New CEO Orcel Calls for Discipline, Rigor in Letter to UniCredit Staff

UniCredit SpA Chief Executive Officer Andrea Orcel gave the bank’s 82,000 employees his first insight how he’ll run the Italian lender, saying his ambitious plans will be built upon “discipline and rigor.”

In his first letter to employees the new CEO -- known for his tough work ethic while head of UBS Group AG’s investment bank -- said UniCredit should become a “disruptor” that innovates and breaks down internal barriers that prevented progress. While short on specifics, Orcel also said he wants to reduce complexity and streamline the business for quicker decision-making.

New CEO Orcel Calls for Discipline, Rigor in Letter to UniCredit Staff

The 57-year-old Italian native, who has a degree in economics and commerce from the University of Rome and a master’s in business administration from Insead at Fontainebleau, near Paris, is known as a demanding hard-worker. Anecdotes within the industry abound, from his demands that subordinates log a certain number of client calls per week, to his determination to fight Banco Santander SA after it rescinded an offer to make him CEO.

“It is not without risk,” Orcel said of his plans. “It does not promise an easy life.”

Once seen as a potential successor to Sergio Ermotti to take over at UBS, Orcel took over at the helm of Italy’s No. 2 bank after spending two years out of a job over the botched move Santander. For Orcel, who had been waiting for a chance to run a top lender for years, it marks a return to the firm he helped create more than two decades ago.

“This is the culmination of my career in banking, an industry I started in at the age of 25. During this time, I have seen many aspects of the sector, both directly and through the eyes of many leaders,” Orcel said. “ Throughout, UniCredit has been ever present as a key client, so in many respects, I feel as though I am coming home.”

Beyond reducing the bank’s complexity, simplifying decision-making and adopting new technologies, Orcel faces some very specific challenges going forward. He inherits a leaner bank, but confronts challenges including pressure from the government to take over troubled lender Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA and doubts over the lender’s route to growth.

The bank will focus on areas that can generate a profitable growth and will seek paths “that are value accretive, aiming to deliver total risk-adjusted returns in excess of the bank’s cost of equity,” the CEO said. He’s set to give a strategy update in the fall.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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