- IMD Business School
IMD Impact Stories · Finance - Strategy

How a customized online program is embedding digital thinking at UniCredit

The banking group leverages its membership in IMD’s Corporate Learning Network to roll out a bespoke digital learning solution and drive cultural change
December 2016


How can learning be harnessed to change the mindset of an organization which will have to face a new reality?

UniCredit Group is an Italian-based global banking and financial services company with a network that spans 50 markets and 17 countries, with more than 8,500 branches and over 147,000 employees.

Banking is not fully digital yet – many clients, especially from older generations still prefer face to face contact – but there’s no question that the industry will continuously become more and more digital, which means traditional banks will need to start thinking about the future before it’s too late.

UniCredit teamed up with the IMD Corporate Learning Network (CLN) to face this challenge.


The CLN’s three-fold approach for UniCredit offered company-wide impact, ease of deployment across the entire, globally spread organization, and a cost-effective way to get instantaneous results.
UniCredit began working with IMD in 2014 after deciding they wanted top notch business education, as Claudia Cerna, UniCredit’s Senior Learning and Development Advisor, puts it. “We had experienced IMD’s open programs and were extremely satisfied, but last year we decided to go ‘digital first’ and that thinking began to permeate everything we do,” said Claudia. “So we decided to extend digital to our learning.”
With digital transformation as subject matter, naturally a digital learning medium seemed the logical choice.

After a consultation with the CLN and IMD Professor Mike Wade, head of the school’s Digital Business Transformation Center in partnership with Cisco, UniCredit opted to provide a customized online-based course from IMD’s Global Leadership in the Cloud series to a select group of ‘best in class’ executives who were set to enter a new role soon, Claudia said. The 43 top executives were enrolled in a specially tailored version of Digital Disruption, led by Mike Wade.

The Digital Disruption program was ideal for the banking executives, whose sector is one of many which risk being radically transformed by digital technology. “Our executives need to be aware that digital technology is opening up the path for some major competitors to banking services. The topic and the way IMD approached the material is exactly what we needed,” says Claudia.

For UniCredit, the fact that Digital Disruption was an online-based course was a real plus: “That we could have a deep dive into the topic without sending our executives to a residential program was essential,” Claudia said. “After a few days, when our top people don’t have contact with the business they get stressed. But with Global Leadership in the Cloud, they decide when they learn, and I feel that they learn more because it is spread out over a longer period of time.”


“One of the biggest achievements of the program was to get our top executives thinking in a different way and focusing on digital,” said Claudia. “We have it in our sights now and there is less of a risk of us waking up too late.”

Beyond the original participant pool of 43 managers, the Digital Disruption program has had a much wider impact and the learning has been cascaded down through the leaders’ teams, Claudia points out.

Another advantage of the IMD online course, according to Claudia, was that the same learning program was able to be delivered to a group that was very geographically spread out. “One collateral benefit that might not be expected from online learning, was that there was a lot of useful networking among UniCredit’s different business units,” Claudia says.

Although the first cohort was just a pilot and was accompanied by some risk – due to the fact executives can be so short on time and attention, Claudia says – the team at UniCredit quickly got used to the online learning and were very enthusiastic about it.

“It was such a huge success, we are going to offer the program again for a much larger population,” says Claudia. As a matter of fact, UniCredit is soon to kick off a second run of Digital Disruption, with double the cohort-size this time around.

One of the executives who completed the program, Giuseppe Cattaneo, Head of Credit Monitoring, commented: “IMD helps you capture how digital transformation is changing our lives, workplaces, our businesses and ultimately how we relate to each other; it’s not only about technology.”

Respond to your organization’s specific learning and development needs with IMD’s Corporate Learning Network (CLN), a comprehensive membership offering the latest and best in virtual, blended and face-to-face learning.