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Dieter Rampl: "UniCredit remains an independent bank", interview of Chairman of UniCredit Group to German Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

29.09.2010

Dieter Rampl has to find a new way for the bank group, which Munich-based HVB is part of as well. He will only act as executive temporarily. However, he intends to maintain the independence.

Mister Rampl, why did UniCredit CEO Alessandro Profumo have to leave?

Following 15 years at the top of the company, a point has been reached where a change has become necessary. Therefore, Mr Profumo and the governing board have together decided that it is time for a new start.

Were personal disagreements between you as Chairman and Mr Profumo a reason for the resignation?

There was no struggle for power between Mr Profumo and me. Yesterday’s decision only concerned the interests of the bank, our employees and customers.

Formerly, the two of you were considered to be best friends when it came to bringing the merger between UniCredit and Hypo-Vereinsbank to live. What was the situation like recently?

Mr Profumo was my partner for the merger between UniCredit and Hypo-Vereinsbank. We had the same idea of a European bank, strong in European core markets and growing in Eastern Europe. We worked together well and achieved a lot together. Therefore, the decision was even more difficult for me, personally. However, when it comes to the future of the bank, relations between persons have to rank second.

How can Mr Profumo’s term of office be summarized?

Mr Profumo managed the bank very well and successfully, from a medium-sized Italian bank to an important player on a national level and then to a large international bank. This development is also reflected in the value on the stock exchange: In the beginning, Credito Italiano was worth a sum equivalent to EUR1.5bn, today the market capitalisation of UniCredit amounts to about EUR40bn.

In Italy, media report that the increase of the Libyan stake in UniCredit to more than 7 percent caused the resignation of Mr Profumo, as if Mr Profumo had brought external allies into the bank without informing the other persons concerned. Is this explanation true?

The Libya case was not decisive for the decision of the governing board. There is no connection between Mr Profumo’s resignation and the stake of the Libyans. Reports about an alleged takeover bid of Libya are complete nonsense. The conflict regarding the Libyan stake, which was described by rumours, did not concern the stake as such but the ways and methods, everything described by the keyword “corporate governance.”

According to other theories, the savings bank foundations of Northern Italy, important shareholders of UniCredit, were not satisfied with Mr Profumo. Will it now be more easy for the foundations to make their rather regional or provincial interests count within UniCredit?

UniCredit is a modern and international bank. We have always known how to make the interests of the bank a priority. We intend to and will continue on this path. I guarantee that.

However, regional Italian party Lega Nord has declared its objective of influencing banks on all levels. Now, the Lega Nord is forming the governments in Veneto and Piedmont and has more influence on the foundations. Your shareholders. Can this strategy be successful?

Not at all at UniCredit. The governing board has not changed, neither have the majorities. And the basic strategy of the bank will also remain the same.

There was wide agreement concerning the change at the top on the governing board. Is there now a risk of conflicting interests between shareholders and on the governing board, for example, if Northern Italian foundations intend to make their interests count more?

This governing board has been elected until 2012. There will not be any changes.

Italian media are reporting comprehensively that an internal division on the governing board and a lot of intervention by Italian politicians have to be expected.

This is speculation. Everyone is trying to say something about it. As long as I sit here, it will be my objective to prevent influence on the bank. In this regard, I will keep up the principles which were also important to Mr Profumo.

Do you have support for this approach?

The governing board is of the same opinion. The independence of the bank has been and is being protected not only by the management but also by the governing board of UniCredit. Not only the foundations, but also top managers from abroad, entrepreneurs as private Italian shareholders as well as independent experts are represented.

With large changes in the Italian business and financial world, it is common to inform politicians as well as the governor of the central bank. Did you discuss it ahead of the unexpected resignation of Mr Profumo?

The decision to accept the application for resignation by Mr Profumo was made by the governing board, without external parties exerting influence. Of course, I informed the relevant institutions afterwards.

