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 the 2018 Annual Report, the financial skills of Italian consumers are particularly low. In this light CONSOB, along with other competent authorities (the Bank of Italy, Government, etc.), haslaunched in 2018 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.
Although a specific statutory or regulatory framework governing FinTech services is currently absent, the described services may fall under the definition of investment services/activities provided by Section 1, paragraph 5, of the TUF when they are related to such services and activities and are provided on a professional basis to the public. For instance, trading platforms could fall under the category of portfolio management service when they transmit mirror trading signals to third party brokers that execute these orders automatically. Additionally, management of trading platforms could be considered as operation of Multilateral Trading Facilities (“MTFs”) or of Organized Trading Facilities (“OTFs”). In particular, the latter was recently introduced by Legislative Decree no. 129/2017 which implemented in Italy Directive 2014/65/UE on markets in financial instruments (“MiFID II“).
Only authorized entities may 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. The relevant authorization is issued by either the Bank of Italy, if banks are concerned, or the CONSOB for investment companies and intermediaries. Requirements regarding financial reserves apply depending on the regulated subject providing the services and on the type of provided service (for instance, as long as MTFs or OTFs are concerned, the internal trading venue regulation shall normally be filed with, and approved by CONSOB). Ancillary services and connected/instrumental activities may be generally provided without the need of ad hoc authorization by authorized entities.
The Italian market of trading platforms / social trading platforms/ signal following is relatively small if compared to that of other European Countries.
According to the European Securities and Markets Authority database, there are 13 operating MTFs based in Italy, while at the time being no OTFs is locally registered. There are not official reports on such market in terms of transaction volume but from our perspective we can say that in recent times the market seems more active and competitive also in light of the entrance of foreign operators.
Companies established in another EU Member State may provide investment services/activities (including trading platform and similar 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 CONSOB/Bank of Italy as applicable submitted by the competent authority of the Member State where the requesting 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.