London-based Matteo Cerri, CEO of the international activities of The Family Officer Group, only misses a few things about his native Milan. “ I miss going to watch AC Milan playing, although recent results mean I suffer less ... and I miss some proper cotoletta alla milanese.”
Insurance and non pro t specialist Cerri moved to London in 1996 to work as Corporate Finance Executive at Cowell & Partners, formerly Mapfre Securities. At the same time, he founded the rst risk management consultancy rm devoted to NPOs in partnership with his father Franco. Although he returned for short periods to work in Italy, he is now based permanently in the city. “My first job was here, my friends are here and I live here with my wife,” he says. “London is the best location in Europe (if not the world) to run a business like ours. Furthermore our strong links with the insurance sector force me to stay here too. I see London as the best platform for European companies to look at and meet the world. London is also effectively a large Italian city, well linked to Milan and crowded with excellent professionals and entrepreneurs.”
It was back in 2004, during one of his stays in Italy, that Cerri took over the advisory services business of the Shield Group and created the present The Family Of cer Group. Fast forward to 2015 and The Family Of cer Group is recognised as one of the most important family of ces of Italian origin, with over 130 associates and representative of ces in more than 20 countries worldwide. Over the years the Group has broadened its scope and now has interests in the insurance, property, entertainment and food and beverage industries, as well as its more traditional professional services.
The Group has four divisions. The Multi Family Of ce division is a traditional multi family of ce, currently serving approximately 120 clients (15 of whom are real ‘family-of ce’ clients) alongside the Cerri family of ce. Sixty per cent are Italian families, the remainder mostly from from Eastern Europe.
The Property division invests in hotels, fashion outlets and luxury properties, while the Insurance holdings division invests in and manages niche insurance companies, brokers and innovative channels in the sector.
I2I is the group’s small venture capital company. It invests in growing UK companies managed and controlled by Italian entrepreneurs in London. It was launched last year and is now involved in 18 companies for a total of £4 million. Its portfolio includes events company Eat, Drink, Love Italian.
Cerri says that Italy accounts for about sixty per cent of his business, although that gure is decreasing. “Meanwhile we have a growing growing stake and visibility in anything that’s Italian in London (and soon also in the USA and China),” he adds.
Business e via Italy’s involvement with the group began some time ago. “Ben of BEV is a master networker. I appreciate his open mind, his willingness to create links, relationship and to support anything that’s innovative, active and working. So whatever he does it’s interesting for me and I enjoy involving and promoting him in whatever we do. He is a good professional who I trust.”
They work together in a way Cerri describes as very simple. “We keep in touch, we exchange ideas and opportunities. If something is interesting we share it. He forward me lots of ideas and sometimes I get involved and eventually invest in them or keep them in my network. At the same time I always involve BEV in my promotions, events and new projects.”
Having lived in London for so long, Cerri has his own take on the differences between how business is done in the UK and Italy. “To run a business like mine in Italy would probably cost me three times as much in terms of money, time and stress. The UK is a fertile environment for most businesses as long as you are serious, prepared, hard working and pragmatic. In Italy, business still depends a lot on adaptability and few technical skills but huge networking power. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, just not my cup of tea. There is nothing wrong in doing deals thanks to who you know, but it’s bad when it’s the only thing you rely on. I am often frustrated by the very poor preparation of many Italian professionals and that’s unforgivable.”
Cerri has a few words of wisdom for those doing business with Italy for the rst time. “Get ready to invest a lot of time, to cope with unexpected delays and formalities. There is so much to do and to improve and I believe it should be our duty as Italians to do our best to help foreign investors to look at Italy.
Cerri might sound critical but it is the criticism of one who is deeply in love with his country. And does he miss Italy at all? “No, I don’t miss Italy. You miss something that you left, I have not left Italy, I live it from London.”