Responsibility, Interrelation, Timeliness, Motivation, Originality: these key words are the basis of company culture and help create a sense of teamwork and establish the right leadership. They make up the acronym R.I.T.M.O (rhythm in Italian) in finance, which is a sort of program manifesto outlined by Gaetano Miccichè, Chairman of the IMI Division of Corporate & Investment Banking at Intesa Sanpaolo, who spoke at the EMF Leader Series to participants of EMF - Executive Master in Finance at SDA Bocconi. The program directors, Andrea Beltratti, EMF Academic Director, and Alessia Bezzecchi, EMF Program Director, introduced the special guest.
Rhythm in finance, rhythm in life. The paths that appear sometimes randomly and then give meaning to each person's trajectories. Let's call them sliding doors.
“As per tradition, we would like to get a presentation of YOU that dwells more on personal aspects and allows us to get to know the leader beyond your CV,” Beltratti began at the Leader Series, opening the floor to Miccichè.
"There have been three watershed moments in my life,” he responds. “The first was my initial employment in the banking world in a medium-sized Sicilian bank, which gave me the opportunity to deal with various levels of operations, including all the traditional activities of a branch, counter work, accounting, credit and many others, thanks to which I acquired an important background that allowed me to know all the details of the production process of the banking sector. The second was obtaining a Master's degree in Business Administration (MBA) from SDA Bocconi when, in the mid-1980s, the bank included me on a short list of employees to invest in for the future. I still fondly remember that experience, which gave me the opportunity to get to know a first-class faculty, including SDA Bocconi's founder, Professor Claudio Demattè, himself, and to create a network of peers with whom I have stayed in touch in my professional life. The third was joining what is now Intesa Sanpaolo in 2002. Since then I have remained within the Intesa Sanpaolo group, dealing with corporate and investment banking, until I became Managing Director of IMI CIB and then President.”.
“How would you assess the situation in our country?”
“Italy has extraordinary opportunities for growth that over the past decades have not had the chance to express themselves to the fullest, as evidenced by the average growth rate, which is unfortunately lower than that achieved by other major European countries.
If I had to point to two ways to improve this growth I would focus on public debt and the size of businesses. Our current public debt, at 1.5 times Gross Domestic Product, conditions fiscal policy and also the issuance of new bonds. The sharp rise in interest rates decided by the central bank has sharply increased the cost of debt and thus the ability to invest in physical and social capital, from infrastructure to health care and environmental capital to human capital through education.
As for the size of companies, I believe that larger companies can benefit from economies of scale and contribute more to growth, without neglecting the important element of listing on the stock market. In relation to gross domestic product, Italy has few listed companies, with capitalization in most cases of less than 500 million euros. Such a system is very flexible but can suffer in international competition with large international corporations.
Both of these elements, and many other conditions necessary for growth, could receive key assistance from political and governmental stability, which characterizes all economies that grow more regularly. In the short term, tremendous importance is placed on the execution of PNRR spending projects, which entails an employment and also reputational boost from the perspective of the judgment of financial markets and other economies.”
“What are the secrets of an optimal relationship with companies, to preserve their added value and protect employment even in critical situations, that require restructuring. And therefore, how can you be successful in corporate and investment banking?”
“A crucial element is the role assigned to the end client: the work of financing with venture capital or medium- to long-term debt must be done in the context of a full alignment of interests with the companies, and this means understanding what the needs of the companies are, which may vary based on sector, size, and the life cycle of the company. In many cases, new finance must be given in the right way to enable the company to overcome short-term crises to get on a long-term growth path.
Another element is how one understands these needs and tries to meet them as best one can. From this point of view, the interaction between the various business areas of the CIB is crucial. Over time, Intesa Sanpaolo's CIB Division has developed an organizational model divided by sector, since in many cases there are common needs among many companies in the same sector, affected perhaps by structural elements of an international nature that pose similar problems.
The third element is the quality of people and the organization of work, which must allow for suitable interactions in order to find the best financing solutions from time to time. And then corporate governance: cases where companies are in trouble are often represented by situations in which there is a lack of unity in command and an appropriate decision-making chain.”
Management, leadership in finance and advice for tomorrow's managers. How can you balance business growth with social responsibility towards the community in which you operate. And "what skills are important for finance in the age of technology and Artificial Intelligence?"
“The human element remains crucial. Finance requires understanding people, both those who represent bank customers and those who make up the teams of financial institutions. There are many qualities for being good bankers, including commitment and seriousness, but also conviction and the will to never give up in the face of adversity. Leadership is something that is acquired through experience.”
“What advice do you want to give participants?”
“It is very important to work with people from whom you can learn something every day, beyond the natural corporate hierarchies. Also, tenacity and perseverance in the pursuit of one's interests. Finally, remembering that when you are not satisfied with your work, it is important to look around you in search of change. I have tried to summarize my beliefs in the acronym I mentioned.
Accountability to colleagues and customers, who must be the center of attention in the value creation process. Interrelation and continuous discussion with others, to learn and to share one's information and skills in the spirit of teamwork. Timeliness, which is the other side of customer centricity, remembering that, especially in corporate and investment banking, companies expect timely and quick responses, with advice on how to improve their approach to business. Motivation must never be lacking and must be ensured not only by the company's offerings but also by one's internal vocation, the desire to be useful and functional in teamwork. Originality, I found in the Master's program an element evident throughout my professional life, namely that the value of the enterprise is in its uniqueness an essential element for the creation of public and private value.
Rhythm is the real engine of finance, and I wish all Executive Master in Finance participants to maintain and develop these values in their personal and professional lives”.
SDA Bocconi School of Management