivity and innovation to many sectors. Beginning with credit, which in recent years has seen many women make room for it, occupying top and relevant positions in important entrepreneurial realities. The event, which can be watched in streaming, was titled  “Women in credit. Building a new era: between accelerations and second thoughts ” and presented various corporate best practices in terms of gender diversity, starting with the adoption of specific policies or ESG rating to promote employment performance and leadership in terms of equal opportunities.

Beyond the numbers, yesterday, moderated by the Sole24Ore journalist  Monica D’Ascenzo,  was divided into three round tables focused on specific hot topics for the sector, trying to shed light on the advantages and critical issues related to the main changes “imposed “From the pandemic. The first session was dedicated to the ” Dematerialization of the workplace” and, through the voice of personalities who have now become reference points of credit management, he analyzed the new organizational models of work, starting with smart working, reflecting on how agile work has already influenced the logistical management of buildings, the reorganization of spaces and on the various sectors of the related industries. The spaces will change and consequently the value of the properties will change, which has always been subject to the trends of the moment. Large business centers are losing their centrality while residential is experiencing a boom in requests for large properties, with outdoor spaces and in more peripheral locations that had been a bit set aside by the market. On an operational level, smart working has certainly made it possible to experiment a series of experiences, but according to a recent study by the University of Harward, it has also limited the degree of innovation of companies, which continues to be an aspect closely linked to direct confrontation between people. What is certain is that it will no longer be possible to go back from the dematerialized management of processes, also because this has made everything more sustainable, but with respect to some activities, starting with the training of new personnel, it is unthinkable to find alternatives to work in presence. Some processes, such as restructuring, had been set up remotely for some time and this has allowed, especially in our country where every company is characterized by multiple credit lines, a wider participation in meetings. On the positive side, there is also the fact that agile work will contribute to increasing the entry of women into the world of work, allowing a better reconciliation with family life. Speech that is linked to the theme of the second session, that istechnological innovation  in the Credit Industry . It will be increasingly central for all companies, from the smallest to the largest, to increase the digitization of processes and invest in new technologies that must be perceived as an “accompaniment” to human activity to raise the level of performance. Undoubtedly there are several activities, such as marketplaces and data exchange platforms, which have benefited from artificial intelligence and robotics solutions, but on the other hand there have been some less successful experiments, which have shown the limits of the application. technology in favor of human intervention.

Finally, the last round table will focus on the servicing market  which, in recent years, has undergone an important evolutionary process that has completely redesigned its structure. The title,  “Servicer: big better than small?”,refers to the fact that today we have on the one hand a limited number of large players who hold a very significant share of the volumes of credits under management and are characterized by a high standardization and industrialization of processes, and on the other an army of servicers of smaller dimensions, which in turn possess very specific characteristics and skills, have a deep knowledge of the territory and guarantee excellent performance. A complex and constantly evolving landscape in which each operator will have to implement specific strategies in order to face future challenges and not disappoint expectations of reliability, performance and sustainability that will become increasingly central in credit management. Attention was focused on clients who should look much more at objective parameters than at purely quantitative ones, which are no longer sufficient to represent reality. The invitation is to consider the organization of the structure, the efficiency of the processes, the performance and, last but not least, the respect for data security rather than just the turnover or the number of files processed. It is no good for anyone to sharpen the small / large contrast in order not to risk leaving out of the market the small players who are efficient and aim to grow. Also because these servicers in many cases come back through the window through subcontracting. Finally, there is a cybersecurity issue for which, in the light of the most recent cyber attacks, it has been shown that great is not in itself a guarantee of cybersecurity.

 

Annual UNIREC 2021

Auditorium Antonianum, Rome – “Italy restarts: prospects for the recovery between credit management and financial inclusion” this is the title of the annual conference organized by UNIREC, of ​​which Europa Factor is sponsor, in particular Europa Factor will sponsor the round table of discussion on the observatory that every year UNIREC disseminates on this occasion.

NPL & UTP 2021, 8th National Congress of Law, Banking and Finance

Europa Factor SpA and Credit Factor SpA will be present at the “8th National Congress of Law, Banking and Finance” to be held on 18 October 2020 at the Gran Guardia, a historic building in the center of Verona, a financial center that has always been very lively as a venue of some of the major players in the Italian banking and insurance market and will be followed, in the evening, by the gala dinner.