I was delighted to recently interview Sergio Marini, General Counsel at Fendi and former Head of Legal at Shell, on: “Changing Industry”.
Nicoletta Ravida: Please introduce yourself:
Sergio Marini: I am the Group General Counsel for Fendi, LVHM Group and I am responsible for worldwide legal affairs, IP, compliance and relationships with Public Authorities. I manage a team of 10 legal counsel.
As the Chief Compliance Officer, I am tasked with ensuring that the appropriate training, investigations and strategies are on board to guarantee that the Company’s behavior is compliant both to the laws and to the Group’s guidelines. Since I am also a member of the senior management team, I participate in the ongoing strategic planning process.
My career, as a general counsel, started over 30 years ago; I joined the fashion industry in 2014 after a long-term experience in the energy industry (Saipem, Edison S.p.a., Shell international S.p.a.).
I have always believed in this profession, demonstrated by my long-standing commitment in associations representing in-house lawyers such as European Company Lawyers Association (ECLA), a great point of reference for all European in-house lawyers, and AIGI, Italian in-house lawyers’ association.
NR: What made you consider a move to the fashion industry?
SM: First of all, I really think that new experiences and challenges make us finest professionals, consequently, after spending many years in the energy industry, I realised I had the need for change and to learn something new.
I desired a new opportunity for business enrichment and to increase my knowledge so when I was offered this opportunity with Fendi I immediately thought it could be a great chance to experiment a new world, probably the farthest world from energy.
So, why not learn something new? I have taken up this challenge with great energy, satisfaction and with the best support of my whole family, especially of my wife who of course, now really appreciates my new job!
NR: What has been – in your view – the most challenging aspect of this move?
SM: The new product market encouraged me to study hard and it has been very demanding in terms of effort to understand the logic of fashion and its insight. It is a frenetic cycle and my legal team is very well aware that time is crucial. Everything changes very quickly, just imagine having a new collection every six months (while in the field of energy a process generally lasts 10 years), it is easy to visualise that the pressure on your deadlines is very different. I also learnt to understand how to deal with different professionals; professionals in energy field really differ from professionals in the fashion one.
The energy industry is characterised by rationality, full planning, procedure driven and mostly it is a risk adverse industry though, in fashion industry the focus is in creativity, innovation, go beyond limits and always beauty. For me the biggest challenge was to understand what was needed by new colleagues and consequently provide the best support.
NR: What is your advice to someone who is looking to change industry?
SM: You should approach any new industry with a lot of modesty; the awareness of what we know shall be valid up to a certain point. As company lawyers, we must be aware that we need to change, to discover and to study new industries if we really want to grow.
You should quickly and deeply understand the business. A company lawyer is not just a lawyer but he/she must be a true expert of the company and of the business itself.
NR: Do you think that the job market is more flexible in terms of industry experience?
SM: Well, I don’t think so; unfortunately, I don’t see any fast-track changes among different business fields. It’s still more common for HR and head hunters to fish in the same industry and I do believe that it’s a pity for companies that do not benefit from “fresh air” and different backgrounds which can bring new approaches and prospective.
By cross fertilisation, companies could benefit from different points of view. The market itself could benefit from that.
NR: What are the 3 soft skills that you believe make a successful General Counsel in today’s market.
- Confidence in the team and delegation skill; it is important to trust in your colleagues’ abilities encouraging them to grow and to improve on their expertise.
- Openness to change; the market is constantly evolving, especially with AI, this has dramatically changed our task. We will not undergo the change, we will face it head-on.
- Ongoing study; our study it is a never-ending one. National, European and international laws are constantly evolving and our knowledge must be continuously updated in order to propose prompt and innovative solutions.
NR: Many thanks Sergio for your time and for sharing your experience with us.