- Bocconi University, BA (1977).
- Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, MBA (1980).
- McKinsey and Company, 1980–1985, senior engagement manager;
- CIR, 1986–1990, chief operating officer;
- Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, 1990–1991, chief operating officer;
- Gruppo Espresso-Repubblica, 1991–1992, deputy chairman and CEO; Olivetti, 1992–1996, managing director and co-CEO; - Italy's leading information technology company. Olivetti was suffering though difficult financial times, and Passera was charged with turning the company around. Along with Olivetti's chairman, Carlo DeBenedetti, Passera drew up a recovery strategy for the troubled firm. Among the problems he faced at Olivetti was the creation of a single European market and ever-changing technology, which made it difficult for the company to define what it should do. He would soon develop a reputation as an expert in turning around companies in trouble.
- In a speech at the 1995 World Economic Forum, Passera outlined the problems of companies like Olivetti. In the presentation, which the Economist (May 20, 1995) called a "brilliant analysis," Passera proposed a three-part strategy to reengineer the company. First, he wanted to restructure the company by cutting the workforce by 40 percent and removing layers of management. Second, Passera sought to refocus Olivetti by expanding in selected businesses, such as ink-jet printers. In the past the firm had tried to do too much in too many different areas. Third, he sought to reinvent Olivetti by moving in new directions, such as cellular telephones. The company had once focused on making manual typewriters and later moved into producing computers. Passera wanted to make Olivetti into a more service-oriented company, focusing on Omnitel, its cellular phone division.
- Banco Ambrosiano Veneto, 1996–1998, managing director and CEO;
- Poste Italiane, 1998–2002, managing director and CEO; When Passera took over the postal system, it was losing large amounts of money. In 1997 losses amounted to 1 million. It was the most inefficient postal system in Europe, known for its slow delivery times. Passera admitted to the Financial Times that the job would be "very difficult and demanding" (March 2, 1998). He quickly announced layoffs, the use of automation, and the addition of electronic services. Passera told BusinessWeek that "we will reorganize like any private-sector company" (August 17, 1998). It would be his ability to transform an extreme case such as Poste Italiane that would give Passera his reputation for corporate turnarounds. He implemented a five-year business plan for Poste, and he hired tough managers from outside the postal service. Passera invested in information technology and modern sorting equipment, and he trained employees in the use of computers. He even began to offer banking services, taking advantage of customers who were unhappy with traditional Italian banks. The postal service began offering savings accounts, debit cards, and credit cards.
- Banca Intesa, 2002–2006, managing director and CEO. The bank was going through a process of restructuring. Over the previous five years, Intesa had made many acquisitions, but management had struggled to efficiently incorporate the new additions. Intesa had hoped to create a large bank that would play a role throughout Europe. However, the various parts of the bank failed to unify. Furthermore, Intesa lost money in its Latin American operations and to loans to troubled companies such as Enron. When Passera took over, Intesa was losing billion annually. It had unusually high operating costs. Powerful unions made it difficult to cut jobs, although most workers were demoralized. Passera was expected to cut costs and improve efficiency as he had done with the postal system. His goal was to make Intesa into Italy's best-performing bank. To do so, he cuts jobs and added new services. By measuring and evaluating employees based on performance, he was able to cut 25,000 jobs. He also added a new financial services unit that contributed 40 percent of revenue. Intesa also began to offer branches in post offices for customer convenience, and the bank became the country's number-three seller of life insurance. Overall, Passera did what he was asked to do: rescue another Italian company on the brink of collapse.
- Intesa Sanpaolo 2007 –, Managing Director and CEO
- positions in national and international organizations (Bocconi University, Scuola Normale of Pisa, Fondazione Cini of Venice, Teatro alla Scala Foundation, EMEA Board for the Wharton School and, International Business Council of the World Economic Forum).
- Italian Minister of Telecoms