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JULY 2017


Veronica Stivala seeks some answers from Perit Amber Wismayer

Consider this: the number of foreigners currently living in Malta has the equivalent impact on the island as doubling the number of tourist arrivals would. The money they spend covers rentals, restaurants, clothes, films, groceries, transport, mobile phones…The list is endless and trickles down to virtually every sector of the economy. The property sector has taken note and more and more people are buying property as an investment in these low interest days, cheered by the possibility that not only will the value of the property increase - by an average of 4.8 per cent in the first quarter of this year alone – but that they will also be able to get a regular return through renting it. This is, no doubt, why the volume of property sales rose by 11.1 per cent in the first three months of the year, apart of course from the schemes to help local first-time buyers. The election barely had time to slow things down but that is not to say that nothing has changed in the past few weeks. In spite of the clear mandate for the Labour government, the island’s reputation has taken a battering, both because of external attacks as well as because of doubts cast over the institutions ability to keep the financial services industry in check. There is a lot at stake. Unlike manufacturing – which has a certain inertia built into it because of the factors of production – financial services and gaming are volatile, with rented offices, staff on definite contracts, and even leased computer equipment. There is no time to waste: the government has to accept that the mandate was not a carte blanche to turn a blind eye to the ugly pre-election rumours and make sure that all the momentum of the past decades is not lost in the blink of an eye.

Editor Anthony P. Bernard Design Peresso Design Studio Printing Print It Distribution Mailbox Direct Marketing Group

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16 MILLENNIALS WITHOUT MONEY? Millennials are purportedly the first generation to be worse of than their parents. Why is this, asks Veronica Stivala.


Maltese lease arrangements are trickier than they look. Doran Magri Demajo guides you through the things you need to know.


Brothers Benji and Zak Borg have made waves since co-founding ANCHOVY., an international digital marketing agency. Their enthusiasm is infectious.


Everyone agrees that record low unemployment is a great achievement, but Stefan Micallef understands that this also means a headache for real estate agencies whenever there are vacancies to be filled.


Organisations need to become more sophisticated in dealing with uncertainty. By embracing, managing and quantifying uncertainty you can obtain greater clarity on your strategy, and leverage uncertainty to achieve superior performance. Robin Cleland explains.


Richard Muscat Azzopardi has tips for estate agents who will have to compete ever more fiercely in the future.

46 ANTIQUES AND ATTITUDE IN A VALLETTA PALAZZO Victor Paul Borg heaps praise on a project in Valletta which managed to combine Maltese architectural heritage with the patina of imported antiques.


Money’s sizzling looks for this summer.


The Bluesman ponders just how long Trump can escape unscathed from the unfolding drama starring James Comey and a cast of Russians.

COVER CREDITS Brothers Benji and Zak Borg co-founders of ANCHOVY. READ THE FULL INTERVIEW ON PAGE 24

Money is published by Be Communications Ltd, No. 81, Howard Street, Sliema, Malta SLM 1754 All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part is strictly prohibited without written permission. Opinions expressed in Money are not necessarily those of the editor or publisher. All reasonable care is taken to ensure truth and accuracy, but the editor and publishers cannot be held responsible for errors or omissions in articles, advertising, photographs or illustrations. Unsolicited manuscripts are welcome but cannot be returned without a stamped, self-addressed envelope. The editor is not responsible for material submitted for consideration.

6 - Money / Issue 43

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WILL THE PROPERTY BUBBLE BURST? The steep rise in the demand for accommodation is creating an equally steep rise in property prices. The burning question is: how long will this trend last for? Veronica Stivala seeks some answers from Perit Amber Wismayer


alta is fast becoming a building site, with properties going up left, right and centre. The property market is quite evidently booming, with demand for accommodation at an all-time high. The consumers are both those wishing to buy as well as the rental market, as the booming gaming industry has brought

12 - Money / Issue 43

many foreigners to the country who need properties to rent. But while the adage ‘make hay while the sun shines’ definitely applies to this situation and many are clearly filling their pockets, one cannot but question whether we are only seeing as far as the tip of our noses and

whether this will all come crashing down, leaving us with empty properties, and no countryside to speak of. Perit Amber Wismayer concurs that there is a demand for accommodation in general, noting that certain areas are more in demand than others, and particular types are perhaps more

There are also developers who hunt for dilapidated properties that require conversion, sites that can be built-up or terraced houses can that demolished and replaced with apartment blocks. Collectively, observes Wismayer, “this means that terraced houses, apartments, townhouses, maisonettes and undeveloped sites are all in demand”, admitting that she has never experienced this phenomenon before in her career. Perit Amber Wismayer

highly sought after. However, the spectrum of potential buyers is currently so wide that she certainly would not hesitate to say that this is a seller’s heaven. Given the Maltese preference for ownership, the First-Time Buyer’s Scheme brought a steep increase in purchases. And ‘buy-tolet’ purchasers search for a property that is central and finished to high standards.

But Malta’s popularity among foreigners looking to retire or searching for a holiday home is nothing new. Apart from Malta’s pleasant climate and easy way of life, the reason for this was the country’s beautiful architecture. Wismayer has a strong respect for local heritage. She recalls that her grandfather would point out countless properties that he had purchased, restored and sold to British and Italian buyers. “Although he worked throughout Malta, he always emphasised the appreciation foreigners had for the south, particularly Cottonera, and

I can reaffirm this through my experience,” she comments, adding that she has “no doubt that it is the particular character and strong sense of history that these areas carry, which stimulates international interest, and will continue to do so as long as we protect and respect our architectural heritage”. There is a great concern that in order to meet the demand, properties are being built fast but at the expense of quality. But according to Wismayer, the quality of our contemporary architecture is vastly improving: “Although we are often bound by time and budgetary constraints, I take great pleasure in seeing the work of my colleagues become much more designoriented, with great emphasis being placed on aesthetics, finishes and detail.” She lauds the positive effect internet and social media have had on this in that we are fully exposed to international projects, which allow us a great deal of creative inspiration. She continues: “Luckily, our clients are also granting us more freedom

Money / Issue 43 - 13


LUCKILY, OUR CLIENTS ARE ALSO GRANTING US MORE FREEDOM WITH EACH PROJECT WE UNDERTAKE. with each project we undertake. They are becoming more open-minded about new ideas, and I believe that this stems from a growing appreciation of the value of welldesigned, cohesive architecture.”

Wismayer agrees that interest in older properties is ever-growing, thanks to their unique character and features, while schemes like Irrestawra Darek have provided a financial incentive to help with the costs of restoration.

Yet Wismayer admits that not all new buildings are of high quality: “Although the terms ‘greenness’ and ‘sustainability’ are used frequently in our day-to-day vocabulary, we have not yet mastered the full incorporation of building physics and energy efficiency. There is so much potential for growth here, yet we seem to be lagging.”

“However,” she stresses, “greater scope should be placed on reinstating the sustainability element. The potential for reducing energy demand and pollutant emissions is notably significant in the case of heritage buildings. Given Malta’s abundance of older properties, huge potential exists to exploit the benefits of energy efficient retrofit. We have inherited a resource which we are not tapping into.”

This also brings to mind the high number of vacant properties. Does she think more should be done to upgrade older properties rather than to build new ones?

14 - Money / Issue 43

Indeed, Wismayer’s research focuses on identifying passive environmental design features and ensuring that these support the

energy profile of the building by providing a comfortable environment – as they were designed to do. We reach the burning question: Will the property bubble burst soon? History has taught us that situations inevitably evolve, notes Wismayer, and it is more or less a certainty that the property market will shift to adjust to the country’s socio-economic conditions. “Whether this change will happen sooner or later is very difficult to predict, since it depends on a number of factors,” she says. However, she quotes a university professor who once said that the property market in Malta is a rare phenomenon in that property value increases and stabilises – but rarely decreases significantly. Personally, she suspects that if and when one door closes, we will find a way to create another – no ‘demolition/construction’ pun intended!


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Millennials are purportedly the first generation to be worse off than their parents. Why is this, asks Veronica Stivala.


hile many of our parents already owned their house when they were in their 20s, and 30s, and were pretty financially stable as they reached their 30s and 40s, the new generation is struggling to cope, and far fewer are able to

16 - Money / Issue 43

afford owning their own accommodation. While the trend has been for the upcoming generation to be better off than its predecessors, this appears to be the first time that the new generation is reputedly worse off than their parents.

