The Malta Independent 20 January 2022, Thursday

FinanceMalta taking the next quantum leap to sustain the promotion of Malta as a financial centre

Noel Grima Sunday, 30 April 2017, 07:20 Last update: about 6 years ago

Noel Grima interviewed Finance Malta's chairman Kenneth Farrugia.

7 May will mark the 10th anniversary of FinanceMalta. In fact, Malta had only been a member of the EU for a few years when the industry felt the need to initiate the process to set up a body that would be tasked to communicate Malta's value proposition as a European financial centre.

FinanceMalta was actually set up as a Foundation reflecting a partnership between the Government of Malta and the financial services industry as represented by the various financial services associations each having equal representation on the Board of Governors. Over this decade, together with its members, FinanceMalta has worked incessantly to position Malta from a modest domestic financial centre to a European financial centre that is today underpinned by clusters of financial service providers, the majority of which are international operators, operating across a number of key sectors such as asset management, insurance and family wealth, among others.

Over this period, the industry has experienced a paradigm shift from a domestic led financial centre to one which is driven by international business. These developments have brought about a significant GDP contribution with the financial sector today accounting for 13% of our national GDP where the various operators in the industry collectively employ over 10,000 workers. A quick look at the various financial services sectors from insurance to asset management, pensions and family businesses will reveal that the industry is supported by a growing number of service clusters that are well rooted within the financial services industry and that are actively conducting international financial services business.

Just to cite some examples, today there are over 150 investment services licence holders in the investment services industry and just under 60 operators in the insurance sector Malta which highly contrasts with the relatively small number of operators in the industry 15-20 years ago which primarily just focused on the domestic market. 

FM is a member based organisation and is today represented by over 270 members operating in various sectors of the financial services industry. The members view FM as their "support partner" with an aligned interest in not only the organisation of initiatives to promote Malta as a financial centre outside our shores, but also a means of creating networking opportunities for them in their business development thrusts. 

At the outset, it was strategically felt that it would be opportune to promote Malta within the European marketplace and the EEA. However, over these last two years, the events that FM organises are now being extended to countries beyond Europe. As a result the strategic focus has been widened in a way so that while we sustain initiatives in the European market with events being organised in a number of EU member states, FM also initiated the process to organise events and initiatives beyond the European borders. In effect, last year FM organised a number of events in the US market which saw initiatives held in New York to promote Malta and its financial services industry. These initiatives focus mainly on the insurance and asset management sectors and will also be extended to family offices/family businesses over the course of this year.

FM has also started to organise events in the Gulf with a number of events held in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Last year a Memorandum of Understanding was also signed with the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) as the national regulatory and promotional body for Abu Dhabi's financial services industry, with the first event planned to be co-organised with ADGM in May. Through this event delegates will be provided with information about Malta as a financial services jurisdiction for European business and at the same time to introduce Malta-based operators to Abu Dhabi as a financial centre for financial services operations in the Gulf.

Over the course of this year, FM is also planning to hold events in Turkey, Singapore, Hong Kong and China. These are two relatively "new" markets where FM has in place plans to organise various initiatives to strengthen the visibility of the industry in these countries.

In parallel, FM has also initiated the process to co-organise events with its members particularly those members that also have a presence in FM's target countries.  

Apart from the organisation of its own events and participation in a number of third party events, FM is also very active on the social media channels such as Linked-In, Facebook and Twitter. FM's social media presence is integral to its strategy to ensure that Malta's financial services industry is also visible and present on the key digital channels. Moreover, FM has set up and continuously invested in a dedicated website which is underpinned by the latest technological developments. This portal has a highly rich information content not just at a generic level but also provides technical information at the level of the key financial sectors that FinanceMalta promotes beyond its shores. In fact, the website enables its users to download numerous publications and fact sheets forming part of the marketing toolbox supporting the main industry's sectors. Multilingual versions are also available - in Spanish, Arabic, German, Italian and Chinese to facilitate the dissemination of information in other languages.

Apart from the aforementioned initiatives, FinanceMalta is also active on the educational front. In fact FM has organised numerous Educational Clinics covering regulatory and industry related matters. Incidentally, just a few days ago FM organised a clinic on Blockchain Technology which was very well attended and very engaging. This is one of the new sectors that is being actively followed up by FinanceMalta.  

One of the key annual events organised by FinanceMalta is its Financial Services Conference which is the largest domestic financial services conference to be organised in Malta which last year attracted over 400 delegates. This year's 10th annual conference, which features a high number of carefully selected local and international experts, will address delegates on contemporary and current topics affecting the financial services industry. The conference will be addressed by the Hon Dr Joseph Muscat, Prime Minister of Malta and will be moderated by Michael Imeson, Senior Content editor, Financial Times Live and Contributing Editor, The Banker, FT Group. This year's programme primarily revolves around the new and emerging sectors which in the view of the Board of Governors of FinanceMalta will sustain the growth of the industry going forward. The themes to be discussed will in fact include international pensions, Blockchain Technology and Malta as a potential international test bed, crowd-funding, crypto currencies, family wealth and securitisations.

Another theme that will take centre stage during this year's conference will be Brexit and the implications this will have on the UK, Malta and the rest of Europe. The conference will also address the opportunities that might potentially arise within the Commonwealth countries as a result of Brexit. It is interesting to note that Malta is one of two Commonwealth member states that are also EU member states and developments that will eventually shape the strategic direction of the UK insofar as initiatives undertaken within the Commonwealth countries might potentially create opportunities for Malta as a conduit to Europe for financial services operators in Commonwealth countries.  In order to address this interesting topic, FM has invited the Rt Hon Lord Marland of Odstock to speak about this development.

This year's conference will also feature a women-only panel discussion on crowd-funding as well as a panel of international and domestic speakers that will address Malta's positioning as a centre for international family businesses where among others information on the Family Business Act will be provided during this panel discussion.    

Going forward, Malta is very well positioned to sustain the growth it has achieved so far. Clearly the onset of expats that are travelling to Malta to work in the financial sector and other industry sectors is creating a number of infrastructural and service demands. Consequently it was welcoming to note that plans are in hand to turn a former hospital in Mtarfa to a school for children of foreigners that are residing and working in Malta. Equally so the high level of our health sector is also an important criterion that is assessed when foreigners are considering to set up an operation in Malta and relocating workers to Malta in the process. Other factors, where Malta needs to sustain its focus, relates to the accessibility and efficiency of our regulatory authority when processing the applications of new licences and in attending to the ongoing requirements of licence holders, as this creates an important competitive advantage, the ongoing presence of a comprehensive legal and regulatory framework, ensure that the responsiveness of the industry practitioners to the needs of international investors remains competitive and last but not least the need to ensure that innovation remains a key driver of business growth. These are all highly important pull factors for Malta.

We must all recognise that the face of Malta's economy has changed over this past decade as the country has in the process continued to open up to international business. In the process, we need to ensure that we live up to our value proposition and ensure that we are adapting to this new reality and at the same time adopting strategies to support this industry. Malta's small size is a huge advantage which we sometimes tend to underestimate. Consequently, we must ensure that this reality is being effectively leveraged to the benefit of the financial services industry and the wider national economy.

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