When Form Means SubstanceALUMNA GIADA CONTI OVERSEES COMPLIANCE FOR THE GENERALI GROUP AND DESCRIBES IT AS SMART, NONBUREAUCRATIC, AND USEFUL RATHER THAN SIMPLY MANDATORY
She got her Bocconi degree in Arts & Culture Management (CLEACC) to merge her artistic soul with her analytical mind. She would have never imagined one day she would become Head of Compliance Governance & Reporting at the Generali Insurance Group, overseeing a seemingly rather dry control function like compliance with financial regulation. "I've always thought that form is substance," says the Trieste-based executive, "and this aspect emerges very clearly in my work on compliance. In my activity, I try to combine rigor in compliance with respect of internal and external standards, creativity in communication and aesthetics in the drafting of reports, and the other tools we supply our global network. Having a precise identity in terms of the content and communication of compliance enables us to offer better data usability and financial information for corporate decision-making.
➜ We often think of compliance as a passive function, entrusted with the task of protecting company assets by keeping all activities within the legal perimeter. You instead describe a very active role, a driver of business development.
Yes, I see it that way. The function in which I work strongly affects the identity of a financial corporation. It is no longer a nice-to-have function, but rather a must-have function, which if left unfilled can wreak havoc in a company. Of course, to be able to influence business processes and the corporate culture, compliance must not be seen as a bureaucratic function. On the contrary, it must prove useful and smart, by responding quickly to emerging challenges with immediately applicable tools. Methods, tools, best practices have been all been codified in recent years; now I think the time has come to focus on training people for the purpose of continuous implementation.
➜ What do you think could be the most appropriate tools to form the compliance network in a corporation?
A little over a year ago, at Generali we set up the Compliance Academy, a digital environment dedicated to education and training on the issue. The initiative is aimed at colleagues who deal with compliance throughout the group; the idea is to accompany people from their entry into the community, in order for them to be able to share values, technical language, and tools. We need to be aware that investing in this kind of initiative pays off in the long term, but it is fundamental to do it, because a prepared and cohesive community on internal compliance acts as an accelerator for corporate culture, by implementing methodologies and group objectives according to local specificities. This is very useful in the case of Generali, because you have to remember that the insurance business is strongly tied to the local territory.
➜ What should be done to ensure that compliance is acknowledged by other company functions?
I believe there is still a long way to go on communicating the compliance function internally. At Generali we have traced a path and we are following it. We are investing in corporate image so that the content of compliance becomes more accessible and interesting. Sticking to rules might strike one as being unattractive, but we treat compliance in an innovative way, by considering its usefulness and immediate applications. For this to happen, those who work in compliance must be the first ones that are aware of the importance of their role; they should be equipped with appropriate tools and, I shall say, be proud to contribute to the company's compliance journey.
Born in 1981 in the Umbria region, Giada Conti graduated from Bocconi University in 2004 with a thesis in Economic History. "I analyzed the exports of artworks made by the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, working extensively on the Uffizi archives," Generali's current head of compliance & reporting recalls. "It was such an absorbing experience that for a while I thought I could find my professional destiny in the field of Fine Arts". Soon after, she landed a job as cost controller at the Milan Auditorium, but then her analytical mind prevailed and Giada Conti's career took the path of consulting. “For family reasons, in 2007, I moved to Trieste and there I joined the Generali insurance group. My career in compliance progressed, dealing with different aspects of the insurance business. Today I mainly deal with the governance of our network of compliance, composed of about 300 people located throughout the group, from Latin America to Asia."
by Emanuele Elli
Translated by Alex Foti