Melissa Grima

Yet while this is apparently so, there is more to it than means the eye, especially since there are many variables at play. Melissa Grima, head of the Economic and Risk Research Unit at Bank of Valletta, acknowledges that millennials

OUR FATHERS WERE GREATER SAVERS THAN THE MILLENNIALS, IN THE SENSE THAT THEY REGARDED FINANCING AS THE ‘LAST RESORT’, AND WOULD DO THEIR UTMOST TO SAVE AND ACQUIRE ONLY BASED ON THEIR SAVINGS, IF POSSIBLE are often pitted against the baby boomers generation in terms of income and future earnings potential. It is generally argued that the recession in the United States, and later in Europe, impacted millennials negatively, in terms of salaries, job types and employment prospects, but she points out that this is not necessarily the case for Malta: “If we were to put this in the Maltese context, the recession did impact. However, it is acknowledged that Malta was resilient and the impact of the recession did not run as

deep in Malta as in the rest of Europe,” she notes, adding that “we are not really in a position to say that the recession brought about a decrease in real wages”. She is quick to note, however, that this area merits further analysis, which would, for instance, consider the movement in real wages over the years, but also look at aspects such as types of jobs, quality of life and education. In fact, more millennials are in education for longer than the preceding generations, so they are entering gainful employment much later. Back in the 1980s, a typical

25-year-old would have already been in employment for some 10 years. “Millennials enter the labour force today much later, typically upon obtaining their first degree, and hence start earning money at a delayed stage compared to their parents. Thus, the earning potential of, say, a 25-year-old today may be less when compared back to the 1980s, also because of less work experience,” she notes. But what about the housing market? Surely this is not simply a case of starting work later?

Money / Issue 43 - 17


No, it is not, and unfortunately many more factors are at play here, namely a market where house prices have gone up significantly compared to those faced by our parents. Grima goes on to stress how “comparisons should be made using say loan-to-income ratios to measure affordability, rather than simply house prices”. Yet all is not as bleak as it may seem, and she points out that, on the other hand, millennials can bank on financing to an extent that their parents could not. Case in point, she notes how since the 1990s, the maximum term of house loans has doubled: “In the 1990s, a house loan could be taken out for a maximum of 20 years, but nowadays terms can reach a maximum of 40 years. This was a significant game changer, increasing a customer’s loan amount entitlement, and in turn what the customer can afford to buy.” Grima commented that over the same period, we also witnessed a substantial decrease in interest rates, which at one point had even hovered around eight per cent, as opposed to the three per cent region of today. This means that today’s customers can obtain a bigger loan and at the same time pay less in interest.

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There is also the culture variable, which should not be underestimated, notes Grima: “Our fathers were greater savers than the millennials, in the sense that they regarded financing as the ‘last resort’, and would do their utmost to save and acquire only based on their savings, if possible. The millennials give more importance to their lifestyle, and seeking financing to afford their lifestyle is acceptable for them.” So once we have a different approach to financing, what’s the future going to look like for us millennials? The answer is not straightforward as things have changed, and are still changing: “The financial services industry has gone, and is still undergoing significant changes, evolving into one of the most dynamic economic sectors,” points out Grima. Investments are no longer on the periphery of the financial services spectrum but are now inherent to the offering. “In our current scenario of continued low interest rates, it is practically impossible for an individual to grow his wealth without considering investments. Financial services providers are

positioning themselves to provide as broad a spectrum as possible, while concurrently building a working relationship with their customers, and tailoring the services offered to their needs.” Ultimately, concludes Grima, millennials present a challenging, yet interesting dimension for financial services providers. As always there is no magic formula – harnessing innovation and having an intimate knowledge of the market and its needs, remain key variables for any financial services provider looking to remain competitive for the millennial market. The information, views and opinions provided in this article are being provided solely for educational and informational purposes and should not be construed as investment advice. Bank of Valletta plc is a public limited company licensed to carry out the business of banking and investment services in terms of the Banking Act (Cap. 371 of the Laws of Malta) and the Investment Services Act (Cap. 370 of the Laws of Malta). Registered Office: 58, Triq San Zakkarija, Il-Belt Valletta VLT 1130-Malta Registration Number: C 2833

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Maltese lease arrangements are trickier than they look. Doran Magri Demajo guides you through the things you need to know.


alta’s accession to the EU and subsequent establishment as a European domicile of choice across various key industries (including financial services, remote gaming and e-commerce), has directly contributed to the jurisdiction’s increasing popularity as a place of permanent residence and a hub for international business transactions,

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resulting in the cumulative demand for the taking on lease of both residential and commercial property in Malta. How? As opposed to a contract for the sale and purchase of immovable property, a lease arrangement does not transfer ownership but grants the right to make use of the

property subject, of course, to the terms of a written lease agreement. The contract of lease in Malta is regulated by the Civil Code and the corresponding provisions seek primarily to establish the main rights and obligations of the parties to the lease. In general, lease arrangements may be said to be purely contractual in nature and, as such, the parties (i.e. the lessor/ landlord

Dr Doran Magri Demajo is a partner at Be Legal Advocates and is primarily responsible for the firm’s corporate, commercial and real estate law practice.

and lessee/ tenant) are afforded wide discretion in negotiating the terms and conditions of the lease. Unlike agreements regulating the sale and purchase of property, a lease arrangement is crystallised by virtue of a private agreement executed between the parties and does not need to be published by a notary ad validitatem. This notwithstanding, a lease agreement will have to cater for the following, as a minimum, on pain of nullity: • Appropriate description of the immoveable property to be leased; • The agreed use of the property let (eg. residential or commercial); • Duration of the lease agreement; • Mechanisms for extension of the lease, if any; • The amount of rent to be paid in consideration of the lease of the property and the manner in which rent will be paid by the lessee. Who? There are no prescribed Maltese law restrictions as to who may enter into a lease agreement, insofar as the parties to the agreement have legal capacity to contract (i.e. persons who are not interdicted, not incapacitated and of legal age). The lessor must also enjoy appropriate title to grant the property on lease and, accordingly, must be either the direct owner or a legitimate possessor of the property duly authorised to grant it on lease to third parties. How much? The general principle under the Civil Code is that the parties to a lease are free to agree on the amount of rent payable and to determine the manner in which rent is to be paid, at their discretion. What are my main obligations as lessor? The primary and most obvious obligation of the lessor is to hand over effective possession of the property to the lessee upon the execution of the lease agreement. The lessor’s main ongoing obligations include the structural maintenance of the property. He is generally required to effect all structural repairs which may become necessary to and within the property. Ordinary repairs occasioned by ‘wear and tear’ are typically at the charge of the lessee.

In the event of persistent failure by the lessor to conduct required structural repairs, the lessee may carry out the repairs at the lessor’s expense (which may also be set off against rent). Moreover, in addition to various other remedies granted to the lessee in such circumstances, urgent repairs may also be carried out by the lessee provided that the latter must duly inform the lessor and provide a corresponding expert’s report confirming the nature of the repairs and their urgency, the estimated value and the prejudice which might result from such delay.

repairs as aforesaid and must carry out such works up to a good standard of workmanship. Similar to the right afforded to the lessee as set out above, the lessor will be able to carry out such repairs at the expense of the lessee in the event that they are not be carried out in a timely manner by the lessee. A paramount obligation of the lessee is that of restoring the property to the lessor in the same condition in which it was received. The obligation excepts items that may have perished or deteriorated through age, fair wear and tear or irresistible force,

IN GENERAL, LEASE ARRANGEMENTS MAY BE SAID TO BE PURELY CONTRACTUAL IN NATURE AND, AS SUCH, THE PARTIES ARE AFFORDED WIDE DISCRETION IN NEGOTIATING THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF THE LEASE. The lessor is also required to undertake and warrant in favour of the lessee that the property is being leased without faults or defects that may prevent or diminish its intended and agreed use (including faults or defects that may arise during the operative lease period). In the event of any proven breach of this warranty the lessee would ordinarily be entitled to terminate the lease agreement without liability (insofar as the lessee had no knowledge of such defects at the time of execution of the lease agreement). What are my main obligations as lessee? The primary obligation of the lessee is to make use, with prudence, of the property in accordance with the terms of the lease agreement and to pay the rent agreed upon. The use or application of the property by the lessee for any purpose other than that agreed between the parties would afford the lessor an immediate right of termination. The terms of a lease agreement would also typically provide for a mechanism for immediate termination in the event of persistent non- or latepayment of rent by the lessee. The lessee retains responsibility for all ordinary repairs other than structural

however, generally any other deterioration or damage that occurs over the course of the operative period of the lease is attributed to the lessee, who will be required to make good for the damage. Accordingly, it is prudent and advisable, but often unfortunately overlooked, to draw up and annex to the lease agreement an inventory listing the items in the property and their condition. Such an inventory minimises the possibility of disputes at a later stage (saving both parties time and expense) and serves as an effective tool to address the rebuttable presumption under Maltese law that the property and the items therein are deemed to have been delivered in good condition. Alterations to the leased property require the prior consent of the lessor. The value of any improvements effected without the lessor’s approval may not be claimed by the lessee. If legitimately made and commercially viable, the lessee may opt to remove the improvements upon the termination of the lease, restoring the property to the same condition in which it was delivered at commencement, provided that the lessor may opt to pay the value of the improvements and retain them within the property.

