For almost three months, from late February to late May, the
Italian financial circles enjoyed a dash of celebrity.
The hostile takeover bid made by Olivetti for Telecom Italia and the
latter’s attempt to merge with Deutsche Telekom burst onto the world
The stakes were enormous, not only the size of the transaction (almost
pounds 40 billion), but also the effect it had on the political balance
in Italy and Europe, and the structure of one of the top industries of
the new millennium.
The two companies’ press offices fought it out squarely: internal,
outside communications advisers (each contestant had two - one based in
the UK, the other an Italy specialist) and investor relators.
Perhaps the noise created by this deal and the discovery that dozens of
Italian corporations are market contenders will convince major PR firms
to pay more attention to the communications opportunities in the Italian
Or perhaps, and more likely, not. In the rest of Europe and in the US,
the perception of the Italian market is still incomplete. The
Let’s be frank. Italian companies still have a modest reputation in
English-speaking countries: unreliable, volatile, politically-infested,
and mostly relegated to the sidelines of the global business community.
Perhaps this is why Italian companies are still perceived as a ’residual
opportunity’ by those who each year decide how and where to strengthen
their international network.
But what of the reality? The Italian market is in full boom: the demand
for communications consultancy is growing exponentially while the supply
of experienced communicators is limited. The few specialised Italian
agencies that exist have already understood this and are getting
stronger while network branches do their best to expand their
reputations. But in my view, these developments have caught them by
surprise and they still are not fully appreciated.
Over the last five years, the total amount of assets under fund
management has grown more than five times in Italy as compared to less
than once in the UK. In 1998 alone, growth in Italy was almost 90 per
cent, as compared to a little more than five per cent globally. Italian
funds now manage the equivalent of over pounds 300 billion, placing
Italy in the number four spot in the world.
And the growth trend does not seem to have run its course, since the
share of financial wealth professionally managed in Italy (in mutual
funds, open-end investment companies, life insurance policies, pension
funds and so on) is still only around 30 per cent, compared to around 55
per cent in the UK.
Italy is a country with enormous submerged wealth which, like an
underground river, resurfaces when the moment has come to put capital
into the market.
The worries of Italy’s financial upper class over the safety and quality
of its investments go hand-in-hand with a strong need for qualified
information. Who will manage it?
Financial PR is becoming a key stage in the planning of the big asset
managers and the media is increasing its offer.
In the past 12 months alone, Il Sole 24 Ore has grown to the point of
becoming the number one financial daily in Europe and two new specialist
papers have emerged to grab a slice of the booming demand for financial
As the market grows, the problem emerging is finding enough seniors
capable of neatly managing an announced market trend. And it is for this
very reason - that expertise contributes to generating financial wealth
- that those who ignore the financial market in Italy are missing out on
a great opportunity.