Alberto Giovannini and his family love to climb and ski in the Alps, Europe’s formidable mountain range. With his work on economic efficiency, Giovannini has helped the continent tackle a similarly daunting challenge. His research on European monetary integration—documented in his 1995 book, The Debate on Money in Europe—anticipated the adoption of the euro in 1999. He then chaired a European Union advisory group studying the euro’s impact on European capital markets. The group identified 15 barriers to efficiency, such as differences in information systems and tax regimes, and laid out a timetable for their elimination. Giovannini has also served as an advisor to the IMF and the World Bank and a cochair of the Council of Experts at the Ministry of the Treasury in Rome. He is now CEO of Unifortune, an asset management company he cofounded in Milan.
Born and educated in Bologna, Giovannini was inspired by his paternal grandfather, a free-market leader in postwar Italy. After he graduated from the University of Bologna, MIT was his top choice for postgraduate study. He says: “I remember vividly a funny interview that Paul Samuelson gave to an Italian newspaper. He said, roughly, ‘If you are a priest you want to go to the Vatican in Rome; if you are an economist, you want to go to MIT in Cambridge!’ It’s an appropriate analogy, as economists often think of themselves as high priests of an arcane science.”
After MIT, Giovannini taught at Columbia University while serving as a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge and a research fellow of the Centre for Economic Policy Research in London. In 1995 he gave up his university post for a job as a senior advisor and strategist at Long-Term Capital Management in Greenwich, Connecticut, before returning to Italy. “I figured that to understand the working of the finance industry, I had to be directly involved in it,” he says.
Europe’s economic struggles are the growing pains of a new era, he believes. “Finance has to refine itself by going beyond the efficient-markets paradigm and incorporating the market imperfections,” he says. “Economics is still struggling with understanding what makes some societies work better than others.”
Giovannini and his wife, the noted art historian Patrizia Cavazzini, have three children, two of whom are undergraduates in London. A few years ago, he accomplished a lifelong goal by climbing the Tofana di Rozes, a spectacular crag in the Dolomites.