Money / Issue 43 - 21


IT IS PRUDENT AND ADVISABLE, BUT OFTEN UNFORTUNATELY OVERLOOKED, TO DRAW UP AN INVENTORY LISTING THE ITEMS IN THE PROPERTY AND THEIR CONDITION. How do I exit? In the absence of specific renewal mechanisms built in to the lease agreement, and given that Maltese law does not recognise the tacit renewal of lease agreements, the lapse of the agreed term of lease brings about the expiration of the lease agreement ipso jure, without any need to give notice. A well drafted lease agreement will also make specific provision for early termination of the lease in the event of serious and/

22 - Money / Issue 43

or persistent breach by either party of any of the terms of the agreement. Residential lease agreements where the lessee has defaulted in payment of rent may only be terminated by the lessor following the service of a judicial letter and the subsequent failure of the lessee to pay rent within 15 days of such service.

contracts are by their very nature often of significant value and consequence, it is essential that proper, considered professional advice, duly tailored to the nature of each particular lease arrangement, is sought in advance by all interested parties in order to ensure that the final agreement properly reflects the intended terms between them.

Be prepared! Given the discretion which is afforded to parties negotiating the terms of a lease agreement and in view of the fact that such

Should you wish to contact the author you should call on (+356) 2713 0150, send an e-mail to or visit Be Legal’s website at

Distributed exclusively in Malta: C. Fino + Sons Ltd T +356 2549 3000


DIGITAL DREAMS Brothers Benji and Zak Borg have made waves since cofounding ANCHOVY., an international digital marketing agency. Their enthusiasm is infectious.


ANCHOVY. is home to a team of 30 people, spread across two buzzing spaces in Hamrun, with aggressive plans for satellite offices on the continent and even the Middle East.

ANCHOVY. has evolved naturally, and it is well placed and sufficiently agile to capitalise on the increasing focus on digital marketing. Today

By flipping the traditional agency model on its head, ANCHOVY. focuses on transforming their clients into partners, so that they make money only when their partner is making money: performance-based marketing, it makes perfect sense. Few clients can argue with a model that is designed to increase their revenue and profits.

ack in 2012, Benji and Zak Borg developed apps ‘Malta on D Move’ and ‘Next Gozo Ferry’, which clocked over 35,000 downloads. Although tough to monetise, the apps grabbed the right kind of attention. Before they knew it, the two fresh-faced brothers were signing on and serving big name clients out of their bedroom.

24 - Money / Issue 43

Delving deeper into ANCHOVY.’s ascension, Benji and Zak acknowledge the team around them as a main driver of their growth. When asked what it takes to succeed at ANCHOVY., the brothers quickly stress that they’re not after PhDs or straight A students but are more interested in the “off-the-wall misfits” who are hungry and have a point to prove. They’re after “doers” and not ‘’thinkers’’, with the right mindset for getting things done. With everyone pulling in the same direction and an absence of entitlement,

WITH EVERYONE PULLING IN THE SAME DIRECTION AND AN ABSENCE OF ENTITLEMENT, A CULTURE OF OPENNESS HAS BEEN FOSTERED WHERE KNOWLEDGE-SHARING IS ENCOURAGED a culture of openness has been fostered where knowledge-sharing is encouraged. So where next for ANCHOVY.? It’s the longterm vision for the company that gets Benji and Zak out of bed at a crazy hour every morning while the rest of the island slumbers. The founders are transparent about their plans. An IPO is something that the brothers actively want to work towards and they have recently made a cheeky foray into the capital markets space, a milestone typically hit by larger, more mature companies. ANCHOVY. recently had a €1 million bond issue admitted to Prospects, an SME exchange administered by the Malta Stock Exchange. This is a bold move for a company so young and in a market where venture capital is not easily accessible. However, it allowed the founders to hold on to their equity and leverage an upward trajectory until the company is ready for more aggressive moves.

Zak & Benji’s first office in their bedroom and garage 2013–2014

Despite the company’s continued growth spurts, the brothers remain humble and are eager to surround themselves with respected grey-haired thought leaders who can guide them into scaling unprecedented heights. They’ve done just that by bringing on board senior directors that boast decades of combined industry experience and who are aligned with the

long-term vision of the company. It is an enviable blend of business acumen and youthful enthusiasm that has the Borg brothers understandably enthusiastic about what’s to come. More information about ANCHOVY. and its story can be found on and can also be followed on Facebook & Instagram.

The ANCHOVY. team today – a team of 30 spread across 2 offices in Ħamrun

Money / Issue 43 - 25


Stefan Micallef forms part of the human resources and recruitment team of Erremme Business Advisors. He is also currently reading a Masters of Business Administration with Edinburgh Business School.


Everyone agrees that record low unemployment is a great achievement, but Stefan Micallef understands that this also means a headache for real estate agencies whenever there are vacancies to be filled.


t is no secret that recruiting the right talent has become a major difficulty in almost every industry due to increased competition and a vast choice of work environments for candidates to choose from. This is of course also the case with real estate!

Most real estate jobs in Malta have commission-based pay and although commissions in the sector are extremely attractive, there is no safety net for agents if a difficult month comes around. To add to that, agents have to wait for months upon months of bureaucratic

Money / Issue 43 - 27


INDIVIDUALS INVOLVED IN SALES NEED TO HAVE A HIGH LEVEL OF PERSISTENCE TO BE ABLE TO GET OVER BEING TURNED DOWN BY CLIENTS procedures for them to get their pay check once a property is sold. On the other hand, with renting getting the money is quicker but not necessarily more rewarding than selling. Individuals involved in sales need to have a high level of persistence to be able to get over being turned down by clients and all the other things that can go wrong. On the positive side, whether renting or buying property, the market is still very active and reaching new heights. But is the real estate sector attracting enough sales people? The shortage of people is evident, so making an agency an attractive place to

28 - Money / Issue 43

work is an important place to start. In my opinion, this lies on three main pillars: • Database of property • Attractive commission structure • Work culture and training

Last, but definitely not least, is the effectiveness of the culture within the company; a number of leading agencies are moving towards this. Some agencies are recruiting people without experience, then train and nurture them in an attractive work environment, and boost organisational commitment within the company. Recruiting people without experience is definitely a long term project as one cannot expect an agent to become an expert in a couple of months.

First and foremost, having a rich database to sell is essential! If you do not have the product, you cannot sell it. Showing three apartments to clients instead of one, will definitely increase the odds of a sale and give more courage and motivation to the agent.

Taking all the above into consideration, the headache of recruiting top talent in real estate will not go away anytime soon, yet with its database of experienced local and international real estate agents, Erremme Recruitment can offer a solution to local agencies. We invite you to get in touch with us today to discuss this further.

Secondly, the higher the commission, the more agents are motivated to keep pushing further and ultimately earn more money. If agents are not very engaged with the company, chances are that they will move if a better rate is offered.

Stefan currently forms part of the human resources and recruitment team of Erremme Business Advisors and Erremme Recruitment Ltd. He is also currently reading a Masters of Business Administration with Edinburgh Business School.

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Robin Cleland is managing partner at 20/20 Strategy, a boutique strategy consulting company, specialising in growth. He advises leading global brands and new emerging brands across a range of sectors and countries.


Organisations need to become more sophisticated in dealing with uncertainty. By embracing, managing and quantifying uncertainty you can obtain greater clarity on your strategy, and leverage uncertainty to achieve superior performance. Robin Cleland explains. e live in a world which is less linear and more fluid, with fast-changing conditions and ongoing global economic and political uncertainty.


economic instability in Europe, the refugee crisis and ongoing tensions in the Middle East. The only consistency is that uncertainty will remain high for some time.

Recent developments have contributed to a heightened sense of uncertainty, with Donald Trump unexpectedly elected as President of the United States, Theresa May triggering Article 50 to start the process of the UK leaving the European Union, combined with

In times of heightened uncertainty, our ability to think rationally can easily become overwhelmed. It is often believed that strategy and uncertainty are incompatible – that if there isn’t enough certainty about the future, then you cannot develop strategy effectively.

