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Dieter Rampl, Chairman of UniCredit Group: “With so many rumours swirling around UniCredit, the Bank needed a new leader”, interview to Italian Corriere della Sera

29.09.2010

"Alessandro Profumo has made UniCredit an important bank. We are an international, pan-European bank thanks to his huge efforts. It's not easy to part ways. But a change of leadership was needed. Our strategies are not changing. And within a few weeks we'll have a new leader at the top who will be the right person for a major bank like UniCredit."

Dieter Rampl just appeared on the Bank's intranet TV, which is broadcastto all 22 countries where UniCredit is present.

Busy with operational issues as the new interim CEO, Rampl appeared with the former "Profumo boys", the deputy chief executive officers Roberto Nicastro, Paolo Fiorentino, Federico Ghizzoni and Sergio Ermotti.

Though he may not be getting much sleep lately, Rampl decided to make it clear, despite the long board meeting that ultimately gave a vote of no confidence to the CEO who has guided the Group

over the past 15 years, that the stability, continuity and independence of the bank are not at risk.

It is a clear message for the bank's 165,000 employees, who have had to face a a barrage of rumours and speculation that were threatening to paralyse the bank.

To many people it looked like Profumo was hounded out in the end.

"No. That was not the case. The decision taken yesterday by the Board of Directors was not "against" anyone. It was a decision "for" the Bank.

The Board came to the conclusion that, after 15 years, the time was right for a change of leadership."

But it all seemed to happen too fast...

"On the contrary. It was important to act quickly to reduce the damage that the rumour and speculation were causing to the company and to employees. The erupting volcano was put out."

But a successor hasn't been named. Isn't this unusual?

"Yes, normally a successor would be appointed immediately.

But there was too much speculation. Too many tales were being spun to allow a bank that is so rooted both in Italy and internationally to continue to be the subject of such rumours."

How long then will UniCredit remain without a CEO?

"As short a time as possible. It will be a matter of weeks at most. Don't think for a moment that it's not in my interest to move forward as quickly as possible."

Do you have an idea of what kind of candidate you're looking for? It certainly won't be easy to replace Alessandro Profumo.

"I can say this much, that both internal and external candidates will be screened."

I'd like to back it up a bit by saying that just six months ago you were defending Profumo from the Italian banking foundations that wanted his head. What has changed in the meantime?

"Over the course of time there was an accumulation of differences that proved to be irreconcilable."

Regarding what?

"I agreed to confidentiality on this matter, and I intend to respect that."

But you spoke to employees about differing views on governance.

"Yes, that's right. I don't deny that."

So there were some differences between your vision and Profumo's?

"No. It's not a personal issue. The Board of Directors made the decision."

That's a huge decision to take after 15 years in which Alessandro Profumo turned UniCredit into a major bank that has never stopped growing.

"Neither me nor anyone else denies that Profumo was able to write an important chapter in the Bank's history. He turned UniCredit into a European bank while maintaining its Italian roots. As long as I work here, this model will not change. UniCredit is an international, independent bank."

But politics certainly played a role. All you have to do is read the statements released over the past few days.

"Words are one thing, but it's another thing to have influence over the decisions. We have a board that is composed of 23 persons who come from major national and international settings, from Italian foundations to groups such as Allianz and companies such as Daimler *.

If you will allow me to boast a bit, all this gives our board one of the highest standings in Italy and Europe.

Anyone who thinks that politics plays a part in our decision-making is wrong."

The head of Italy's Lega party, Umberto Bossi, said he was concerned that the bank could fall prey to the Germans.

"Maybe not many people know this, but I'm Austrian, not German. In any case, I can tell you that if I were an investor with a lot of money, I would invest in a bank with such deep roots in Italy and Europe. We are a large bank. And I can assure you that it is not easy to take us over.

It wasn't just Bossi. There was also the mayor of Verona, Flavio Tosi.

"Excuse me, but Tosi and other local officials are not shareholders of the bank."

But the foundations that they mentioned are.

"I repeat: You would be mistaken to believe that a board of directors of such standing would let itself be influenced by politics."

Giulio Tremonti, the Italian minister of the economy, is worried about the vacancy in the CEO post. According to the press, he is not happy about the whole affair.

"If that's true, I'm very sorry to hear it. If Tremonti would like to know more, I am certainly available to discuss and clear up with him everything that has happened, starting with the fact that it was all done in the exclusive interest of the Bank."

The Bank of Italy has also emphasised the importance

of acting rapidly to fill the vacancy at the top.

"The Bank of Italy is right. But I would like to point out that it is also thanks to Profumo, who by the way recently took on some important international obligations (editor's note: he is president

of the European Banking Federation), that UniCredit is perfectly capable of moving ahead.

We have an excellent management team across 22 countries. Alessandro did not of course get involved in the Bank's daily business every single day."

The press came out with reports on the government's involvement. Even articles on Generali chairman Cesare Geroni.

"I've read quite a few wild fantasies about this issue. I'm sure you'll understand that I prefer not comment on these fantasies."

Can you also tell us that Libya was not involved in any way?

"Correct. Libya as an investor has never been a problem. If anything, the way new shareholders came in opened important discussions."

Many people believe that the entry of Muammar Gaddafi's funds

into the Bank's capital was, rightly or wrongly, the main complaint against Profumo.

"A great deal of instability settled over the Bank. That's why we had to take immediate action."

Did you know anything about the Libyan Investment Authority's rapid acquisition in August of 2.5% of the Bank. Libya's ambassador in Rome, Hafed Gaddur, claims you knew about it.

"In April 2009 the governor of the Libyan Central Bank, Farhat Omar, met with Profumo and me. At that time he showed a "general interest" in UniCredit. The Bank of Tripoli had already purchased CASHES and acquired shares on the market. Alessandro and I discussed it afterwards. I expressed some misgivings about Libya's stake exceeding the 5% threshold. But then I didn't hear anything. I had no idea at all that Libya's sovereign wealth fund was buying."

The agreement made with the Italian Antitrust Authority at the time of the Capitalia acquisition was that, as long as you hold a position at Mediobanca, where you are vice chairman, you were not to participate in UniCredit board meetings when the discussion was about insurance or investment banking. Will that be a problem in the upcoming weeks?

"The interim period will be so short that there won't be any problems. Of course, a longer time period would not be acceptable."

Even though there is ongoing speculation about a merger between Mediobanca and Generali...

"I heaven't heard these rumours. And I think I already know what you next question will be. The stake in Mediobanca is strategic and we will not sell it."

________________________________________

* Daimler is not a UniCredit shareholder

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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