From our offices on the 41st floor of the Empire State Building, we admire a panoramic view of New York City. A dynamic metropolis subject to constant change, New York is also at the crossroads of different cultures, hopes and dreams. Newer and taller skyscrapers aim for higher peaks, what were once infamous neighborhoods now rule as protagonists of the biggest investments in the global real estate market.
New York’s unstoppable vitality and constant evolution are contagious and are reflected in the history of our Firm. Throughout our 75 years of activity, day by day, we assisted our clients and witnessed the investment cycles of the most diverse European companies in the United States: from the first “pioneer-entrepreneurs” out to score big in America, to the most recent success stories.
Our decision to make the Empire State Building our home stems from the degree of commonality our Firm shares with this architectural icon: on the one hand the symbol of audacity and efficiency of its time, and on the other serving as a compass for newcomers in search of a reference point to navigate the busy streets of Manhattan.
We like to think that our clients perceive us in the exact same way: a landmark anchored in the heart of New York City, providing direction to inhabitants of a world that is constantly evolving, proud of our history, success, and the innovations contributed to our field of endeavor. The key reference point on U.S. tax, audit and accounting matters to international companies conducting business in the United States.
The history of Funaro & Co. starts at the end of the 1930s, when Giorgio Funaro, originally from Livorno, Italy, was forced to leave and relocate to the United States as a result of unfolding European political upheaval and uncertainty. What would later become his cherished home initially proved to be a challenging landscape to inhabit, for the US was extremely different from his native land. Living stateside, Giorgio, a methodical man with a master’s degree in business and economics, was required to quickly adapt to a fast-paced environment and restart a business, and a life, from the very beginning.
Giorgio’s first clients were mostly young professionals and small local businesses. His unique approach was fueled by a knowledge of the Italian system and was paired with a willingness to learn “the American Way.” In 1946, Giorgio, along with his first American partners, established “Funaro & Osdin,” officially marking the start of the Firm.
Giorgio Funaro and his first partners began addressing the needs of small foreign-owned businesses that were, in large part, making maiden voyages into the USA. Many of these businesses subsequently became international leaders in diverse sectors ranging from fashion to food, design and manufacturing.
The vision and methods of Giorgio Funaro, which later proved to be extremely successful, were clear from the very start. Giorgio intended to create a bridge between different accounting and tax systems and business cultures that were in immediate need of a common manner of communication in order to facilitate successful business models and market penetration strategies.
To this end, Giorgio handpicked professionals from both the United States and Italy, looking to find the proper mix of technical proficiency and cultural sensitivity in order to fuse the talent that rest in the two worlds of professional and academic preparation.
FROM THE 1950s TO THE 1970s
The expansion of the reputation of the Firm has always been closely connected to the evolution of the economy in the European Union, with the emphasis on Italy in particular and its relationship with the United States. Up until World War II, what became to be known as “Made in Italy” was fragmented and underestimated even by Italians themselves. Until the 1960s, Italy was busy focusing on rebuilding and consolidating its domestic panorama, thus too shy and cautious towards making significant investments in the United States.
Those years helped Giorgio Funaro and his team develop and strengthen the requisite knowledge to service multinational interests, leaving the Firm well positioned to deal with the economic windfall of the first turning point in the history of the Firm. The beginning of the 1970s witnessed two interconnected phenomena: a greater interest coming from foreign firms towards investing in the American market as evidenced through the opening of their first locations in the US, while, at the same time a growing interest by large American industrial groups towards the European market. Italian companies started distinguishing themselves via their deep knowledge and mastery of product design and achieving the highest quality standards in various manufacturing processes.
This is when we find the “Italian signature” in many of the great projects that made New York the city we know today: from the subway tunnel connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn built under the East River, to the foundations of the World Trade Center.
As the need for U.S. professional advice by European and Italian companies grew, the Firm accepted a dual challenge: assisting these companies in strategic decisions aimed at achieving a stronger and more stable presence in the U.S. market and ensuring that European and Italian entrepreneurs realized it was the right moment to hop across the Atlantic. The Firm has always played a vital role in this process by being a trusted and competent well-established partner in the American context.
Being able to align very different business cultures has been at the core of our focus, a focus we carry with passion and dedication since our start. We have assisted European companies that have become prominent players on the American market, step by step, in a process aimed at truly conveying to them the meaning of what doing business in the US implies. Extreme diversification with large subgroups of consumers, different lifestyles, cultures, regulations and state tax laws are just some of the key aspects to master in order to successfully flourish as a business in the United States.
