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Editor in chief: Angelo Scorza
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01/07/19 11:03

Emotions and memories at the banchero costa day!

The two founders of the historical Genoese brokerage company invited hundreds of customers and partners to celebrate their first 50+1 years of successful activities with a double event

Genoa – Banchero costa organized a double party to celebrate their first 50+1 years of activities.

The Genoese shipping brokerage company established in 1968 first gathered some 300 guests at Palazzo Ducale during a special meeting characterized by a large debate which provided also some food for thoughts about the main developments of global geopolitics, focusing on the two countries which are growing faster worldwide, i.e. China and India.

In the evening, hundreds of guests joined those who had attended the meeting held in the morning to celebrate the anniversary of the successful company at Palazzo del Principe.

The company established by Umberto Costa Brocardi and Lorenzo Banchero, who started from scratch and witnessed a steady growth since the very beginning of their activity, became a leading company renowned worldwide and active in several primary shipping markets.

In fact, in the past 20 years, its 191 professionals, speaking 12 languages, carried out 1,511 sales and purchase deals and some 35,000 charter transactions, they served 10,000 ships, they concluded 145,000 insurance contracts and over 150 ship loans.

The Genoese group is probably the most well-known and the largest ship brokerage company in Italy, dealing with maritime brokerage, shipping agency, insurance brokerage, ship financing, commercial management, technical management, market research, repair shipyards representation, towage and salvage broking, commodities trading. Besides Italy, it currently works in 9 countries: Switzerland (two branches, where in 1979 it started its expansion abroad from Geneva), Monaco, United Kingdom, Russia, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai, Japan and, since 2018, Korea.

Summarizing their over 50 years of successful activities in a very effective video, accompanied by the chairman’s chronological summary, the two initial shareholders – in 1999 Costa sold all shares to his original partner – decided to start with a new forum which practically opened the Genoa Shipping Week 2019 (held from 24 to 30 June).

This busy week has included some 50 technical meetings as well as business and social networking events, thus putting – at two-yearly intervals – Genoa in the limelight of the Italian and international shipping community, and promoting the port-maritime sector as the heart of the local economy.

All guests listened carefully to the interview with the two brokers – Costa, born in 1931 and Banchero born in 1935 – so much so that the international day which was supposed to focus on the Chinese and Indian socio-economic-political phenomena, turned into the “banchero costa day”.

“We were definitely bold and competent, although we entered the business when the time was ripe”, observed Banchero trying to belittle the value of their achievements.

In fact, he started in 1949 as a simple errand boy: “I used to deliver a circular letter every morning to Genoese shipowners, starting with Febo Amedeo Bertorello in Sampierdarena, and ending with Andrea Corrado in Albaro area”.

At those times, they still used Liberty units with a capacity of 10,500 tons.

“The Americans had built 2,600 Liberty ships in two years for war purposes. After the war, they donated them to various countries or sold them to shipowners worldwide. In the mid-Fifties, Senator Bibolini invented bulk carriers, which were imitated all over the world with increasing capacities. In the Seventies we sold high capacity tankers amounting to some 80 million dollar each”, these are some of the memories recalled by the broker who is still at the helm of his company, and whose memories of 69 of activities were summarised in the book of British journalist Andrew Lansdale entitled “A glance at shipping after 69 years”.

The Sixties, when the company was founded, witnessed the economic boom characterized by Fellini’s film La Dolce Vita, miniskirts, hippies and the beat generation, up to the protests of 1968 in Italy, and the May 1968 events in France. Why did they decide to become entrepreneurs? And why did they do it together, despite their differences?

Well mannerede Costa belonged to a middle-class family and he liked manuscripts and paintings; Banchero came with much humility from the hinterland and was a hard-working man with great goals.

“He thirsted for success more than me. We were also competitors – recalled Costa, who had worked for Orion, while Banchero was an employee of Gastaldi – but we shared a business vision and we both believed that it was high time to create a structure that did not exist yet”.

