Women in shipping - Alexa Aponte Vago, chief financial officer, Mediterranean Shipping Company

Alexa Aponte Vago.

Alexa Aponte Vago. Credit: MSC

Even if you are the boss’s daughter it does not mean you are excused from getting your hands dirty. If anything, given that the eyes of a company are firmly focused on whether you are worthy of your position, you end up working tirelessly to prove that you deserve your place in the family business. This seems to be the case for chief financial officer (CFO) of Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), Alexa Aponte Vago

Aponte-Vago is no stranger to hard work or what it takes to build a shipping empire. Her father, Gianluigi Aponte, founded MSC in 1970, initially starting a shipping line operating between the Mediterranean and Somalia and expanded through the purchase of secondhand vessels. By the time of her birth in 1978, the company operated services to northern Europe, Africa, and the Indian Ocean.

Shipping is 24/7 business and even as early as 13 years old, Aponte-Vago would spend her summers visiting MSC’s office, learning from her father as the family business grew into a global shipping enterprise. By the end of the 1980s, MSC operated ships to North America and Australia, and had made its foray into the cruise sector having purchased Lauro Lines, which was renamed Mediterranean Shipping Cruises (MSC Cruises) in 1995.

Educated in Geneva and concluding her studies at HEC University in Paris, Vago knew soon after leaving university that she was keen to start work in the family business. To ensure that she would gain thorough, hands-on experience of the company and the industry, she was worked in every department between 1995 to 2000.

At the age of 28, Aponte-Vago became the head of MSC Cruises at the Italian Group and, by leading a successful investment programme from 2000, she drove MSC Cruises to become the largest cruise company in Europe.

While her brother Diego succeed her father as president and chief executive of MSC in 2014, in her role as group CFO, Aponte-Vago is responsible for MSC’s corporate development in respect of sales and investments, bank relations, and contractual documentation.

MSC is a private company and for many decades, the Geneva-headquartered firm sought to resist publicity. However, in recent years, the world’s second largest container line has been forthcoming. Both Aponte-Vago and her brother have attended events at London International Shipping Week and the company shared endearing video coverage of the christening of MSC Zoe, one of the Oscar-class 19,200 teu containerships, which was named after Aponte-Vago’s daughter.