I do not like the stage. Limelight confounds me. Furthermore, the stage is not meant for us. The players are those we serve."


Manuel Luís da Silva Violante was born in Lisbon, on November 30, 1943. His grandfather, a German Jew, came to Portugal still during the monarchy, in the end of the 19th century, escaping from the discomfort felt by many Jews during Bismarck’s consulate. His grandfather replaced Von Inoch by Violante and settled in the Portuguese capital, in a house in Arroios, more precisely in Rua Carlos José Barreiros.

His father’s was a constant presence. Every morning he would make a detour by Rua Castilho to leave the children at school, and then proceeded to his office, in Rua da Madalena. When returning home, he would pick the children at school, and often talked with their teachers, not hurrying and rather trying to obtain details. On the way home, the conversation about school, classes and subjects learned left no room for silence.

Manuel Luís was a good pupil and had a way with languages, which was becoming evident. At home, besides German, the children had French classes, and English conversation with Miss Dasy. Classes to be taken very seriously since their Parents made each one of them speak in a foreign language during meals.

When Manuel Luís was 15 years old, shortly after his Father passed away, he decides to take Engineering. The conversation with his Mother is fundamental to strengthen a choice strongly influenced by the prestige of Technical University and the admiration, often heard at home, for the great works and entrepreneurship of the Portuguese engineers.

The strong connection between Manuel Luís and his Mother becomes even stronger after his Father passes away. Their relationship was both protective and demanding, and a core reference in Manuel Violante’s life path.

Student life

When exam season approaches, Manuel Luís imposes himself a draconian regime. He gets up very early in the morning, around 5 or 6 a.m., puts on his robe, and immediately starts studying. By the end of the afternoon he leaves to buy tobacco and the newspaper. Cigarettes are already an indispensable company for the long studying hours; cigarettes and his cane that he takes along when strolling, preferably in the house’s garden, while revising the subjects he is studying. Sometimes, either when he feels duly prepared or when he needs someone to help him quickly recover late subjects, he selects one or two friends and schedules a day for a «studying marathon». Manuel Serzedelo and Adelino Amaro da Costa, class mates in Electrical Engineering, are his most usual companions in these «marathons». Adelino Amaro da Costa, always on top of subjects, is frequently a precious help for the two «Manuels».

In 1969 Manuel Violante completes his military service, leaves Técnico (Lisbon Engineering School) and returns to the labor market, joining Hidrotécnica Portuguesa, a company specializing in Engineering. But Manuel Violante is still committed to completing the Economy degree at ISCEF.

In the early 70s Manuel Violante makes one of the most difficult decisions in his life, for which he asks the advice of his closest friends and Mother: interrupting or not his professional path to join INSEAD. He opts for INSEAD, which meant a major financial effort.

The international career of Manuel Violante starts at INSEAD. He is so dedicated a student that he imposes a schedule onto his Mother and siblings when they expressly visit him in France. When finishing the degree he ranks among the best, being designated by some as «the best».

Joining McKinsey

Manuel Violante completes INSEAD, in Fontainbleau, ranking top 2. He had always been top 1 but in the end he is surpassed by an Italian. Lesson learned: no matter how good you are, «being intelligent is real hard work». He joins McKinsey, in Paris, in 1975, under the disconcerted eyes of the many working there. He seemed not to fit in the international consulting world, where looks were particularly important.

Still in1975, Manuel Violante is sent to Turin, in Italy, where he leads a Project for Fiat. The study is successful. The impact of that mission in Italy, reporting to the Paris office, is felt both at professional and personal level. Violante will forever remember his Italian friends and the great pleasure of that time lived between Italy and Algeria. He will later tell the stories of this time with pleasure, sharing with his closest friends the many «Italian stories».

In the Madrid office

Manuel Violante is project manager and «highly renowned for his professionalism, fierceness when defending his viewpoints, and for being a gifted problem-solver». Manuel Violante’s connection to Portugal is very strong. He is genuine when stating, time and again, his wish to contribute to the growth of the country, and he says that he believes in the potential of an economy where «everything remains to be done». The Mother, whom he called more than once a day, is a crucial link in Manuel Luís’s life. This is why he leaves open the scenario of returning to Portugal to work.

Manuel Violante continues to increase his activity in Portugal as a McKinsey consultant, namely in the financial sector, where projects for BPA, and Banco Totta & Açores are the highlights. But it is in 1984/85 that the Madrid-Lisbon connection becomes more intense.

In the Lisbon office

The professional relationship of Manuel Violante with McKinsey in Lisbon is very different from the one in Madrid. He still works in a dim-lit office, just a lamp on his desk, day or night; «in Lisbon he is both respected and feared by consultants».

Rolando Balsinde, consultant based in Madrid, comes for the first time to the Lisbon office in 1986 and is surprised by the number of consultants: «this is a very small office, with ten, fifteen :persons maximum», and the presence of Manuel Violante is evident «very consistent, very clear, with very strong viewpoints».

McKinsey was the core of Manuel Violante’s life, hence the difficulty for him to initiate the process of leaving the firm. The house in Cascais he had always dreamt of for the family and friends was ready. Manuel Violante said that he would finally start a new stage in his life, with enough time for his daughter and friends. A new stage only dreamt of and never materialized. Manuel Violante passes away on January 2, 2000. On this date McKinsey Portugal becomes autonomous from Madrid.

History of manuel violante
Manuel violante History