The life of Geronzi


He was born on 15 February 1935 in Marino, a little town in the Castelli Romani area near Rome. He’s married to Giuliana Iozzi, has two daughters, Benedetta and Chiara and four grandchildren, Ottavia, Giulia, Ernesto Maria and Bianca Maria.

He began his long working life at the age of seventeen.
His family, a powerful influence throughout, carefully instilled in him an intense drive and capability to cope with difficult situations, as well as encouraging him in education and public commitment.

His journey was marked by a defining moment of fortune: winning the Bank of Italy competitive exam in 1960 and meeting Governor Guido Carli, with whom he collaborated for over 15 years. Carli instilled in him a great sense of responsibility and respect for institutions, entrusting him with responsibilities of increasingly greater importance. One day Beniamino Andreatta commented to Parliament: “While all of you are debating, there is a man named Cesare Geronzi who is ‘manipulating’ our country's inflation tax”. A great murmur rippled through the Parliament: Who is this man? A character from Sciascia’s novels? He truly was an unknown figure, but one who each day influenced the foreign exchange rate of the lira and dollar through the country's currency reserves.

In over twenty years of work at the Bank of Italy he took on a distinctive role, and like a monk’s habit, it was his for the rest of his life.

He left the Bank of Italy to follow the then Director General, Rinaldo Ossola, an extraordinary man, as remarkable as all those who have passed through the corridors of that institution. After a compulsory period in administration at the Banco di Napoli, Ossola was chosen to redevelop the bank.
During his year and a half in Naples, the terrible year of the Irpinia earthquake, Geronzi gained much experience facing immense difficulties and problems. That year and a half ended with a defeat as both he and Ossola were literally thrown out: Ossola's ambition to transform the Bank into a real bank was shattered by a political sphere that at the time had become invasive and aggressive. Both were blatantly threatened.
In October of that same year, 1982, he was appointed as the director general of a small savings bank, the Cassa di Risparmio di Roma, with 140 branches in 3 of the 4 provinces of Latium. It was a small organization, recently inspected by the Bank of Italy, to which former Governor Ciampi introduced him, commenting: “This is a place where he can begin anew”.
And so he began anew and in over twenty years blazed an extraordinary path, as rich with satisfaction as it was riddled with difficulty. With great effort, enforcing new laws, he launched an intense banking combination programme. He was the first to take steps toward the "deforestation" of the so called "petrified forest", marking the start of a journey that over time resulted in the establishment of the Capitalia Banking Group, a union of banks in crisis or at risk (such as the Banco di Santo Spirito, Banco di Roma, Banca dell’Agricoltura, Banca Mediterranea, Banco di Sicilia, Mediocredito Centrale and Bipop-Carire). The combinations resulted in a single entity: namely Capitalia.

In early 2004, the Italian financial system was severely shaken by the effect of the Argentinean crisis and by the default of the two industrial companies, Cirio and Parmalat.
The situation resulted in a serious lack of trust in the banking system, which threatened to spin out of control due to the uncontrollable effects of a system that bounced responsibilities between employees, supervisory bodies and regulators, as well as an increasingly polemical political environment.
The banking system was also attributed responsibilities that did not rest on it and, in many cases, was subjected to both criticism and censure.
The crisis resulted in a long process of legal review and the development of the so-called new savings law. The markets regained trust rather quickly, partly as a result of both joint [the ABI’s “Patti Chiari" (Clear Pacts)] and individual bank initiatives, specifically designed in favour of clients.
The Capitalia Group did not issue any Parmalat bonds, but did issue two Cirio bonds in collaboration with J.P. Morgan and Unicredit. The group distinguished itself for its timeliness and efficacy in the "Investment Protection" initiative, in operation since March 2004, which provides for the total or partial recovery of client investments with financial charges of approximately 40 million Euros to the Group, clear proof of their marginal engagement in bond issuing and investment. The initiative was fully accepted.
2006 was an eventful year including a few incidents of unforeseen and unprecedented gravity. A sudden personal attack and suspension from corporate activities caused Cesare Geronzi great disappointment, bitterness and moments of discouragement. Following a lengthy period of examining and retracing his past actions, he proved to have always worked within the limits of his responsibilities as well as in full compliance with written and unwritten regulation.

Further events prompted the redefinition of internal regulations on the powers of various company bodies. The crucial moment of success for his initial mission was nearing: the merger with UniCredit group, a 22 billion euro project, a synthesis of the wealth created by the many mergers carried out during Capitalia’s operation.

On 20 May 2007, the boards of directors for Capitalia and UniCredit, in Rome and in Milan respectively, approved the project for merging Capitalia S.p.A. into UniCredit S.p.A.
The merger between Capitalia and UniCredit represented the union of two success stories of banking combinations, which in many ways were quite similar. Capitalia had reached its maximum potential for organic growth. UniCredit offered Capitalia the opportunity to enter a large and dynamic European organization and thus take a giant leap into the international market. Though on a different scale, UniCredit demonstrated the same desire for expansion as well as the audacity to work in still maturing economies such as those abroad.

Regarded as the most successful merger in Italy, it provided enormous advantages for shareholders and was the first genuine combination in which the "social" and the "economic" united to "create wealth".

In June 2007, the Shareholders’ Meeting of Mediobanca S.p.A., of which he was already Vice Chairman, unanimously appointed him as Chairman of the Supervisory Board and he was appointed Chairman of the General Meeting of the parties in the Shareholders' Agreement of Mediobanca S.p.A. Subsequently, on 28 October 2008 the Mediobanca Shareholders' Assembly approved the reversal of the dual governance system and the reinstatement of the "traditional" system and he was confirmed as Chairman.

On 24 April 2010 the Shareholders’ Meeting of Generali elected him to the Board of Directors. Immediately afterward, the Board nominated him as Chairman of the company. His first statements outline the elements of a programme aimed at further developing the long-standing company, historically the first Italian multinational. Increased profitability, enhanced competitiveness particularly in overseas markets, a stronger presence throughout Italy, greater attention to the needs and expectations of clients and the development of human resources: these are the key points in Cesare Geronzi’s plan. In short, a focus on efficiency and the creation of value and consistent attention to general interests, enabling the company to continue to improve its capacity to face the challenges of competition and achieve even greater goals.

On 6 April 2011, following a series of heated clashes within the company in which he was in no way involved, Cesare Geronzi stepped down from his role as chairman of Generali with the aim of helping to mend the splits within the executive bodies, and was appointed chairman of Fondazione Assicurazioni Generali: an institution responsible for supporting projects in the social, educational, research, assistance, cultural and environmental heritage spheres, consistent with the goals of the company.