With a history going back to 1831, and ranking in the Forbes top 50 global companies, Generali certainly has the pedigree and the profits to make it one of the leading businesses in Europe. An insurance provider operating in more than 60 countries worldwide, its largest reach is in Italy, Germany, France, and Central and Eastern Europe.

Carsten Schildknecht, COO at Generali, joined the company in 2013 as part of a restructure of the management and board. Having previously worked extensively in banking, including as the Global COO of Wealth Management at Deutsche Bank, Carsten had a wealth of experience in the financial services industry.

Carsten’'s aim when he joined Generali was to completely transform the operational areas of the business. "“My mandate is to transform Generali’'s operating platform from where it was one or two years ago to a more integrated set-up; a more integrated structure where we actually leverage our size so we have economies of scale and skills," he says.

This mandate was part of a ‘transformation journey’ that the board of Generali implemented to improve profits and increase productivity and efficiency. The company was already in a strong position— unlike many others, their profits were only barely affected by the Global Financial Crisis —but there was more they could do to tighten up the organisation and regain its focus, according to Carsten.

"“The first stage of our ‘transformation journey' was in 2012, when we put a strategy in place targeting 2015. That strategy’'s focus was around capital optimisation and efficiency. So it was about simplifying structures, and my part of that was setting up the operational excellence program. A strong focus of mine in the past two years was on launching the program, which targets €1 billion in cost savings by 2016.”"