The reality is that there will always be some uncertainty, and there is no guarantee that the future will be less uncertain or less complex. The danger with a wait-and-see approach to strategy is that the competition may be proactively exploiting the uncertainty to their advantage, which could leave you in a worse competitive position. Furthermore, without a clear strategy in place, your organisation risks the inefficiency and ineffectiveness of poor

Money / Issue 43 - 31



UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT AND DRIVERS OF PERFORMANCE • Map the mechanics of the eco-system in which you operate • Develop fact-based clarity on underlying customer behaviour




• Adopt a broader perspective to contextualise your performance

1 2

EVALUATE ALTERNATIVE FUTURES AND STRATEGIC TRADE-OFFS • Define which uncertainties to evaluate, focus on the ones that matter • Develop base case and create a set of probable scenarious • Weigh the pay-offs and risks and evaluate the strategic trade-offs




IMPLEMENT STRATEGIC PRIORITIES AND TRACK PERFORMANCE • Indentify triggers and early lead indicators • Monitor progress and revisit scenarios • Align the strategic review cycle

focus and decisions having no coherence – which places increasing pressure on your organisation’s performance.

growth opportunities, and evaluate how emerging trends and market events could impact brand performance in the future.

It is in times of uncertainty that you have to be clearer about your strategy. The companies that survive and succeed are the ones that are very clear about who they are and how they are going to compete, and which manage the circumstances to continue delivering value. This strategic clarity helps them successfully navigate ambiguous situations.

Evaluate alternative future and strategic trade-offs Faced with increasing levels of uncertainty, a scenario-based planning process is key to robust strategy development. The aim is to see the future before others do, in terms of how the competitive environment, market conditions and customer behaviour could change. This foresight allows you to craft strategic moves to shape the future to your brand’s advantage, and helps to identify the lead indicators to monitor to ensure you do not miss a strategic turn.

It is also at these times that new opportunities emerge, and those companies that are most prepared to take advantage of them are the ones that will benefit the most. Ambiguity can unlock potential, by making companies explore strategic options that they would not have otherwise considered. Ironically, it is also at these times that performance expectations are lowered, and management has more flexibility to make unprecedented strategic moves that they may have otherwise been unable to do. Senior management will need to become more accustomed to working with uncertainty, and take the necessary steps to make coherent strategic decisions. Understand the context and drivers of performance Building clarity into the structure and mechanics of the ‘eco-system’ in which you operate, and the underlying customer behaviour, is fundamental to strategy. It provides a solid basis on which to identify

32 - Money / Issue 43

IT IS IN TIMES OF UNCERTAINTY THAT STRATEGY IS MOST IMPORTANT Senior management must distinguish between ‘core strategic moves’, and ‘opportunistic strategic moves’. Core strategic moves are those that build on the organisation’s capabilities and deliver a positive outcome under all or most of the probable scenarios. This clarity builds confidence and consensus on which core initiatives focus. Opportunistic strategic moves, on the other hand, are aimed at mitigating potential risks

or positioning an organisation to exploit emerging opportunities, depending on which scenario materialises. Investment in these strategic moves should be selective, and positioned so that they can be ramped up or scaled down depending on the scenario. Senior management may choose to wait before implementing some initiatives until there is more clarity, but by being proactively prepared, the organisation is already at an advantage over competitors. Implement strategic priorities and track performance Organisations that are successful in times of uncertainty are not necessarily better at foreseeing the future, but they are better prepared for the range of plausible futures, and have identified the early lead indicators to identify which scenario will unfold so they can rapidly seize the opportunity. Uncertainty will remain high for some time, but this is no excuse for less rigour or clarity in making strategic decisions. Adopting a data-driven and quantitative approach to strategy, that captures the underlying customer behaviour and mechanics of performance, and explores plausible scenarios, provides the basis for building a shared understanding of the context, opportunities, trade-offs, and lead indicators to monitor. In this way, senior management will not only make better strategic decisions, but also proactively leverage uncertainty to move ahead of the competition.



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Who better to analyse the property market than one of its most prominent and experienced experts? Sara Grech set up one of the most successful real estate agencies in Malta and in 2012, co-branded it with Engel & VĂślkers, taking the company to a whole new level, Managing director Benjamin Tabone Grech explains. 1. Is the property market slowing down? No, it is not; demand is strong and things are still moving forward swiftly. Today, what differs from the past is that procedures for transfer of title have become much more stringent. Researches on title are going further back in the past than in previous years and documents with regards to permits and regularisation are being strictly and thoroughly researched. This is cleaning up many of the properties in the market which were once very hard to sell. In turn, buyers and sellers alike expect a much higher standard of service.

attractiveness for international companies to set up shop on our islands, no matter how small or large. These numbers are important because the rental market depends on the influx of foreigners coming over to work here. With regards to Maltese people renting, at this point it still makes much more sense to purchase as rental prices exceed the affordable rates for an average family. With the same amount, they could be investing into a property of their own for the future as well as getting a foot in the property market.

2. The rental market has been inundated with properties. Is it sustainable? There are several points to be discussed in relation to the matter of the rental market; firstly, as the living costs in Malta have increased, the rental market has become less affordable for nationals. However, people coming in from overseas found the rental market attractive and affordable and when, for example, fewer Spanish were moving to Malta to find work, the rental market took a small hit.

3. Prices went up by 4.8 per cent in the first quarter of the year. How do you see things going forward? My perspective is that a very specific market segment will continue to see an increase in values, this being houses. If we are to consider new builds, specifically apartments, we can estimate that several thousand will be put on the market in the next few years based on the pending applications for development at the Planning Authority. This vast choice means that blocks with better layouts and in top locations will hold their value very well. Nevertheless, more conventional blocks could suffer from an oversupply.

Although matters picked up again very quickly, I would say that the sustainability of the rental markets very much depends on the

4. There are major high–rise projects planned. How will they affect the residential market? In the short term, residential properties in the vicinity will be inconvenienced due to the construction, but in the long term an increase in commerce in the area will naturally upsurge footfall and demand for residential property in the surrounding areas. High-rise buildings will diversify the selection of property in the market and this will attract a different clientele to our market. 5. We used to say that there was not enough office space. Is that going to change? I believe there is still not enough office space on the market. It has improved over the past few years and most of the new office blocks that are being constructed are already fully leased out. It is clear that most businesses prefer to operate in an office block with underground parking, rather than in a standalone apartment converted to an office. There should be greater focus on specific business districts between the East, Central, South and Northern parts of the island to continue, maintain and attract steady growth. Malta is a great jurisdiction for all types of local and international businesses.

Money / Issue 43 - 35




Being able to draw on the vast experience of its founders has given Oyster Real Estate a unique set of skills.


he company was formed from an aspiration to create an exclusive, close-knit team approach to the world of realtors in Malta. The founders, who all come from a background in the luxury goods business, wanted to create a similar atmosphere for clients looking to buy or sell property – select and tailor-made. Miguel Bonello, Annabelle Bonello Lowell and Malcolm R. Lowell ventured on an independent initiative to form Oyster Real Estate. Miguel Bonello: With his extensive knowlege of the property market, and a successful career in real estate, it was a natural progression for him to start a new company with a fresh approach to the traditional methods of agencies. Malcolm Lowell: Having spent most of his career in the world of luxury products and events, he was keen to be one of the founders of an initiative that took the same approach to the property market – exclusive and unique – providing the company with his valuable marketing know-how and extensive international client base. Annabelle Bonello Lowell: As a director of the family business and Honorary Consul General of Switzerland, she was excited to be part of

a venture where she would be able to work closely with her husband and brother forming a new, dynamic company. Having spent her whole career within the luxury business, she has been able to introduce clients to Oyster from both sides of her active careers. Lisa Inglis: As an accomplished professional in real estate and with an extensive background in property management, she was enthusiastic to be part of this young company which has strong family values at its core. Our Mission: The mission is clear: to create a strong teamwork environment for the associates who, can in turn, provide clients with the best possible dedicated service. The people in the company are educated professionals offering a tailored, quality service to each and every client while ensuring the best value possible. The demand for property in Malta is high – Both locals and expatriates are constantly searching for the perfect properties in a small, densely populated country. That is why, at Oyster, we are dedicated to selecting only the very best-suiting properties for our clients, rather than offering an overwhelming stream of options as soon as they appear on the market.

