13 May 2021 12:00

An independent Chairman at the helm of IGD’s BoD

Rossella Saoncella assumed the role of Chairman on 20 April, after the inauguration of the new Board of Directors appointed during the Shareholders’ Meeting. For the three-year period 2021-2023, IGD will, therefore, be able to count on a professional with solid managerial experience and a deep understanding of the Company: after having joined IGD’s BoD in 2015, Rossella Saoncella was, in fact, appointed Vice Chairman in 2018.

Despite this important continuity, her mandate represents a shift in IGD’s governance: the new Chairman, in accordance with international best practice, does not have executive powers and qualifies as independent.

We asked her a few questions in order to understand how she intends to interpret her role as Chairman at such a complex moment in time, during which IGD is grappling with profound changes in consumption which were accelerated by the pandemic.





What do you think your most important mission should be for the next three years as the new Chairman of IGD’s Board of Directors?

I believe the most important mission that was entrusted to me is to promote a dialogue between IGD’s shareholders, IGD itself and the shopping center tenants so that they can find common ground. It’s a complicated task because we are going through a period of great inconsistencies with respect to the way relationships were structured in the past. We have no certainties about what the new consumer needs will be once the pandemic is under control – I say under control, because I don’t think Covid-19 is going to disappear. I think that we will have to continue to live with and control the virus for the next few years. This new scenario means that the needs and expectations of IGD’s various stakeholders must be revisited.

As Chairman I will interpret my mission as the catalyzer of positive reactions.

We, in fact, need to create new opportunities for dialogue, while also working in the interest of those who provide capital, of the Company and the various shopping center retailers, from the owners of hypermarkets and the big international brands to the owners of small independent businesses.

Obviously, I also have a second mission, the one that is institutionally assigned to the Chairman, which is to maintain the maximum involvement of the entire Board of Directors in IGD’s priorities. As all three of the slates presented included extremely valid Directors, I’m sure that we will be able to leverage on a wide range of very committed professionals.

 Where will you start in order to implement these intentions?

We will start by listening. In a short time, we will meet with the strategic shareholders to discuss the prospects for the food retail business. We know that Coop is currently restructuring and rethinking its formats: we will listen to their views and share ours. The same thing will happen with the tenants of the large and medium sized stores who are in several shopping centers: in this instance we will also listen to understand how they intend to structure their offerings in the future on the different sales channels. Only in this way will be able to decide the direction our properties should take and quickly plan the necessary changes.

In this phase, it’s key to have the courage to think not in the long-term, but in the very long- term.

The shopping center is, in fact, an asset destined to last over time: any decisions made today will have repercussions for many, many years to come.

 And what about your role at the helm of the entire Board, what will your starting point be?  

The Directors and I have a first, important goal to achieve in a short period of time: in 2021 we will have to discuss the targets, actions and numbers of the new three-year Business Plan. We will have to work intensely in order to be ready to approve the Plan in the fall. Based on the first discussions I have already had with a number of Directors, I feel we can count on a group that is not only competent, but also extremely committed to energizing the Company in order to reach new objectives. Let’s also not forget that IGD can count on a lean and cohesive group of managers, capable of overseeing their areas of expertise, while detecting risks and opportunities: the induction activities carried out after the new Board was appointed provided a full demonstration of how solid the different operating areas are. I am convinced, therefore, that we have everything we need to work very, very effectively.

Do you believe that IGD will have to make any important changes to its Governance over the next few years?    

Obviously, there is always room for improvement, but I believe that over time IGD has developed a Governance system consistent with the Company’s nature.  We are talking about a model that has proven to work very well and that today includes all the best practices, from the way the Enterprise Risk Management system is structured to the organization of Investor Relations. The Board meetings are supported with ample documentation which allows for informed decision making. Just look at the induction activities that were carried out just after the Shareholders’ Meeting which made it possible for the Directors to reach the meeting to approve the results for the first quarter of 2021 well prepared, even though they had just been appointed. I also really appreciate the fact that the Chairman and the Chief Executive Officer are invited to attend all the Board committee meetings.

We are already in a position to guarantee good governance of the Company.

 At the end of your term in office, in three years, what would you like to say you accomplished?

I would like to be able to say that the Company has embarked on a strategic path that captures the current consumer trends. To leave the shareholders with a new Plan, that is well thought out, as well as a solid organization with very engaged and committed management.

 What are your personal characteristics that will shape your Chairmanship?

Throughout my professional career, I have also been a manager who adhered to an open-door policy. For a long time, I worked with cooperatives where the relationships are informal, but based on great mutual respect that is cultivated working together. I’m used to managing resources by giving space to intelligent ideas and making sure I listen to people, because I’ve seen that this is the way to develop valid projects and foster real engagement in their realization.

Being the Chairman is certainly different, but the delegation style remains.


Thank you and buon lavoro.