You have set up a bank and called it "Ethical", are the President of a savings management company also dubbed "Ethical" and now have a book entitled "Money makes you happy" (Chiarelettere, 182 pages, 16 euros, written with the collaboration of Cristina Diana Bargu) citing, on the back cover, the words of former farmer and President of Uruguay Pepe Mujica Cordano to the effect that "… happiness is not being able to own ever more goods, but having the time to do what we like, to cultivate human relationships, to be with children and friends". To strive, and indeed to succeed, in business, that is the position adopted by sui generis banker Ugo Biggeri, the holder of a degree in Physics, a Florentine, class of 1966; more specifically, someone who has lived for years within a family community in the Tuscan Apennines. Ugo Biggeri has brought out a vademecum for financial survival. A book intended as a half-serious course on finance that is within everyone's reach, but is also as brief guide to using money to generate happiness.
The book’s subtitle is "a half-serious course on financial survival". Given its author’s professional career and human experience, is the title perhaps also half-serious or do you really believe that money brings happiness?
Beware, saying that money does not bring happiness would be just as paradoxical. This is, of course, provocation on my part. With regard to money, there are a number of myths that need to be debunked. One of these is that it does not bring happiness.
Let’s get to the point thought…
Let’s just say that money can bring happiness but that is not automatically the case. If I look back and think of the happiest days of my life, I, like many others, can see that money had nothing to do with it. But there is no doubt that money is useful. If I want to buy the house, for example, I will need money for the mortgage. And that is a cliché.
Through taxation, money is an easy tool for redistributing wealth and therefore one of the foundations of democratic structures
A less obvious example?
Through taxation, money is an easy tool for redistributing wealth and therefore one of the foundations of democratic structures. Without money, social equalization would be much more complicated (as history shows).
The first person mentioned in the book (in the preface by Massimo Cirri and Sara Zambotti) is Enrico Cuccia, the most significant Italian banker in history, but also the power behind national finance, Banca Etica apart…
Clearly, I never met him. He was someone very different from myself. I have never done, nor would I do, finance the way he did; but he was certainly a person who took finance and his role very seriously, particularly in terms of discretion. He was a person who had a lot to teach us.
With regard to money: With regard to money: a bank uses other people's money to generate profits for itself. Can there really be any such thing as an ethical bank?
That a bank's sole objective is to make bankers rich and to maximize profits is a deep-rooted, but entirely skewed, belief. History is dotted with banks that have done great things in the social field. I am thinking here of the cooperative credit institutions or mutual banks and, going even further back in history, of the mounts of piety, the forerunners of credit unions. It should also be borne in mind that our Constitution views savings and credit as community assets. Banks can be "wicked", but they can also do good for the community. It depends on policies applied in granting of credit.
Does the younger generation have a different relationship with money than their parents?
I believe so. For example, they are far less concerned about having a job for life and want the focus to be placed on a wide range of social and environmental issues. If this focus were to be directed towards choosing the institution with which they prefer to open a current account, this would be a formidable lever for change within the credit industry.
Your book is also a brief course in finance. I would like to take this opportunity to ask for clarification. Are the cryptocurrencies, liked so much by Elon Musk but so little to the taste of Mario Draghi, good or bad?
When you talk about cryptocurrencies, 90% of people think of the bitcoin, which is total “garbage” given that it is designed to consume vast amounts of energy, is used for opaque transactions and serves to circumvent anti-money laundering rules (for all that it gets good press). In reality, however, cryptocurrencies can be a great solution given, for example, that they are entirely traceable thanks to blockchain technology.
Another question: everyone agrees that tax havens are dangerous, but closing them down would seem to be impossible…
It is a key issue: how to simplify and harmonize banking regulations at international level. Clearly, the more simple the system, the better it is at attracting finance. The problem arises when that simplification is accompanied by rules that make nested holding companies possible. Tax havens are, by definition, places where it is easy and inexpensive to set up and close down companies and, at the same time, where the opacity of money transfers is guaranteed. The hypocrisy lies in the fact that the way to eliminate them exists and would be easy to achieve: to introduce country-by-country reporting at international level based on a simple principle of paying taxes based on the added value generated in each country. Why has this not been done? Because there is a lack of political will.