It is always a great pleasure to take part in the events organized by the Gabelli School of Business – the business school of Fordham University.

It is so today, just as it was on May 18 last year when – at the Lincoln Center in Manhattan, home to the historic Bronx campus that was founded in 1841 – the top students were awarded their first-class degrees in Global Business, after commencing their studies in 2014 at the school’s new headquarters in the economic and financial heart of New York.

Now, so close to graduation, the best students from this class and – together with them, the senior figures who have most contributed to the growth of the school – are being honored by the management of the Gabelli School.

In this, I have had the honor to receive from the hands of the dean, Donna Rapaccioli, the 2018 International Awareness Award, which was awarded for the first time this year.

I received this award, of which I am extraordinarily proud, from a person I deeply respect and from an academic community to which I have wanted to contribute since my son Francesco joined it seven years ago.

Observing the joy of these graduating students in the McNally Amphitheater, it is, I suppose, inevitable that I will be infected with that youthful energy that I too experienced during my university years.

These young people are about to finish their studies and will soon enter the business world with a wealth of knowledge and values. And, of course, they are also entering a globalized world, whose limits and boundaries change day by day.

So, I hope that in the personal sphere as well as in business they will make choices that reflect the guiding values of this university that has trained them to become tomorrow’s leaders: those values of knowledge, of ethics and of the desire to have a positive impact on a global level.

Because in truth, if one wants to be a genuine leader then it is not enough to know the most advanced techniques of evaluating an investment, or to be able to build the best algorithms for asset management.

Although these are the blocks on which to build the future, one needs more than that to hold them together.

One needs a strong mortar, one that is both resistant and resilient: in short, one needs ethics.

What do I mean by ethics? By this, I mean a conscience that can guide our choices towards bringing about positive change for ourselves and for others in order to construct a strong base for cooperation. In an age of cultures that meet and that unfortunately often clash, it is ethics that can shape the future. And in this meeting of the minds, a dialogue is probably the most powerful tool.

Globalization and the tectonic shifts of recent decades have made obsolete the traditional form of education, anchored as it was in separate and near-impermeable silos of competence.

As an economist and investment banker, I refer above all to my sector – finance and economics – were until a decade ago the focus on money and business management left little space for topics such as the value of the human being, sustainability and the great social issues linked to the economy. All of these aspects were left to the humanistic subjects and were wrongly considered as merely ancillary.

How things have changed: today those same humanistic subjects bring new sensibilities to a sector that – not surprisingly – in 2008 showed the world its limits.

And among those who contributed to this change I cannot fail to mention Mario Gabelli, the great benefactor after whom this business school is named. He has imagined a world in which new, better business leaders learn by combining business with ethics according to the standards of the Jesuit tradition, and who devote their knowledge toward doing good.

In this third millennium, sustainability and responsibility are the new watchwords – and the Gabelli School has responded to this need with a cutting-edge training proposal, so much so that it has become a reference point in efforts to drive a socially responsible economy.

Looking ahead, I see another innovative training program as the logical next step: enriching students’ behavioral skills by having senior businesspeople explain how they have applied these values in resolving real-life situations – and in managing their business relationships.

Why do I say that? Because today knowing how to build high-quality relationships is everything – particularly in a global-digital era which sees us constantly immersed in an incessant flow of contacts, by phone, chat and email. Although these tools guarantee immediacy of delivery, they do not guarantee that we will understand each other.

Briefly, then, let us look more closely at the importance of knowing how to build good relationships – a sector that I call “business diplomacy”.

This area, in which I have been working for some years, has allowed me to better understand the possibilities that globalization brings.

In business diplomacy, what opens doors for multinational companies worldwide is an individual’s ability to build trust with rulers, decision-makers, entrepreneurs and leading figures in foreign institutions – even where such opportunities come intertwined with complex challenges and barriers to entry.

In business diplomacy, it is one’s reputation, interpersonal skills and diplomatic talents that make creating these important opportunities possible.

And so, in a world in which globalization’s trajectory is set to continue, I believe it is crucial that young people learn more about these so-called “soft” skills. Why? Because – as business diplomacy has shown me – business, values and relationships are complementary. Indeed, they are the key elements for success.

And so, as you prepare to go out into the world, remember that success is measured not only in double-digit returns. Far more important is to embody what we learn from those who teach us ethics and values – for we are all ambassadors, both for ourselves and for this great school. Remembering what we have learned each and every day is the real challenge.