Interview to António Ramalho: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”

  • ECO News
  • 4 August 2018

Novo Banco was born out of a very complex resolution to BES, and it already celebrated four years. António Ramalho told ECO the next four are all about "rebuilding" the bank.

Novo Banco was “born” from the ashes of its fallen king, BES – well, at least there is a popular saying in Portugal, “rei morto, rei posto”, that very much resembles the whole process of Novo Banco’s founding.

It was the third of August, 2014, and Novo Banco started as soon as the Bank of Portugal (BdP) settled BES. Four years in, ECO decided to tease the bank’s CEO, António Ramalho, with some old wisdom from well-known Portuguese sayings. To start, we asked the CEO: “O que nasce torto, tarde ou nunca se endireita?”, which is a Portuguese saying that calls attention to the fact that something that had been born defected, would most likely continue flawed with no real probabilities of success. The CEO answered with yet another saying, and this one has a literal translation: “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”

The CEO is convinced that the adversities surrounding the bank’s origins, made Novo Banco become more resilient. António Ramalho is Novo Banco’s CEO since 2016. Here are the answers the leader of the Portuguese bank gave us.

What do you take away from these four years of work, with special regards to the last two years you spent as the CEO of Novo Banco?

From a professional standpoint, these four years represented one of the biggest challenges a corporation could ever go through. A huge effort, that demanded us to have a clear view on what was a priority, and an extraordinary need to focus on solutions. Personally, and emotionally, these years were demanding, either in terms of managing relationships with our clients or in terms of believing we would make it in the future.

What is the most demanding part of managing a bank, especially one born in Novo Banco’s context?

The most interesting part of this challenge was to assure the balance between getting emotionally involved and being extremely and highly professional. Setting priorities was certainly difficult under the debris BES’ ruin had caused. It was a time when our willpower was tested as we tried to make people believe in Novo Banco, and those who could work under these conditions stayed. We chose people who were action-oriented, rather than those who only knew what to do.

"The most interesting part of this challenge was to assure the balance between getting emotionally involved and being extremely and highly professional. ”

António Ramalho

Presidente do Novo Banco

We have a Portuguese saying that indicates that a project born defected, doesn’t have real chances for success. Do you agree?

Regardless of how wise that saying actually might be, it falls to assert the exceptions to the rule. The saying Novo Banco would be more identifiable with is “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”.

One of the most sensitive issues regarding your bank is that we are talking about a private banking institution that came out of public funds. Does this combination highly affect the way you manage the bank?

Novo Banco is a private banking institution, with two major shareholders and state aid. This sets forth some demands that other banks wouldn’t face, in terms of sacrifices and commitments. The common good, however, is mostly what dictates the regulations of financial systems.

Since its founding, Novo Banco has welcomed a new majority shareholder. How is your relationship with Lone Star?

It is Demanding, Engaging and Balanced. The relationship between the major shareholders is great.

Novo Banco has now reached a four-year maturity. What are your expectations for the next four years?

These first years were marked by resilience. For the next four years, we expect growth, and we will focus on rebuilding. During these eight years we have been and will be a bank of reference for companies and entrepreneurs, and we shall continue to put our clients at the center of our decisions while promoting the development of the Portuguese economy. That is no more than what our clients deserve.