Only the brave

Erik F Nielsen is Global Chief Economist of Unicredit, one of continental Europe’s leading banks. Prior to that, he had been Chief European Economist at Goldman Sachs, for several years. That was the job he held when I first met him, in 2011.

I have always admired Erik’s ability to see through the fog, his being brave in his well-rooted capacity to read people and their behaviour.

For a second, let’s go back to the situation in Europe a year ago. On 10 October 2011, Moody’s and Fitch had cut Italy’s rating heavily (Moody’s by three notches to A plus – yet higher than today’s…). Erik pointed this out, but then clearly argued:

“But sometimes the market gets it all wrong, as is the case now.”

Hence, his argument continued, Italy’s debt was a much safer bet than others, such as the UK’s triple A. Italy would get things done and make it.

Erik gave me the occasion for my first tweet ever, on that very day:

Almost a year (and many hundred tweets) later, Professor Monti, Italy’s Prime Minister, could speak at the Council on Foreign Relations, on 27 September, pointing out that

…by the way, Italy will have next year a balanced budget in structural terms,… And we will be one of the first two, hopefully, EU member states to have reached that… very demanding objective, which implies, to give you an idea, that given the huge stock of debt, we will have and we are having year after year some 5 percent of GDP primary surplus.

Only the brave (as Erik Nielsen, Professor Monti and, luckily, many others with them) could have seen all this, a year or so ago.

I will finish with another tweet and a little hope, again from Professor Monti’s speech at the Council on Foreign Relations:

Seven more years of Monti’s leadership, as seven years is the mandate that the Italian Parliament will award to our next President of the Italian Republic.

Only the brave…

Tommaso Arenare

Italy, #diverseboards and a reason for hope

It seemed just too difficult, too corageous and brave. A work of so many years. So many “no’s”, so many “it’s impossible”…

Finally, Italy did it and set a good example.

Italy’s law on gender diversity for Board of Directors of listed companies (Law n. 120/2011, dated 12 July 2011, the so-called “Golfo Mosca Law”), comes into force tomorrow, 12 August 2012.

Starting tomorrow, in essence, Italian listed or State controlled companies will need to appoint a fifth (to become a third at the following mandate) of board members as part of the “under represented gender”.

Even before tomorrow, this law has been implemented earlier by a number of Italian corporates, during the Annual General Meeting season of 2012: exceptional women were selected, overall corporate governance improved. Italian companies have rightly taken it as a great opportunity to make better use of their Boards, on the basis of more merit and competency-based selection.

I have separately described this as a great sign of good things coming and more to come.

Here, I want to take a moment to celebrate the coming into force of this law as a reason for hope.

With this, I celebrate the work of Lella Golfo and Alessia Mosca, two outstanding ladies whose own differences were turned into a joint strength. With them, I celebrate all the very many exceptional female leaders, whose talent is already making a difference for the better in Italy and in Europe.

Tommaso Arenare

www.twitter.com/tommaso_arenare