Advisors and accountants: much ado about nothing?

Advisor | September 2020

A document published on 18 June 2020 by Fondazione Nazionale dei Commercialisti was met by renewed fears of encroachment.

The document’s declared aim is to identify new areas of work and to widen the range of skills available to accountants in dealing with entrepreneurs. Moreover, it emphasizes the need to value the knowledge, “that is unique of the accountant, of the entrepreneur and his/her overall patrimonial and family situation”.

In a subsequent declaration, it was made clear that “assisting clients in thinking more broadly about the development of their assets should not generate competition between financial professionals; in fact, investment advice may ultimately be provided only by qualified professionals”; among these are the accountants registered to the OCF (Single Register of Financial Advisors).

At present, only a dozen accountants are registered to the OCF. However, there are about 119.000 active professionals whose firepower is much higher than that of financial advisors.

The latest ANASF research conducted by FINER on the occasion of Consulentia 2019 (based on a sample of Italian entrepreneurs) produced some evidence pointing to the coexistence of two figures – the financial advisor and the accountant – which are as fundamental as they are complementary.

The role of the financial advisor, who is in charge of supporting Italian entrepreneurs and their business, is quite complicated. Its complexity derives mainly from the presence of several people involved (up to 5 figures – financial professionals, but also friends and relatives) with conflicting visions and/or opinions.

The world of Italian small and medium-sized business has always been characterized by such a challenging context. Here, financial advisors enjoy a good reputation (72% of entrepreneurs claim to be satisfied), ranking not too far behind accountants (78%).

The accountant is the figure that, par excellence, offers support to the entrepreneur and his/her business from the outset and, on average, in 4 operations out of 7. On the other hand, the financial advisor plays a key role in 2 operations out of 7 and, most importantly, in the process of asset investment and generational handover.

The size of the company is often a crucial factor in determining the number of professionals involved in personal and business financial activities: in fact, 89% of great entrepreneurs prefer keeping these two entities completely separate. As for

small and medium-sized businesses, or in the event of a trusted financial advisor, the entrepreneurs’ willingness to involve him/her in their business financial activity oscillates between 51% and 44%.

Overall, entrepreneurs recognize that, as compared to accountants, financial advisors show a higher level of availability (72% vs. 67%) and proactivity (65% vs. 51%).

Italian entrepreneurs are quite a difficult type of client, known to financial advisors – in Italy, over 30% of private clients are assisted by a financial advisor and 75% of them are families of entrepreneurs.

If financial advisors keep investing in their skills, in their strengths, and in the conversation with their clients, there will be no competition; instead, we will witness a healthy co-opetition between financial professionals in the best interest of the client.

Nicola Ronchetti