Our first six Women in Leadership!
Tuesday 10 August 2021
For our Women in Leadership series 2021, we asked six top female executives across the Group to tell us about their career in finance, their role in UniCredit, their takeaways from the Covid-19 Pandemic and to share some motivation and advice for women pursuing a career in banking.
We really enjoyed hearing the stories of our first six interviewees who come from different countries and backgrounds and hope you will too in this summary of highlights. We will be sharing more uplifting interviews in Autumn so continue to follow our One UniCredit magazine for more food for thought.
Member of the Management Board at UniCredit Bank Austria: "I support our client companies with passion and enthusiasm."
Our first interview was to Susanne Wendler who studied business administration in Vienna and joined the bank as a trainee just over 30 years ago at Creditanstalt, one of the predecessors of UniCredit Bank Austria. Her career brought her to specialise in corporate lending leading to a promotion as head of the corporate network at UniCredit Bank Austria in 2013.
She shared thoughts on gender differences in the workplace: "Basically, I notice that a man usually says, 'I want a management job and I'll get the qualifications.' A woman, on the other hand, says 'I won't do it without qualifications.' Although both can do it equally well - one shouts louder."
Head of Multinational Corporates Germany and Deputy Head of Corporate & Investment Banking (CIB) Germany: "We can't be yesterday's expert in tomorrow's world."
Monika Rast joined Bayerische Vereinsbank, one of UniCredit's predecessors, in 1998 as a graduate trainee in the corporate banking team after an internship during her university studies. A few years later, she moved to investment banking, where new opportunities kept on coming.
The bank's ability to create tailor-made solutions for corporate clients is the reason for its strong position in the German corporate sector, she says. Her advice to women working in finance? "The most important element in shaping a career has been the same across time and genders: other people. It is crucial to cultivate the right sparring partners and mentors for advice and support, potentially even coaching."
Head of Eastern Europe and currently CEO and Chairman of the Management board of UniCredit Bulbank: "According to Google, empathy is the skill of the future."
Our third interviewee Teodora Petkova was asked for her key takeaway from the Covid-19 Pandemic and commented that 2021 "was the year I took an accelerated course in management, as well as in humanity." She joined Bulbank in 2002 as a financial analyst and grew her career across diverse roles in risk and business divisions.
She was named acting CEO of UniCredit Bulbank in 2019 and is leading what she calls a "total transformation" of the bank in terms of the speed with which it adapts to the new customer preferences and the constantly evolving technologies. What is she most proud of post-pandemic? "In 2020, payments for utilities through online banking increased by 50%. Since the beginning of 2019, our mobile banking customers have grown by over 65% and are now half a million people," she said.
COO and CIO for Central Europe and Eastern Europe: "If you don't speak up, you can't influence things."
Unlike the other Women in Leadership profiled in our series, Luba Uram started her career in IT, not in banking. She then moved into management consulting advising financial institutions on how to transform their infrastructure and joined UniCredit 10 years ago.
She is currently responsible for the shared IT infrastructure of CEE in UniCredit services and coordinates all the region's COOs, as well as being part of the team implementing the Omnichannel program in the region. Her takeaway from the pandemic? "If we invest in technology and make it work, everything is possible, no matter if our banks have years of legacy behind them or not."
Head of Region, North-East Italy: "Starting over is a chance to face the future with an open mind."
Luisella Altare's management experience in the past ten years has spanned from Head of Corporate Areas, to Commercial Areas including both Retail and Corporate Business, to Head of the Corporate Network of a Region. She is now responsible for North-East Italy, the country's industrial beating heart.
For companies in her area, she says the pandemic has triggered unparalleled digital acceleration, from the reconfiguration of production chains to the organisation of work and sustainability. Her advice for women in finance: "Never feel inadequate. Work on enriching your skills (today, an ever-growing repertoire of colours is needed). Have courage and pursue your goals with tenacity."
Senior Banker and Deputy Head of UniCredit's Paris branch: "There are a lot of opportunities and women should not be shy to grab them."
Our sixth interview was to Laurence Frassient-Dubois who joined UniCredit in Paris a decade ago, during what she calls "almost a start-up" period as it re-opened to serve corporate clients. This is something she excels at, having worked with major French and international clients during a professional career that includes BNPP, Deutsche Bank and Barclays Capital.
Her experience with large corporates was crucial during the pandemic, which she defined as "an extraordinary opportunity for us to show our core corporate clients how we could support them in a challenging environment with additional liquidity lines to mitigate the impact of COVID-19". Laurence has been France Deputy Country Head for three years and will take over as Country Head in September.