CEO of Newest Corp on Making Italy an Investment Destination
By Alexis Christoforous
Food. Furniture. Fashion. Fast cars. These four iconic industries are what Italy is known for the world over, but according to Italian businessman Fernando Napolitano, they only scratch the surface when it comes to Italian industry and ingenuity.
“These industries are a small percentage of our GDP,” Napolitano tells The Voice of Business. He says the rest of Italy's GDP is comprised of industries including technology and manufacturing.
“Italy is one of the top manufacturers in Europe, second only to Germany,” he says. “If you take the top 10 exports from Italy to the United States, the number one happens to be pharma. So Americans buy much more pills from Italy than they do food, wine, and prosciutto combined.”
Giving Italian companies and entrepreneurs a voice in the United States has long been a passion for Napolitano. In 2010, after a two decade career as an executive with the business consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, he founded Why Italy Matters to the World Corp., to facilitate investments between Italy and the U.S.
It has evolved into Newest Corp., parent company of The Voice of Business, the only media company dedicated to original, English language interviews with Italian CEOs, thought leaders and newsmakers.
“We are a $2 trillion economy, 62 million inhabitants,” Napolitano says of Italy, “but we don't speak English, and I think that's the problem. Despite all the new technology information, what Europe knows about the United States and vice versa is still very limited,” he says.
From digitization to infrastructure, Napolitano says investment opportunities in Italy are vast and that ongoing reforms by the Italian government in the labor market and on the fiscal side are helping the country become a more “modern and attractive place to deploy investments. US private equity is now looking at Italy with different eyes,” he said.
In his forthcoming book, Influence, Relevance & Growth: Corporate Strategics for a Changing World, Napolitano lays out the tenets for a company to successfully serve both its stakeholders and society at large.
“There are many studies out there today that will tell you that CEOs are the most trusted institution, and this trust has been increased over the last years because of the pandemic,” he says, “and so there are stakeholders who are asking CEOs to step in, but the fine line between running a business and doing politics still remains. Stakeholders are asking CEOs to inform politics, not do politics,” he explained.
In order to do that, Napolitano says CEOs need to not only be able to lead and manage effectively, but they also need to be more human. “You have to have other sensitivities because the society around you is not as stable as it was,” he said.
“Globalization, as we have seen it, probably is going to be changing. You have to redesign, secure, a global supply chain. We discuss with energy leaders the concept of resilience and autonomy in the energy space. So there are a lot of things that need to be done, and the problems are so vast they cannot be solved in isolation.”