Marianna Politopoulou, the Ace up the Sleeve of NN Hellas

Marianna Politopoulou. Photo: Courtesy of Marianna Politopoulou

The name Marianna Politopoulou exploded like a bomb in the Greek insurance industry in 2016, when she went from her position at the National Bank of Greece to Chairman and CEO of NN Hellas, the largest multinational insurance company in Greece. The experienced banker left the National Bank on March 31, 2016, and became the first Greek woman to head NN Hellas. The company’s Dutch central administration trusted that she would improve and reform the large insurance firm.

There is no need here for details about how and why. The odds, however, were stacked against Politopoulou, the youngest CEO in Greece, who had no experience in the insurance market, and then emerged as the CEO of the Year for the European Insurance Industry, selected by the readers of European Business Magazine in 2018, among strong competition from top European insurance companies.

Having aced the Panhellenic Exams in her youth, she was admitted to the National Technical University of Athens and specifically to the Department of Civil Engineering, from which she graduated first in her class. However, she did not join her father’s construction company in Lamia, where she came from, but instead headed to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, one of the best and most difficult business schools in the world to get into. Politopoulou was accepted by the prestigious MBA program after scoring in the top 2% of the GMAT exam. When she completed her studies, her professional career took her abroad and back to Greece, with senior management positions since 1994, including at Honeywell Europe, EFG Eurobank as CEO Group Retail Collections, at Credit Agricole Indosuez in Luxembourg, as well as at Inchape Hellas Group.

Today, she is a member of the Board of Directors of the Hellenic-Dutch Trade & Industrial Association, the Association of Greek Insurance Companies and the Junior Achievement Greece. She also participates in the Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Committee and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Wharton Business School Club of Greece.

Politopoulou’s extensive and multifaceted service at all these companies and her deep knowledge of the financial industry have helped to introduce best practices for corporate governance to NN Hellas. Well-designed and implemented, with immediate positive results, the organization’s new strategy focuses on human-centeredness, teamwork, innovation, and digitization.

NN Hellas is the only sponsor of the Hellenic Olympic Group for the period 2018-2020, which, she said, is NN’s most important sponsorship in almost 40 years of activity in Greece.

From a wealthy, highly-educated family and with parents who supported each initiative, she worked very hard to move up in the hierarchy and pursue the career she chose for herself. The girl from Lamia with a restless spirit, the middle sibling between her two brothers, she went to a public school and took her own creative road, grounded only on her merits. Looking deep into the intelligence of her big blue eyes, one is not surprised how she managed to be a “top model” in the male-dominated world of managing directors for so many years.

“If you ask me what is different about me, I would tell you that it is not the great success in my work, because there are many other successful people in their jobs. What is different about me, I believe, is that I emit positive energy, I am always happy, and never get depressed, and that inspires those around me. At the same time, I am organized, I manage with integrity, I am very accessible, and very clear. I do not think I’m that smart or something special. What I consider to be my great success is that I feel happy, balanced, and integrated.

Politopoulou has three children and between her great time management challenges she has managed to continue working out at the gym with absolute discipline since her teenage years.

“I left the sales conference today and I hurried so that when my sons are finished with their German lesson, I will be with them. I have three boys, my eldest son is 21 and the twins are 14. I am separated from an extraordinary man and father with whom we were unable to continue in our marriage, but I am proud that he is the father of my children and I have a good relationship with him. I’m not a businesswoman in essence. I work, because I want to raise my children.”

The dynamic CEO who once founded the pioneering “red loans” company Eurobank FPS under the guidance of the well-known banker Nikos Nanopoulos, Politopoulou wants to raise her children and then work with music and learn to play a musical instrument. “I’m artistic in nature. I was singing when I was little in the choir. I’d like to be more professionally involved with music.”

Politopoulou is not spoiled and there is no hypocrisy in her character. She is deeply emotional, loves her family, is a fighter, and is supportive of people. She is the conductor who with her magic baton orchestrates a competent team of 430 employees and 1200 associates.

“I’m working with an amazing group of people. We provide services that have to do with health, with hospital programs, and with life insurance. I love my work. I feel much closer to people and it feels less like a bank. NN is my fourth child and the insurance market is the place I think I was destined to enter.”