There are differences in cultures, but deep down everybody wants the same thing

Paolo Vivona learnt how to read Chinese and how to run the Japanese way.  


Paolo Vivona is CRO & Deputy CEO, CIB Bank in Budapest. Originally from Milan, he has worked in China, Japan, Egypt and Albania.

What have you learnt from your international experience?

I don’t believe people are different, fundamentally. Working methods in Japan, China, Hong Kong, Albania, Egypt are the same. Part of my job is exporting working processes and people like to say: “That won’t work in this country”. Yes, there are differences in cultures, the local environment is different, but deep down everybody wants the same thing.

To be a good negotiator you have
to bring value to both parties,
whoever they are and wherever they are from.

The fact that I experienced at least three mergers with other banks has opened up new doors to me and given me the chance to learn more and reach higher career levels. I think this is very important and I’m grateful to all these mergers, even though at times it wasn’t easy, especially when you have your family to move from one country to another, at a short notice. But this has given me the chance to be stronger and act faster.


Another peculiarity is related to the environment. I worked abroad in a branch network (ISP branches) and in local banks operating abroad. Completely different experience. I would say the second one was much more rewarding.

What is your best experience to date?

I worked twice in China; the first time was in Beijing in the early 1990s, when there were still more bicycles than cars. There was no Starbucks! I have beautiful memories from that time.


After 10 years I worked in Tsing Tao – a lovely coastal city famous for its beer.

I committed to learning and using the Chinese language and learnt 1,500 ideograms.
I started to appreciate Chinese culture even more from doing this.

For me that was such a great experience.

How has international experience helped to you grow personally and professionally?

In December 2005, there was a plan to post me to London, which I was excited about. But circumstances changed and I stayed in Japan. The following eight months provided an usual opportunity – a space to consider my life. I had some spare time, for the first time in my life. You start to ask yourself many questions – during your career this can happen.


I started to run. My aim was to run for not more than half an hour each day. I reached that goal and then joined a running team.

Being in Japan was great because when the Japanese turn their attention to something they do it very well.

I started to appreciate Japanese culture. After eight months I lost 15 kilos, I ran all over Japan and I learnt a lot from that experience, professionally and for life experience.


I learnt from the Japanese that running is a dedication and requires mental strength.

I started to incorporate this into my way of living generally. I ran marathons in Seoul, Hong Kong and 100k in Egypt.
Where would you like to be in your career in five years?

I’m not used to planning my life so far ahead. I don’t know where I will be in two years’ time. But I do know that I always want to do something different. What keeps me alive and motivated is to not do the same things all the time, or if I am going to do the same things, to do them in a better way – something I learnt from my time in Japan.

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