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Wealth Management for Expats in Italy

Submitted: April 2014

Wealth management or private banking services range from traditional lending or investment management to tax planning or asset protection. Most Italian banks have a private banking department.

Generally speaking, you should look for a wealth manager if you think you need help with financial planning, or if you need to delegate this to achieve peace of mind. Professional expertise is certainly a benefit for expats with low financial education. For those with a strong financial acumen, expertise may be an argument if you cannot have specialist experience, e.g. for investments in the Italian private equity market.

The charges for such services may be direct (fee-based private banking) or indirect (commission-based pricing structure or minimum investment requirements). The fee-based pricing structure tends to be more attractive if you hold very large sums of wealth, as the fees may be largely offset by higher returns on your investable wealth.

Italy’s wealth management industry is strongly regulated in order to ensure service quality, transparency and investor protection. As far as open-ended investment companies (OICR) are concerned, EU rules require that you be issued a Key Investor Information (KII) document.

Issues for expatriates

Financial planning complexity increases dramatically when you become an expatriate, as additional cross-border issues must be taken into account. Strictly financial issues include, but are not limited to:

  • Availability of Euro-denominated assets
  • Availability of assets in your home country
  • Social security arrangements
  • Effects of international mobility on your pension rights
  • Your residency status for income tax purposes
  • Asset protection
  • Foreign exchange exposure
  • Inheritance law considerations, and
  • Inheritance tax planning.

An Italian wealth manager will probably have enough expertise to advise you on issues specific to Italy. This is going to be the case if you intend to stay in Italy over the long term.

Things get trickier when there is an international element, such as UK QROPS compliance, US tax planning, or everytime you claimed some tax relief in a foreign country generally. In such cases, specialist advice may be needed. In particular, you should check what the risks are if things go wrong. You don’t want, for example, to fall in breach of foreign pension rules and be charged taxes plus penalties accordingly.

In addition, departing from your home country may be subject to some paperwork there (e.g. tax compliance, letting your insurer know that you leave (See Insurance for Expats in Italy), switching to a non-resident bank account, etc.). A wealth manager in your home country is more likely to be qualified to help you with this.

In all cases, be wary of:

  • Language issues (Italian private bankers do not necessarily speak fluent English)
  • Product transparency, e.g. with regard to the underlying risk
  • Cultural differences, and

How contactable your wealth manager is.

 

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