Can you introduce yourself in a ‘Twitter-style' couple of lines?
I’m an ICCREA manager who works for a new model of credit cooperative system in Italy, that focuses on local needs as well as having an international approach using innovative instruments and methods.
You attended your first Unico Board meeting in Washington earlier this year. What were your impressions?
It was a very interesting and animated meeting. The discussion held in Washington mainly focused on the future of Unico Banking Group. Improving the effectiveness of the Unico working model and strengthening the impact of Unico activities on member banks' competitiveness and efficiency is the prior objective the association would like to achieve in the coming years. Getting started with Unico at this meeting with such a strategic agenda was a very stimulating experience. I had the impression that Unico is a very important place where main European cooperative banking groups can learn from each other.
In October, Iccrea Banca became the parent company of the Iccrea Banking Group and the reverse merger with Iccrea Holding was formalised. Can you elaborate on this?
The reverse merger between Iccrea Holding and Iccrea Banca is coherent with our 2016-2018 strategic plan, which is strongly focused on simplifying the corporate architecture of the Group for purposes of greater efficiency and ability to respond to the changing requirements of the market. The operation carried out, furthermore, ensures the operational continuity and recognition of Iccrea Banca on the national and international markets.
In the very changing European banking landscape, how do you see the future of co-operative banks in Europe?
The cooperative banks need to focus on two directions that, in some ways, need to be integrated. On the one hand, it’s fundamental to be innovative and follow the developments of new markets, in terms of technical resources and strategic ways to involve customers and partners. On the other hand, European cooperative banks have to cooperate and work together: this is the best way to boost forces and resources for continuing to improve our services to local banks.
Iccrea joined the Unico Banking Group in 1992. What are the benefits of Unico for Iccrea ?
Iccrea exploits its membership in Unico in several and different aspects. First of all Unico represents for us a 'cultural enhancement'. Attending Unico governing bodies meetings helps Iccrea to receive important information about what is going on in other European countries from a political, regulatory and strategic point of view. Such information is essential for foreseeing future trends that could also affect our national banking industry and prevent eventual negative effects that could impact our business.
Secondly Unico grants Iccrea with the opportunity to progress through 'training and exchanging experiences'. Meeting other cooperative banking groups allows Iccrea to compare its strategy, its products and its working mode with the European benchmarks. Some initiatives, such as the Learning Expedition that Unico has been promoting in the last few years represent a very important tool for supporting this specific goal.
Last but not least, Unico is useful for 'doing business together'. Unico allows member banks to launch common operational initiatives and to develop joint banking operations that can turn into new business and higher visibility.
What are for you the most significant opportunities that the Unico banks could take together over the next few years?
Corporate governance, internal organisation, individual interests and national reference markets differ quite a lot among Unico member banks. Discussions at Unico meetings frequently highlight this point. Nevertheless, all Unico banks have to cope with the same challenges related to the rapid changes in infrastructure and new trends in the international financial markets. Working together in Unico represents an incomparable opportunity for cooperative banking groups to optimise investments aimed at dealing with such changes but also for being more powerful and influential on national and international markets as well as on the European regulatory institutions. There are plenty of business areas and sectors where Unico banks could join forces to achieve better economic results. I think, for example, the management of the PSD2 effects, the Capital Markets Union or in the field of international trade finance. European banks could also join together to emphasise their cooperative nature, unlike traditional banks, especially at this time when the trend is to standardise every business and social sector.
Finally, it is worth to be reminded that some Unico member banks are competitors in the market. It is anyway essential to consider that cooperation - at least in some specific sectors - always brings a better solution for all players.