At nearly 50, Paolo’s career in investment and asset management spans more than 25 years, mostly spent in sales and client facing roles. He has a wife and three children. Somewhat less conventionally, he is also an avid skateboarder…
Like a rite of passage, Paolo skateboarded for a couple of years as a teenager in Milan but quit after he discovered snowboarding, surfing and kitesurfing; hobbies he maintained into his adult life and travelled many hours to pursue. “When my first daughter was born, it became more difficult to travel all over the world to feed my passions. I was really happy to be a dad but frustrated to not be able to get out and ride like I used to.”
While scrolling mindlessly one evening, Paolo serendipitously came across Bones Brigade: An Autobiography, a documentary about his teenage idols Steve Caballero, Christian Hosoi or Rodney Mullen; skateboarding legends that have gone on to be great entrepreneurs and brand ambassadors, like Tony Hawk with his Birdhouse company and the famous Activision videogame series. “35 years later, these guys were still riding! I figured if they could do it, so could I!”.
So started Paolo’s second life. Aware of how out-of-place he looked, Paolo would go to the skatepark in the early hours of the morning before work to practice, kitted out in kneepads, elbow-pads and helmet. “It’s hard! It hurts when you fall! Isn’t that the definition of crazy? I mean, you fall, you get up and then you do the exact same thing that made you fall again. Over and over until you get it. Madness.”
After a gruelling hour of practice, Skater Paolo would – in true superhero fashion - disappear behind a tree and five minutes later Banker Paolo emerged, sharply dressed in a tailored suit and overcoat, with his skateboard casually strapped to his shoulder bag. He would hop on his scooter and head to work in Milan’s smart quadrilatero della moda*.
Little by little Paolo became involved with the Milan skate scene, talking with fellow riders and becoming part of a community of ‘senior’ skaters, mostly other dads who had taken up skateboarding again and has drawn quite a following. “I took a few lessons and started recognising regular riders. I’ve met people from all walks of life, we share tips and help each other up after a crash. Everyone is equal in the ‘bowl’.”
With extreme sports increasingly featured on mainstream sports channels and in e-sports games, skateboarding has undergone a transformation: from an underground, edgy pastime for teenagers, it has emerged as an official sport worthy of its own event at the summer Olympics in 2021. “There’s been a lot of media attention on skating lately. That’s why the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica wanted to interview me. I represent a different kind of skater I guess.”He was asked to introduce and voice-over a documentary about the history of skateboarding in Italy and the developments that have taken this sport to a new level. “I felt very flattered, it was such an honour.”
It did not stop there and soon others came knocking. GQ Italia featured Paolo in an exposé and Instagram story of the growing Generation X skate scene in Italy and shortly after, Swiss watchmaker IWC contacted him for a story in their online magazine after seeing the film and noticing him skating wearing an IWC watch. He’d originally bought it as a sturdy watch to wear while surfing but now wears it every day. “They’ve asked me to be a brand ambassador!”
So why skateboarding? “The freedom. We live our lives by the rules. At the park, there are no rules. Skating is my creative outlet. You create your own lines, your own sequence of tricks, a bit like a dancer but entirely improvised.” He’s tried to involve his children but they’re still young and not particularly interested. Paolo confesses he doesn’t push them too much “it’s my golden hour of me-time!”.
He recommends it to anyone wanting to get fit and be out in the fresh air, “but remember, you need the right mindset, it’s not about how many times you fall, it’s about the times you get up again. Just when you think you’ll never manage, click, you get it.” To date Paolo has never seriously injured himself “a lot of bruises but I haven’t broken anything. The first lesson is to learn how to fall!”
Paolo has developed a relationship with the local government authorities and is currently lobbying to increase investment in skate parks in his home city. He helps identify potential sites, finds the right architects, “there is a real science to it and a lot of investment in extreme sports right now. I’m proud to play even a small part in shaping the future skate landscape in Milan and to motivate the new generation to take up the sport!”
When Paolo is not shredding, switching, or sliding he’s Head of Intermediaries at Pictet Asset Management in Milan.