Sadly for me, my interview with Panos Kanellopoulos, Managing Partner at Walkyria Capital, takes place over the phone and not on the beautiful island of Cyprus, from where Panos now runs his Corporate Finance business, Walkyria Capital.
They say Travel Maketh The Man, and that is certainly true in Panos’ case. Having grown up in Athens, Panos has studied and worked in many parts of the world before finally settling in Cyprus in 2016. He speaks several languages, including Greek, English, French and German.
Panos’ education began in Athens, in a French Catholic Primary School and High School where he studied simultaneously in both French and English from the age of 8. This was fairly unusual at the time in Greece, but Panos clearly had a knack for learning languages from an early age, as well as a desire to travel. It was while studying to be a Chemical Engineer at the University of Athens that Panos took his first trip abroad. In 1990, he spent the summer of his junior year working as an engineer at Shiseido in Japan, as part of a student exchange programme. Panos again spread his wings in 1991 to further his studies in Chemical Engineering at MIT in Boston (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).
In 1993 Panos returned to Greece to serve mandatory military service for one year. He made some great friends with whom he remains friends today, despite not really enjoying military service itself! And then came a departure from engineering. Having worked for one summer only in Japan as an engineer, Panos decided that working with humans was going to be more preferable to working with chemicals or engines, and he began his career in corporate banking, working for EFG Eurobank. This is where Panos got his first taste of the thrill of the deal, and of working with large corporates. He furthered his business knowledge when he once again left Greek shores behind to study Business and Finance at one of the world’s leading business schools, INSEAD in Paris in 1997. Panos was able to combine his love of corporate finance with his love of travelling through working in Private Equity in Athens for a fund owned by French company Credit Agricole. He was running deals across Southeast Europe travelling to Romania, Serbia, Turkey and Egypt. In 2008 Panos joined an international consultancy firm where he developed a transaction advisory service and also joined ICFG, making him one of the longest serving members of the international network to date. The development of the advisory service arm of the consulting firm paved the way for Panos to set up his own company, Walkyria Capital, in 2016 in Cyprus.
Cyprus has given Panos the opportunity to expand his portfolio of activities, where he can continue to cover the Greek market, as well as other countries within the Mediterranean. Fund management is currently very active in Cyprus, with many people choosing to establish funds there, from hedge funds and private equity to real estate funds. Corporate tax benefits are helping to make Cyprus a favourable location for fund management in general. Panos’ great love is Opera, and what inspires him the most. His favourite opera is Tannhauser, the most complete work by Wagner in Panos’ opinion, and he has travelled extensively to follow performances all over Europe, from Bayreuth in Germany to Covent Garden in London.
Travelling for pleasure remains a big passion with South America being a favourite destination, in particular Argentina and the Iguazu Falls which border Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. In 2004, Panos took part in a fairly risky adventure in Chilean Patagonia, climbing the Andes in a national park, alongside amazing wildlife such as llamas, guanacos and jaguars.
So what does the future hold for Panos? Apart from a burning desire to travel to Peru, what opportunities lie ahead for Walkyria Capital? When asked if his greatest ambitions have already been realised, Panos says a firm no, that he still has a long way to go and a lot more to achieve. He loves running his own business and is constantly motivated by the diversity of their activities on a daily basis, the variety of people and companies he works with and above all, the thrill of the transaction.
Working for himself has given Panos the independence to be master of his own destiny, something he thrives on. However, there are some downsides to running a small business, and financial planning is key. The markets in both Greece and Cyprus have changed a lot since Panos first started working in corporate finance, and the country has still not fully recovered from the 2007 – 2008 economic crisis. There is growth though, and enough mobility to ensure opportunities are there to be found, particularly with a large amount of non-performing loans giving rise to various transactional opportunities.
Following a recent election in Greece, with a pro- business government now in power, markets will continue to open up. Expectations are high due to many draft laws being voted in through Parliament. Panos and Walkyria are hopefully looking to a brighter future under the new leadership, with more foreign direct investment coming into Greece. And hopefully Panos’ next dream trip to Peru can become a reality!