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Tenacious Orcel will need to draw on diplomatic skills at UniCredit

by Marketgit Team

At the Italian bank, an investment banker must address dealmaking, pay issues, and potential culture conflict. Please use the sharing tools available via the share button at the top or side of articles.

On days when Andrea Orcel knew he was flying first-class from Heathrow to continental Europe to visit clients, his underlings at UBS breathed a sigh of relief at 6.20 am. It meant a two-hour break from his constant calls for them.

Nicolo Orcel, a hard-charging Italian who previously helmed the Swiss bank’s investment banking division, rises at 5 am and performs a high-intensity workout before calling the phones at 6 am. He was frequently impatient with his often yelled demands for replies.

It will be Orcel’s “dream job” according to his partners, nearly 23 years after orchestrating the $25 billion mergers that created the bank while working as an M&A banker at Merrill Lynch. Orcel is returning to the European banking stage, having left UBS in 2018 to take on the top position at Santander.

But his career ambitions were dashed when he clashed with Ana Botín, then the chair of Santander, over salary and status. Since losing out on the Santander gig, Orcel has taken up kickboxing and spent more time with his family. 

“He’s a new man — he’s calmer, more thoughtful, but still very driven. He learnt several lessons about diplomacy from his time at UBS. Even though he is a Taurus, I don’t believe Orcel will go in there like a charging bull in a China shop. 

Both of UBI Banca’s top jobs will be filled by Romans for the first time, but Orcel and UniCredit’s new chair Pier Carlo Padoan aren’t familiar with each other. Mustier, who preceded Padoan at UniCredit, didn’t know him well enough to succeed. It ultimately cost him his job.

According to those involved in the selection process, Padoan’s first pick for CEO was Tidjane Thiam, the former Credit Suisse head. However, Stefano Micossi, the president of UniCredit’s appointments committee, preferred Orcel and became estranged from Padoan during the process.

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