Even in a storm, ESCP shows its resilience and ability to keep on growing. In the midst of these challenging times, ESCP Corporate Services has forged a new and important partnership with the innovative and fast-growing web company Facile.it.
One of the key characteristics of ESCP Turin Campus is its strong ties to the business community. The campus boasts 16 corporate partners and robust relationships with several national and international companies.
To honour Turin Campus’ latest corporate partnership, we interviewed Mauro Giacobbe, CEO of Facile.it, Italy's leading price comparison company for insurance, financial services, utilities and internet providers. The company, founded in 2008, helps approximately 3 million users every month compare prices and save money on crucial elements of their household expenditure. Facile.it is an internet company with more than 300 employees in its Milano Headquarters and 1,000 total, and generated revenues of €106 million in 2019, growing more than 20% on top line with organic growth.
Facile.it is the leading price comparison website in Italy. What are the key ingredients of its success?
Key ingredients have changed over time, given the growth of the business. In the beginning the 2 key ingredients were: being very fast in closing commercial agreements with providers to build the panel to deliver a relevant service to the final customer and being very fast in creating the best technology. In the following years, we created an organization with dedicated teams for each vertical (a sort of “mini-company”) in which smart young people were crucial to the scale-up. From 2014, having professional investors (private equity) allowed us to grow further, while providing additional resources and bringing in team advisors and board members with expertise and vertical experience.
COVID19 is fast-tracking Digital Transformation in companies but also in our daily lives. What impact is this forced migration going to have and how will it affect your business?
On the operational side, it has had and will have a very limited impact because the company was already used to smart working, and having an in-house tech team allowed Facile.it to be very reactive in implementing smart working solutions for contact center activities too. On the business side, the impact is very different across verticals. For example, because there is a higher request for connectivity and because traditional physical channels (providers’ mono brand stores) have been closed due to the coronavirus, forcing people to migrate online, broadband has grown more than 80% from a few weeks ago. At the same time, lending products (personal loans and mortgages) are the most affected with a double-digit decline. The issue is more on the demand side (people postponing purchase of cars, furniture, houses) rather than on the offer side. Anyhow, as of today, we are not seeing a credit crunch.
How will the brokerage market develop in the next five years?
There is a clear migration trend from offline channels to online channels. Furthermore, when online, more and more people tend to use price comparison services rather than buy directly from providers, given the convenience and saving potential that price comparison websites can offer.
Several ESCP Alumni work in managerial positions at Facile.it. What skills in particular are required to be successful in your company?
We strongly believe that brainpower and energy are more important than experience. We appreciate a quantitative approach, a dynamic mindset and a flair for dealing with unexpected situations.
What important factors led Facile.it to choose ESCP as its partner?
There are 3 essential reasons why ESCP is the right fit for Facile.it. First of all, we attended the last ESCP Career Fair and we were very impressed with the quick thinking, analytical skills and efficient approach to solving problems and finding alternative solutions that we saw in its students. Second, we have 4 ESCP Alumni who are in charge of strategic and managerial positions inside the company; last but not least, ESCP offers its partners very specific initiatives to be conducted with students that guarantee a high level of integration with business projects, thereby creating effective opportunities to merge the company with its academic activities.
Given that growth opportunities for employees is a fundamental element in the success of a company, what is the best way to achieve this goal?
Facile.it grew has grown quickly and consistently in the last 10 years. The company’s organization is also growing: more people, more layers, new business lines and services. In an environment like this, we always try to give new roles to people on the inside before hiring from other companies and, when possible, we tend to avoid lateral hiring. We have a clear and open agreement with our employees; we ask them to strive to go above and beyond. They always do, because they know it’s something we care about and that we recognize the merit and value of their efforts.
ESCP aims to educate future leaders. You became CEO when you were only 35, so what tips would you give our students on building a successful career like yours?
To be completely honest, I was very lucky because the former CEO decided to launch another company and investors decided on an internal promotion rather than on external hiring. Facile.it is a digital company with a strong focus on long term top line organic growth, so key factors are probably different from what is required in “ordinary” companies. My suggestion to young people is: try to rotate as much as possible. Try to experience many activities, especially across departments; for example covering overtime sales, biz dev, and marketing, because it helps understand complex business models by being able to see from different angles. In terms of companies, big corporations offer a slower learning process (although they are more structured in terms of job rotation programs) because decisions are taken at a higher level. My last suggestion is to be bold and always try to outdo yourself.
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