Since becoming head of Intesa Sanpaolo’s International Subsidiary Banks Division (ISBD) at the start of 2019, Paola Angeletti has been on the move.
With 7.3 million customers, 22,000 employees and 1,100 branches across 12 countries, the ISBD – encompassing the group’s commercial banking operations in Central and Eastern Europe and North Africa – is geographically diverse as well as financially important. ISBD represents 10-15 per cent of Intesa Sanpaolo’s overall business, with a net income of €650 million in 2018.
Angeletti has visited each of the 12 countries. “Spending time in the countries, physically meeting our teams is so important,” she says of her efforts to build both a strategic group overview and an in-depth understanding of each bank, as well as to target growth opportunities.
Angeletti is keen to look at these on a global scale and is particularly excited by projects in development in China.
The group’s wealth-management company, Yi Tsai (meaning Italian talent), the first wholly-owned foreign company in the sector in China, is successfully building its business beyond the port city of Qingdao on the country’s east coast.
“This is a key project for us. We are looking much wider with it and we are developing the business within our division,” she says.
A memorandum of understanding signed on March 23 in Rome between the City of Qingdao and Intesa Sanpaolo, in the presence of China’s President Xi Jinping, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Carlo Messina, Intesa Sanpaolo’s CEO, was “a very important moment”.
Yi Tsai will develop wealth-management services for high net-worth clients and begin selling financial products in the near future.
“This shows China’s interest in opening the financial market,” says Angeletti. “The Chinese will be looking very closely at these developments. I look forward to seeing how fast it will grow.”
“This is a hugely fertile and exciting environment in which to stimulate growth”
Building relationships – central to Intesa Sanpaolo’s group philosophy – will be key to this growth. “Of course, we can do so much digitally, but banking is a people business, about strong and productive relationships. Our visits, meetings, exchanges and secondments will all be ongoing,” she says of the ISBD.
It is, she says enthusiastically, “a melting pot” – the individual character of each bank contributing to a whole far greater than the sum of its parts. “We have a balance of local insight and group experience. This is a hugely fertile and exciting environment in which to stimulate growth.
“These are countries with different languages, different cultures and religions. The financial markets, economic development, GDP per capita are all specific,” she says. Levels of digital maturity vary widely. “The countries are different to Italy and different to each other, even when they are close geographically.”
Angeletti’s challenge is to respect context while maximising the leverage of Intesa Sanpaolo’s wider group capabilities.
It is one for which previous experience serves her well. Having begun her career in a consultancy firm before moving to a UK investment bank, she joined the group in the mid-1990s.
She worked in advisory and corporate finance before moving into governance. In 2015, Angeletti was appointed head of mergers and acquisitions and subsequently also of shareholdings.
Her diverse experience, she reflects, “has been important in increasing my managerial capabilities for this role”. She points to her responsibility for the execution of the 2017 acquisition of the bulk of the banking activities from Banca Popolare di Vicenza and Veneto Banca when in compulsory administrative liquidation.
Strategy for the ISBD will build on work to implement the group’s 2018-21 business plan. Core priorities include the development and convergence of IT systems and operations across the banks, the enhancement and integration of the service model and continuing digital evolution.
Angeletti is interested in meaningful innovation to benefit the banks, their clients and the group. “Digital may be a trendy word, but this is necessary work that can’t be done overnight.”
Investment and capital expenditure are, she points out, a limited resource. “We make the investment once, maximising the return by developing a digital platform which we can deploy into the other countries, adapted to suit their circumstances, step by step.”
Digital transformation cannot be implemented in a silo and Angeletti is proud of the DigiCal project – recognising the indivisibility of digital and physical development. “It is this which will maximise the impact of our network for our customers,” she says.
Clients will have access to a growing range of products through a choice of integrated communication channels. This will allow seamless movement between online and branch purchases for customers.
A sense of cohesion is supported by the Adopting Group Distribution Model (AGDM) project being initially implemented in five subsidiaries. This will look at both processes and layout. “If you go into one of our branches in Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia or Serbia, you should feel at home. Building shared culture and standards will help us build on best practice and grow in the future.”
For corporate clients, Angeletti is building the network of senior corporate bankers working across the division in support of local colleagues in each of the subsidiaries. Also, the development of global transaction banking services within the banks of the division is supporting the needs of both multinational clients and domestic corporates with international commercial activities.
Angeletti’s aim for all of ISBD’s clients is a simple one. “We are here to stay and to provide a best-in-class service, in every country.”
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