Tra i Leoni & Jobs
Conducted by Emma Velasquez Mariucci
Want to learn from a former JP Morgan and Citi group VP? The Tra I Leoni & Jobs team interviewed Bocconi alumnus Tommaso Arenare on what it takes to work in the Corporate and Investment banking sector after graduating from university. Don’t miss your chance to read first-hand advice on how to become successful in the finance industry!
Can you please give a brief introduction of yourself?
My name is Tommaso Arenare and I graduated from Bocconi University in 1993. At the time, the program I attended was called “Economia Aziendale”, which is basically business economics. Right now, I am a partner of a Swiss based firm called Egon Zehnder. Egon Zehnder is the world leader in executive search and leadership advisory services. It’s a private company owned by the partners and we help companies and we help our clients identify, asses and develop leaders. We find talents such as CEOs and top line of senior executives in companies, asses them – help them grow and develop themselves. My background is in financial services. Prior to joining Egon Zehnder in 2004, I was vice president for the Investment Banking sector at JP Morgan for almost 2 years and vice president for the Corporate Banking sector at Citi for several years. My focus was to become an executive in banking, and that’s my core competence even today.
Best memory in Bocconi?
It’s easy to say today with hindsight that my best memory was when I did an exchange term in Michigan, USA during my fourth year at Bocconi. It was a challenging experience because at 21, I was exposed to the older MBA population. I spent 3 months in Michigan, and it was one of my first experiences in the United States. I would say it was a catalyst of exposure to the world.
Best skills learned in Bocconi?
I would say one of the technical skills gained that has been very helpful is the exposure to finance and mathematics given the fact that I did the classical ‘liceo’ when younger. I had to learn all of this at Bocconi. At the end of the day, Bocconi was an opportunity to start building a network of relationships of trust. This is easier said than done, and today it is very different. We have seen Bocconi change a lot in these past years, and the fact that I am sitting here talking to a first-year student coming from Colombia is a great testament of the fact that Bocconi has developed in the right direction. Bocconi has become way more international than it was before. However, it was already very open to the international world when I attended. This exposure to all the international talent that Bocconi provided me with was fundamental for my personal life and career.
What was the main advantage of studying in Bocconi?
Bocconi represented a beacon of openness in Italy in the late 1980s in terms of a combination of liberal thinking, international multilateral openness to globalization and to free market economy. At the time, it was important to see these characteristics especially in Italy since it wasn’t really renowned for being a free-market economy place. Another clear advantage was the network. At the time, Bocconi was one of the universities of Italy where the elite part of the society was forming, so it was easier to gain access to top companies. For example, when I was completing my studies, I got a call from Citi with an offer for an internship. At the time, receiving a call with an offering of an internship you hadn’t even applied for was something only a student coming from Bocconi could get.
What is a normal workday for investment/corporate banker?
When I was a VP, my role was to lead a project team in the daily business of getting a client listed on the stock exchange. We had a process to follow with the authorities which included the Borsa Italiana (stock exchange), the CONSOB (market regulator) and you prepare and produce the documents needed to show that the company is ready to be listed in the stock exchange market. You also have to convince the CEO and the CFO and the top executives of the company to go properly through this process. Finally, you have to find investors to buy the shares. You have to tell the equity story of the company, and prove to the investors why buying shares can have long-term returns to investors.
How did Bocconi help you achieve your goals?
I believe that the hard skills and soft skills that Bocconi taught me helped me achieve my goals. If you want and have time, you can find an article about this on my own website, which is https://tommasoarenare.com . Hard skills, according to me, are skills that you can learn and practice without interaction with other people. On the other hand, things like team leadership are interpersonal skills that would fall under the soft skills category. Initially in our lives we learn hard skills – and Bocconi is still a big part of that phase. However, at around 30-35 years of age, your hard skills start declining and you begin to increase your soft skills. At Bocconi, you are in that area where you start expanding your soft skills as well. In short, Bocconi is at a crossroad between hard and soft skills.
What skills should someone in your field have?
I will take another route in order to answer this question by telling you what we at Egon Zehnder consider the four elements that indicate potential. Potential is good because you can spot it at any age. The first element is curiosity. Curiosity is about the ability to always seek new things, look for inspiration and feedback. The second one is insight, which is the ability to spot trends in life, to connect the dots as one would say. We then have determination, which is how much you are energized by doing difficult things. It’s what makes you strive for achievement. Last but not least, we have engagement – the ability to connect interpersonally. I would say curiosity and engagement are those that matter the most. Always be curious and look for curious people around you. Combining both creates the recipe for growing interpersonally and building lasting relationships.
What books should someone interested in your field be reading?
I would say that a book that has opened my mind in a fascinating way is Thinking, Fast and Slow by the Nobel laureate in economics Daniel Kahneman, the only one that is not an economist – indeed, he is a psychologist. He is the founder of behavioral economics. He has been studying economics, challenging the status quo that human beings are rational in their choices. It deals with the huge number of unconscious biases that determine how we make up our mind without us even realizing.