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Conversation with Antonio Melli, Vice President of IBSA Group

03 March 2022

It was August 19, 1985, when Arturo Licenziati took over the reins of the Ticino company Institut Biochimique SA. From that day on, he redefined the company’s vision and strategy, conferring on it an increasingly international scale and promoting its exponential growth.

Antonio Melli was among the protagonists of this incredible transformation: he joined IBSA in 1986, as Chief Financial Officer, and last year he became Group Vice President. From the very beginning, when IBSA had only 40 employees, Dr. Melli was at the forefront of the success of a multinational company which today employs around 2,000 people in 16 subsidiaries around the world.

Here are some nice considerations on his career at IBSA and on the company’s extraordinary evolution.

DR. MELLI, WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT QUALITIES THAT SHOULD NEVER BE MISSING IN THE PEOPLE WHO WORK WITH YOU?

In general, I like to surround myself with People with very different personalities from one another – as well as from mine – because I think that diversity is a great wealth. However, there are some characteristics that I consider to be unmissable.

The first of these is certainly integrity, intended as honesty and morals. Being able to trust your People is essential in every area of life, not least in the professional one.

In addition to being trustworthy and reliable People, my collaborators should have a healthy dose of resourcefulness, dictated by motivation and fighting spirit. In fact, I believe that even at work it is essential that People “believe in it”, have ideals, aim to do well and get involved, without fear of making a mistake.

Ultimately, however, also common sense is essential, to act somehow as a “strict controller” of an excessive resourcefulness: indeed, it’s a quality that I believe is critical in order to find the right balance and keep at bay impulsiveness or (too much) self-confidence, which is always a good thing until it becomes exaggerated, or “blind”.

HOW IS THE PERSON CENTRAL FOR IBSA?

Our company places the Person at the centre, and by Person I mean patients, doctors, collaborators, stakeholders… In this sense, listening becomes fundamental. Listening on the one hand to the daily needs of patients and doctors and, on the other, to our collaborators and our community.

As for the People who work with us, we do everything possible to give everyone the opportunity to express their uniqueness. IBSA is attentive to the enhancement of talent: we invest in young people, and at the same time we promote internal growth. Therefore, we have collaborators of different ages, a factor that I consider very valuable. In fact, I believe that dialogue and intergenerational exchange are a source of enrichment for the People and for business in general, since each generation has its own strengths in terms of knowledge, skills, sensitivity and aspirations. In my opinion, the generational “contamination” can create a greater understanding and awareness of one’s own professionalism, as well as others’.

Participation in shared values is also an aspect to which we pay the utmost attention. We want to make sure that every Person feels an integral part of the company, and is always placed in the best conditions to act, to be creative and to contribute to something important. I think our employees have a strong sense of identification in our corporate values, and for a manager knowing they can rely on their people is a great strength – as well as a priceless source of gratification.

SUSTAINABILITY IS AN INCREASINGLY COMMON WORD. WHAT DOES IT REPRESENT FOR IBSA?

IBSA is a pharmaceutical company whose identity goes far beyond the mere production of drugs. For us, manufacturing drugs means taking care of collective health and well-being. IBSA strives every day to become an increasingly attentive manufacturer, one which develops its industrial activities in harmony with the environment and with the social and institutional context. Responsibility towards people and the environment is a strongly felt value, at every level and within every Function.

Our philosophy relies on a cardinal principle, very dear also to our founder Arturo Licenziati: the wealth deriving from the development of an economic activity makes sense only if it is shared. At IBSA, we firmly believe in the social function of the company. Turnover should not only be synonymous with corporate prosperity, but also with actual energy, to be invested to create more wealth. To communicate our commitment in this area, we regularly draw up a Sustainability Report, that collects and describes data on the company’s performance and approach, together.

Personally, I believe that sustainability is also a promise to future generations. Indeed, we have the duty to leave them a better world, and this is a commitment that we should carry out with all the resources we have at our disposal.

THE PAYOFF THAT ACCOMPANIES THE IBSA BRAND IS “CARING INNOVATION”. WHAT DO THESE TWO WORDS MEAN FOR THE COMPANY?

It’s a payoff as simple as it is powerful, just like the goal that IBSA sets itself. Our company develops innovative pharmaceutical formulations, easy to take and quick to assimilate. Our idea of care and health expresses the real needs of patients. Once again, we find the centrality of the Person, which is always the starting and ending point of our every activity.

Our research and development starts from respecting the specificity of the individual, and aims to offer the patient therapeutic solutions in the best possible form, that is, that are increasingly closer to the daily needs of liveability and comfort. Innovation in IBSA is therefore mainly aimed at the treatment of conditions which – although not life-threatening – have a strong impact on daily activities. Here, for us Caring Innovation means just that.

WHAT ARE THE NEXT CHALLENGES IN SIGHT?

The Group now consists of as many as 25 companies, in addition to the three Foundations. Over the next few months, we will finalise other important acquisitions, following which we will be able to consider completed the phase of establishment and opening of IBSA subsidiaries around the world, which began over 25 years ago.

Currently, our subsidiaries and distributors ensure the presence of IBSA products in over 90 countries, and this widespread and structured network forms the basis that will allow the commercial expansion of the company in the years to come. From a production point of view, important investments are underway in Switzerland and Italy, which will allow us to continue to meet the demand for our products.

With so many changes in sight, there are however things that must not – and will never – change. For example, the essence of our vision and our mission, the attention to the People and to the social and environmental context... these are IBSA’s real DNA; they are the reasons for us all to be proud to work for this company; and finally, they are what motivated me to do my job better, every day for the past 36 years.

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