Business Now Autumn 2021

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Business Now Autumn 2021

Cover Story Industry experts weigh in on the outlook for Malta’s economy in 2022

14 Interview Malta International Airport CEO Alan Borg discusses post-COVID recovery for travel

56 Malta’s Most Beautiful Businesses Crafting the beautiful Athenaeum Spa within the Corinthia Palace

74 Industry Greats Marsovin’s significant role in the history of winemaking in Malta

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In Depth A critical time for Malta’s catering industry

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In Depth

READY TO SERVE: CAN THE CATERING INDUSTRY WEATHER THE COVID STORM?

Jo Caruana chats to chefs from Malta’s top restaurants to discover their plan to keep dinner on the table and the catering business on top.

Cover Story

GREYLISTING: WHAT LIES AHEAD FOR BUSINESS IN MALTA?

Jo Caruana speaks to five experts to assess the outlook for 2022 – and to gain their insight on what needs to be done to forge the best route forward for business and the wider economy.

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“MALTA MUST FIND THE STRENGTH TO RE-EMERGE MORALLY AND POLITICALLY STRONGER”

Outspoken financial advisor and stockbroker Paul Bonello speaks his mind to Rebecca Anastasi about the prospects of Malta’s economy in a post-pandemic scenario.

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THE VOICE OF EXPERIENCE Business veteran Maurice Mizzi talks to Andrea Christians of the past and present, while looking to the future.

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Malta’s Most Beautiful Businesses PEACE, LUXURY AND A SENSE OF PLACE

Corinthia Palace General Manager Adrian Attard discusses the process behind crafting the beautiful Athenaeum Spa with Sarah Muscat Azzopardi.

Interview

AIRPORT RECOVERY ON TRACK FOR 2024

Malta International Airport CEO Alan Borg tells Jo Caruana that recovery is on the cards – although a complete return to the highs of 2019 isn’t expected until 2024.

Young Entrepreneurs SAVING THE PLANET, ONE SHOE AT A TIME

Teri Spiteri finds out more about the start of 21-year-old Julia Tonna’s new business, WhizzFix.

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Industry Greats

Meet the Artist

Sarah Muscat Azzopardi talks to fourth generation Marsovin CEO Jeremy Cassar about his longstanding family business, and the significant role it has played in the history of winemaking in Malta.

Greek born Ioulia Chante talks to Lisa Borain about BABAU Ceramics, her penchant for monsters, and how the pandemic has allowed her to develop her passion for clay.

A LEGACY IN WINE

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IOULIA’S LOVE AFFAIR WITH CLAY

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IN THE SECOND EDITION OF BUSINESS NOW, we kick things up a notch to assess the outlook for the months and years to come with some of the island’s leading industry figures. Taking Malta’s recent greylisting by the FATF into account, five economy experts reveal their insight into what needs to be done to forge the best route forward for business and the wider economy in this edition’s Cover Story, while outspoken financial advisor and stockbroker Paul Bonello speaks his mind on the prospects of Malta’s economy in an exclusive interview. Meanwhile, some of Malta’s top chefs shine a light on the embattled catering industry and the difficulties it faces in emerging from the COVID storm, while Malta International Airport CEO Alan Borg gives his analysis on when travel numbers are expected to return to the highs of 2019. Also, in this issue, we meet local business veteran Maurice Mizzi, and chart Marsovin’s impressive legacy in wine with fourth generation CEO Jeremy Cassar. From the old to the new, we discover the story behind Julia Tonna’s fledgling sustainable business, WhizzFix, and learn about the impressive story behind the design of the Corinthia Palace’s beautiful Athenaeum Spa.

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PUBLISHER Content House Group 3, Level 2, Mallia Buildings Triq in-Negozju, Zone 3, Central Business District, Birkirkara CBD 3010 Tel: 2132 0713 info@contenthouse.com.mt www.contenthouse.com.mt EDITOR Sarah Muscat Azzopardi DIRECTOR OF SALES & BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT Matthew Spiteri CORPORATE SALES & BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER Godwin Buttigieg SENIOR OPERATIONS & ACCOUNTS EXECUTIVE Sue Pisani CREATIVE DIRECTOR & DESIGN Nicholas Cutajar COVER PHOTO Bernard Polidano

Finally, don’t miss our look at young architect Ioulia Chante’s pottery venture BABAU Ceramics, and how the pandemic allowed her to develop her passion for clay.

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Enjoy the issue, Sarah Muscat Azzopardi

Content House Group would like to thank all the protagonists, contributors, partners, advertisers and the creative project team that have made this publication a success. Articles appearing in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of Content House Group. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission of the publishers is strictly prohibited. Business Now is the largest business magazine of its kind published by Content House Group, one of Malta’s largest media organisations. Business Now Magazine is the sister brand of businessnow.mt, Malta’s fastest-growing business news portal. This publication is distributed to leading companies and businesses operating in different sectors including those in the services sector, manufacturing, retail, ICT & software development, importation, shipping and freight, recruitment, accountancy & audit, corporate and legal, communications, new technology and many more. Business Now’s exclusive distribution network also reaches leading CEOs and business leaders. The business magazine is also distributed to iGaming companies, creative and marketing agencies, Government ministries, departments and entities, banks, hotels, and architecture firms, as well as to the waiting areas of private and public hospitals and clinics, car showrooms, business centres and yacht marinas. Beyond the free distribution network, Business Now is also available at leading newsagents around Malta.


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Cover Story

Greylisting: what lies ahead for business in Malta? How will Malta’s recent grey list classification impact the economy and businesses? Jo Caruana speaks to five experts to assess the outlook for 2022 – and to gain their insight on what needs to be done to forge the best route forward for business and the wider economy.


