Ennio Doris, the three rules behind the fortune of the “great champion” of finance – Libero Quotidiano

Giuliano Zulin

A man, a husband, a father, a grandfather, an entrepreneur, a banker, an altruist, a Catholic, an optimist, a visionary … a champion like Fausto Coppi, his absolute idol. Ennio Doris, 81, leaves earthly life and enters the myth. His story is a beautiful fairy tale, because it has changed the lives of millions of people. Even those who maybe only knew him for the circle he drew with a stick: “all around you”. Now we are talking about the circular economy, he had foreseen it decades ago, when he invented the first bank without branches. While the credit institutions were buying branches, Ennio was grinding customers. Then came the technological breakthrough, the banks began to sell off the branches, but Ennio was already ahead, because first with the telephone, then with the Internet and now with smartphones he had created a very modern way of banking. But be careful, Mediolanum has never been a simple online bank, since everything is mediated by family bankers, special consultants who, instead of staying in the office, even go to visit customers at home. Just like Doris did at the beginning of her career. It is a disease that determines the fate of the founder of Mediolanum, a disease that becomes an opportunity. A nephritis hit Ennio when he was 10 and it was his “luck”.

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His father, Alberto, was a livestock broker in Tombolo, a small town in the Paduan province. The child would have followed in the parent’s footsteps if it weren’t for that kidney problem. Ennio, born on 3 July 1940, went on with his studies, graduated as an accountant and started working at Banca Antoniana. There he began to dream of becoming the first modern Italian, and perhaps European, banker. In the 1960s he understood that the banker had to go to the customer, not wait for him comfortably sitting behind a counter. Just by meeting a person at home in the evening, outside office hours, he met Lina, the girl who would later become the woman of his life and the mother of Massimo and Sara, the two children of the owner of Mediolanum. The lady who, with a simple but noble style, supported Ennio in difficult moments. Yes, because Doris’s life hasn’t always been a walk in the park. If anything, a tour of Italy. And he is the pink jersey for posting. If he was born in America he would be one of Olympus, like Jobs, Gates or Bezos. Instead he is from Tombolo, but he gave the Americans a lesson about the future: once he was at a table with the great executives of US banks and said: “Do you know that if you call Mediolanum, they will answer you in a few seconds?”. Call centers invented them in the US and never, those Wall Street gentlemen, would have believed that an Italian could surpass them. Ennio took his cell phone, called the toll-free number and within three seconds he got in touch with the bank.

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LOOK AT THE MENU – Many have become number one, but Doris’ ability to listen and respond was inimitable. In the 1970s, after his experience – trade union struggles, hot autumn – in a metalworking company in Cittadella, he landed in Fideuram and then at Dival of the Ras group: policies but above all funds. A novelty for Italy. Ennio works 12-13 hours a day, including Saturdays and some Sunday mornings. Often his wife accompanies him to the customers, despite the fact that Massimo the eldest son has just been born. However, he begins to take away some satisfaction, travels to New York, together with his beloved Lina. He told of having become “rich” because at the restaurant he no longer looked at the prices of the dishes indicated on the menu, he chose according to personal taste. A luxury … Nevertheless, he always went around with a bunch of banknotes in his pocket, because having cash gave him security. Once, he happened to be at the home of a carpenter, who entrusted 10 million lire to invest to Ennio with a note: «Do you see these hands? They are full of corns. These savings are the children of these hands … ». The message was clear: when investing, you must always remember that money comes from people’s sacrifices. Not surprisingly, after the Lehman crash in 2008, only Mediolanum repaid in full the funds linked to the American institute: 120 million euros, out of the personal assets of Doris and the Berlusconi family through Fininvest. Eh … Berlusconi. In 1981 the turning point of life. Ennio and his wife go to Genoa to meet a tax advisor. Then they allow themselves two or three days of relaxation. In Portofino, in a restaurant, they meet Silvio. The man from Tombolo had seen a cover of “Capital” where the Knight said: “If you have an idea, come dame”. This is how Ennio talks about his project: Silvio gives him an appointment in Arcore. A few months and the Italian program was born, the one that in 1997 will become Banca Mediolanum: if at the beginning Berlusconi was precious, for his contribution, to the birth of the Doris plan, currently the institute has helped and not a little, through generous dividends, the family of the blue leader.

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REFUNDS – Ennio imported and remodeled the example of the Pac in the 1980s. It is not a dirty word but the formula that still allows savers to invest without losing too much: every month a part of the fixed investment is allocated to buy a share or a fund. So even if the stock goes down, little is lost, while if it goes up, obviously you gain. He was also among the first entrepreneurs to put his face on it, in advertising. And among the first to focus heavily on solidarity (mortgages canceled to customers who suffered floods or earthquakes). Speaking of mortgages. Doris is also the first banker to enter a mandatory insurance policy linked to the mortgage, because if something bad happens to the holder of the loan, “I can’t go and ask the remaining family members to pay off the rest of the mortgage.” Recently, due to Covid, some employees have lost their lives: the group has hired their respective children. In 2010, after the flood that hit numerous Venetian municipalities, I organized a subscription to help the devastated people. I called the president and he immediately granted 30 thousand euros. After a few weeks he called back: “Can I give another 30 thousand?”. In March 2020 he immediately phoned Luca Zaia and made 5 million available to face the first expenses related to the virus emergency.

THREE RULES – How did Ennio become Doris? First: the peasant origins and the link with Tombolo. When he could, especially on weekends, the president left Milan to return to his country of origin, where he was often still at the bar playing cards with his childhood friends. Thanks to these unbroken ties, despite international relations with Wall Street giants, he has always kept his feet on the ground and a sensitivity that has allowed him to first understand the needs of the people and the evolution of society. Second: a family “around him”. It was not easy to reconcile professional commitments with those of a husband and father. He merged everything, creating a kind of family capitalism with a human face. Third: unique business acumen. As a child, when he dreamed of following in his father’s footsteps, «on Fridays at 2 am I gave the cows bevarón, water and semolina, which swelled them up, making them look more plump. Then I groomed them well and at 4 in the morning we took them to the Castelfranco Veneto market. It is unlikely that anyone would come back ». Here, father Berto taught him the value of work, of the quality of work, which however must be valued, monetized. Doris was particular: when she spoke to you, she seemed to have been your friend for a lifetime. An uncle who gives advice, who never talks nonsense and who charges you, by example, to move forward. To fight. To try again. As his father repeated, while consoling little Ennio for a defeat by Coppi, “there is also tomorrow”.

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Zach Shipman

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