Exclusive Talks with
Today we are in the wonderful setting of the Unione Industriali di Torino. In these rooms, which have been restored to their ancient splendour, we continue our discussion about the tradition, future and excellence of Turin companies.
I am here with Luca Milanesi and Giovanni Vitaloni.
I will start with Giovanni, whose family’s entrepreneurial tradition goes back to 1929, making him the ideal candidate to illustrate the link between roots, tradition and innovation...
GV: Yes it's true that our story began long ago in 1929, but with a significant re-emergence at the end of the 80s, when it passed from the automotive industry to the fashion sector. My father and grandfather had worked mostly on rear-view mirrors so, inevitably we were looking backwards! Then, we thought about launching ourselves forwards, and hence the move from car accessories to personal accessories. Today, our brand, which we operate on an international level, represents a company that has a strong vocation to operate in world markets; however, we are extremely tied to our roots. Indeed, it is an added value which, although sometimes intangible, has a strength that leads us to promote the values of the culture of our region and style - inimitable values that make us very attractive to our customers around the world. We see our territory as a culture, as a style to be exported. We also believe we are great ambassadors of our city.
Luca Milanesi, on the other hand, represents Unicredit - a very complex reality that has a very specific pan-European vocation for synergy between different branches of its business, but which is also an ethical and respectful vocation. Bearing in mind the nature of his business, I’d like to ask what excellence means for him.
LM: In my opinion, excellence is something of an aspiration, in the sense that my colleague and I are always striving to be better- not average, not trivial, not mediocre. Excellence is also something that needs to be recognized by your customers, it cannot be self-defined. Excellence is something that reminds me in a way of far-off studies: There was a text written in 1985 by two McKinsey consultants called 'In Search of Excellence' and even back then issues were being touched upon which have become particularly relevant again today, when we’re all talking about sustainability. At that time, there was talk of research into excellence as the prerequisite of being successful over time. Today, that text should be re-read – not because it says anything new but because more than thirty years have since passed. For us, the concept of sustainability is also based on the human factor, on people themselves, on colleagues for example. This is why I mentioned earlier the common desire to achieve excellence as a team. This is because the pandemic has taught us that we must be able to respond to the changing needs of customers. A rapidly changing environment requires distinctive creative solutions capable of satisfying customer needs that are changing over time. So excellence is a bit like our ability to combine the local and the pan-European aspects to better respond to the needs of our customers.
And now I’ll ask you both a customary question: why have you chosen to join and support such a particular network of companies as Exclusive Brands Torino?
GV: We at Vanni love associations and associative activities; we love to team up and work in networks. Nevertheless, the pandemic has led us to think more clearly at a grass roots level- not only within our sector, but also at where we’re from. Exclusive Brands Turin seemed to us to be the most courageous and strongest initiative that was closest to our tenets and our objectives in term of internationalization. So, being part of a group of companies that has common values linked to our region; one which acts as powerhouse and ambassador of the local activity, is, I believe, something beautiful and unique precisely because it is transversal. So I imagine and dream - as part of our participation in EBT - to collaborate with other companies, while using our common strength to make to communicate well about our companies, about our associative activities and to promote the beauty and quality of our local territory. I believe that participation in a regional activity is something that my company and I have lacked in the past. This is a great and original opportunity to which we want to make the maximum contribution.
Luca would you like to say?
LM: Well there are two aspects here that I would like to emphasize. The first is that Unicredit - as I said before - can certainly be a partner of this network and therefore at its service, in order to ensure that the network achieves its objectives. Therefore, in the common pursuit of excellence, Unicredit can actually provide all that is needed for associative objectives to be achieved. The aspect that perhaps interests me most is the fact that this is an opportunity for me. In reference to what has been said before, I can let’s say deal with any needs and requests. It is a kind of laboratory that allows us to be a group of friends who share a common goal. So, with the confidence that very often facilitates innovation and also creativity to a lesser extent, we are able to understand the needs of our important customers who represent, as Giovanni said, this territory with its distinctive traits of excellence – an attention towards excellence that could be scaled up a bit so as to put it in reach of all other companies as well.
Vanni eyewear has always been, ever since its inception a symbol of very exclusive research in design. So I’d like to ask in what way can a style be defined as Italian and therefore a world-beater?
GV: This is a good question because I believe that the wheels of business revolve around this very concept. ‘Made in Italy’ has also been a bit mistreated over the last 15 or 20 years. We need to truly go back to the origins of what it means to make a beautiful and well-made Italian product, as well as what it means to export an original and inimitable style. Unfortunately, the problem of counterfeiting ‘Made in Italy’ is a transversal fact in all sectors: from food to technology and fashion. However, there is one thing that cannot be imitated: genuine style, the real thing that is the result of a cultural and historical path that has led us to be what we are. We have branded all our products ‘Made in Italy’ for ten years now - a claim that goes way beyond the concept of a mere label. It is a production process above all else, which ethically certifies each steps along the way. Even if they are fashion accessories, we design and make products from raw materials sourced in Italy, which are transformed in the eyewear districts in the provinces of Belluno and Treviso. So, in the end I believe that Italian style is truly a cultural issue, an issue that is handed down from generation to generation and that cannot be copied by our competitors around the world. We must be ourselves while learning to who we are in the best possible way.
Luca Milanesi first told us two important things for Unicredit: that is, listening to customers' needs and lasting over time so as to maintain a constancy of continuous change. I think this is a very important concept, especially in a time of systemic crisis like the one we are experiencing. Can you tell us more about this?
LM: Yes, of course. An excellent question then, is what has the crisis taught us? Well, the way we do banking has changed fundamentally. It has changed substantially in two ways: The first is that banks were perhaps for the first time part of the solution to the problem; and not part of the problem. Let's remember the previous crisis where banks actually were a big part of the problem. This time we are part of the solution: we have made a very close and strong alliance with the state. We have in a way been credit protection agents for guaranteeing finance, which in some way has given the opportunity to take advantage of public support to be able, in turn, to support companies which have suffered and continue to suffer from the pandemic crisis. It is clear that credit evaluation when public money is at stake makes everything even more sensitive: it is not money that falls from the trees and is guaranteed to everyone and for everyone. We had to somehow take on a huge social responsibility in order to be able to give companies the possibility of surviving a crisis of liquidity, while at the same time also trying to evaluate in case in terms of sustainability. There are many companies in many sector that have actually benefitted from this crisis, such as food and pharmaceuticals - both sectors that have grown and have benefitted throughout the past year, going from strength to strength. We looked at both: both the companies I was talking about before: that is, those that needed the support of a bridging loan to maintain their liquidity until return to growth post- pandemic, and companies that have been successful because they have the opportunity to scale up.
I wish to thank my two guests because today they have discussed about some great ideas: of courage, of evaluating the sustainability of a project over time; as well as of becoming powerhouses for development within their own geographical area. Thank you both again. Thanks.