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THE DUST HAS STARTED TO SETTLE ON THE FINANCIAL ACTION TASK FORCE’S (FATF) June decision to add Malta to its grey list of untrustworthy jurisdictions. Nevertheless, the shockwaves it sent are still being felt, as stakeholders grapple with serious fears over the impact on foreign direct investment, money transactions and banking activity. While Government has committed to intense efforts to enact the reforms necessary for the decision to be reversed, the outlook for businesses and the economy remains in question. Admittedly, optimism appears low among many businesses. A recent survey by the Malta Employers Association found that 71 per cent of businesses across the board felt they would be negatively impacted by the greylisting, with that figure shooting up to nearly nine in 10 of those in the gaming, financial, insurance and professional

services sectors. Nearly half said they believed the negative impacts would begin to be felt before the year is up. “Our assessment is that all sectors of the economy will, directly or indirectly, be impacted by Malta’s greylisting,” says Marc Alden, Deloitte Malta CEO. “An economy is like an ecosystem. Each part plays a role, and nothing operates in a silo, ring-fenced from the rest. The impact of Malta’s greylisting will extend to all sectors of the economy and public administration generally. We must understand that this is a national issue and getting Malta off the grey list must be a national priority for the benefit of all.” On a broad level, Mr Alden says, greylisting could have an impact on local investment, jobs and consumer spending, as well as the ability for businesses and consumers to access services and carry out certain activities. He insists,

“The most dangerous thing for us would be to look at this as a public relations exercise or something that requires a quick fix.” Marc Alden

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however, that the overall impact – and therefore the outlook for businesses and the economy – will be determined as much by the country’s response as by the event itself: if tackled in the manner it requires, some good could still come of the experience. “The most dangerous thing for us would be to look at this as a public relations exercise or something that requires a quick fix,” he stresses. “What we should really do is take a long, hard look at ourselves, identify what has got us to where we are and take the steps necessary to fix the problems – not because we have to or because somebody is watching us, but because we recognise the value of effectively fighting financial crime and because we believe that our country as a whole would be better off for it. The rest will follow once we have got the fundamentals right.” JP Fabri, an economist and co-Founding Partner of Seed, points out that the long process of rectifying the situation had already begun before the FATF decision in June. For instance, several reforms, guidelines and new requirements came into effect in the months prior, and the positive Moneyval assessment earlier in the year showed that Malta was making good progress towards improving its legal and governance structures.

“Malta continues to operate in an extremely competitive environment. Our focus must be on our complete ecosystem: banking relationships, efficient regulatory processes, and a positive customer journey.” JP Fabri


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“Though the Maltese economy has always been vulnerable to shocks, it has historically shown itself to be resilient.” Marie Briguglio

Mr Fabri believes it is still too early to quantify the effects greylisting may have, with much depending on the stance foreign banks take with respect to doing business and processing payments originating or terminating in Malta. “This could be the biggest tangible effect: the difficulty in effecting payments, especially dollar ones,” he says. “Prior to greylisting, Malta had already suffered the brunt of global de-risking by correspondent banks, and this may well be exacerbated by greylisting. But only time will tell how banks react.” Recent reports of companies surrendering their licences to operate in Malta, Mr Fabri says, are not solely the result of greylisting, but symptoms of a “weakened, fragmented” financial services ecosystem. “Looking ahead, Malta continues to operate in an extremely competitive environment and that is why the focus needs to be on the complete ecosystem, including banking relationships, efficient regulatory processes, positive customer journey, and experience together with the right talent,” he says. “The continuation of the reforms and of strengthening Malta’s governance system and structure is a priority. Momentum and focus must remain unabated, yet I believe reforms need to have a degree of proportionality and attention must be given to implementation and maintenance. Here, the key is digital transformation, and regulatory and compliance processes need to be automated to ensure that they do not burden operators unnecessarily. Further focus on ensuring that ecosystems are truly working and not fragmented will also be central to support Malta’s relaunch,” Mr Fabri says. For economist Marie Briguglio, the outlook for 2022 appears challenging on several counts, with the FATF judgement sitting alongside post-pandemic recovery, a general election, and the challenges of meeting EU goals in climate and budgetary domains. On the other hand,

she points to the gradual recovery of the tourism sector and fresh impetus to private and public investment as reasons for optimism. “Though the Maltese economy has always been vulnerable to shocks, it has historically shown itself to be resilient,” she says. Dr Briguglio warns that greylisting is likely to indirectly impact all sectors of the economy once some sectors begin to shrink and a cycle of contraction begins, with those closer to foreign direct investment, banking and finance feeling the impact sooner and to a greater extent. For the public, she says, this could manifest itself in lengthier and costlier bank transactions, more checks on depositors’ accounts, and loss of sources of income as the economy shrinks.

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“On a more general note,” she adds, “the way that a country has been judged gives us an indication of how this aspect of life in Malta stacks up by international comparison: we live in a country which merits monitoring for possible terrorist financing and money laundering. Our research suggests that increasing perceptions of corruption have negatively impacted quality of life in Malta.” Outlining the measures needed to rectify the damage, Dr Briguglio calls for an assessment of the root causes, consultation, and swift and proportionate damage control. “The country must avoid being strong with the weak and weak with the strong,” she says. “We have to own up to what went wrong and make amends, implement and be seen to be implementing the recommendations of the FATF, along with a clear, public commitment to a change in tack – possibly with a credible, non-partisan trusted figure at the helm.” Mark Bugeja, Managing Partner at Grant Thornton, agrees that Malta must urgently rebuild its reputation to regain trust and credibility, warning that that the longer the country remains greylisted, the more severe and widely-felt the consequences are likely to be.

and possible service frustration,” he explains. “From an indirect perspective, the directly impacted industries will have a spillover effect on the wider economy, and a slowdown is likely to have an adverse impact on spending power, as well as areas such as office space and residential leases, to give one example.” Exiting the grey list, Mr Bugeja stresses, must be an immediate priority to improve the outlook for businesses. He calls for a national collaborative effort across Government, businesses and society to repair Malta’s reputation but also to improve the efficiency of its jurisdiction. “We need to be proportionate, effective, agile and responsible in the way we handle processes in Malta. This has to be driven by an understanding of the market and the requirements, and not a mere box-ticking exercise, applying the rules without a rational assessment of the business or transaction at hand or mandating disproportionate requirements. We need to seriously focus on Malta’s user experience and the ease of doing business here.”

“Since everyone makes use of some form of financial service – be it a mere payment or insurance policy – at its most basic, the direct result is likely to be felt in the resultant added compliance costs

“Our country has all the ingredients to keep attracting business. As long as Malta is removed from the grey list as soon as reasonably possible, we should all be looking forward to a bright future.” Mark Bugeja

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If these measures are successfully implemented and a clean bill of health from the FATF achieved, then Malta could once again claim a competitive edge, he believes. “We must not forget that our country, thanks to the investment made by successive governments over the past decades, has all the ingredients to continue attracting business. As long as Malta is removed from the grey list as soon as reasonably possible, we should all be looking forward to a bright future.” Matthew Zampa, co-Founding Partner of Zampa Debattista, believes Malta has already addressed various shortcomings in the past year, with a view to creating a robust regulatory environment to combat money laundering, financing of terrorism and tax evasion, but that several areas still demand attention if the country is to get off – and stay off – the grey list. “All sectors are effectively connected and will be impacted in varying degrees,” he says. “Some will be more affected than others, but all will experience a general shrinkage, at least in the short term. Government will also suffer since less revenue will be generated from direct taxes. “Thus, the next year does not look great for businesses but there will still be opportunities to be exploited. At this stage I feel we should consolidate on the good things we have created, focus on creating value when rendering services and become more specialised by tapping into more valuable niche areas.” Mr Zampa concludes by stressing that the greatest challenge ahead for the country is restoring its reputation and taking concrete steps towards getting our house in order, assessing its systems and procedures with a view to making them more robust. “We must be prudent and humble as a jurisdiction and work hard, as we have always done in the past. All the while, we must keep in mind the weaknesses that brought us here and identify long-term solutions that will ensure we get off the list and reduce the chances of a relapse.”