The rental market is becoming increasingly high commodity – Due to the demand from the influx of high earner workforce industries setting up in Malta, so we stick to the individual clients’ preferred budgets as there is a vast sliding scale of low to high-end rental options. We encourage locals to buy their own homes as the first step on the property ladder. Homeowners in a position to purchase a second property are supported to benefit from this current market options. Raised standards of service available to clientele within the property industry are inherent to Oyster Real Estate. Ethical codes of practice and professional standards reflective of the local laws and regulations to meet client needs are enforced within our small team. As a number of our international clients are from within the EU, our objective is to provide them with a recognisable, seamless experience when it comes to letting, sale or management of real estate for them on the island. Join our Team: ‘Team member’ is not a term used lightly within our company; we began with a strong foundation and it is our intention to keep these ethics within Oyster. The company’s property database is growing daily, with many opportunities for agents to have a successful career for themselves working in a boutique agency.

Money / Issue 43 - 37

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Quicklets is all about seeing people achieve their goals. If you are a property owner having trouble renting your property or maintaining the price you want, we’ve got some tips for you.


irstly, stage your property for photos when estate agents visit to list it. This is extremely important for renting your property; any mess must be cleaned up and the property must be nicely set up for photos’ sake. Get rid of any clutter. Remember, on a website, the nicest-looking properties will be the first to get enquiries. Secondly, contact real estate agents regularly. Get in touch with them and let them know when your property will be coming available. Contact them again closer to the available date. Your property is one of thousands online, so it needs to stand out from the others. At Quicklets, we’re always ready to upgrade your listing according to the available date. Get in touch with us today to get your property on our books! Thirdly, always provide precise and relevant information. When sending details by e-mail, WhatsApp, Facebook Message, SMS or by phone call, give your real estate agents all the

information and/or photos of your property. Here is a list of what you should always include (in one text – so that agents can share it between themselves faster): Address Contact number Contact e-mail Photos Date of availability Number of bedrooms and bathrooms Other property specificities: views, utilities and appliances, useful amenities in proximity (grocer, bank, bus stops, bars and restaurants). Another key factor contributing to maintaining a high price for your property is furniture. Upgrade furniture and/or utilities in your

property, which include air-conditioners, televisions, washing machines, tumble dryers, cookers, Wi-Fi, etc. Replace your old furniture with new, design-finish items. A modern touch to your property will make it more attractive to clients who have several options within their budget range. The last resort is to drop the rental price. If you’re not ready to make changes to your property in any way, then drop the price – you’ll rent more! It’s better to rent out your property for 12 months at €900 today, rather than wanting to keep the price at €1,500 and lose two or three months. Many properties come available, and if they are more modern and offer more utilities than yours for approximately the same price, then yours is less likely to get rented. You might get a call from Quicklets specialists asking if clients with a lower budget can come and view your property: if you have had a couple of dry months, we strongly advise you to rethink the price and keep your property full instead of empty! Money / Issue 43 - 39


United Garage Ltd, HERTZ INTERNATIONAL FRANCHISEE 62, Qormi Road Luqa LQA9042 Malta Phone: +356 2247 5910 E-mail:



Licensed stockbroker Alexander Mangion is managing director at MPM Capital Investments since 2009. The company is authorised by the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) to provide financial services in Malta and holds a Category 2 licence. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Hons) degree in Banking & Finance (University of Malta) and a Master of Finance & Investments (University of Nottingham).


hat a difference a few weeks make in political and economic history. Many analysts, economists and informed opinion leaders welcomed 2017 with emotions ranging from caution to predictions of apocalyptic proportions. With the world still shocked by Brexit and Trump’s electoral victory, financial markets shivered at the thought of extremism rearing its head in France and the Netherlands. Yet, pro-EU centrist Macron achieved a stunning presidential victory, followed by a clean sweep at the Parliamentary elections, while populism in the country of tulips was also kept at bay. Markets took a collective sigh of relief. The political good news is accompanied by positive economics vibes. Unemployment has reached the lowest levels experienced for the past seven years, while GDP has grown by

0.5% in the first quarter – which may not seem substantial, but it’s more than double the UK’s 0.2%. Buoyed by this performance, the EU recently upgraded its forecast, predicting a 1.7% growth in the euro-area this year. It is too early to establish a clear cause/ effect between the above political and economic news. However, there seems to be a general trend: the ratings of populist parties suffer when the economic cycle improves, and as threats subdue, business and market confidence improves. However, there are other reasons for the recent improvement: these include a general improvement in global growth, improved domestic demand in many EU countries as a result of lower unemployment and better wages, as well as a better financial position for many EU countries.

…. AS THE MIDDLE EASTERN OUTLOOK TURNS GLOOMY Throughout the past few weeks, Middle Eastern politics were shocked by the unprecedented decision by a number of Gulf States to isolate Qatar over its alleged support for terrorist organisations. As weeks go by, a political crisis risks transforming itself into a market crisis.

This impact might not be too immediate: Qatar has a staggering $330 billion of assets in its sovereign wealth fund. Yet, the fact that the main Qatari stock index fell by more than 7% in a week might be a sign of things to come. The first industry to take the hit is expected to be aviation: Doha is one of three key regional travel hubs, the others being Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

According to different reports, the economic impact of the Gulf diplomatic crisis, which has isolated Qatar from the rest of the Arab community, could cost Gulf economies billions of dollars. This is a result of slowing trade, investment and a higher cost to borrow money – all this at a time when these oil-producing countries are not making the same killing from selling oil as they did up to five or six years ago.

If prolonged, this crisis might roll over to other economic sectors, as investors fear unpredictability. The crisis will increase inflation in Qatar, raise the risk of a credit rating downgrade for the country and possibly trading partners, and will impact regional banking activity. Qatar’s organisation of the Fifa World Cup in 2022 has also been put into question.

MAKING MONEY FROM FAKE NEWS Smaller countries tend to be innovative in attracting new business. Isolated from economies of scale, they tend to look at economic niches which allow them to achieve prosperity. Unfortunately, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is making a name thanks to a hugely successful online fake news businsess. Indeed, it is estimated that hundreds of Macedonian teens and young adults are making thousands of dollars every month by promoting

fake stories, generally about US politics, and making a killing from advertising on these websites, particularly though Google’s Adsense. While unhappy with this link, Macedonia is trying to use this unwanted tag to its advantage, by promoting the skills of its IT-savvy young adults to attract investment in this sector. While certainly no European Silicon Valley, the country is starting to attract a number of medium-sized international

businesses. Over the past few months, the country has reduced taxes for the industry – even designated a number of zero-tax areas – and significantly reduced bureaucracy to set up such firms. Newly set-up foreign subsidiaries also benefit from generous state subsidies. FDI levels are remarkably low in Macedonia, and are a key priority for the new government which took office last May after a long period of instability. Money / Issue 43 - 41



hana might not be the most obvious place for Maltese companies seeking trading partners but Trade Malta will soon be organising a mission there – prompting us to look more closely at this African country. Ghana is considered one of the more stable countries in West Africa since its transition to multi-party democracy in 1992. Ghana’s most recent elections took place in December 2016. Formerly known as the Gold Coast, Ghana gained independence from Britain in 1957, becoming the first sub-Saharan nation to break free from colonial rule. Gold, cocoa and more recently oil form the cornerstone of Ghana’s economy and helped fuel an economic boom. Until recently Ghana was hailed as a model for African growth but since 2013, its economy has endured a growing public deficit, high inflation, and a weakening currency, resulting in its seeking an IMF bailout.

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Nonetheless, Ghana recently established a $1.5 billion budget for public/private partnership projects and remains one of the largest economies within the Economic Community of West African States, which consists of 13 countries in the region. In addition a Ghana Infrastructure Fund (GIF) has been created which will be used for projects from housing to transport links, and water quality. Benefits for businesses exporting to Ghana include immediate access to all the ECOWAS markets. Ghana is also developing as a regional gateway for opportunities in other west African markets and offers some key incentives. These include permitting 100% foreign ownership, a large consumer base with a growing middle class, export-free zones where goods traded with other countries are exempt from customs duties and some laws, and access to rest of Africa through the Continental Free Trade Agreement.

