Insurance Daily | March 2022     

On 17 March, Intesa Sanpaolo has introduced two top managers, a woman and a man, both 41-year-old engineers.

The woman is Claudia Vassena, former head of Buddybank, a model of “conversational banking” of UniCredit. She is going to work as Head of Sales & Marketing Digital Retail.

The man is Antonio Valitutti, former CEO of HYPE, the first challenger bank counting illimity and Banca Sella as their shareholders. He is going to work as Head of Isybank, the new digital bank of Intesa Sanpaolo.

On the front of digital banking, Intesa Sanpaolo means business. But the arrival of the two top managers, both millennial and external realities, calls for reflection.

The pandemic has hit the long- suffering “traditional” banking system. In fact, with the pandemic Italians took a step forward of at least five years in the use of digital technologies, in the relationship with their bank and more. Just consider the boom of online purchases.

All banks, be it Intesa Sanpaolo, UniCredit or BNL BNP Paribas, have designed business plans featuring investments for dozens of thousands of euros in digital technologies.

Better late than never: banks are opting for a transition from a position of defense to a position of attack, not only towards financial networks and online banks (which are like mosquito bites for an elephant), but also towards the almost 2.000 billion euros in liquid assets currently on checking accounts.

In fact, banks seem unable to take hold of the huge amount of liquid assets currently on checking accounts, while being aware that turning them into assets under management could be more profitable for them and their clients. However, the current “cost to serve” model makes this prohibitive.

The current model of service is based, with a few exceptions, on managers with little to no drive or incentives, stuck in branches flooded by an excess of procedures which make management much too complex.

In this context, the choice of attracting young talents from the outside is, to some extent, brave and certainly not predictable.

Recruiting outside talents, especially for leading positions, could seem destabilizing for the bank, for a long time a nursery of young talents, in terms of both internal and external balance: will Unicredit, which controls Buddybank, illimity and Banca Sella, shareholders of HYPE, react? And how?

The two managers must have left behind worthy heirs, but what if they didn’t?

Their absence would generate a heated competition with the aim of pursuing the best talents within Italian fintech companies and more: the banking industry would turn this way from sleeping beauty to princess, awaken from a long slumber.

Are we positive that the so-called industrial revolution, which is going to change the world as we know it today together with artificial intelligence, machine learning and algorithms, can do without human intelligence?

What came first, the chicken or the egg? Or, who came first men and women or the digital world?

The largest Italian bank has given the answer.

Nicola Ronchetti