The Spectrum IFA Group has opened an office in Rome to cater for the 28,000 British nationals that the Foreign & Commonwealth Office estimates live in Italy.
Heading up the office, which is located in Rome’s Trastevere district, is Gareth Horsfall, a UK-qualified financial planner who has lived in the city for the past seven years. Most recently he looked after Britons living in Italy for AES International, the London-based IFA network, which no longer has an office there.
The new office in Rome brings to six the number of countries in which Spectrum has a presence on the ground. The other countries are France, Spain, Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
Spectrum now employs 44 advisers, and the plan in Italy is to eventually “build a team” around Horsfall, according to Michael Lodhi, chairman and co-founder of the company.
Long history in ‘Chiantishire’
Britons have a long history of moving to Italy either for business or to live. Poets John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley are among the best-known, and are buried in a Rome cemetery unofficially known as Cimitero degli Inglesi, while more recent British Italophiles have included pop stars Sting and Mick Hucknall; actress Helen Mirren; actor Colin Firth; and Jim Kerr, of Simple Minds, the Scottish rock band.
However, Horsfall points out that Italy has nevertheless long proved a singularly challenging market for British financial advisers. This is largely because Britons in Italy tend to be scattered thinly across the country, rather than concentrating in a few areas, the way they do in such places as Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore and even in Spain.
“Generally British people come to Italy to ‘live the life’, alongside the Italians, which is different from the pattern in countries like France and Spain, where they tend to gravitate to places where their friends and others like them are,” Horsfall explains.
“There are a few hot spots in Italy, such as Rome, Milan and parts of Tuscany, but even in these places, the expatriate population has been hit quite hard by the economy. So for us, it means a lot of going out and finding the clients.”
Like many other advisory firms, Spectrum often does this by organising seminars for would-be clients, a number of which it has already held in such regions as Tuscany and Umbria, according to Lodhi, who adds that they were met with “a favourable response”.
It also caters for other nationalities than just Brits, such as Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders and even Germans – though not, for now at least, Americans, whose financial needs require specifically American solutions. (Italy’s 28,000 resident Britons compares with some 1 million British citizens who, according to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, live all or part of the year in Spain, which supports any number of IFAs specialising in British expats.)
Another way Horsfall ensures that expat Brits get to know the Spectrum name is to write columns on financial matters for the quarterly Tuscan Magazine.
But don’t look for Horsfall behind the refreshment tables at the local expatriate cricket match, even though he may attend, he admits, in his role as president of the recently-formed Association of British Expatriates in Italy.
“The way we prefer to do it at Spectrum is to be seen as experts in the field, rather than handing out leaflets at sporting events,” he explains.