Named head of Unicredit in 2016, Jean Pierre Mustier has not shied away from making tough decisions to ensure the future profitability of the Italian bank.
Italian banks were a chink in the European armor, with the 2008 crash hitting financial institutions in the country particularly hard. Yet in spite of being shored up to prevent their collapse, exposure to bad debt continued to dog them long after banks in other EU countries had returned to full health and saw them punished in the stock market. Enter Jean Pierre Mustier. The results were immediate, so much so that the French banker’s name is mentioned any time a top job in the industry becomes available.
Grasping the nettle
Upon arriving at Unicredit in July 2016, Mustier had his work cut out for him. The Milan based bank had fallen on hard times and so its new CEO set about organizing a capital injection of €13 billion in order to expunge Unicredit’s bad debts and in doing so present a clean slate to the markets. To finance this measure Mustier wasted little time in wielding the axe. He sanctioned the sail of Pioneer to Amundi, and part of Unicredit’s interest in online broker Finecobank.
"Widely considered a generational talent in banking, Mustier is regularly linked with the most prestigious posts in the world of finance"
With the ship righted, in 2019 Mustier unveiled his strategic plan for 2020-2023, which included axing 8,000 posts by 2023 (in addition to the 14,000 jobs already shed since 2008). “Via this strategic plan, we envisage the creation of €16 billion in total value for investors, comprising a combination of dividends and share purchases, as well as an increase in our own funds,” he commented. With UniCredit’s problem loan issue now under control, Mustier has ruled out any further large asset sales for the time being.
Widely considered a generational talent in banking, Mustier is regularly linked with the most prestigious posts in the world of finance. He was offered the top job at Europe’s largest bank, HSBC, earlier this year, which he politely declined. This led some in the industry to speculate he has his heart set on succeeding Frederic Oudea at the head of Societe Generale, who is set to step down in the next few years, rumors that have done little to quell talk of a Unicredit-Societe Generale merger.
The excited gossip swirling around Mustier speaks to his ambition, both personal and for his current employer, and while a merger of these two European giants seems a long shot in the short term, Mustier leaving Porta Nuova for La Defense cannot be discounted so easily. After all, he worked at the French bank for many years and was head of its corporate investment banking division.