“We should consolidate on the good things we have created, focus on creating value when rendering services and become more specialised by tapping into more valuable niche areas.” Matthew Zampa



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“Malta must find the strength to re-emerge morally and politically stronger”

PHOTOS BY TYLER CALLEJA JACKSON

Financial advisor and stockbroker Paul Bonello does not mince his words: following myriad scandals in recent years, the island must bolster its moral positioning for the sake of its international business reputation and to ensure the prosperity of future generations in a post-pandemic world. Rebecca Anastasi finds out more.


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THIS JUNE, THE FINANCIAL ACTION TASK FORCE (FATF) – an intergovernmental entity set up to fight global money laundering and terrorism financing – dealt a stark blow to the Maltese jurisdiction, placing the country on its grey list of nations found to be deficient in their enforcement of anti-money laundering (AML) and financing of terrorism (FT) legislation. This, despite big efforts by Government in the last two years to implement procedures, policies and structures to ameliorate the detection of financial crime, and the strengthening of enforcement in cases of non-compliance, in order to avoid grey listing.

adds, asserting that “the FATF greylisting was merely the cherry on the cake of Malta’s loss of reputation.”

Yet, for Paul Bonello, a financial advisor and stockbroker with decades of experience in the sector, the FATF greylisting was the result of reputational damage incurred over recent years. “Malta started being in the international news most of the time, and for the wrong reasons. Slowly but surely, Malta started to be associated with sleaze, corruption, gross nepotism, cryptocurrency adventurism, and facilitation of money laundering, and above all as a place where law enforcement authorities, institutions and regulatory authorities were impotent, at least in relation to a small clique of white-collar criminals with political connections and who enjoyed impunity,” he asserts bluntly.

This results in practical difficulties imposed on businesses based on the island – a concern which impacts profitable industries such as iGaming. “It is understandable that no business operator in his right senses is going to establish himself in a place where, because it is greylisted, all his international banking transactions are going to be put under the limelight by bankers, as a result of the enhanced due diligence required of greylisted countries in terms of FATF principles.”

“The list of episodes is too long to even attempt to list, but the ramifications of the Panama Papers, the Mozura wind farm in Montenegro, the killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia and the Pilatus cases were too debilitating for our reputation to avoid mention,” he

Within the field of financial services, the consequences of such a loss have reverberated over time, and Mr Bonello predicts more dire results in the future. “The rate of new business in the international financial services sector and fund management had already been dwindling for some time. Currently, new business is practically dead. When a country is greylisted, in terms of the international standards established by the FATF and the EU, that jurisdiction is considered non-reputable.”

Indeed, “when international business dwindles, especially if there is an exodus of gaming companies, this will have a serious multiplier effect on the economy, particularly the property rental market and the catering industry. And the man in the street will suffer a loss of income. Gaming and financial services occupy 25 per cent of the Gross National Product (GNP) between them and any major setback affecting them will necessarily impact the rest of the economy,

“Malta has had no option other than to acquiesce to the global 15 per cent minimum tax without voicing any dissent.”


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“The law enforcement authorities in Malta must not switch from turning a blind eye to suspect transactions, perhaps even in flagrant cases, to one of over zealousness whereby everything comes to be considered money laundering, stifling the rest of the domestic economy and private sector in the process.”

even if this negative spillover effect may not as yet have been much pronounced”, he says.   Mr Bonello sees a link between this enhanced stress on the island, and its acceptance of the 15 per cent minimum global tax established by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). “Due to the greylisting by the FATF, Malta has rendered itself vulnerable to increased pressure from the political satellite of FATF, namely the OECD, and the latter’s unwavering crusade against offshore centres and harmful tax competition. Malta has had no option other than to acquiesce to the global 15 per cent minimum tax without voicing any dissent,” he attests, adding that, in a similar manner, “important pieces of Malta’s onshore international tax regime have already started to be dismantled.” Moreover, “even domestically, greylisting will leave its mark with added difficulties for Maltese banks to maintain correspondent accounts in foreign currency. Bank of Valletta has already had these difficulties for quite some time, and the loss of Mastercard may also point in that direction. All receipts and payments to and from Malta will be segregated by the correspondent banks from the mainstream and checked and enquired into, leading to delays in money transmission. Custodians might no longer want to hold assets for Maltese banks, and Maltese investors, or for funds established in Malta,” he states. Looking ahead, the financial advisor is firm: “suddenly feeling under siege on all fronts and all over the world, the Maltese Government must avoid panicking in seeking ways of impressing overseas gatekeepers that the stark situation has been alleviated.” He underscores the need for the fight against money laundering and financial crime to be focused on “the big fish” and not on the “theft of a can of tuna or the alleged tax evasion by a village mechanic or hairdresser.” In short, “the law enforcement authorities in Malta must not switch from turning a blind eye to suspect transactions, perhaps even in flagrant cases, to one

of over zealousness whereby everything comes to be considered money laundering, stifling the rest of the domestic economy and private sector in the process. We must not go from one extreme to another whereby, freezing orders, for instance – from the odd dozen sought in the Courts over a period of five years – start to be requested and issued with almost daily frequency, almost routinely.” Prosecution must not be transformed into the “persecution of legitimate business,” he continues, noting that “draconian legislation, such as that which is provided for in the newly enacted Proceeds of Crime Act – wherein the confiscation of assets allegedly derived from crime can take place even where a person has not even been accused, let alone convicted, and even after one’s death – must be balanced with adequate safeguards for fundamental human rights, in particular the right to a fair hearing.” Likewise, “mammoth administrative fines cannot be allowed to be inflicted without proper due process in front of an impartial and independent Court, especially for technical non-observance of anti-money laundering regulations,” he asserts, contextualising these statements with reference to some of the island’s biggest scandals over the past few years. “And all this, especially when major corruption cases like the Vitals hospital management contract, the ElectrogasSocar contracts and the Enemalta-Montenegro Mozura wind farm cases conveniently remain on the law enforcement’s pending investigations shelf.” Mr Bonello, however, sees a way ahead of the quagmire, saying that “possibly” the island could get off the grey list by 2023. To do so, in a post-pandemic world, it needs to learn the “lesson that if one would want to succeed in international finance, one needs to always say and do the right things to safeguard the reputation of the country.” To this end, he considers keeping a low profile as imperative. “For instance, it was a big mistake to trumpet – to the whole world – Malta’s foray into cryptocurrency and, in a fit of hysteria, to proclaim