Being able to adapt to the commercial, operational, accounting and tax rules of the U.S. market has the potential to “make it or break it” for foreign investors. Funaro’s professionalism and experience played a key role in assisting businesses during this tough but exciting process of internationalization and “cultural translation.” In 1976, the Firm reorganized its legal form to that of a New York professional corporation, taking on the name of “George R. Funaro & Co., P.C.”
The 80s were shaped by a large increase of foreign investments in the United States. Italians played a key role in the real estate and food sectors thanks to favorable commercial agreements and increasing cooperation between Italy and the United States.
In this context, the Firm lived through an historic change. In 1981, after almost 40 years, Giorgio Funaro passed his legacy and the Firm to his partners, all of whom unanimously decided to leave “Funaro” in the Firm’s name. The Firm wanted to make it clear to the marketplace that it would uphold the values and methodologies that made Giorgio Funaro so successful.
The 90s were very exciting years. The Partners decided to rebrand the Firm as “Funaro & Co.,” and enhanced the participation of the many talented professional members of the “Funaro team” across the different areas of tax, audit and advisory services.
There was also another strategic choice that truly marked the beginning of a new decade: the opening of a Funaro & Co. representative office in Milan. The bridge between Italy and the United States, which the Firm had traditionally represented, became a tangible geographic reality to benefit longstanding clients and foster the acquisition of new ones.
The following years saw Funaro & Co. emerge as a leading authoritative voice and partner for foreign companies interested in expanding their operations and investments in the United States.
It was in this context that 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.
This is also the period in which Italy and the European Union members grew increasingly desirous of achieving the prestige of a presence on the international scene, with their hopes and aspirations buoyed by the knowledge of the excellent quality underlying their products and services across all sectors including fashion, design, luxury goods, textiles, automotive, food, pharmaceuticals, real estate, media, construction, software and telecommunications.
Our confidential client files from those years have become a veritable “hall of fame”, serving as chronicles of the history of the Italian expansion in the US, with much of the detail foreshadowing the challenges and opportunities Italian companies would be facing in the near future.
The years 2000s are remembered for the introduction of a new currency: the Euro. This new monetary change favored the idea that, in order to achieve success in the United States, the investment to be made was not only in terms of financial means but also in terms of human resources. A long-term mentality needed to be deployed to best succeed. From our privileged standpoint over trends and markets, we realized that the traditional approach as mere exporter was no longer functional to achieving higher results, but that a transition into something different and a change of mentality once again was required – and we can proudly state we were there for each and every single one of our clients.
We were pleased to also notice that despite the financial crisis, EU companies continued to believe and invest in the United States market. Their bet became ours too. It was Giorgio Funaro who first understood that for an Italian company to be successful in the United States, a change of approach was required. Italian companies needed to “become American companies,” shifting from a concept of mere exportation to a more complex concept of internationalization, thus establishing a direct presence on 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. Funaro’s emphasis on the long-term view helped us sense opportunity amidst the economic ruin as we guided European entities and individuals aggressively turning 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 burdensome run-up in the prices of comparable assets. Our office in Florida not only brought us closer to our clients in the southern U.S., it brought us closer to Europe.
FUNARO TODAY AND TOMORROW
From the most renowned industrial groups to smaller and lesser known entities, our inclination has always been to assist clients regardless of their dimensions. We pay particular attention to the specific needs. Based on 75 years of experience assisting foreign-owned companies operating in the United States, we know it is essential to be in full grasp of U.S. accounting rules and tax laws but equally important to understand and reconcile the tax and financial reporting requirements of the foreign parent companies. The direct contact between our Firm and management overseas allows the top decision makers to protect their investments in the United States.
History, ours and that of our clients, provides the foundation for our understanding of the present day. We also carefully monitor current events because in the 21st Century, the U.S. is characterized by a complex web of laws, principles, rules, tax codes and regulations. Looking forward, our sense is the U.S. will continue to possess exceptional potential for future growth, especially for our client base that is characterized by companies who provide exceptional products and services.
Today, Funaro & Co. has a team of over 100 professionals from 12 different countries. We speak over 20 languages and we are certain that our diversity is an integral part of our success story. We shall continue with what has always made us proud and distinct: being the trusted U.S. accounting and tax advisor for international companies doing business in the U.S.