Andrea Sironi, president of Generali
Geopolitical is back. perhaps the phrase you hear most often in companies and institutions. Today risk management, which is potentially measurable, unlike uncertainty, seems to be one of those essential skills in economics and beyond. perhaps also for this reason that in one of the most prestigious financial institutions in Italy and in the world, Generali, the presidency has been entrusted to Andrea Sironi for just over a year. Reserved and shy, born in 1964, he conducted his activity as a scholar in the field of financial markets between abroad and Italy (at Bocconi where he is also president today). His is one of the decisive points of view and observation to understand how to move in a world that seems dazzled by many, too many, crisis points. And it is no coincidence that as soon as the word Europe is pronounced, the analysis of him starts from his strengths. As you should always do in complex transitions. Let me remind you of the importance and value of the European Union which in recent years has led to important achievements that we often forget. Today, Europe needs a common economic vision, with rules that make it competitive on the markets. It is necessary to continue on the path of integration, completing the Banking Union as well as the Capital Market Union. And I think it is also important to start a European Insurance Union project, to be implemented gradually over the next few years. We must avoid creating a general climate of mistrust towards the future.
The fact is that governments do nothing but continue to ask Europe as if it were something different from themselves.
The impression is that the gap between people’s reasonable expectations and the ability of the ruling classes to realize them is widening. On the economic front, such a complex geopolitical scenario has generated an increase in uncertainty, with a consequent increase in risk premiums in the capital markets and a parallel phenomenon of flight to quality: the most fragile subjects, with a lower credit rating, could be penalised.
You too could do something, Generali is the largest operator in the sector in Europe.
At this moment there is a protection gap, or a need for protection in the face of risks such as natural disasters and pandemics, which have become systemic and difficult to manage by a single state or company. This is why we support the importance of collaboration between the European Union and insurance companies.
A public and private pact.
Our CEO Philippe Donnet first promoted the idea of tackling these great challenges with a public-private partnership. Today this approach is also maturing in the dialogue with the European institutions. We need to work in this direction.
You also have a lot of money in your belly…
The insurance sector manages assets worth 11 trillion euros. Part of these resources could be invested in long-term projects, without any real risk to financial stability.
And this even with inflation biting the economy, families and businesses?
knowing how to manage complex scenarios is in our DNA and recent financial results demonstrate this. Generali has a very solid capital position, at the top of the sector and today is the company with the best rating in the country.
Difficult to hide behind a finger. The last meeting elected a new, profoundly renewed board of directors, of which you are the president. But the tensions in the shareholder structure remain a fact. An important partner like Caltagirone has made them explicit, and the group headed by the Del Vecchio family has also made comments. We had an idea and we saw an example of it with the Mediobanca meeting…
I don’t enter into relations between shareholders. I talk to all of them, that’s right. Both with the major international investors and with the Italian ones. But the governance is clear: there is a board of directors, elected by the assembly, which does its job and is responsible for strategic and corporate choices.
Don’t say that once again it is the newspapers that are portraying a situation, if not of conflict, at least of frank confrontation…
Look, Generali has an extremely widespread capital, where Italian retail accounts for 22 percent of the capital: we are talking about over 170 thousand families to whom we distribute 300 million euros in dividends every year. Such a large company must pursue the long-term interests of all stakeholders.
So everything’s fine in the council?
I am very satisfied, we have a very positive board dialogue. In this first year and a half, a climate of respect and constructive collaboration has developed. A board works well when that combination of collaboration and challenge to management’s proposals prevails, but not conflict, and when there is harmony between the CEO and the rest of the board.
Also on acquisitions?
Of course, the board has heartily supported the recent acquisitions of Liberty Seguros and Conning. Our board is made up of over 75% of independent directors, who also represent all the presidents of the board committees, 46% of women and is characterized by a lower average age than the previous ones. Beyond these objective facts, I am very proud to be able to lead a board made up of personalities of great standing and competence, with very different backgrounds and experiences.
He cannot deny that there were disagreements on the board of directors’ list.
Let’s take a step back. We are a country that needs to attract investments. The Capital Bill was born from there, and the government did well to present it, because it contains measures aimed at encouraging the listing of companies on the stock exchange, especially family-run ones. During the parliamentary discussion, proposals emerged that were highly restrictive of the outgoing board’s ability to present candidacies for the new board. Italy needs to remain aligned with best practices international. Allowing the outgoing board to work transparently on succession by making proposals to the meeting is the norm in large listed companies around the world, not just in the United States. Why should Italy, and only Italy, go in the opposite direction?
But Parliament may decide differently…
I hope that at the end of the legislative process started with the Capital Bill, cumbersome formulas of dubious transparency will be avoided. As regards the increased vote, I believe it can be a useful tool in certain cases as long as it is introduced before the listing or if the shareholders decide it at the meeting.
Transparency for transparency, in addition to being president of Generali, he is also president of Bocconi University and of the Airc Foundation for cancer research. Three commitments of no small importance.
Yes, I am very busy but I also consider myself very lucky. I can offer my contribution to three different but linked excellences of our country: investments in research, training, protection and development. In addition to Generali with its strong international projection, Bocconi is my home, the university I love, where I grew up; Leading an institution at the forefront of European social science education and research is a privilege. Airc is the largest private center for financing independent oncology research in our country. It supports more than 6 thousand scientists and is based on the work of over 20 thousand volunteers. I am one of them, and I would not be here today if it were not for advances in medical research.
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Nov 19, 2023
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