As with many developing countries, there are challenges. The power supply is erratic and expensive, and bureaucracy can stifle the best intentions. The country ranks 56th out of 168 countries on the corruption index, and there is high unemployment and poverty. Businesses should be wary of unilateral approaches as there have been cases where foreign companies were lured into bogus deals: always seek advice from competent authorities. Looking ahead, Ghana’s economy slowed down to an estimated 3.5% growth rate in 2015 according to the IMF as a result of severe power shortages and fiscal consolidation but it was expected to recover in 2016, with GDP growth around 5.9%. Prospects for 2017 look bright with FocusEconomics panelists expecting growth to hit 6.2%. Growth should pick up thanks to increased oil and gas production

and higher prices for two of Ghana’s key exports, cocoa and oil, which should improve the country’s terms of trade. Oil reserves are estimated at around 2 billion barrels. There have been about 24 new oil and gas discoveries since the Jubilee discovery in 2007. Oil and gas production will be boosted by 10 fields coming online in July/August 2016. The financial services sector is growing and there are investment opportunities for companies needed to work with local businesses. Fintech firms can particularly look at partnerships, training and transfer of technology. Local agricultural products include cocoa, cashew, tropical fruits and vegetables. The emphasis is now shifting from raw exports to processed exports with major stakeholders and government looking for ways to improve agri-business through the use of modern technology. The health sector in Ghana has also witnessed significant investment in infrastructure recently, with numerous investment opportunities. There is a growing demand for education and training services in Ghana though it is important that training companies and institutions identify their main areas of focus as well as the type of delivery methods they can offer.

Last but by no means least, there are various institutions offering training in different aspects of ICT but many more are required. Ghana’s status as an English-speaking country with Francophone neighbours helps it attract business processing orders and outsourcing/ back office jobs from the USA and Europe. Future opportunities centre around tourism, with the development of multi-hotel business-level resorts. Companies intending to invest in Ghana are required to register with the Registrar General’s Department. A certificate of incorporation and certificate to commence business are issued following registration. After incorporation, companies that are partly or fully owned by foreigners have to register with the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) which encourages and promotes investments in all sectors of the economy except mining and petroleum. Registration is completed after companies have met the minimum equity requirements. Any investor exporting at least 70% of its total output can take advantage of the Free Zones Act and locate their businesses within the Free Zone enclaves at Tema or Sekondi. Ghana has not yet signed a double taxation agreement with Malta. All companies

incorporated in Ghana or managed from Ghana are required to register with the relevant tax authorities. Companies are liable to pay varied levels of taxes depending on the sector of operation. The location of the project and whether the company is listed on the Ghana Stock Exchange will also impact the tax payable. Maltese passport holders need a visa to travel to Ghana. Contact Trade Malta or the High Commission of Ghana in Malta for more information and advice on opportunities for doing business in Ghana. Address: Ghana High Commission, 70 Sir Adrian Dingli Street, Sliema Tel: 2704 2460, E-mail: Consul to Malta in Ghana: Jean Claude Galea Mallia

2015 GDP estimate

$116 billion

2015 GDP per capita:


Oil reserves are estimated at around

2 billion barrels.

Ghana’s main exports are gold, cocoa beans and timber products.

Ghana’s most recent elections took place in December 2016.

Money / Issue 43 - 43



Richard Muscat Azzopardi has tips for estate agents who will have to compete ever more fiercely in the future.


alta’s going through a property boom. No one can deny it. Just look at how sales and rental values have shot up and you can see that, year on year, we’ve been having some of the most aggressive increases in prices in decades. Estate agents are booming. The traditional players are growing at what

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seems to be unprecedented rates, but new players are joining the fray and growing at insane rates too. The one thing most people don’t seem to be thinking of, however, is that a gold rush is bound to have casualties. And, at the end of the gold rush, all the gold’s gone too!

There might not seem to be any end to the boom in sight, but the last election made us think seriously about what would happen if Malta lost its lustre. What if we lost the financial services industry, gaming, tourism? What if they just slowed down and prices started going down again because demand decreases?

Richard is the CEO of Switch - Digital & Brand, a marketing agency that forms part of ICOM, the world’s largest network of independent agencies. You can get in touch on

What not to do… If you’re going around at the moment spending all your money on a disparate set of ads that are there to get you as many calls as possible, you won’t survive. If you’re busy buying up plots to convert into blocks of anonymous apartments that give you the most units per square metre, you won’t survive. If you play tricks such as trying to persuade owners to drop prices to get stock you can sell quickly, you won’t survive. The brands that will survive are the ones who invest in the future. The brands that survive – and thrive – will be the ones who decide to invest some of the gold they are mining now in building the property markets of the future. Real estate agencies who invest wisely. Property developers who build future-proof buildings. I’ve looked at four areas that property developers and estate agents could be exploring (with the right partners) to make their businesses futureproof. VR & AR I’m starting with Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) because they really capture people’s imagination in a way that’s easy to understand and see

the benefits of. The benefits of VR are the easiest to understand for anyone who’s ever looked for a house in the hot summer months. We would all love it if we could see virtual tours of potential homes from the comfort of an air-conditioned office - then we could choose which ones to visit in person once we’ve shortlisted a couple. AR might be more complicated to program at this stage, but both developers and real estate agents must have encountered cases where people can’t envisage a property because it’s not built to their taste. With proper implementation of AR, you could potentially give a tailored tour of a property. If I like a vintage style, then I’d see how it could look with some classics from the Mad Men era, while the next visitor might prefer ultra-modern furniture – so the property will change completely from one visitor to the next. Brand (not logo) Brand tends to be one of the most underestimated investments anyone can make. Most people think that a brand is limited to your logo. But brands are far more powerful than that. A good brand will define every interaction with stakeholders. With a strong set of brand values (and all that goes with it), you could build loyalty from customers that’s pretty much unassailable.

Even though estate agents and property developers are making a killing now, they’re still some of the least loved professionals. This is because there are quite a few bad apples that taint the image for the rest. To set yourself apart you need to be proactive and set out brand guidelines that clearly state that you are different, and that you care for your clients. Once you’ve set out the guidelines, you need to ensure that every representative of your brand matches your brand perfectly. A solid brand exercise can help you throughout the process by prescribing how everyone should behave and even help you choose who to employ and work with. Human behaviour As mentioned above, the one issue that most property developers and estate agents seem to ignore, ironically, is human behaviour. By simply looking at the bottom line, most people in the industry seem to be looking at the market with incredibly short-term glasses on. Basic human needs and wants remain the same, but behavioural trends change constantly. We (at Switch) employ someone to keep abreast with trends from around the world, doing our best to remain ahead of the curve. Looking at the property market with a longterm view allows designers and architects to change the way buildings are planned, built and finished in a way that accommodates the human of the future, not of the past. Interior design (not decoration) Finally, and once again following up on the earlier point, when considering human behaviour, we should place a much larger emphasis on interior design. Most of us seem to confuse interior decoration and interior design. The former describes the finishes and furnishings inside a space, whereas the latter allows us to design spaces based on how humans will use them and interact with them. Ideally you should start off every design project with an incredible amount of research about the use of spaces, based on how humans will interact with them. By combining insight into human behaviour with great design skills, you can come up with interiors that don’t only look good on a catalogue, but also improve the everyday lives of people who interact with them.

Money / Issue 43 - 45



Wilfried Tops

Victor Paul Borg heaps praise on a project in Valletta which managed to combine Maltese architectural heritage with the patina of imported antiques.


t’s hard to define Palazzo Prince D’Orange in Valletta except that it is the fantastic creation of Wilfried Tops, a man who made a name for himself restoring the former plumber’s palace at Hampton Court, one of England’s eminent royal palaces. The building itself – not strictly a boutique hotel, neither a block of flats, it is marketed as a place offering ‘serviced apartments with concierge service’ – has a multitude of rooms and nooks and crannies which have been fashioned into

46 - Money / Issue 43

five self-contained flats with fully-equipped kitchen (most have a guest toilet); the cellar has been converted into a gym. You get a sense of the building’s geometry standing in the shaft: the narrow, towering five-storey building (six if you include the cellar) seems as if each level has been precariously stacked on top of the other. Its walls are subtly redolent of musty earth. The highlight is the Piano Nobile, the lounge, with a high ceiling and bare globigerina walls, the largest room in the building. It boasts

fitted floor-to-ceiling wooden display cabinets filled with books and objets d’art, an opulent glass chandelier, a minimalist sofa and antique dining table, as well as a fireplace and brocade curtains – the Piano Nobile evokes the sumptuous atmosphere of Valletta in the 17th century. It also defines the spirit of the décor. At the time of its opening, at the beginning of 2014, the place was the first boutique property in Valletta that was designed in the personalised, sophisticated manner, with each suite uniquely

Victor Paul Borg has published more than one million words, as well as hundreds of pictures, all published in books and magazines and newspapers in every corner of the world.

