Generally speaking, one of the main obstacles to the development and fostering of such services in Italy is the lack of a proper financial education. As noted by CONSOB in its 2018 annual report, the financial skills of Italian consumers are particularly low. In this light CONSOB along with other competent authorities (Bank of Italy, Government, etc.) in 2018, have launched specific programs aimed at increasing the financial skills of Italian consumers to render more attractive financial services and to allow consumers to make informed investment decisions.
Many services provided by FinTech companies could amount to regulated activities, under Italian law. In particular, asset and portfolio management services, execution of orders on behalf of clients and investment advice, when they are related to investment services and activities and are provided on a professional basis to the public, fall under the definition of investment services/activities provided by Section 1, paragraph 5, of the Italian Consolidated Financial Law (Legislative Decree no. 58 of February, 24th 1998 – Testo unico delle disposizioni in materia finanziaria – “TUF”). Only authorized entities can provide investment services/activities to the public, that are banks, investment companies and other intermediaries that may be authorized to provide specific investment services/activities. Requirements regarding financial reserves apply depending on the regulated subject providing the services and on the type of provided service. Ancillary services and connected/instrumental activities may be generally exercised without the need of ad hoc authorization by authorized entities.
The Italian market of Asset and Portfolio management is relatively small if compared to other European Countries. It has however been increasing over last years.
According to Assogestioni, the Italian industry’s association, the assets under management exceeded EUR 7 billion.
The biggest players operate in the real estate and UCITS sectors, while only a few local firms do business in the private equity and hedge funds fields. New asset classes are also rising, due the economic and regulatory contexts (see Section 4 below).
Asset and Portfolio management companies are normally held by local banking groups. A noticeable transaction indeed involved the sale by UniCredit (a prominent Italian bank) of a relevant stake in Pioneer, its asset management division, to Crédit Agricole (one of the biggest EU banking players), which took place in 2017.
Companies established in another EU Member State may provide investment services and activities (including asset and portfolio management services) in Italy under the European passport regime by establishing a branch or also under the regime of the freedom to provide services in the EU. In this case, the legislation of the home country shall generally apply. However, lessened fulfillments shall be carried out. In particular, the establishment of a first branch or the provision of services under the regime of the freedom to provide services in the EU must be preceded by a communication to the National Commission for Companies and the Stock Exchange (“CONSOB”) submitted by the competent authority of the Member State where the company is established. In case a branch is established, the requesting company can start providing the relevant investment services/activities starting from 2 months after the notification.
Due to distressed economic conditions and tightened prudential requirements, local credit institutions are increasingly selling off non-performing and “unlikely to pay” loans (the so called, respectively, “NPLs” and “UTPs”). Those assets are typically purchased by local and foreign asset managers, often by means of securitization transactions, which is resulting in a significant local secondary market for those asset classes.