I am incredibly proud to be appointed CEO of UniCredit. 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. Throughout, UniCredit has been ever present as a key client. So in many respects, I feel as though I am coming home.
I took this role because banks are exciting, dynamic and empowering environments in which to work. They are challenging and, as CEO, they come with a huge personal responsibility to shape and steer them along the right path. I know UniCredit will be no exception.
I took it also because I believe that banks have a central role to play in any functioning society. We collectively and individually have a duty to do more than simply enhance a client's experience. We exist to empower and enable communities, allowing customers to achieve, prosper and lead the lives they want to lead.
Banks do so much more than keep the wheels of society turning. They provide opportunities. They allow the young student to continue his education beyond high school. They allow a young family to buy their first home. They allow the promising entrepreneur to have an idea and build her company from the ground up.
We should all be proud to work for an institution that can have such a positive impact on so many aspects of a person's or a family's life.
Yet, at some point, our industry may have lost some of its bearings. We have become complacent and have, in some ways, taken our position for granted. It is now our responsibility to prove our worth to all once again.
So, as we at UniCredit look at the future, I want us to put the attainment of excellence with honour at the centre of all our decisions and all of our actions. I want us to remember why we exist, not only to provide customers with what we believe they need, but to ask how we can help them and then find the best and the right way to do it.
If we do this, if we do it in the right way with purpose, with passion and with integrity, not only will we return this venerable institution to its rightful place within the industry and amongst the communities that it serves, but we will also remind everyone of our capacity as an industry to lift people up and help them be all they want to be.
But to realise this ambition, change will be necessary, and with some urgency.
When we look at disruptors in any field, we see that what defines them is their ability to push the boundaries, see things differently and take difficult decisions that others were simply not willing to take.
I want us to be a disruptor in our field. I want us to create a bank that doesn't stay in its lane, but seeks out innovation. A bank that challenges expectations and then exceeds them. This requires a change in mindset and an ability to believe that what was once thought impossible is now possible.
I have already heard from many of you that the obstacles you face in your daily operations can make real progress feel unobtainable. We are going to reduce these obstacles together, one by one.
We are going to focus on reducing complexity, simplifying the way we make decisions and work together. We need to streamline our business so that we can operate faster and with greater clarity, so that we deliver successfully for all stakeholders. That's an ambition that many aspire to but very few really achieve. I believe we will be one of the very few exceptions.
We need to increase our pace of digitalisation and adoption of new technologies. Technology will no longer be an afterthought. It will be as integral to the way we do business as the talent we hire and the capital we deploy. It will be embedded in everything we do, central to every decision we make and every strategic choice that we take. Getting this right in a time frame that will have a material impact is critical to the success of our business, for the service that we provide for our clients and for our customers.
I will commit to empowering you so that you have the means to compete successfully in your local markets... reclaiming your place as a champion within the communities you serve. I will ask you to put our clients at the centre of all that you do. They want us to do well and we owe it to them to repay that trust and loyalty.
To our shareholders, our message is one of profitable growth... in a sustainable way that is principled, that is focused on the appropriate areas and in ways that are value accretive, aiming to deliver total risk-adjusted returns in excess of our cost of equity.
This ambitious programme will be built upon a foundation of discipline and rigour. It is not without risk. It does not promise an easy life. It may not all work in the way we want or expect first time around. There is no shame in that. If we want people to think differently, to explore new and better ways of doing old things, to set ourselves apart, then it is the course we must chart. I want us to be ambitious, to change and to try... risking failure where necessary, taking accountability for it, learning and managing such failures to become better and stronger people. A better and a stronger bank.
Ours will not be an easy road ahead. I know full well that periods of change are unsettling. But rest assured that every decision I make will be designed to deliver excellence with honour. It will be based on the simple question: is it the right thing? And is it the right thing done in the right way? And every difficult step I ask you to take, I will walk with you. This is the right and only path possible for this business.
I will be open and transparent. I will find ways to engage and to listen. I will ask you to challenge and provide solutions and I will share our plans as we reach conclusions.
If you're able to trust me in this as I put my trust in you, if we are able to work in partnership with a shared determination and an equal commitment to deliver real, tangible results, then there is no doubt in my mind that UniCredit has the resources, the resilience and, above all, the talent to propel us forward.
This is the bank I want to build. You are the people that I want to build it with. This is the culture I want us to create together.