They drew inspiration from large brokerage houses such as London-based Clarksons, and Oslo-based Platou and Fearnleys.

“In fact, the idea came from shipowner Glauco Lolli Ghetti who, after a trip to Scandinavia, suggested to Alcide Ezio Rosina to establish a brokerage company. However, since having a shipowner as a shareholder of a brokerage company was not convenient, their idea did not materialise” Banchero pointed out. “A few years later, Umberto and I evaluated the costs to create a company, and we decided that we could make it”.

This is how bancosta was founded, with two supporting principals for each partner: Pudel and Lauro on behalf of Banchero; Mondini and Lolli Ghetti on behalf of Costa.

“Four customers and friends undertook to provide bank guarantees for a specific amount (5 million liras each) in case we needed loans from banks. The first morning we opened our office, one of our customers – importer of coal – sent us a telegram to inform us about a cargo and its related fee, although we never concluded the deal […]”.

Banchero ascribed the steady growth of the company to several factors, adding that “in the end it has all been great fun”.

Costa was more pragmatic: “We had the courage to embark in this venture with our few savings, and the rest depended on the economic situation. At those times everyone wanted to have household appliances, therefore we witnessed a boom in maritime transports of bulk cargoes to supply manufacture production cycles, and we benefited from such commercial flows”.

The former shareholder acknowledged his younger partner’s merits.

“Several years after the incorporation, Lorenzo understood that the Italian shipping sector was disappearing. Starting from Japan, where we entered the market with the shipowner Takeo Harada, he expanded our business abroad. Bancosta currently boasts offices in the Far East: Singapore, Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul and Tokyo, and he also realised soon that the 2.7 billion of Chinese and Indian people will be the future of the shipping market”.

“It is sad to think that, when we started, there were over 40 tramp shipowners active only in Genoa, while today they are just a couple…”, Banchero added.

In the company’s headquarters there are pictures which sum up the extraordinary achievements that these two entrepreneurs accomplished in 30 years, while in the past 20 years the Banchero family has been the sole shareholder.

In the hall there is a huge Chinese picture depicting an Asiatic new-born baby wrapped up in bands stained with blood, reading: “Shipowning now and then”, in order to warn shipowners that things will not always be easy. A graph depicting the fluctuating trend of charter indexes throughout past decades includes the motto: “banchero costa: we were there”.

A painting made by Costa himself summarizes the steady growth of the sale & purchase department, which managed to sell 100 ships between 1970 and 1975.

Other mottos summarize the corporate dogma: from “Surround yourself with people of integrity and get out of their way”, to “No enterprise is built on dreams, none without”.

During the event held at Palazzo Ducale, one of the very first foreign customers, Turkish company Zihni Shipping, in the person of Capt. Ender Kahya – manager of the shipowner Asaf Güneri from Istanbul - donated a painting depicting the tower built centuries ago by Genoese merchants in the Galata district of Istanbul, which will be added to the company’s picture-gallery.

The meeting held in the morning continued with an in-depth analysis of the evolution of the two countries which in the past decades witnessed an unrestrainable growth, thus becoming worldwide protagonists from an economic, social or even political perspective.

The debate entitled “China and India from an Italian perspective. Capitalist socialism and hi-tech liberal democracy models: a new global challenge for the Old Continent” compared the evolution of these two huge Countries – amounting to 2.7 billion inhabitants, i.e. 35% of the Earth – which can no longer be regarded as emerging since they have entered the world’s high hierarchies.

Though starting from different social bases, both China and India aim at achieving the world’s economic leadership. In fact, both countries reacted proactively to the opportunity posed by the opening of the past 20-30 years to other countries, which allowed them to get out of isolationism.

Their rapid transformation was represented by prominent personalities of each Country: the storytelling about China was entrusted to Cheng Xiaohe, associate professor at the School of International Studies, Renmin University of China, while India’s one was entrusted to Indian diplomat (since 1970) Shyam Saran, a former secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Due to his vast economic and political experience, Corrado Passera was invited to speak about changing times and to evaluate the opportunities that both Italy and Europe can still seize in this changing scenario.