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ourselves as the forerunners of the industry, globally. This, only for all the hype of the so-called ‘Blockchain Island’ to fall flat soon after.” He looks to Switzerland, Luxembourg and Germany as examples of countries that “do more than their fair share of crypto-trading but they are never in the news headlines about it.” And he sees the forthcoming election as key to a change in trajectory over the next few years. “Malta is fast approaching another election. Not much can be expected between now and election date, in terms of major policy shifts intended to correct the aberrations of the recent past.” He notes that “the Labour Party Government appears to be on course to winning another term of five years, with the incumbent Prime Minister gaining for the first time a popular endorsement,” which he asserts, could make way for brave decisions to be taken by him after an election victory legitimises him as Prime Minister.

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“I think the Prime Minister will feel emboldened to do what is necessary – rather than what is popular; that is, to do what it takes for the country to redeem itself and for him to be remembered in history as having administered the medicine required for the country to get on track again. I believe he will want the country to turn over a new leaf, after ensuring that proper investigations of, so many as yet, dark mysteries are concluded, and impunity relegated once more to the dustbin of history.” Concluding, Mr Bonello insists on the necessity for the jurisdiction, and its decision makers, to be resolute. “For the sake of our future generations, independent Malta must find the strength to re-emerge morally and politically stronger amongst the community of nations, foremost as a trusted partner in the European Union,” he says.

“If one would want to succeed in international finance, one needs to always say and do the right things to safeguard the reputation of the country.”


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PHOTOS BY BERNARD POLIDANO

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Ready to serve: Can the catering industry weather the COVID storm? It is a critical moment for the catering industry, as the end of pandemic closures spark new diner demand and understaffing woes are making hospitality goals harder to hit. Here, Jo Caruana chats to chefs from Malta’s top restaurants to discover their plan to keep dinner on the table and the catering business on top.


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(L-R): Edward Diacono, Andrew Borg, Tyrone Mizzi, Michael Diacono, Letizia Vella, Victor Borg and Andrew Vella. Shot on location at Palazzo Falson


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FOR THE CATERING INDUSTRY, as for so many others, it is no exaggeration to say that the last 18 months have been among the most challenging ever faced. Restaurants were some of the first to be shut down when COVID-19 struck, and they have endured a cycle of closures and openings ever since. And as if that wasn’t enough, when open, they have been subject to strict restrictions on capacity, opening hours and table sizes. But even beyond that, the catering sector has battled some more. Most challenging of all, perhaps, has been an unprecedented staffing crisis largely driven by an exodus of foreign workers from the island during the pandemic. According to The Malta Chamber, more than three-quarters of businesses across the board have had difficulties finding employees in recent months, and restaurants have reported having to scale their operations back, or even shut entirely, as a consequence. And yet, it has not been entirely doom and gloom. After the most recent reopening earlier this year, restaurants saw high demand almost immediately from diners starved of the opportunity to eat out by months of quasi-lockdown and, almost paradoxically, the number of new eateries appears to have increased. “We have definitely seen a surge in restaurant guests all over the island in recent months,” says Chef Andrew Borg. “Since many people are still reluctant to travel, they are visiting local hotels and restaurants instead. One trend that is apparent is that people are going out less but spending more. Nowadays, guests are after quality; they’re being more and more careful where to spend their money and which hotels and restaurants to visit, so there’s been a shift from mass market to more lucrative options.”

“Guests are being more and more careful where to spend their money and which hotels and restaurants to visit. There’s been a shift from mass market to more lucrative options.” Andrew Borg


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“We’re constantly having to turn away bookings because of COVID-19 restrictions. We hope to be able to operate at full capacity again in time for the Christmas period.” Edward Diacono

Mr Borg believes that supporting this shift in preferences, particularly on a touristic level, is key to helping restaurants on the long road to recovery that lies ahead. “The authorities need to invest money to promote premium tourism. By improving our tourist product, we can attract tourists that do not come here just for our beaches, but who want to experience the rest of what Malta can deliver. We must also invest more locally: recent months have shown the importance of internal tourism, which was crucial for the survival of the local hospitality industry.” Edward Diacono, Chef Patron at Rubino, is hopeful that the increased clientele seen in recent months will continue once all restrictions have been lifted. In particular, being based in Valletta, he has been pleasantly surprised by how ready people have been to go out again and enjoy themselves, in what are usually quieter months for the capital. It’s a trend he is eager to see carry through the winter months. “We hope to be able to operate at full capacity again in time for the Christmas period,” he says. “Unfortunately, the biggest obstacle right now is the fact that we are still limited in our capacity. We’re constantly having to turn away bookings because of this, which is completely out of our hands – of course it’s up to the authorities to make that decision.”

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“Now is the time to move forward with a holistic vision of the industry that sustainably adds quality and value to Malta in the long term.” Victor Borg

Addressing the staff shortages hindering restaurants, Mr Diacono points out that, in the last few years, younger generations have avoided working in the hospitality industry because of the inevitably long and irregular hours the job entails. “One idea would be to try to work alongside ITS and other international hospitality schools to offer work placements within Malta and Gozo as part of students’ training throughout the year,” he suggests.

