Natalia Corrales-Diez

Profile | Natalia Corrales-Diez

Founder, Fund of Excellence, Erste Group

“Human capital is the oil of the 21st century. Ten years ago, it was all about big data. Now it’s about talent.”

Natalia Corrales-Diez is a human angel.

Attractive and poised, she easily turned heads as we walked through the spacious, modern reception hall of the Erste Group corporate campus. But the description refers to her mission, not her appearance.

As opposed to a business angel, Corrales-Diez – through a funding initiative she set up at the Erste Group four years ago called the Fund of Excellence – invests in individuals and their potentials rather than their business ideas. One of the fund’s slogans is, “We invest in people. Literally.”

The concept of the unique fund is surprisingly simple. If selected, recipients of the fund (up to €60,000) will let the fund participate in their income in the form of 2-10% over a predetermined period of time agreed upon by the two parties. Like a real investment.

Applicants, who could be students, entrepreneurs, or even mothers (and/or fathers), do not even necessarily have to have an actual business idea at the time they apply. In order to assess each individual, they undergo a personality test – a customized, 750-question version of the popular Hogan test used by corporate HR departments – plus an interview, to determine the applicant’s “street-fighter mentality.”

“We want to know if you’re hungry and motivated enough to be successful at whatever you do. It’s not an IQ test,” the “40+” mother of two said.

Corrales-Diez came to Austria as a child and political refugee from Argentina. She’s attended elite universities (Johns Hopkins with a full scholarship) and lived and worked around the world (New York, Beijing), Corrales-Diez considers herself a street fighter, with motherhood being the biggest challenge of all.

“I always say I have four children: my two daughters and my two companies [the other is a private SME investment company]. It’s a huge responsibility. I’m raising my daughters to be strong, self-aware and independent. I always tell them, whatever you want to do, go for it, and never, ever give up.”

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