It took Tops almost five years to restore the palace with antique furniture and accessories, and the restored palace was widely featured in books and magazines and on the BBC, hailed as an evocative place in true Georgian style. And when Tops sold the house, in 2007, he kept the antique furniture and other fittings. “I was left with an enormous amount of furniture,” Tops told me, “so I decided to use my experience and keep myself busy, and at the same time find a home for my furniture, by restoring a Valletta palazzo.” It took him six months to find the building he sought in Valletta, and then he entrusted the conversion to Claude Busuttil, an architect at ARCstudio, who had experience working on baroque historical buildings. “I told the architect that everything in the building had to be authentically Maltese and that any new divisions we installed could be removed if desired,” Tops said. “One of the biggest headaches I had was getting ducts and wiring and drainage pipes all hidden from view.”

gait, despite his pronounced limp, exuded briskness and determination.

decorated – and that is testament to the vision of the proprietor, Wilfried Tops. Tops lives in Tigne, and when I contacted him to talk about the palazzo, he instructed me to call him when I got to Valletta and he would be over promptly. “It shouldn’t take much longer than ten minutes to drive over,” he said. His strong voice and breezy assertiveness gave me the idea of a Dutchman of boundless energy in his thirties or forties; instead I was greeted by a man in his seventies whose

“When I retired in 2007,” Tops recounted after we were seated in the Piano Nobile, “we bought a flat in Malta and started sharing our time between Malta and Switzerland, where we have another house. But I soon got bored of sitting on the balcony or going to the beach, so I decided to decorate an old building here in the same way I had done in London.” Tops spent most of his adult life in London, where he was a trader, and the restoration he talks about in London was in Hampton Court, most famous as the palace of King Henry VIII. “The plumber was in charge of cleaning out after the king defecated,” Tops said, “and seeing the king’s stools made him privy to his state of health. So he used this information to engage some of the leading artisans of the time, and as such the plumber’s palace had great historic interest. But the house deteriorated over the years.”

Tops worked with the spaces he had and the five flats – which are named after members of the Dutch Royal Family, as is the property itself – are all uniquely decorated. Inside the rooms you feel the weight of history: the antique sideboards and wardrobes and chest of drawers and beds and chairs and tables made of solid wood, supple with character in their subliminal trimmings and slight lopsidedness or other imperfections. And your eyes alight with gusty relish on the old paintings and prints, scattered around the rooms. The density of antiques doesn’t feel excessive (among the historical paintings there are a few paintings by contemporary Maltese artists); the antiques fit the space, the chamber-like rooms with their large and textured and weathered building blocks of limestone. The kitchen cabinets were purposely constructed in restrained baroque, in styles that make them simultaneously functional and traditional; some of the kitchens and bedrooms are vivacious with bright colours and modern functionalities. The bathrooms are modern in darkish hues. I spoke to Tops twice about the building, when it was freshly opened in 2014 and last month (when researching this article) and on both occasions he emphasized that he wanted to create a place in which “people would feel at home.” The manifestation of that vision is an interior design whose flair and setpieces seems to have evolved and matured and blended over a lifetime, as if each flat was decorated by a different antique collector and heritage buff over many years.

Money / Issue 43 - 47

REGNVM by Kris Micallef

Focusing on the beauty of the human body’s structure, often in its naked state, the series of photographs highlights mankind’s innate equality when stripped of social construct, the beauty of the bodies’ sinuous lines representing the higher ideals of equality and tolerance. The constant, dynamic use of fabric serves as metaphor for the historical and contemporary constrictions exercised upon the LGBTIQ community and its will to break free from such limitations. Kris Micallef’s “REGNVM” is a commentary on the authenticity, vulnerability and freedom of LGBTIQ love. Crystalline waters act as backdrop for the unbridled expression of authentic self, unhindered by societal norms and judgement.

Kris Micallef, born in 1988 in Malta, began his career in photography through his fascination with beauty and the human form. Kris graduated in Architecture and Civil Engineering in 2011 after reading for his degree at the University of Malta. His architectural background influences his photographs - order, geometry, light and beauty are keywords synonymous with Kris’ photography.

Interview DESIGN


Money’s pick from the world’s best designers.

ADIDAS ORIGINALS NMD CS2 PRIMEKNIT TRAINERS If you’re paying in excess of £120 for a mid-top trainer, the least you’d expect would be laces to come as standard. However the latest drop from Adidas abandons convention for a laceless, wraparound Primeknit and all the better for it. Available in black or dark grey, these are arguably the most original Adidas Originals to date, and offer a lightweight fit just in time for summer. Tudor is proud to welcome him to its family.

52 - Money / Issue 43

STAR WARS DRONES After the release of Star Wars spin-off Rogue One, the Star Wars drones collection is now available. Those highperformance drones come complete with three speed settings (for beginners to advanced pilots), can laser battle against 24 other spaceships simultaneously and go from 0-30 mph in just three seconds.

TURNTABLE BY LINN We’re calling it – this is the pinnacle of turntable design. With a keel machined sub-chassis and a Radikal motor control unit (whatever that is), as well as five different colours, it’s our very favourite record player for sale right now. The best bit? It’s modular, so you can update and modify it whenever Linn releases an update.


THE BEATLES “ABBEY ROAD” LIMITED EDITION Housed in a 39.5mm steel case and inspired by the iconic cover depicting The Beatles on the world famous pedestrian crossing. The outlined figures of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr stride along the groove of their landmark record. Exclusively available at Edwards, Lowell Co. Ltd., St, Julian’s and Valletta. T: +356 2138 4503,

Named for the Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange, the Roci collection, launched by vintageinspired prescription Warby Paker glasses, is an eyecatching collaboration with the Robert Rauschenberg foundation. Four vibrant crystal frames, including primrose, cerulean and marina colours, reflect the palette from a collection of the American’s most famous graphic art.

RE-RELEASED NOKIA 3310 PHILIPS BT3900 EVERPLAY It looks like a stylish little portfolio, but this is actually a very slim, very powerful Bluetooth speaker. Your music’s delivered through a big driver with a bass radiator, backed by an anti-clipping function that pumps out loud, distortion-free music. That smart cover? It’s shockproof, dustproof and splash proof with a clever strap that doubles up as a USB charging lead. Get one.

Seventeen years after Nokia launched what would become something of a cultural icon – the muchmemed 3310 – digital detox phone company HMD has relaunched what was pretty much the first phone for any teenager in the noughties. It’s not going to compete with iPhones and Samsungs, but the streamlined relaunch is a low-cost, low-risk piece of nostalgia to take to festivals this summer. It also has Snake.

Money / Issue 43 - 53

Interview FASHION


Beams Plus

Money’s sizzling looks for this summer.

SUMMER BREEZE A master at combining classic American heritage designs with quality Japanese craftsmanship, Beams Plus is one of the most popular and respected retailers in Japan. Cut slim from canvas that has a natural stretch, these ‘Baker’ shorts have an internal drawstring to adjust the fit. The royal blue colour makes them just as versatile as denim.

Blue Blue Japan

Beams Plus

Converse Chuck Taylor

Gucci oxford shirt

URBAN GUCCI Based on the Italian brand’s iconic loafers – a design that holds a permanent position in the Metropolitan Museum of Art – this Gucci backless pair is a modern take on traditional clogs. They have been crafted in Italy from supple black leather, detailed with horsebits on the upper and have sturdy footbeds that will mould to your feet with wear. Try them with rolled-up denim on warmer days.

54 - Money / Issue 43

Gucci backless loafers

Gucci denim jeans

Incotex stretch cotton shorts

MARINE PREPPY Incotex’s shorts are impeccably tailored from navy cotton and have just enough stretch to ensure the slim fit is comfortable. Wear yours with a crisp shirt and espadrilles for a smartcasual weekend look.

Castaner espadrilles Incotex polo shirt

Stussy jersey t-shirt Vans sneakers

STREET GLAM Back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Stüssy was just gaining ground, but what started through simple friend-ofa-friend referrals has become one of the most influential streetwear ‘tribes’ out there. This black cotton-jersey T-shirt looks simple enough from the front, but the back is printed with the label’s unmistakable scrawl and an artistic rendition of the globe.weekend look.

