Executive MBA “CEO Talks”

Fincantieri’s CEO Giuseppe Bono participated in the Opening Week of SDA Bocconi’s Executive MBA


“Those who are afraid of the future don’t have a future.” This is the message that Giuseppe Bono, Cavaliere del Lavoro and Chief Executive Officer of Fincantieri (SpA) addressed to the EMBA 19 class on 9 November 2021, at the beginning of their Executive MBA journey.
Fincantieri is a global leader in shipbuilding and is over 230 years old. With more than 7,000 vessels built, 18 factories in four continents and over 20,000 employees and 100,000 people working for them overall, it is a jewel in the crown of Italian manufacturing.
Giuseppe Bono has been at Fincantieri for 20 years. He joined the company in 2002 and has spent 50 years overall in the public sector. He shared about his huge experience. Shipbuilding is certainly an unusual industry because of the difficulty in foreseeing availability of many components which are built by third parties and also because construction work often starts before the ship’s final plans have been drawn up. An unusual sector dominated by a small group of large producers, where today the challenge is combining creativity, efficiency and sustainability. Fincantieri pursues these goals with ambition, firmly believing that there are no statically “mature” products or markets, but rather products and processes that are continuously refined.
Fincantieri’s history includes many turning points, for development or for crisis. In the 1990s, the company realized it could not compete with Asian players in freight shipbuilding, so it focused on cruise liners. At the beginning of the 21st century, the European Community prohibited government support to industries and at the same time the attacks on the Twin Towers caused tourism to plummet. Nevertheless, a few years later, in 2004, the company received huge orders and production spiked. This led to the decision to open a shipyard in the US, near the Great Lakes, and to dreams of going public. The 2008 financial crisis put a stop to Fincantieri’s listing ambitions, and had a devastating impact on an industry where most of the payment for an order does not take place until delivery. The restructuring plan that followed the crisis aimed at preserving employment and focused on maximum flexibility in both design and production, as well as the ability to bring in the right suppliers at the right time. This choice proved to be successful - and still is – and the company has progressively expanded both its civil and military customer portfolio. Today, Fincantieri designs and produces breakthrough frontier products that it no longer sees simply as ships, but true smart cities.
Giuseppe Bono concluded by encouraging the Executive MBA participants to work today for the next decade, since “Those who are afraid of the future simply risk not having one”, and to invest more in education because “Without culture, companies cannot last over time” and history shows that culture always ends up prevailing over technique.

SDA Bocconi School of Management

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