An Interview with Enrica Maria Ghia, CTP and Partner of Ghia Studio Legale Associato
CTP TALK is an interview series where we ask senior CTPs to share details of their careers, motivations, challenges and advice.
For this interview, we talked with Enrica Maria Ghia, partner of Ghia Studio Legale Associato, which has offices in Rome and Milan with 15 lawyers, 10 paralegals and 20 employees. She is an expert in company, business, insolvency and banking law.
A member of EACTP since 2015, Enrica is also a former President of TMA Italia, of TMA Europe and TMA VP International; she is also member of multiple international organisations and is a well-known speaker on the conference circuit.
Enrica’s experience both in and out of court and her practical, problem-solving attitude make her an exceptional turnaround professional and in this interview, she tells us how she first became involved in turnaround proceedings, why she values her international connections and why culture must be considered to ensure a successful turnaround.
Question: How did you first become involved in turnaround and restructuring proceedings?
Enrica: In the early 2000s, I started to look more deeply into turnaround and restructuring due to the fact that there was an active discussion in Italy on how the discipline related to insolvency and whether it should change to meet market challenges. At the same time, there were new developments happening in corporate law that focused on how companies’ governance and compliance could evolve to match best practices all over the world.
All these evolving matters fascinated me, especially due to the direct impact on peoples’ daily lives that they would have. Restructuring and turnaround are so important to promote economic growth and societal welfare and I like knowing that my work makes a positive difference.
Question: When you started your legal career, did you ever imagine that you would become a leading legal professional in corporate turnaround and restructuring?
Enrica: In Italy when I began my career, insolvent companies’ destiny was liquidation. There weren’t really any other options. Turnaround and restructuring were techniques that did not stand by themselves and were only reached throughout an M&A process within which there was a little cost cutting. Therefore, I could never have imagined becoming an active professional in this field, simply because the field did not yet exist in Italy.
It only really became a possibility for me after 2008 when I introduced the Turnaround Management Association to the Italian market and started to spread the culture of turnaround and restructuring through the association. The timing was good as it piqued the interest of many Italian professionals who were seeking to learn more about the instruments already used in other jurisdictions such as Chapter 11 in the USA.
Looking back, it has been a very interesting ride and it still is if we consider that the latest insolvency reform in Italy just entered into effect last July!
Question: What is the most interesting or unusual turnaround case you have worked on and why?
Enrica: I had a case in 2012 where I learnt a lot about how important culture can be for a company’s success. In this particular case, I was engaged by an Indian public company that was investing in Italian mechanical companies. The Italian companies were producing huge parts for electrical plants in a very specialist way that is renowned all over the world but despite this, the Italian companies were in financial distress.
A turnaround plan was devised and began with capital injection and a change of the management. However, the Indian investor severely underestimated the impact of cultural differences. They replaced key management roles with Indian managers who did not speak Italian and did not understand the Italian culture. This created significant clashes which negatively impacted on the production of goods and slowed down the whole turnaround process.
Another relates to the first composition with creditors, managed for several companies that were part of the same group. At the time that this case occurred, there was no provision to cater for insolvency in a group of companies except for the ‘Extraordinary Administration’ proceeding which was only applicable to large companies.
Nevertheless, what I faced in this case was a group of companies in distress and they deserved to be managed as a whole. I therefore managed to file one proceeding of composition with creditors for each one of the companies involved but was also granted my Court request to have the same Judge and same commissioners appointed for each proceeding. In this way it was possible to promote a plan at group level with direct impacts on each subsidiary.
Question: You are a well-known conference speaker and are involved in several international turnaround organisations including EACTP and TMA Italy. How valuable do you to think it is to form relationships with your industry peers?
Enrica: I firmly believe that peer relations at the international level are crucial to growth as a professional. Having the opportunity to debate and discuss with peers from other jurisdictions provides a rich and varied education that often provokes you to think out of the box and make improvements in your own practice.
Question: How important do you think continued education is for career progression?
Enrica: Education is always important in a changing world. Most of the time, the world changes faster than its rules but nevertheless as professionals we have a duty to follow its path and stay updated as well as promote progress. I also think that curiosity is what keeps us alive and it is therefore extremely important to take a life-long student approach to life.
Question: What advice would you give to your 25 year old self?
Enrica: The first thing I would tell myself at 25 is not to be so shy. I would tell myself to speak up loudly and put myself forward for opportunities, even when you feel underrepresented like I did with only male professionals around me. Even today in this industry, female professionals are still in the minority although it is pleasing to see that those that do exist are very highly qualified. While we are still underrepresented, I think it is important to be seen and taking a proactive approach is a must.
Secondly, I would tell my younger self that it is normal to want to have a family and kids. Young professionals often feel the need to wait until they are further ahead in their career or until they think they will have more time but in reality, time will always be short anyway! Be brave and if it’s what you want, grow your family. In any case, family teaches you how to ‘turnaround’ every single day!
About the EACTP
The focus of the European Association of Certified Turnaround Professionals (EACTP) is to educate, train and certify turnaround professionals and for the CTP qualification to be recognised as an industry-standard ‘kitemark’ of quality in the practice of turnaround and restructuring.
It aims to promote turnaround ahead of insolvency, thus saving more jobs and value in the public and national interest.
The EACTP promotes the benefits of turnaround ahead of insolvency through engagement with shareholders, company directors, business management organisations, creditor groups and governments.
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