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Victor Borg, Executive Head Chef at Under Grain, has felt the understaffing problem as keenly as any – however, he stresses that his team rose to the occasion to ensure their patrons were still well looked after. “Every guest still received the firstclass service and stellar gourmet experiences that Under Grain is renowned for. Testament to this is the Michelin star we achieved for the second year running.” He believes the beauty of the catering industry lies in the fact that opportunities always exist, and he stresses that a lot can be done to boost the sector as a whole. “When it comes to staffing, Malta needs to create a competitive edge by offering incentives and attractive conditions to talented food and beverage professionals. Now is the time to move forward with a holistic vision of the industry that sustainably adds quality and value to Malta in the long term.” Judging by the high demand his restaurants experienced over the summer months, Mr Borg expects Under Grain to be very well positioned for the coming season. “We’ve been on a creative sprint, gearing up for the reopening of Grain Street. We have finessed a versatile menu that’s true to the authenticity of Mediterranean


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traditions and techniques, with dishes that are perfect for sharing or dining solo. We’re also peppering our culinary calendar with a series of exclusive gourmet events that will see the Under Grain team collaborate with iconic viticulturists and wine importers to create singular dining experiences par excellence. We’re looking forward to the season.” Other chefs also believe the industry is emerging from the crisis stronger than before. “Obviously, we are still far from an ideal situation, but the improvement in recent weeks is testament to the resourcefulness and grit of restaurant operators who adapted quickly to this new restricted environment and have begun to turn things around,” says Letizia Vella, Chef Patron at The Golden Fork. Describing the past year as “devastating” for the industry, Ms Vella says restaurants have nevertheless responded by enhancing their commitment to

“We are still far from an ideal situation, but the improvement in recent weeks is testament to the resourcefulness and grit of restaurant operators who adapted quickly.” Letizia Vella

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“Vaccinations have given people a good level of confidence, so hopefully this trend will continue to improve and we can look forward to the industry getting back on its feet.” Andrew Vella

providing a better experience for their guests, offering promise of a bright future for the industry. Other positive trends have also emerged, she points out. “Many fine-dining restaurants usually accustomed to importing top-quality produce have turned to the local market to source local ingredients, which could also help boost our agricultural industry and local product supply chain.” For Andrew Vella, Chef Patron at Rebekah’s Restaurant in Mellieha, the pandemic has taught the industry to adapt quickly to everchanging circumstances, amid the “confusion and insecurities” it repeatedly presented. “Summer was positive, with people eager to return to some form of normality,” he says of the current outlook. “Vaccinations have given people a good level of confidence, so hopefully this trend will continue to improve, and we can look forward to the industry getting back on its feet. It will take a while, but I believe we will get there.” Meanwhile, Mr Vella believes the increase in the number of new restaurants is evidence of reform in the sector, which he says is important to increase opportunities and competition. But he emphasises the need for excellence over “visionless temporary openings”. “I believe quality is key rather than quantity,” he says of the path to recovery. We need the authorities to collaborate more with all segments of the industry to attract quality tourism, which will allow us to offer better wages and attract more people to work in the industry.” This call for quality is echoed by Michael Diacono, Chef Patron at Giuseppi’s Bar & Bistro at the Salini Resort, and partner in Rubino


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“A temporary reduction in VAT for the hospitality industry would be a great help to get us back on our feet.” Michael Diacono

and Mezzodi. “Restaurants seem to be the flavour of the month. I started working in our family restaurants 37 years ago, and owning a catering business back then wasn’t fashionable. We got into the trade because that was what we loved doing,” he says. Mr Diacono warns that the road to recovery is likely to be “long and arduous”, with tourism having taken a hit and many foreign workers having left Malta at the start of the pandemic – taking up employment elsewhere or finding re-entry difficult due to low vaccination rates in their home country – and locals still largely unwilling to enter the industry. “As a restaurant owner, I feel that a temporary reduction in VAT for the hospitality industry would be a great help to get us back on our feet,” he says. “I also feel that the latest trend of indiscriminate poaching

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In Depth

“Our focus on offering a complete experience with high-quality food and service in a welcoming ambience will not change.” Tyrone Mizzi

of staff between restaurants should stop. We are all in this together, and we should work together to find a solution to our problems.” Finally, Tyrone Mizzi, Head Chef at Bahia, says there can be no single solution to the challenges facing the industry at the moment, particularly in terms of staffing problems, with different styles of restaurants needing different approaches. He agrees with the need to tackle the issue at an educational level, but also stresses the need for more effort from the sector to develop its own staff. Despite the challenges, Mr Mizzi is confident that recovery is not far off. “As humans we need to interact socially,” he says. “After the first time we had to close, it was evident that people were longing to start socialising again. I think most people are now aware of how to remain safe, which has removed part of the fear. Over summer, our guests started to visit consistently once again and, if the COVID-19 situation does not deteriorate, we find no reason why the situation should not continue to improve.” With social distancing still in place, he says, maximising potential remains difficult, and he looks forward to the day these restrictions are lifted. Nevertheless, he adds, the strategy for restaurants shouldn’t change all that much. “From our end we must keep working hard to provide our guests with good value for money. Our focus on offering a complete experience with high-quality food and service in a welcoming ambience will not change,” he adds.



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BusinessNow

Planning

“Sustainable development is all about a balanced approach” Reuben Xuereb, Chairman and CEO of leading design, engineering and management firm QP, talks of responsible development and safeguarding Malta’s limited environment with Solomon Cefai. “A LOT HAS BEEN DONE TO ALTER OUR ENVIRONMENT in the last 30 odd years, little of which is reversible. It’s important not to get into a world of negativity though,” says Reuben Xuereb, Chairman and CEO of QP, one of Malta’s leading design, engineering and management firms.

“Yes, there have been a number of architecturally sensitive buildings that have been demolished, but I think we’ve saved a lot of others. Government after Government has recognised their importance and taken care of them.” Mr Xuereb sits at QP’s offices in the centre of Birkirkara, from where one can observe a good

PHOTO BY INIGO TAYLOR

“Let’s not accept the idea that we’ve destroyed the country and stop there or continue to make matters worse,” he insists, as “there are some things that we’ve done very well. For example, the restoration of a number of dilapidated fortifications and numerous historical buildings.”


BusinessNow

Planning

view of a number of traditional village houses, as well as new-build concrete developments punctuated by limited swathes of greenery. It is from here that he tells Business Now about his experience of Malta’s development and construction, as well as that of QP, which he’s seen sprout from a subsidiary of the Corinthia Group into an independent leading professional firm in the construction industry, providing professional services related to the design, engineering and management of construction, infrastructure and environmental projects. Mr Xuereb has been involved in real estate development for more than 20 years, and has international experience in structuring and developing real estate mixed-use projects, bringing a wealth of knowledge to the QP team. His experience includes acquisitions, funding, master planning concepts and strategic development of real estate projects in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. He was appointed Executive Chairman in 2011 and has spearheaded a complete restructuring and growth strategy of the organisation to what it is today. “In Malta, there tends to be an attitude,” articulates Mr Xuereb: “let’s build it and then see.”

