When finance rhymes with innovation. Welfin introduces itself

An idea, project work, a startup: Welfin’s story progressed from the classrooms of MIP to the financial market thanks to its strong innovative imprint. It will be the first P2P loan platform with credit guaranteed by a company to be launched on the market. Its founders tell about the project.

«In Italy the consumer credit market is constantly expanding and P2P (peer to peer) loans continue to have great potential». Why not start from this and rethink credit between private players in a new intra and inter-corporate perspective? This is the reflection from which Ideo Righi, Francesco Giordani, Alessandra Bellerio and Roberto Bertani, founders of Welfin, as well as 2018 Part-time EMBA alumni, began.
Welfin is a platform that revolutionizes credit between employees, allowing one or more company communities to obtain the maximum from sharing their resources. In the words of its five founders, «Welfin brings together lender, borrower and company (acting as guarantor) by promoting the creation of favourable conditions for all players involved». Let’s take a closer look.

A business model in which all parties are in agreement

In a consumer credit market with interest rates that tend towards the high side, credit concession policies on the part of companies are often cautious and the cost of debt collection expensive. «Welfin steps in, creating a virtuous circle that rewards the three players involved, lender, borrower and company, through a win-win-win system» explains Francesco. «Win for the lender, because they have a guaranteed return from the company at above-market rates; win for the borrower because they also obtain favourable rates and win for the company, which acting as a guarantor, increases the sense of belonging of its employees and improves its reputation», continues Alessandra. «Welfin offers the company a new welfare instrument with which to optimize the management of outstanding credit, creating a shared economic benefit by focusing on financial innovation – stresses Ideo -. There are already many entrepreneurs who, aware of the efficiency of Welfin’s business model, want to implement the platform as soon as possible».

Genesis and development of Welfin. From project work to the choice of “doing business”

But what was the starting point? «The observation of an entrepreneurial reality suffering from the insolvency of its employees towards consumer credit institutions allowed us to study a system that could help all parties involved, from the company to employees. We therefore identified a need and devised a solution» explains Ideo. For Alessandra, «the key values that inspired Welfin were ethics, transparency and usefulness for employees». It’s an idea that was first project work for the 2018 Part-time EMBA and then – thanks to the trust and success achieved – became a startup. «When we realized its potential, we decided to “do business”» says Francesco. «We choose each other inside the classroom of the master’s programme, and we created a close-knit, cross-cutting team, with previous business experience and thus a clear perception of risks. A team whose members are on the same wavelength, both in terms of personal and professional growth», comments Alessandra.

Finance awards sustainable innovation

Welfin won the “Fintech & Insurtech 2019” Prize, set up by the Observatory of Politecnico di Milano, for the most innovative projects in the financial field. What were its winning attributes? «A brand-new business model that is able to innovate the financial sector in a sustainable and intelligent way» its creators say. «Thanks to the recognition obtained we’ll begin a period of innovation through PoliHub, at the same time as developing all the aspects necessary to go to market, from tax to legal ones, so as to be ready at the official kick-off».
The company has also begun a dialogue with the Bank of Italy. «We carried out an initial assessment of the regulatory compliance of the business model. An experience that allowed us to confirm and offered food for thought to make it to the go to market phase even more prepared», according to Francesco, Alessandra and Ideo, who conclude by illustrating the role MIP had in this experience and its strengths: «Its network, the professionalism of professors and the enormous support in all phases of product development. The master’s programme guaranteed us an entrepreneurial, highly pragmatic and interactive experience and was also an incubator of talent and open-mindedness for the business application models and leadership development. And we believe Welfin’s business model could be even more effective in the Covid-19 recovery period, when in the face of increased obstacles for consumer credit access, it will provide support for families and individual workers in difficulty».
All there’s left to do is to (re)start.

«Thanks to my EMBA, today I know how to handle the mask emergency»

PierPaolo Zani, MIP alumnus and general manager at BLS, a company that manufactures protective devices for the respiratory tract, tells us about the impact the coronavirus has had on business on a human and organizational level. Explaining that, with solid foundations and a clear mission, even the hardest stress test can offer an opportunity

Can a moment of great stress, for a company, translate into an opportunity? Yes, if the company has solid organizational foundations and a clear strategic vision of its business. In the space of just a few weeks, BLS, an Italian company that manufactures protective devices for the respiratory tract, more commonly known as “masks”, found itself in this position. «Already at the end of January, before the Covid-19 contagion had extended to Italy and the rest of the world, orders shot up in a way that until that moment would have been unthinkable», says PierPaolo Zani, general manager at Bls and alumnus of the Part Time EMBA at MIP Politecnico di Milano. «Until a few months ago, the demand for masks came from customers who needed to protect from pollutants in industries. This posed a problem for us: what to do, in this moment, to satisfy the demand of our long-time customers, and at the same time help out the civil protection authority and the country?»

The challenge of BLS between today’s emergency and tomorrow’s trends

Not a small dilemma, on which Zani and his team had to reflect deeply before coming to a decision: «We managed to find a balance.  And we did it by going back to our corporate mission: protecting people and doing it well». The jump in orders risked generating a series of organizational difficulties: «I must say, however, that we had already been observing the situation for some time. It’s essential to pay keen attention to all signals that could have an impact on your business, even if they are small signals».

From a strategic point of view, then, it also becomes important to take into consideration the changes that could result from the coronavirus epidemic: «We don’t know how long this emergency will last, at a global level. However, we do know that the use of masks in the West could follow that which is the Asian model, characterized by a greater use of these devices at the consumer level, regardless of the pandemic. Throughout this period, the challenge will be to maintain a straight course, but we will also have the principles of our mission guiding us». And it’s possible to do so, explains Zani, also because the company has made far-sighted choices: «We have worked hard to enter long-term contracts, that ensure our operations, and we can count on back-up suppliers. This situation is an authentic stress test: but our foundations are solid, that’s why we’re holding up».

But for Zani there’s an element that’s even more important, that truly makes the difference: «People. Never so much as now have we been repaid by our ethics, which require us to protect all people in general, as well as those that work with us. In this period, it’s essential to establish a dialogue with production, reinforce hygiene standards, guarantee a secure workplace».

An EMBA to test your dedication

Indeed, Zani has always had a strong interest in the role the human element plays in a company. «This was perhaps the aspect that above all else pushed me to enrol in the Part Time EMBA programme at MIP. I felt the need for improvement. I needed new, more effective and fine-tuned instruments. I wanted to delve into the principles of organizational behaviour. And from all these points of view the master’s was truly helpful». The part-time format of the EMBA also put the commitment and the dedication of Zani to the test. A sort of small, personal stress test: «The advice I give to those who are preparing to begin this master’s is to face it with the maximum commitment. It can be challenging to find a balance between work, private and academic life; but the return, in terms of skills and career opportunities, is very high. It’s truly worth the effort of devoting yourself completely to the programme. I also like to remind people that BLS has a very close relationship with the Politecnico di Milano, with which we are supporting the creation of a startup, a spin-off from the university, and have already worked together with on different workshops. And we always keep a close eye on the talented people we meet in the classroom», concludes Zani.