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Editor in chief: Angelo Scorza
13/05/19 12:41

A shipping bank in the Swiss Alps

The Propeller Club of Lugano presented its new member Cornèr Bank to its peers

Lugano – Established just last year, the Propeller Club Port of Lugano is going at full steam. Following the first official meeting at the beginning of 2019, President Michel’angelo Piccinini organized a convivial meeting at Metamorphosis, Palazzo Mantegazza, Riva Paradiso, equipped with an high-tech conference room.

Having chosen the Ticino financial and trading centre as his second professional domicile, the Genoese lawyer is trying to gather together the maritime cluster with business interests in Lugano  - in fact the Club boasts members from Lugano, Hamburg, Geneva, Zug and possibly also Italy in the near future – and he chaired the meeting as a perfect master of ceremonies (the language chosen is English for the sake of non-Italian-speaking members).

“We officially achieved 31 members (during the previous meeting they were 27, ed.), but I am sure that we can still grow”, Piccinini started off.

He then presented the Club’s new interactive website and handed over the certificate of membership to its latest members, before leaving the floor to the guest of honour.

Some thirty participants attended Vittorio Cornaro’s presentation of his corporate activity.

In fact, 70 years ago his family established one of the leading banks in Canton Ticino, which is also the Swiss bank closest to the shipping sector.

Cornèr Bank was established in 1945 in Lugano, when the small city was still almost just a village of fishermen on the Lake.

“My grandfather Vittorio was sent here in order to close a branch of the Banco di Roma, boasting the Vatican Bank (IOR) as its main shareholder (51%). Instead, he decided to take over the bank, hiring almost all its employees, and in 1952 he established our first office in Via Nassa”, explained the entrepreneur who took the helm of the company in 2016.

But why was a shipping bank established in the Alps?

“My grandfather visited Naples, where he learned about the shipping finance sector. He was so fascinated by it, that in 1956 our bank opened a ship management branch, which still exists as a spin-off of our group”.

We are talking about Navimar, currently headed by Nicola Frandoli and specialized in dry bulk tonnage.

When his grandfather passed away in 1992, he was replaced by his father Paolo, who had joined the bank in 1980. Three years ago, his son Vittorio, who had joined the family company in 2004, took the helm, while his father remained the Chairman of its Board of Directors.

“Although we are a family-run business, our achievements have been significant. In 1970, we were among the founders of the VISA circuit, within a consortium gathering international banks.

Our inflow is growing steadily: from 4.435 billion francs in 2010 to 8.208 billion last year. Moreover, according to the statistical data published by The Banker in July 2018, for the fourth consecutive year we are the best Swiss bank for our financial solidity. This is a rather significant confirmation on the part of the well-know British financial newspaper published by the Financial Times group as, in its analysis and comparison of the budgetary data of the first 1,000 banks worldwide, it kept this excellent result for Cornèr Bank unaltered. Its position on top of the list of the most solid Swiss banks confirms the value of its activity management and equity policy”, pointed out the CEO of a company boasting 1,319 employees in its various branches. In fact, the Group includes the parent company Cornèr Banca SA in Lugano, its 4 branches in Chiasso, Geneva, Locarno and Zurich, its affiliates Cornèr Bank (Overseas) Limited, SA, Cornèrcard UK Ltd, Diners Club Italia S.r.l. and Dinit d.o.o., with branches in Nassau (Bahamas), London, Vaduz (Lichtenstein), Milan and Izola (Slovenia).

Maintaining its full independence, it is active in the entire range of traditional bank offers, with a specialization in the Private Banking, financing, Visa and Mastercard payment cards, Diners Club and online trading sectors, operating in the national market as a 'universal' bank, while its presence in the international markets is aimed at diversifying and widening its products and services offer, with an activity focused on private banking.

Cornèr Bank Group closed last financial year in line with the previous years. Revenues increased to 418,0 million francs (+0.2%), while net profits amounted to 53.6 million (56.3 in 2017).

“As concerns the shipping industry, 85% of our activities concern dry cargoes, mainly for medium and small tonnage ships, while we avoid the liquid cargoes sector because it is more risky – as the tragic case of Exxon Valdez at the end of the Eighties proved – as well as the container sector since it involves ships that are too large for our money lending policy, and the passengers segment”, Cornaro observed. “We can finance up to 80% of the capital on newbuildings and up to 55% of that of second-hand units. However, we are active also in trading as it is a very important economic branch in Lugano and throughout Switzerland: steel, iron and coal are our favourite commodities, while we do not deal with oil”.

Angelo Scorza