Stussy shorts Money / Issue 43 - 55

Interview PROMO


With its imposing stature and restrained form, the Volvo XC90 is relaxed and self-assured – the essence of contemporary Scandinavian design. Inside, an uncluttered cabin designed from the finest materials features jewel-like controls and a tablet-size touch screen. The luxurious, minimalist aesthetic creates a space where you can relax, think, and connect with the world on your terms. Serving as the flagship crossover of the Volvo range, the 2017 XC90 is midsize crossover with seating for up to seven passengers and can be had in either front- or all-wheel-drive configurations. A new base engine, a 2.0-liter turbo-four, has been added to the new XC90 range. Also, the car’s infotainment system has received new apps including an optimised version of the music streaming service Spotify. Base model XC90s now come with a five-seat configuration while the T6 and T8 plug-in hybrid retain the seven-seat layout. An ultra-luxurious variant called the XC90 Excellence, which seats four, is also new. Volvo created the XC90 with one single purpose: to provide you with an SUV that perfectly fits you and your lifestyle. A car that

meets your expectations of a dynamic drive with refined comfort and luxury design – built with care for people and the world we share. A car that’s intuitive to use and makes life less complicated, and is a pleasure to live with every day. At the heart of your XC90 is a dynamic, efficient powertrain. Whichever you choose, you will enjoy our latest Drive-E technology that gives you instant response and a smooth ride. Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are kept low, and our powertrains already comply with future exhaust emission legislation. Volvo’s Drive-E powertrain range includes advanced diesel and petrol engines mated to our smooth eightspeed automatic gearbox, with responsive AWD all-wheel drive technology. The Volvo XC90 is offered in a variety of powertrain, drivetrain, and trim levels to appeal to a wide range of buyers. It also offers one of the most advanced infotainment and active safety tech systems on the market. Come visit the GasanZammit showroom in Mrieħel and take the opportunity to test drive the new Volvo XC90.

COMFORTABLE EMPLOYEE = PRODUCTIVE EMPLOYEE DEX Workspaces has developed a range of modern and ergonomic workspace solutions that bring corporate wellness to companies of all sizes. By investing in your staff’s wellbeing, you’ll be reaping a happy and hardworking workforce that will take your business to the next level. For more information you can browse their website at mt. You can call +356 2277 3000 or visit their showroom located in Mdina Road, Qormi.

56 - Money / Issue 43

DAVID BECKHAM IS THE NEW BRAND AND CAMPAIGN AMBASSADOR FOR TUDOR One of the most admired, gifted and successful football players of all time,
a philanthropist, an entrepreneur and a global style icon, David Beckham’s life journey embodies the daring values that made Tudor what it is today. In 2017, Tudor launched a new campaign with the “Born to Dare” signature which reflects both the history of the brand and what it stands for today. Daring individuals have long chosen Tudor while achieving the extraordinary on land, ice, in the air and underwater. This signature also refers to the vision of Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Tudor, who manufactured Tudor watches to withstand the most extreme conditions, watches made for the most daring lifestyles indeed. It finally tells of the singular approach Tudor is known for today, having pioneered now major trends within the watchmaking industry. The Tudor “Born to Dare” spirit is expressed in a campaign manifesto and supported globally by ambassadors whose life achievements directly result from a daring approach to life. David Beckham is one of them and Tudor is proud to welcome him to its family. “We’re devoted to the classic. But reject the status quo. We keep the best of the past. The best watchmaking practices, the best designs. And push the boundaries of what’s new. Born for
a purpose. Field-tested
to the extreme. For those who are up for anything.
Those who face their fears. Those who reinvent themselves every day. A Tudor is #BornToDare”

PUSHING THE BOUNDERIES Beyond philanthropy and football, David Beckham has worked his way up to the status of much more than a legendary player. Facing the fear of what comes after a sports career and building on his ambition, he established himself as a global style icon. His influence on popular culture transcends the pitch. He is a model and counts hundreds of millions of fans around the world. Exclusively available at Edwards Lowell Co Ltd., T: +356 2124 7447 (Valletta), +356 2138 4503 (Sliema), E:,

HERTZ MALTA CELEBRATES 20 YEARS OF CAR LEASING SERVICES United Garage Ltd., representing Hertz in Malta, holds a longstanding experience in the leasing business, having offered car leasing for over 20 years. Clients today enjoy a professional fleet management service and bespoke complete leasing packages, totally shaped according to their specific needs. Hertz offers clients flexibility and a personalized approach through the complete freedom of choosing the model, leasing plans and packages that best suit their requirements. Hertz’s leasing service puts customers in the driving seat, matching their requests for preferred model and leasing packages whilst supporting them with additional practicality, convenience and added-value. For more information visit

Money / Issue 43 - 57

The Bluesman is a Maltese sound engineer working in New York.

Interview NEW YORK


The Bluesman ponders just how long Trump can escape unscathed from the unfolding drama starring James Comey and a cast of Russians. n a seedy bar, somewhere in Southeast Asia, two men wearing red headbands take turns pointing a pistol at their heads and pulling the trigger, while chain-smoking, sweaty onlookers feverishly bet on the outcome.


Triggers are pulled and the hammer clicks as the pin lands in an empty chamber. A flurry of money changes hands as the two men sitting across from each other spin the chambers. The guns are again pointed at their temples and they steel themselves to pull the trigger. This was the Russian roulette scene from Michael Cimino’s 1978 film, The Deer Hunter, about the effect of the Vietnam War on a group of Russian-American friends who went to fight there. Inevitably, sooner or later, the pin finds the cap and a bullet slams into a skull. A 16.667 per cent chance of blowing one’s brains out. So who’d risk those odds? Quite a few people actually, and all seem to be orbiting the new administration. The number of ‘faulty’ memories straining to remember whether their owners actually had dealings or meetings with any Russian person increases every day. Campaign managers, transition team members and appointees, including the Attorney General, all fudged answers as to whether they had any ties to a foreign government. Slowly the information began oozing out, mainly as leaks to newspapers like the Washington Post and the New York Times, but also as reluctantly, after-the-fact-corrected, confirmation hearing testimony. The FBI was quietly (as it does) looking into the extent of Russian interference in the elections and, more importantly, if there had

58 - Money / Issue 43

been any knowledge of, and cooperation with, such meddling by anybody connected to the US government. FBI director James Comey was due to present testimony to Congress regarding the investigation. Before he could do so, however, he was summarily fired. Snubbing the FBI is like attracting the attention of the IRS. A quiet, insistent, persistent pursuit ensues. It soon became clear that Comey was a methodical creator of detailed memos which he shared with his team of investigators, which a US Attorney in Virginia had subpoenas to issue. In fact, he may well have a Grand Jury already prepared, and a notable target of the investigation let it be known that he was ready to cut a deal and provide information. Click. Click. Click. Another development was the appointment of Robert Mueller to take over the digging from Comey. Mueller, a former director himself, has a reputation for integrity and independence. One such story highlighting these qualities reads like a John le Carre novel. It tells of a rush through the night to the hospital bed of Bush-era Attorney General John Ashcroft as he and then Deputy Attorney General Comey [who had called him in] sped in separate cars to stop Bush’s aides from persuading the AG to reauthorise secret government surveillance. It’s worth a look ( Click. Increasingly insistent voices had been whispering about someone holding an important position at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and Prince Charmless’s name has been said aloud by at least two former intelligence agents. Apparently the little Prince had tried to set up a channel of communication with Russia out of their embassy to avoid interception

– not realising that intercepts are a way of life in the diplomatic service. In fact, when Russian Ambassador Kislyak checked with his boss, Moscow was nervous about such an arrangement and chose not to play. Oh, the sweet ironies of life in the shady lane! Click. In this ever-evolving story every day brings a new twist. One wonders who will get the chamber round – and when. There is actually nothing wrong with making foreign contacts but failing to disclose them when asked to (to obtain security clearances for example) is – and unless it can be proved to be an innocent mistake, there would be reason enough to have such clearances rescinded. Remember that Nixon was impeached not for the Watergate break-in but for trying to cover it up and lying about his secret recordings in the White House. There was also the abuse of power and contempt of Congress thing. Click. What could be motivating the actors? Apart from the obvious things like power, political malfeasance or something darker, the fees and salaries in this little story run into millions – and that’s just what has been revealed. As Clinton Watts, of the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security at George Washington University suggested, ‘follow the money’. Even more ominously he pointed to the amount of dead high-profile Russians. With the recent execution in Ukraine, eight political, diplomatic and secret serviceconnected Russians that have died since the US election. Banks in Russia and Cyprus; sweetheart real estate deals; oligarchs; and men named Oleg and Dmitry… It’s a tangled web for the House Intelligence Committee and Mueller to unweave. No wonder people’s memories turned hazy. Click … Bang?

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A contemporary outlook on business, lifestyle and design. Money brings together Malta’s top business and finance experts and the media exper...


A contemporary outlook on business, lifestyle and design. Money brings together Malta’s top business and finance experts and the media exper...