Written by  Paolo Canton
Ten years of change at the Cassa di Risparmio di Ferrara.
For a banking institution with more than 160 years of history behind it, ten years is a brief time. But for the Cassa di Risparmio di Ferrara, the last ten years have seen a revolution, forced by changes in the legislation governing the sector and by the renewed competition between banks but also on the initiative of the Board of Directors and management.

These ten revolutionary years can be divided into three stages, corresponding to the terms of office of three chairmen. These stages have been marked by a very focused approach aimed at achieving the objectives and results set out by the Board of Directors. Under the chairmanship of Silvio Carletti, the Cassa di Risparmio di Ferrara pursued two main aims: to adapt the organisational and company structure to meet the new rules under the amalgamated law passed in 1993 comprehensively reforming the banking sector, and strengthening the bank's presence in the area to resist pressure from the increasingly keen competition attracted by the growing Ferrara market.

Silvio Carletti led the bank through a difficult transitional period, which included the separation of the banking business and "non-profit" activities, with the transformation of the bank into a limited company and the birth of a new legal entity, the Fondazione, holding shares in the company and operating as an independent donor of funds to support vulnerable groups in society, education and training, and the conservation of the artistic and cultural heritage.
During the same period, however, the Cassa di Risparmio di Ferrara also decisively and successfully tackled the problem of maintaining its market share locally. Faced with the renewed competition between banking institutions and the relaxation of branching restrictions, the Cassa decided to strengthen its position in its traditional market before venturing into new and unknown territory. The opportunity presented itself when the Banca di Credito Agrario di Ferrara was offered for sale. The takeover of this bank not only protected the Cassa's dominant position in the local market but also enabled it to enjoy significant economies of scale and to support local employment.

With the appointment of Giovanni Bertoni as chairman, the Cassa di Risparmio entered a new phase in which these achievements were consolidated. In particular, in 1996 the Board of Directors identified a need for modernisation, especially in terms of improvements to the quality of products and services through developing an enterprise culture focusing on customer satisfaction, and a massive investment in human resources to enhance the skills and professionalism of staff at every level. The Cassa emerged from this stage stronger than ever.

Finally, under the chairmanship of Alfredo Santini, there began the delicate process that was to lead to the official announcement this March of the formation of a Ferrara banking group led by a dozen companies controlled or partly owned by the Cassa di Risparmio di Ferrara. A process based on an ambitious but cautious strategy for territorial expansion, on alliances with major Italian and foreign strategic partners, on major acquisitions, on an active and determined presence in the new virtual distribution channels, and on a wise policy of alliances with small but consolidated banks and businesses based in the immediate vicinity of the traditional area of operations.