16 September 2020

At UniCredit’s latest Leadership Team Meeting, Jean Pierre Mustier and Carlo Ratti trade perspectives on post-Covid working, innovation and the importance of keeping an open mind

2:00 min

Carlo Ratti is an engineer, an architect and a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Since 2019, he has also been a member of UniCredit’s Transformation and Innovation Advisory Board. So, who better to join Jean Pierre Mustier for a discussion entitled ‘After Covid-19: A new reality’ at UniCredit’s Virtual Leadership Team Meeting?

Will Covid-19 mark the end of offices?

Carlo – who recently published an article about the role of the office in developing ‘weak ties’ – believes it won’t.

“I think people will go back to the office,” he said. “But it’s not going to be the same as before. For many companies, some of the flexibility we learned to appreciate during Covid will stay.”

“It won’t be revolution, but evolution. We’ll find a balance,” said Jean Pierre.

“The office is an important place for creating social bonds. This is especially true for new joiners and younger colleagues, who need to learn the culture of the bank, but in-person interaction is still important for more seasoned workers like me.”

Will the Covid-19 crisis result in permanent changes to customer behaviour?

Carlo described a crisis as “when everything changes around yourself, so you adjust yourself in response. That creates feedback loops… and data. The key thing is how you use that data to understand what is going on and respond to that as quick as possible.”

Paraphrasing Winston Churchill’s famous quote about never letting a good crisis go to waste, Jean Pierre said “the good thing about this crisis is we have our Team 23 plan, validated by the unions. We are ready to change because we planned it. But we’ll move faster: what we were planning to do in four years, we’ll now do in less than two.”

Carlo told the 550-strong LTM audience about recent Advisory Board discussions on how UniCredit can use data “to create feedback loops, to understand what is going on and respond to that as fast as possible.”

Jean Pierre gave the example of the transformation of UniCredit’s client service model. “We want to change the model so we lighten the burden on our colleagues and free them up to advise clients and focus on added-value tasks,” he said. “Normal transactions – such as payments – can be automated or done by the client.”

What about the role of innovation post-Covid?

Jean Pierre described innovation as looking for best practices and applying them to UniCredit. “In the 1980s, Japanese carmakers copied best practices from all around the world to become leaders in the automotive industry,” he said.

“We have competitors and companies in other sectors who are dealing with issues like transformation, remote contact and digitalisation. Let’s use these best practices whether they come from retail companies, insurance companies or from banks.”

Both Jean Pierre and Carlo agreed that innovation also comes being open to ideas and using the experiences of different team members.

Carlo referenced the role of diversity. “By seeing things from different angles, you find a more creative and innovative way to solve a problem,” he said, while Jean Pierre referenced UniCredit’s End 2 End rooms as an example of this at the bank.

But Carlo also sounded a cautionary note, saying “today we are exposed to many different ideas and stimuli. What becomes more and more important, is to be able to see what is a good idea and what is not.”

A message of positive change

Jean Pierre ended the discussion by reminding UniCredit’s leaders to keep an open mind. “Change can be and will be for good,” he said.

“I have been through many crises during my life as a banker and the good thing about crises is they always end. Now is a time for us to think about what to do post-crisis.”

“UniCredit has never had such a strong capital base and liquidity: we are in a strong position to think about what to do to improve the bank and to transform our business. We’ve had six months of being behind a screen, but we are going to move forward and we are going to change. It’s going to be positive for the clients and positive for our team members.”