Funaro & Co., PC turns 70 in the Empire State Building
GGI member firm Funaro & Co., PC, a New York City-based public accounting practice with offices in Milan and Miami which specialises in audit, advisory and international tax, entered their 70th year of operation in pure “organic” form. Contrary to the macro trend of merger and consolidation inside the US accounting industry, the firm has never acquired another practice. Funaro & Co. presently has a team of close to 100 professionals from 12 different countries and is headquartered on the 41st floor of the Empire State Building.
Funaro & Co.’s history is a case study in favour of the importance of forging economic ties between North America and Europe. Giorgio Funaro, the firm’s namesake born in Livorno, Italy, was forced to relocate to the US in the late 1930s as a result of unfolding European political upheaval and uncertainty following the outbreak of World War II. Giorgio, a methodical man with a Master’s degree in business and economics, established Funaro & Osdin along with his first American partners. The practice centred on the needs of small, foreignowned businesses who for the most part were making maiden voyages to the US. Many of these businesses subsequently became international leaders in fashion, food, design and manufacturing.
The firm’s growth has been connected to the evolution of the economy in the European Union, with an emphasis on Italy in particular. At the end of WWII, the concept behind products and processes that eventually became known as “Made in Italy” was fragmented and undervalued, even within Italy. Until the 1960s, Italy was rebuilding and hesitant to make significant investments abroad. The 1970s brought a small wave of foreign firms investing in the US market, while large US industrial groups took greater interest in the European market. Italian companies started to distinguish themselves with their mastery of product design and attainment of exemplary quality standards and manufacturing expertise. In 1976, the firm reorganised under the name George R. Funaro & Co., PC.
The 1980s saw a large increase of European direct investment in the US. Italians played a key role in the real estate and food sectors thanks to favourable commercial agreements and increasing cooperation between Italy and the US. In 1981, after almost 40 years, Giorgio Funaro passed ownership to his partners, all of whom unanimously decided to leave “Funaro” in the firm’s name.
In the 1990s, the firm rebranded as Funaro & Co. and opened a representative office in Milan. The bridge between Italy and the US became a tangible geographic reality to benefit longstanding clients and foster the acquisition of new ones. A word-of-mouth mechanism began reaching an increasing amount of potential clients and their European audit, accounting and tax firms, investment funds and financial institutions. European entities increased their presence internationally and the firm’s practice expanded by serving a wider variety of sectors that included fashion, design, luxury goods, textiles, automotive, food, pharmaceuticals, real estate, media, construction, software and telecommunications.
The new millennium’s salient economic event was the introduction of the single currency: the euro. This change favoured the idea that, in order to achieve success in the US, the investment to be made had to be not only in terms of financial means but also human resources. A long-term mentality needed to be introduced and the scheme whereby an exporter in Europe utilised third-party distributors in the US was revisited. Italian companies needed to become American companies by establishing a direct presence in the market.
In December 2013, Funaro & Co. opened an office in Miami, Florida. The US business landscape had been adversely impacted by the “Great Recession” of 2008, when overvalued mortgage securities bundles triggered a domestic and worldwide financial crisis. The firm’s emphasis on the long-term view found opportunity amidst the economic ruin. European entities and individuals aggressively turned to the southern Florida market for real estate and business deals in lieu of making comparable investments in Southern Europe, where a strong euro and other factors caused a restrictive increase in the prices of comparable assets.
Presently, the firm finds itself advising European companies as well as certain South American and Pacific Rim companies through a period of pronounced political upheaval in the US. For partners, despite 70 years of watching their city evolve at a “New York minute” pace (an imagined unit of time which an American TV personality once described as “the interval between a Manhattan traffic light turning green and the guy behind you honking his horn”), the latest changes have that unfamiliar feel which is becoming all too familiar. To successfully conduct business in the US, a company must master appealing to a market characterised by extreme diversification with large subgroups of consumers, lifestyles, regulations and laws.
Joseph M. Catalano
Funaro & Co., PC
New York, NY & Miami, FL, USA and Milan, Italy