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“When we look around, and we see so many unfinished projects, we have to ask, why did this happen? And the answer, often, is because there was no planning. The project began without a contingency plan for unexpected situations that might arise.” When one starts a project, and that project is either delayed or progress is suspended, some of the effects are clear. “It’s having an impact on the neighbourhood and society at large from enjoying the environment that they live in,” he says. Then there’s the financial cost. “When projects are stalled, the project’s owners are losing value, of course, through delayed works, but also through an opportunity cost.” QP insists on detailed planning and robust execution of projects for its clients. Before one square inch of concrete is poured on site, the professional team at QP goes through much necessary discussions with its clients to define the scope and the objective for the project, its feasibility and funding, and ultimately the timing. Acknowledging the strength of a multidisciplinary team of professionals at QP, all aspects of a project, namely design, engineering and management, are firstly well-

“When we look around, and we see so many unfinished projects, we have to ask, why did this happen? And the answer, often, is because there was no planning.”


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BusinessNow

Planning

articulated through a project scope/brief, but equally importantly, costed and planned for by the project and cost management professionals in a coherent manner. In this way, its clients know exactly what the project will cost and how long it will take to realise, having planned the various phases through rigorous value engineering. “In design, we do architecture, which covers the fabric of the building and spatial planning, and separately we do interior design. Then there’s engineering, which covers how we build the structure, totally separate from the architecture department, tasked with designing the detail of the structure itself, be it in steel, concrete, precast and the like. There’s also the building services team, who are tasked with planning and designing all the mechanical, electrical, HVAC, medium and low voltage, data, and specialised systems of any building. Finally, there’s the management side, which has two main components: cost management and project management,” Mr Xuereb details. Explaining how this sets the organisation apart, he posits that QP provides a single point responsibility approach on projects and at the same time delegates the specific responsibilities to the relevant competencies without compromises. “For the architect’s dream to be realised, you need good structural engineers who can design ways to build a structure, especially when this is somehow unusual,” he explains. “Our structural engineering team is a separate discipline to the architects altogether. They collaborate and work together certainly, but ultimately they’re distinct, and this reflects our different way of doing things.” The segregation of teams’ specialisations does not stop here though. QP’s architects and engineers don’t get involved in costing projects, it’s the organisation’s dedicated cost managers that administer the real-time construction cost database and use their competence and expertise in costing a project, the CEO maintains. Asked what special consideration the organisation makes when constructing and planning projects in Malta, given the country’s unique cultural heritage, Mr Xuereb smiles – this issue stands at the core of what QP does, he says.

“We are the only consultancy firm that has a cultural heritage discipline within our team.”

“We are the only consultancy firm that has a cultural heritage discipline within our team. A discipline that has grown in a well-structured manner and is seeking to grow further,” he explains, impassioned. “What this department does is assist the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage and works proactively with the developer to ensure Malta’s heritage is well protected.” In practice, this involves the participation of a monitor to direct construction sites in relation to elements of historical or cultural importance. Should the experts find something, which could be a deposit, a structure or remains, for example, they would assess these findings in their heritage context. “We identify the findings and discuss next steps. If there is any trace of anything that has value of historical or cultural significance, then such findings are thoroughly assessed, referenced and documented in detail. Following this, a plan is drawn up to safeguard and protect such historical assets,” Mr Xuereb says.


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Planning

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“I believe in bringing the environment to the urban landscape, so this is not just building more green spaces, but also bringing trees and greenery into existing spaces.”

It’s far from black and white though, he says, expressing his concern about being against all development by default. There are in fact a number of responsible forms of development that he advocates for as helping safeguard Malta’s limited environment. Firstly, he points to the possible regeneration of existing, dilapidated buildings, which could “be refurbished, reinstated, rebuilt in a certain way.” Then, he identifies the intelligent development of our existing urban environments: “I also believe in bringing the environment to the urban landscape, so this is not just building more green spaces, but also bringing trees and greenery into existing spaces. “We pride ourselves on doing such work, because for us, every discovery is something of unique value, and we know that what we find has been there for generations and could be safeguarded for generations in the future.” Aside from utilising its unique setup to ensure a higher quality of project delivery, QP also approaches its environmental obligations in a considered way. Mr Xuereb laments the importance that projects are validated and approved not simply based on the current planning policy but equally importantly, on demand and supply factors in a particular area, their respective feasibility and the ultimate use of such buildings in the context of traffic and environmental impact.

“We should be landscaping, introducing efficient shading systems in certain places. The environment is not just about greenery, it is everything that we depend on.” “So, if we can make a concerted effort to design and develop buildings in a sustainable manner, through proper planning, the creation of shaded areas and the implementation of vegetation that makes a difference, the ultimate game changer is that our urban landscape would not only become much more pleasant to live in, but we will ultimately be saving energy, and consuming less of the fossil fuels that are polluting the environment in order to keep our living and recreational spaces cooler,” he concludes.



BusinessNow

Must Read

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10 must-read books for business leaders Warren Buffet famously said that he spends approximately 80 per cent of his day reading. If you’ve got a little less time to dedicate, make it count with these 10 must-reads.

How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie You’re bound to have heard of Dale Carnegie’s influential book, which is counted today among the best-selling books of all time. The ageless advice offered has stood the test of time and has helped many climb the ladder of success.

Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson Considered a timeless business classic, Dr Spencer Johnson’s Who Moved My Cheese? has gone down in history as one of the highestselling business books of all time. Using a simple parable, its core value deals with adapting to and benefiting from change.

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth Pioneering psychologist Angela Duckworth is the pen behind this New York Times bestseller, which aims to show anyone striving to succeed that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she refers to as ‘grit’.

Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins and Jerry I Porras Based on findings from a six-year research project at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, this book takes 18 exceptional and long-lasting companies and discovers what qualities and choices made them succeed.

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek Renowned author and inspirational speaker Simon Sinek has penned many an influential read, but this inspiring and life-changing bestseller is considered among his top contributions. His TED talk based on Start with Why has gone on to be the third most popular TED video of all time.

