A partnership of equals

Giovanni Bazoli explains how by combining forces, the two banks achieved impressive scale

Alastair Smart


Giovanni Bazoli is an Italian financier who, as chairman of Banca Intesa, was one of the architects of its 2007 merger with Gruppo Sanpaolo IMI to form Intesa Sanpaolo. He is now president emeritus of Intesa Sanpaolo, as well as chairman of Fondazione Giorgio Cini

Romano Prodi, Italy’s prime minister at the time of the merger, called it “a really great moment”. Do you agree?

Absolutely. The results were extraordinarily positive for both sides. Overnight, Banca Intesa and Sanpaolo IMI moved from two businesses with a very Italian presence to one business with a more international one. Before the merger, our respective markets extended no further than Italy and a little in Central and Eastern Europe. After it, we’d created a bank with a market capitalisation comfortably inside Europe’s top 10. Now, a decade after the merger, it’s among the best.

The results were extraordinarily positive for both sides
Giovanni Bazoli, president emeritus of Intesa Sanpaolo

How important was the fact that this was a partnership of equals rather than a takeover?

Very important. Both parties were conscious throughout that this wouldn’t be a case of one winner and one loser. It was a case of two winners. To give some idea of how equal we were, remember that Intesa had about 3,120 branches in Italy at that time, Sanpaolo around 3,200. The atmosphere was very much one of collaboration.

You say the merger was mutually advantageous. Can you give a specific example or two?

There were all sorts of synergies when Intesa Sanpaolo came into being; in corporate and investment banking, and particularly in money management. From our point of view at Banca Intesa, for example – without much of an asset-management portfolio to speak of – the merger allowed us to sell Sanpaolo’s asset-management products through our branch network.

The prime concern for myself and my counterparts at Sanpaolo IMI was what was best for our respective banks and our shareholders.
Giovanni Bazoli
The merger was hailed in many quarters as a big step towards the modernisation of Italian banking. How conscious were you of that?

We were conscious we were creating Italy’s largest retail bank. Indeed, our aim was for Intesa Sanpaolo to be a source of strength for the nation’s economy. Mario Draghi had just been appointed governor of the Bank of Italy, and the merger matched his ambition for Italian banks to undertake domestic consolidation and/or open up to foreign investment. Our overriding objective, though, wasn’t to transform the banking industry in Italy or give it a seat at Europe’s top table alongside the British, French and others. The prime concern for myself and my counterparts at Sanpaolo IMI was what was best for our respective banks and our shareholders.

Related stories.