Milan’s fintech landscape has been growing consistently in recent years. The city now boasts some 150 fintech start-ups, up from 32 in 2017, according to figures from the Fintech District hub. 

Milan ranked 47th in the Global Fintech Index 2020 produced by research company Findexable, and 16th in Europe. Rome, the next Italian city in the ranking, ranked 115th globally, making Milan, to a great degree, the main centre for fintech activity in the country.

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“It may seem that Milan is still far from the European and global fintech leaders. However, we can see that Milan rose by 10 positions in 2020, telling a story of a great growth,” says Alessandro Longoni, head of Milan’s fintech district. 

Italian fintechs have been attracting significant levels of venture capital (VC) funding, even during the Covid-19 pandemic. They raised $57.3m across seven deals in the first half of 2020, against $34.4m in 14 deals in the whole of 2019, according to PitchBook data. Milan alone accounted for 41 out of a national total of 69 VC deals in the fintech vertical between 2015 through June 2020, PitchBook figures show. 

Moneyfarm, led by co-founders Paolo Galvani and Giovanni Daprà, is one of the start-ups in Milan’s fintech district network to have had success in its latest funding rounds. Poste Italiane S.p.a, the Italian postal service, is its main investor, according to Crunchbase.

Challenges and opportunities

The rapidly changing financial landscape, as it transitions from physical to digital interaction, offers a variety of opportunities for financial institutions in Italy – but it will also pose some challenges. 

“The model proposed to make fintech and traditional financial institutions coexist is one of cooperation, thus promoting a collaborative model between the old and the new,” says Mr Longoni. “However, I think that the risks of fintechs are very well balanced with the opportunities, especially as fintechs mean more financial inclusion.” 

The central bank has also stressed the need for greater financial inclusion. Alessandra Perrazzelli, deputy governor of the Bank of Italy, says: “During the pandemic, we learned that we need to expand technological innovation more, as a great portion of people do not have access to online services yet, making it a massive issue of inclusion. This can be achieved through a wider financial and digital education, which I believe should be a number one objective on everyone’s agenda.”

Another issue that will test Italian institutions’ readiness for the new digital wave of finance is the regulatory system around fintech, which needs to be revised to incorporate current developments. Italy needs “to have a regulatory system which is not only adapted to the digital world, but that understands it and is able to accompany, anticipate and promote the development of fintech realities,” adds Ms Perrazzelli.

This article first appeared in the August - September edition of fDi Magazine. View a digital edition of the magazine here.