The Wisdom of Failure by Laurence G Weinzimmer and Jim McConoughey In a reverse take on Built to Last above, this book is based on a ground-breaking seven-year study of what almost 1,000 managers across 21 industries really think about lessons from failures, with a view on how to avoid repeating those same mistakes.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey Widely considered to be one of the most inspiring and impactful books ever written, this powerful read has been credited with transforming the lives of millions, including Presidents and CEOs — can yours be next? Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson Penned by the author of the best-selling biographies of Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein, this highly rated biography of the ultimate icon of inventiveness and applied imagination is based on over 40 interviews with Jobs, as well as interviews with more than 100 family members, friends, adversaries, competitors and colleagues.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz Counted among Silicon Valley’s most respected and experienced entrepreneurs, Ben Horowitz offers essential advice on building and running a start-up, with practical wisdom for managing the toughest problems business school doesn’t cover, based on his popular blog. Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves Emotional Intelligence should need no introduction – many consider EQ to be critical to success. This book delivers a step-by-step programme for increasing your EQ via four core EQ skills that enable you to achieve your fullest potential.


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BusinessNow

Industry

Sailing towards new opportunities on the horizon

Established in 2015 as a public-private partnership between the Maltese Government and the Royal Malta Yacht Club, Yachting Malta lobbies tirelessly for new windows to investment and representation for the local yachting industry. Alexander Borg speaks with Yachting Malta’s Chairman, John Huber, to highlight the organisation’s most pressing engagements and initiatives – both present and future.


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Industry

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“I HAD STATED IN MY VERY FIRST INTERVIEW as Chairman that I believe that yachting should be one of the pillars of Maltese industry. We have five yards within the Grand Harbour and another at Manoel Island, and we have a top international academy at MaritimeMT,” says John Huber, Yachting Malta’s Chairman since 2018. “All these are contributing towards a growing industry. We would like to see more yachts come to Malta not only for flagging, which is important, but also for maintenance, refurbishment and services that have a lot of added value,” he continues. Mr Huber is appealing to the desirability of Malta as an international hub for the yachting industry and is working hand-in-hand with Government to promote local venues and platforms for foreign investors: “we have just announced that the Yacht Racing Forum 2022 shall be held in Malta after a successful bid by Yachting Malta,” he explains. Mr Huber’s background – hailing from various public-private partnerships – namely being one of the core initiators of the island’s Global Residence Programme and Malta’s incumbent representative in Eurochambres – is an undeniable asset for Yachting Malta’s efforts to attract more investment in the sector: “having also been a Governor at FinanceMalta for more than five years, I know of the importance of having a national entity focused on promoting a sector.” In addition to bringing one of the world’s most coveted yachting demos to our shores, Mr Huber points out that after submitting Yachting Malta’s initial bid to host the Yacht Racing Forum 2022 three years ago, the local yachting industry’s calibre is being raised in the international sphere, evidenced by the level of interest and attention shown by investors. “Bidding to host an international sailing event is a very long process which requires a lot of

PHOTOS BY ALAN CARVILLE

“I believe that yachting should be one of the pillars of Maltese industry.”


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Industry

“We would like to see more yachts come to Malta not only for flagging, which is important, but also for maintenance, refurbishment and services that have a lot of added value.”

energy and input. Some of the events that we looked into were already set for a number of years, so we were actually bidding for 2024/2025 or later,” he affirms. And, under Mr Huber’s leadership, the organisation is currently in talks with the Super Yacht Industry Network to exhibit local yachting enterprises at the Monaco Yacht Show – one of the largest and most prestigious exhibitions globally. Yachting Malta is also engaging in environmental initiatives to minimise the industry’s carbon footprint. Outlining Yachting Malta’s endorsement of environmental stewardship through the launch of a three-plus-year sustainability plan, the installation of reverse osmosis plants across all yacht clubs and the distribution of reusable water bottles, Mr Huber shares that “this is something I am particularly proud of and, together with our CEO, Michael Mifsud, have worked (and continue to work) hard at.” Additionally, Yachting Malta has established a set of sustainability guidelines in agreement with 11th Hour Racing, an international foundation under the Eric and

Wendy Schmidt Network raising awareness about yachting’s environmental footprint, and is communicating with the Wave of Change movement in order to build upon Yachting Malta’s environmental commitments, which have been lauded at an international level. It is clear that building a more sustainable yachting industry is necessary in order to claim its full potential, the Chairman says. Meanwhile, promoting yachting among young entrants to the industry is also high on the agenda, as Yachting Malta is seeking to expose them to international events through more outreach with foreign organisations. “We are in constant discussion with the National Federation on participation at international events. This is not the success of Yachting Malta alone – far from it – it is the success of all the volunteers, mainly mothers and fathers that run the clubs,” reveals Mr Huber, indicating the invaluable role voluntary assistants play in keeping yacht clubs’ standards high. This speaks to the fact that yachting is far from an exclusive niche and has not only the potential, but the proven ability, to give everyone fair opportunities to employ their skills and seek out new insights.


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Industry

Locally, Yachting Malta prides itself on serving as the heart of a network of partners in the industry that collectively assist each other in elevating Malta’s attractiveness on the yachting scene. “Our partner in Yachting Malta is the Royal Malta Yacht Club, and apart from being partners we work very closely together,” explains Mr Huber, maintaining that “we just saw an astounding success in the 61st edition of the Yachting Malta-Syracuse Race where we involved ourselves for the first time. We have also worked closely with all the other local clubs – the Malta Young Sailors Club on the Euromed Championships, the Birzebbuga Sailing Club on its first international regatta and the Vikings Sailing Club on the club’s infrastructure and equipment.” Mr Huber points out that financial assistance from the Government was not a stake: “we [Yachting Malta] could do without.” In this respect, the public aspect of the public-private partnership that makes up Yachting Malta is appropriately financing the private end of the bargain, in exchange for reaping the collective benefits of direct investment. Over the last year and a half, COVID-19 has forced Yachting Malta to curtail a variety of initiatives due to the reality of these events bringing people together en masse. “We are discussing with the representatives of all stakeholders the organisation of a Boat Show which was originally intended to be held last year, but which continues to be a headache because of the health protocols currently in place,” states Mr Huber, whilst encouraging “anyone who wants to help or anyone that has any ideas,” to assist Yachting Malta in the task of overcoming the risks and restrictions brought about by the pandemic. In spite of the threat COVID-19 presents, Mr Huber “is more than hopeful” about the future of yachting in Malta and believes “that we have a lot of ingredients for success.” The secret to yachting’s durability? Its interconnectedness: “we need to be more cohesive in our strategy given that yachting touches on so many aspects and industries – sport, tourism, apprenticeships, fiscal and flagging, chartering, marinas, and more,” he concludes. In this regard, avid yachters and other stakeholders of the industry can be certain of a clear pathway to recovery and revitalisation, even in troubled waters.

“Our partner in Yachting Malta is the Royal Malta Yacht Club, and apart from being partners we work very closely together.”

