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Vincenzo Maranghi: Mediobanca fights to survive new era

For decades Mediobanca had an unchallenged grip on Italian investment banking. Then the loss of a key deal-maker with unrivalled contacts, followed by the death of its illustrious founder, opened up major deals to foreign rivals and took the shine off its reputation. Yet the wound to it’s pride may not be terminal. With a new generation of bankers, Mediobanca’s name still commands a lot of respect in Milan. Even so, its days of independence may be numbered.

In a cramped square off central Milan's Piazza della Scala a security guard skulks by the entrance to a 17th-century palazzo. There's no nameplate on the door. None is needed. Number 10 Via Filodrammatici has long been known as the home of Mediobanca, Italy's premier investment bank.

But shortly after the death of Enrico Cuccia - from 1946 until last year the CEO of the bank - his successor and devotee, Vincenzo Maranghi, decided to set the fact in stone. He persuaded the city authorities to grant permission to name the spot. Three marble plaques bearing the dates of Cuccia's birth and death and the single word "Banker" now pronounce the square "Piazzetta Enrico Cuccia".

It's a grand gesture to a small, stooped man that many Milan residents remember glimpsing walking to work, as he did until his dying day. Cuccia's diminutive stature belied his standing. It's 15 months since his death at the age of 92, but his name is still on the lips of M&A bankers in Milan. He built an intricate network of holding companies and cross-ownership structures resulting in myriad convoluted lines of responsibility. And as chief architect of his own pet project, Cuccia knew exactly which strings to pull to achieve the results he wanted.

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