In the personal office gym of Davide Serra, chief executive of Algebris, there is a photograph of him standing on the razor-edged peak of the 12,500ft Aiguille de la Republique. Tiny, in a red windcheater, he grins, dwarfed by the mountain ranges around him.

“I put it up there to remind me that I have to keep training and stay fit so I can keep climbing up there,” he says, today wearing a slim-cut blue Italian suit but still sporting the same triumphant smile.

The photo, and Mr Serra’s reaction, is a clue to how the 46-year-old Italian from Genoa became one of the most noted investors in European banking.

In the past decade, Algebris Investments, the fund he co-founded in 2006 after 10 years as a top-rated analyst at Morgan Stanley and UBS, the banks, has evolved into a financials-focused investment boutique with 70 employees, $12bn in assets under management and market-beating returns.

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