When will a successor of Mr Profumo be appointed?

I have the task of finding a successor within a short time frame. There are various possible internal and external candidates. I will find the best solution for the bank and suggest a respective successor to the governing board. Everything you hear about that in the media is speculation and nothing more.

What is your statement concerning Italian worries that you might become Mr Profumo’s successor?

I am not interested in becoming the chief executive of this bank at all. I will only manage the bank together with the management for a transitional period until the new CEO has been appointed.

How Italian is the bank group UniCredit and how Italian will it be in the future?

We are neither an Italian, nor a German bank, but an international bank. Only 45 percent of business is carried out in Italy, the rest takes place in other countries. We are a European bank with Italy, Germany and Austria as core markets and large growth opportunities in the Eastern European countries.

From an Italian point of view, Germans are over-represented on the governing board at the moment. In the course of the merger between UniCredit and Hypo-Vereinsbank, a German presence on the governing board was agreed on. However, the German presence among shareholders has declined. Is that compatible?

With me, there are three German representatives on the governing board. Furthermore, the association of Italian asset managers has appointed Theo Waigel as its representative. It is true that Munich Re has abandoned the circle of shareholders and only Allianz belongs to the major shareholders of UniCredit. However, this does not have consequences for the composition of our governing board.

How did UniCredit navigate through the financial crisis successfully?

We did not record a single quarter with losses, because we had not invested in subprimes or outside of Europe. We have overcome the crisis without government aid. Being a good European commercial bank, we invested in our customer business in the domestic markets. Nevertheless, we suffered as well, because the financial crisis became an economic crisis…

However, the crisis revealed that UniCredit needed more equity capital.

Ahead of the beginning of the financial crisis, we were not the bank with the best level of equity capital. However, we were formerly able to strengthen the equity capital basis continuously thanks to profits. When the crisis came, this was no longer possible, which is why we asked the shareholders for capital twice. Thereby, our core capital ratio increased from 5.8 to 8.4 percent.

Has the temptation of speculation returned, now that the markets are recovering?

We do not gamble with the money of the bank. The instruments of investment banking are used for our customers, but not for our own profit.

Does UniCredit therefore have to be content with lower earnings?

We have to improve our yield strength in a sustainable way and are doing so. At the same time, we, and all banks, have to give up former levels of yields and get used to new levels.

In Italy, local politicians demand more generosity in the granting of loans, in order to ensure the survival of small enterprises. Will you answer to these requirements?

We have to be careful with the money of our investors and are only allowed to grant loans following an assessment of risks. Of course, we still accompany small and medium-sized enterprises in their investments.

How do you assess the development of the Italian banking world, where savings bank foundations and savings bank corporations were created and regional savings banks were finally incorporated into large bank groups like UniCredit?

Italy has made a huge step forward with the privatisation of its savings bank structures. This has not taken place in Germany.

NOTE

Ukrsotsbank is one of the largest universal banks of Ukraine, operating in the local market since 1990. The bank offers full range of services to individuals and corporate clients.

The renovated Ukrsotsbank emerged on 31 October 2016 as a result of strategic deal whereby 99.9% of Ukrsotsbank shares have been transferred from UniCredit Group to ABH Holdings S.A. (АВНН) in exchange for a minority 9.9% stake in ABHH. Thus, the bank has combined 26-year-old traditions of Ukrsotsbank’s client-centric attitude, European quality of service inherent to UniCredit, as well as international banking expertise of ABHH in a number of European countries including CIS. Thanks to the successful synthesis and synergy of the two assets of ABHH in Ukraine, Ukrsotsbank and Alfa-Bank, the banking market of Ukraine will see the rise of a new stronger financial institution. This, in turn, will spur up technological advance, increase efficiency, improve quality of service for the clients, reduce cost of banking services whereas their range will inevitably expand.

The extensive retail network of Ukrsotsbank consists of 237 branches, its headcount reaching nearly 5 thousand employees.


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