Riccardo has worked for more than 13 years in large financial companies in which he held managerial roles in various sectors such as Asset Management and Investment Banking in Merril Lynch. Business consultant with a focus on Open Innovation and investments in startups, he is driven by the constant desire to learn. Let's find out more in this interview.
Can you tell us more about your background?
During my university’s studies, I practiced sport at a semi-professional level. This experience gave me: the possibility of associating with people from very different contexts but sharing the same passion and the aptitude to invest over the long term to grow a project, the ability to stay focused on goals. But in the world of sport, I was missing something that I thought I would find in the world of work, so, with the same determination, and not without difficulty - being an athlete I did not graduate cum laude and in a very short time ... even though always with full marks! - I dedicated myself to the next project: becoming an investment banker. At first, I collected a lot of kind letters from large consulting firms and investment banks that all went something like this: thank you ... but we are looking for candidates with a different profile than yours. So, without losing focus on the goal, I had to change strategy and get where I wanted banking corners. Until I joined Merrill Lynch where I worked for 7 years in asset management and 6 in investment banking. Throughout my professional career, I have always leveraged flexibility and curiosity, privileging the opportunities I saw in new projects over other parameters. So, somehow, I ended up being a startupper of a big company several times.
During your career you have held managerial positions in several sectors, including investment banking and then focussed on the role of mentor for start-ups. Where does this passion come from? Why did you become a business angel?
After 13 years, bank had become an experience that completely absorbed me, I was getting "older" and there were still many things I wanted to do before running out of time, so I left everything and moved to Trentino. Shortly after leaving the bank, Enrico Chiapparoli, a former colleague, and friend, who, not surprisingly, has just been voted business angel of the year, told me: come to IAG and we’ll have fun. So, 7 years ago I declined a passion for growing projects, an entrepreneurial approach, curiosity, and some notion of finance in what has become a job. Not in the negative sense but in the sense of a totalized experience, since I believe that, both to draw satisfaction from investing in start-ups and because as a mentor you become part of a team towards which you make commitments, that of Business angel is an activity that requires continuity and the desire to keep learning.
Within IAG you are a member of the Fintech Community. What concrete support do you offer to fintech start-ups?
I think that one of the most important assets that IAG can offer to founders is access to the network. The level of members has grown further and, in the last year and a half, by participating in the screening meetings, I had confirmation that whatever the vertical in which the target company operates, there are members who have gained a very thorough knowledge of the sector. Beyond a rigorous project selection process for the benefit of all members of the association, this translates into two advantages for the companies invested by IAG: a solid mentorship by the Champions and access to the network to which all investor members can contribute, which for start-ups is one of the ingredients of success.
This general consideration is confirmed by numerous examples in the fintech field, such as Conio, Sonect, a company with which IAG is in the closing phase, with two Champions of the calibre of Marco Bolgiani and Fabrizio Centrone, or by the quality of other members of the fintech community such as Pasquale Zaccarella, Alessandra Pasquoni and Carolina Gianardi just to name a few.
In 2017 you invested together with other IAG members in Conio, a Fintech active in the services of cryptocurrencies, especially bitcoin. An investment in which you are also a IAG Champion. Can you tell us more about this experience?
I am deal Champion of Conio together with Andrea Giustina, with whom I have carried out numerous other operations. It is an anomalous project for a group of business angels because we entered a round immediately after Poste Italiane and therefore at a later project development stage than the one we typically enter. In this case, the reach of the fintech group manifested itself on the subsequent capital increase, when other members of the association entered the deal despite the exceptional evaluation at which it was called. I believe that the involvement of new IAG angels took place largely thanks to the ability to validate the potential of the project, a 3-key wallet for crypto currency, both in the banking and institutional fields, thanks to the board-level relationships of some of the partners.
Is it possible to identify trends for Fintech in 2021?
I think the digital currency sector, not necessarily cryptos, will accelerate. Similarly, I believe that, after the proliferation of projects dedicated to portfolio construction and asset allocation using algorithms, we will see the development of solutions to target products and services to customers in the banking and insurance fields.
However, I believe that the real change is the evolution of the sector’s characteristics. For example, to be a bank it is no longer necessary to be big; net of regulatory constraints, the perimeter of the banking business is less and less defined and more open; the borders between banks will become more and more permeable or, again, relations between banks and small specialized companies will increase. And this is as valid for banks as it is for insurance companies. It is a similar evolution to the one in the automotive industry: Is Tesla an IT company, an automotive company, or an alternative energy company? Let’s think of Poste in Italy: logistics, offer of insurance and financial products, telephone subscriptions, asset management.