Thursday, 27 February 2014

Marco d'Angelo and Serena Bolcano

Marco d'Angelo and Serena Bolcano believe internal communication is as important as external when it comes to repositioning a brand. I caught up with Bonelli Erede Pappalardo's two senior marketing managers during a work trip to Milan (timed to coincide with Fashion Week, of course darling). BEP's roots may be in the Italian business community where it is still by far the dominant player and leads where others follow, but today it is a truly international law firm so its branches reach far beyond Italian shores. It is involved in and leads some of the most high profile cross-border transactions and cases; its award-winning advice on Prada's listing on the Hong Kong stock exchange and its current role in the Panama Canal construction dispute being iconic examples of the type of work its lawyers do at the very top end of the international legal marketplace. 
Bonelli's marketing and communications team is busily focussed on making sure external audiences are fully aware of the firm's position in the new world order of global professional firms. But Marco and Serena insist that internal audiences are just as key: "Our transition to a leading international firm has been as much a matter of internal cultural change as it is about changing external perceptions" Marco tells me. The firm has famously adopted a new remuneration structure that represents a radical shift for the firm and its equity partners, introducing full lockstep for the most senior and, even more unusual for Italian law firms, shared client relationships and group targets. A far cry from the more usual eat-what-you-kill approach of most Italian firms and still leaps ahead of its closest rivals who have taken some steps towards modernisation.
"We are taking our client engagement processes to another level. The emphasis now is on firm-wide ownership of clients and shared client development. We are implementing a new Customer Relationship Management system. At the heart of this is a desire to stimulate client development collaboration among partners, and we need to have an internal culture that supports and prioritises this. It's my job to make sure all fee-earners understand this new way of working and have the necessary business development and team-playing skills to adapt," he says.
"And behaviours around our PR activity need to change also," adds Serena. "It's always hard for busy fee-earners to find time to respond quickly to journalist enquiries and media opportunities, but we are an international firm and we need to behave like one, in the way we engage with the press. We are dealing with a more demanding part of the media now that international news outlets (Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, etc) are increasingly interested in what we are doing and what we have to say. This puts additional pressures on partners (particularly as regards to their time) and it's our job to support them in this."
The partners are behind this transition 100%. They have been quick to recognise the market has changed - not just the pressures on the Eurozone but the more general trend towards globalisation, putting the firm in competition with a very different set of legal players and requiring a new, global firm mind-set. The radical move to full lockstep was voted on unanimously by the partners, and was in fact just the latest in a series of tweaks to the remuneration structure over the last decade or so; this firm has a history of reading the market well ahead. Also firm founders Franco Bonelli and Sergio Erede are still active at the firm, so its roots remain strong whilst growth continues in new directions. 
Until recently the Italian legal market didn't place much emphasis on business development compared to its UK cousins. But being an international law firm over and above its status as Italian market leader, Bonelli Erede Pappalardo is used to setting new standards for other Italian firms to follow. We are proud to know Marco and Serena, the two marketing and communications professionals who are showing others how it's done. 
Lloyd's of London's first female CEO in its 325-year history is taking the (old) boys (network) to task in more ways than one. Inga Beale stepped in to the top role at Lloyd's this January, the latest in a clutch of female appointments to senior finance positions around the world to challenge the established Order. (Think Christine Lagarde, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Janet Yellen, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.) The story I loved about her this month is how she's encouraging everyone at Lloyd's to take the stairs. Its world-famous tall structure and iconic exo-skeleton lifts tell you all you need to know about the challenge she's setting everyone here. But at least she's leading by example - this former London Wasps rugby player apparently carries her own bag to the 12th floor each day. As one City diarist put it, this is one way to consign the once famous long liquid City lunches to the past, alcohol and exercise being such uneasy partners. 
I can highly recommend the new Richard Hamilton exhibition at the Tate, although I have to admit I didn't know who he was before I went on Valentine's weekend. I did recognise a few of his works, and that was the joy. For example, he produced what is generally regarded in the art world as the first ever Pop Art piece to achieve iconic status, his 1956 collage: "Just what is it that makes today's home so different, so appealing?" Why isn't this man more famous! 

If you like your art entertaining, stimulating and thought-provoking in equal measure like I do, you'll love this exhibition. It's multimedia, colourful and really very exciting. It's on until May. Do make time to go!

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