Financial advisory and broking services including robo advisory and auto-trading
FinTechs belonging to this category offer advisory and broking services for investments usually via an internet platform.
Robo advisory services usually offer an investment proposition following a series of questions concerning the personal financial background and the risk-bearing capacity of the user. Sometimes the respective platform also enables the user to directly execute the proposed investment.
Auto-trading concerns all services which automatically trade on behalf of the customer according to his or her specifications.
Apart from that some FinTechs collect and offer merely or as an ancillary service market information or operate comparison portals to increase the transparency of the capital markets and to help the investor with his decision-making.
There are also FinTech-advertising-services which advertise various financial services or products.
Attitude of the country towards modern financial advisory and broking services
Although the robo advisory market is beginning to develop, the first concerns raised by many institutional players regarded that regulators are focusing specifically on consumer’s awareness regarding the type of offered service and data protection issues.
Several hearings on FinTech are also taking place at the Italian Parliament, to collect the experts’ opinions as to possible regulatory innovations in the field with a focus also on robo-advisory and advice services. In particular, the design, organisation and operation of the digital platforms are under the spotlight.
Obligations and requirements to provide financial advisory and broking services, or ancillary services described above
Even if a specific statutory or regulatory framework governing FinTech services has not been issued yet, 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 to the public and on a professional basis. In particular, consulting and robo-advisory services may fall under the category of investment advice. Also, auto-trading could be considered as investment service/activity depending upon the specific characteristics of the service offered.
Only authorised entities can provide investment services/activities to the public, that are banks, investment companies and other intermediaries that may be authorised 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 provided without the need of ad hoc authorisation by authorised entities.
Additional comments regarding the legal situation for financial advisory and broking services, or adjacent services or what FinTech’s must be aware of in this business area
In relation to potential regulatory intervention in the next years, it is possible that, as it happened in recent times in more sophisticated markets, the services at hand would be impacted by ad hoc regulations regarding their activities. In particular, two (2) main issues may be of interest for regulators: 1) consumers’ protection especially in connection with fully automatised investments decisions; and 2) algorithm transparency and related information duties for operators.
Market size for financial advisory and broking services as well as adjacent services and biggest companies in this business area
The Italian FinTech sector is only beginning to develop. Compared to other markets (such as the UK or the US markets), much has still to be done. This is reflected in the sector at hand. According to the last CONSOB’s Report, only two (2) robo advisory operators are significantly active in the local market (with 3,500 and 10,000 clients respectively, corresponding to EUR 160 million and EUR 200 million in terms of transaction value), while other firms have a quite limited client base.
Additional comments regarding the economic situation for financial advisory and broking services as well as adjacent services or what FinTech’s must be aware of in this business area
A current regulatory trend that is worth noting is the intention of CONSOB to enhance the level of financial literacy of the Italian citizens, especially in relation to AI-based services and higher value advice.