The Chinese scholar described the various stages that his country went through.

At the beginning of the 20th century China recovered from the Opium Wars and, thanks to the Boxer Rebellion, it drove foreigners out, putting an end to British Imperialism.

Chiang Kai-Shek’s Nationalist Party came to power, but people remained poor and ignorant, and their dissatisfaction allowed Mao Tsetung and the Communist Party to prevail after the Long March. They put farmers at the centre of a people rebirth strategy, while Soviet communism focused on the working class.

This gave rise to an iconographic image of Maoist China: from Mao Tsetung’s bath in the Yellow River to the Cultural Revolution, to the Great Leap Forward. However past isolationism remained as the totalitarian state did not leave space for ordinary people.

The second evolution started in the late Seventies, after Mao’s death and the arrival of Deng Xiao Ping, who aimed at getting the country aligned with the average worldwide life conditions, thus leading to the current development process under prime minister Xi Jinping, who is even aiming at replacing the Unites States as first economic power, through the Silk Way project.

The normalization of external relations, the introduction of the free market, of private property and of freedom of enterprise, the attraction of foreign investments and the granting of access to education to large social strata of the population, and the privatization of state assets to the benefit of oligarchs (as in Russia) form part of this strategy, from which the Chinese nouveau riche derive.

However, according to the Chinese professor political problems are always the same: a single party, no opposition, military rulers without responsibilities, thus giving rise to corruption.

These negative phenomena were confirmed by the Tiananmen Square protests and by the constant lack of freedom of the press and of opinion. This is a real obstacle for China’s development, Cheng Xiaohe concluded.

On its side India is a young and multi-ethnical, religious, cultural and multi-linguistic sub-continent.

After having achieved independence from the UK over half a century ago, India became a federation of States which may be a sort of model for the European Union, though with a united and cohesive central government.

Diversities are the strength of this pluralist democracy, whose young population is eager to grow in education and wealth, with adequate family salaries and welfare systems.

The Indian population is very hi-tech, they have a digitalized economy and they are the most ‘internetized’ population of the planet.

Data control is one of the keys to understand current geopolitics, and India adopted a biometric fiscal code known as Aadhar since 2009.

India is the current leading country in several sectors: Space Sciences, Atomic Energy, Information Technology. However, Italy has not made significant investments in India, although Vespa and Fiat are popular brands there.

The Indian diplomat Shyam Saran explained that globalization is a healthy and winning choice against souverainism, and that those who are able to guide it will control the world.

According to Passera of Italy, innovation is the challenge that must be taken up.

As Olivetti Managing Director, the manager and entrepreneur faced the transition from traditional computing to ICT Information and Communications Technology, heralding the creation of two very successful start-ups such as Omnitel and Infostrada.

While he worked for Poste Italiane, from 1998 to 2002, Passera managed to turn a poorly efficient public body into a modern postal operator, and into one of the more successful postal banks worldwide, launching also Posta Vita, which achieved the Italian leadership in a few years.

In the banking sector, he was CEO at Ambroveneto, Banca Intesa and IntesaSanpaolo, contributing to the creation of one of the most robust European banks.

As Minister of Economic Development (2011-2013), Passera introduced friendly regulations for star-ups, and he reorganized incentives for innovation.

In 2018, he established a banking start-up through SPAXS, the largest special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) launched in Europe, with a collection of 600 million euro. His goal was creating a new paradigm bank specialized in difficult loans to small and medium-sized enterprises, in the purchase and management of Non-Performing Loans Corporate and in digital and mobile banking services for enterprises and families. The new bank, illimity, of which he is Managing Director, is operational and listed in the Electronic Stock-Exchange since March 2019.

Passera pointed out that the EU has few choices if it does not want to be overpowered by consolidated and new powers, with different connotation but equally determined to keep their leadership.

“Will the divided EU be able to gain the same respect granted to United States, Russia, China and India?”, the Lombard banker rhetorically asked.

Angelo Scorza

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