by Guido Talarico
Change is difficult, but not change can be fatal. At a time so complicated for the Italians and so dramatic for the businesses of our country, only the biggest bank in the country, Intesa Sanpaolo, and the lucid determination of its administrator, Carlo Messina, could do the most difficult thing that is at the same time the right thing and that is to put your hand to your wallet and, without ifs and buts, say to the country: we are here, in the trenches with you doing our part. The donation, I repeat donation, of 100 million euros to your countrymen by a banker could seem like an oxymoron. Messina has actually made the best investment possible today, while at the same time reaffirming the solidity and authority of one of the largest credit institutions in Europe and its attachment to its roots, to its people, to its customers.
Donating immediately one hundred million to Italians to strengthen healthcare facilities is in fact an extraordinary injection of confidence and an incitement to not give up, to hold on, to believe in a country system that, despite the difficulties, remains extraordinary and inimitable. Henry Ford said that “nothing is really difficult if you divide it into small pieces”. Intesa Sanpaolo showed everyone a new way: to get out of this emergency everyone will have to take a small step further. The enemy will be cut into little pieces, in fact, provided that everyone makes a further effort. That is what will make the difference. Money, therefore, concreteness, but also pathòs, pride.
Interviewed by Corriere della Sera, Messina in fact explained that the donation of Intesa should be seen as a call to co-responsibility, an incitement to mobilization. “If Intesa Sanpaolo moves – said Messina – do you not think that other large companies could consider further initiatives? We will also launch a fundraiser with our customers who will want to give their contribution. With the same objective: to get out of the emergency and return to growth as soon as possible”. The banker also explained the reasons for this approach to such a complex and risky problem as the Coronavirus pandemic. “It is our way of doing banking – explained the CEO of the Milanese institution – we are not only the engine of the economy but the main private operator in the field of social initiatives. And, believe me, the big international investors approve with conviction. But our emergency measures do not stop there. We are ready – continued Messina – with interventions for the economic-financial emergency, which means liquidity. From next week we will activate financing of up to 5 billion for 18-month loans, with 6 months of pre-amortisation, to support businesses. At least 1 billion will go to tourism, the sector that has suffered the greatest impact. If the government were to put a public guarantee on new loans, the figure would rise to 10 billion”.
In short, the Intesa Sanpaolo initiative has the aim, with the pandemic still in progress, to invite everyone to prepare the reaction. Sooner or later the peak will end, but everyone must prepare themselves from now on to face the restart phase in the best possible way and thus limit to a minimum the recessive effects that this crisis will inevitably produce. Messina again at Corriere: “We are a strong country, we have exceptional companies, the world appreciates our products and Italians have 10,500 billion in savings, one of the highest in the world. It’s right to be worried, but with the certainty that we will overcome the emergency and return to growth. I repeat, the crisis requires us to react, to aspire to wider horizons. The country will overcome this difficult moment, we are all sure of it. Extraordinary measures must be put in place in the emergency, and that is why we are making our contribution. Looking ahead, with a project for a stronger Italy in a Europe that must be more united and united”. The road has been mapped out. This is the road. The Italians will follow, the companies as well. And perhaps, for once, politics too. In his letter to the Romans Saint Paul wrote: “Don’t let yourself be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”. The Milanese institute remains a banker and not a religious one, Messina a banker and not an apostle. But the nature of this latest initiative that shows the Coronavirus for what it is, that is a serious but solvable problem, a certain thaumaturgical potential seems to have it.