Stefania Paolo – Sales Manager of the Month

Stefania Paolo is our Sales Manager of the month, for the month of December.

Investor Relations Specialist

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Stefania Paolo is Country Head of BNY Mellon Investment Management in Italy since 2019. She is responsible for promoting BNY Mellon IM strategies and designing and structuring tailor-made mandates to achieve institutional and private clients investment objectives. With a career spanning more than two decades, Stefania has worked at various multinational corporations in senior roles. She graduated cum laude in Economic and Social Sciences (DES) at Bocconi University in Milan.

1. When did you start your career? What made you want to work in the financial sector?

I started my career almost 20 years ago, soon after graduating in Economic and Social Sciences at the Milan University Luigi Bocconi. My first significant experience was in Unilever, where I was able to acquire several skills and competences in marketing, communication, sales and people management that would later be key in my career. In 2011 I joined BNY Mellon Investment Management; having studied economics, I have always been fascinated by the financial sector and that was a great opportunity to make my entrance in the industry by working for one of the global market leaders. I started as head of marketing but I soon found out that my real vocation was in sales – though I am still firmly convinced that marketing and sales go hand in hand and having both sets of skills can really make the difference. I soon became Director first, then Head of Sales and, in 2019, I took on the role of Country Head for Italy. 

2. How does your work on a daily basis look like? What do you enjoy the most about your role? 

Every day can be quite different, but most of them revolve around meeting people. There are two sides to this activity: one internal, to manage the Italian office and to coordinate with my colleagues in London and in EMEA; and one external, to be a partner for Italian investors, to share ideas and updates, to find solutions to investment needs and issues, and to discuss the exciting developments that we see every day in the financial world.

My job revolves around a constant dialogue with colleagues, partners, clients, investors. Not a day goes by without a constructive conversation, without at least one significant interaction that helps me discover new ideas and ways of doing business.

This is exactly the part of my job that I enjoy the most – and, as you may imagine, I can’t wait for the situation to go fully back to normal, also because that would allow me to do more in person meetings and less phone and video calls. And I know that most of my friends and colleagues in the industry share this feeling!

3. What’s your biggest challenge as a Country Head for Italy at BNY Mellon?

As Country Head for Italy, my main challenge is clearly to continue growing our business on all market segments. We have an established presence in Italy since 2001, with an office in Milan, so our brand and capabilities are well known to Italian investors; we have partnerships with all the main banks and networks of financial advisors and intermediaries, and we work alongside some of the most important institutional investors in the country.

Nonetheless, the Italian market can be quite fragmented, with many local and regional disparities, and a heterogeneous distribution of wealth and managed assets. I think it is crucial to keep developing our relationship with the clients and find the best ways and products to answer their ever-evolving needs. We live in a world that changes very rapidly, and we need to be flexible enough to change with it, while being an anchor and a standing point for our clients. This dichotomy – the imperative to change, evolve, innovate, and the need to remain a constant in the market – may very well be not just my main challenge as a manager, but the greatest challenge that our very industry faces.

4. In your opinion, what are the key drivers for successful fund distribution?

I see two main drivers for our success. The first one is the specialization and the capabilities of our investment firms, each one of them with its own individual culture, investment philosophy and proprietary investment processes. The second is the strength, scale and proven stewardship of a global group like BNY Mellon Investment Management. More broadly, on the Italian market, a successful fund distribution must rest on a network of robust relationships with investors and partners. Communication activities are also key to success, so that we can provide meaningful insights to intermediaries and the tools to navigate today’s complex and challenging market environment. All this would not be possible without the right people in the right place. As a country manager, I am proud of my team and my colleagues; our success in Italy would never be possible without them.

5. What is the most exciting thing you have seen in the markets since you started working in the financial sector?

The amazing, amazing step forwards that the industry has done as a whole, on so many fronts. Towards sustainability, not as a slogan but as a pragmatic approach to have a positive impact on the world. Towards transparency, in the dialogue that we have every day with investors. Towards gender parity, especially in a country such as Italy, where women’s participation to the asset management industry and to investments is still very low. Towards innovation, in terms of products, technologies, and how we look at financial markets. Overall, I believe we are living in challenging but very exciting times. 

6. What investment products do you believe would be more interesting in the next 5 years?

Some trends are already in place that will drive the flows of capital over the coming years. As mentioned above, sustainability is not a niche interest anymore, but a very pragmatic necessity, and data prove that investors do not need to choose between returns and a positive impact on the world, but can achieve both at the same time by choosing the right funds and strategies.

Thematic funds are already very popular and will only continue to grow in the coming years, as investors need to find long-term structural trends of growth in an otherwise unpredictable world. For this same reason, I believe there will always be room in investors’ portfolios for a long-term, high quality approach to equity and fixed income based on fundamental analysis and bottom-up selection. 

Alternatives are also on the rise, with markets such as private debt and private equity offering appealing returns and protection covenants for institutional investors and for other sophisticated, high-net worth investors. 

7. Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to pursue a career in the asset management industry?

Be open. Be curious. Knowing about funds and markets is a must, but it is not sufficient. Today, everything is interconnected. Every professional who wants to pursue a career in the asset management industry needs to look at the world with eyes wide open, asking questions, seeking answers, and finding new ways to have a meaningful, positive impact.

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Stefania Paolo – Sales Manager of the Month