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BusinessNow

Tech Trends

Grovemade

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Ekster

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4 Fossil

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Tech trends

Ubuy

From a smart wallet to an unbending umbrella, Sarah Muscat Azzopardi takes note of the coolest new gadgets on the market.

3. Blunt Metro Wind-Resistant Umbrella It gets quite windy on the island at this time of year, but you need not struggle with your umbrella in the rain, thanks to the innovative Blunt Metro umbrella, which was built to withstand wind gusts of up to 72 mph (that’s an impressive Force 11, to you and me). 4. Fossil Latitude HR Hybrid Smartwatch This feature-packed hybrid smartwatch with builtin display and a heart rate sensor has finally made

5. Soundcore Life Q30 Wireless Headphones The Soundcore Life Q30 wireless noisecancelling headphones are among the best you can get within their price bracket. Boasting an elegant design, comfortable fit, impressive sound quality and sophisticated noise cancellation, what’s perhaps even more impressive is that they enjoy up to 30 hours of battery life.

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Headphone Check

2. Grovemade Wood MagSafe Stand This beautifully crafted stand for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro looks more like an ornament than a functional phone accessory, thanks to its stainless steel, leather and wood construction. It connects with the MagSafe charger and can hold your iPhone in landscape or portrait mode.

the connection between a classically goodlooking timepiece and smart wearable technology. And while it may not look it, can deliver notifications from your phone and is waterproof up to 30 metres.

6. Philips Somneo Connected Sleep and Wake-Up Light This elegant sleep and wake-up light comes with an array of features. Apart from simulating natural sunrise and sunset, it can play soothing sounds, and even double up as a charger for your smartphone thanks to a built-in USB port. Amazon

1. Ekster Parliament Smart Wallet The latest in smart gadgets is this innovative wallet with RFID coating, aimed to protect against identity theft. It has space for at least 10 cards, as well as a strap for carrying cash and receipts. And, thanks to the optional Bluetooth tracker, you’ll never worry about losing your wallet again!


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BusinessNow

Interview

The voice of experience Business veteran Maurice Mizzi talks to Andrea Christians of the past and present, while looking to the future.

MAURICE MIZZI’S NAME IS SYNONYMOUS WITH BUSINESS, and today, he remains at the helm of one of the oldest conglomerates in Malta. Now in his eighth decade, the veteran entrepreneur and Mizzi Group President shows no signs of slowing down or retiring, and is actively involved in the day-to-day running of the group of companies. The conversation at his suite of offices in Msida starts with an account of how it all began, as he reveals that his family had originated from the Three Cities area of Malta. As far back as the early 1900s, the Mizzis demonstrated a certain business acumen, with Maurice’s grandfather, Jean Mari Mizzi, working as a ship chandler, hiring out boats and crew. Sadly, the business came to an abrupt halt following the end of World War I in 1918, as a result of the Mizzi business being forcefully transferred to NAAFI. Undeterred, in 1919, the family relocated to Valletta, where the enterprising Jean Mari, along with his son Spiridione, started a car hire business providing chauffeur-driven imported American cars for military and naval personnel stationed on the island. Realising that automobiles were the way forward, in the coming years, Spiridione acquired several car dealerships, starting the UK-based Morris Motors Ltd in 1920, closely followed by MG in 1924.

Maurice reveals that as a young man, his original intention had been to become a lawyer, and that he had already completed his training as a legal procurator when the needs of the family business necessitated that he abandon his studies. However, the legal knowledge he acquired proved to be indispensable, and has served him well in the business sector over the years. In time, the family went on to expand into other business fields that include property development, soft drinks manufacturing and tourism, and Mizzi Group now encompasses established businesses including Industrial Motors, Muscats Motors, Arkadia Marketing Ltd and Titan International, among others, making it one of the largest and most dynamic privatelyowned companies in Malta, currently employing some 1,100 people.

“In the past, Malta thought of itself as an island, but it is a viewpoint that needs to change. Malta is not an island; it is part of the European Union.”


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Interview

Looking to the future, Maurice believes that, while there are lessons to be learned from the past, keeping up to date in an ever-changing world is of paramount importance. “I’m keen to bring the fourth Mizzi generation on board as soon as possible. The business world is changing at a phenomenal pace, and we need the younger members to enable us to keep up and evolve. I’m talking about young people who have grown up in a very different world, who think and react in an entirely different way to their predecessors. They are the future and the sooner they become proactive members of the company, the better,” he maintains.

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Turning his attention to the current economic climate, Maurice agrees that whilst the repercussions of the COVID-19 situation are still being felt, there are now signs of economic recovery, although the situation has been exacerbated by Malta’s recent FATF greylisting. “It really couldn’t have come at a worse time as it could lead to a lack of confidence on the part of foreign investors, which inevitably would have a knock-on effect on the economy,” he laments. However, as well as being a businessman, Maurice is also a pragmatist, and realises that although the past cannot


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be undone and that the road back will not be easy, it is one that, nonetheless, must be followed, and that only total transparency can restore the islands’ financial and economic reputation. “It is extremely important that Government will act properly, honestly and without fear of hurting anyone,” he says. He continues to say that, being the only European member state currently greylisted is not an enviable title, and the increased scrutiny is far greater than before, with most organisations now having to satisfy stringent parameters to be able to function. “In the past, Malta thought of itself as an island, but it is a viewpoint that needs to change. Malta is not an island; it is part of the European Union,” he explains, highlighting that Malta’s favourable taxation regime still makes it an attractive proposition for foreign investment, and he has no doubt that, in time, handled wisely, the situation will remedy itself. Moving on to other subjects close to heart, no interview with Maurice Mizzi would be complete without talking about his philanthropic work and the Spiro Mizzi Foundation. “After World War II, Cottonera never fully recovered from the destruction of enemy bombs, and subsequent governments

kept it marginalised and undeveloped. As the more affluent members of post-war Maltese society moved away to more fashionable areas such as Sliema, they left behind a poor population in an area in economic decline,” Maurice shares, noting that as time passed, social conditions worsened, with many families finding themselves in severe financial difficulty. “As a result, many people became caught in a poverty trap, with high levels of illiteracy and the lowest number of university admissions from the Cottonera area. Recognising the admirable work being done by various NGOs and parishes, the Spiro Mizzi

“The business world is changing at a phenomenal pace, and we need the younger members to enable us to keep up and evolve.”


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Interview

“Horticulture these days is a progressive art, new methods are continually being proposed, while new plants are constantly coming on the market.”

Foundation was formed in an attempt to remedy this situation by providing a broad base of support aimed primarily at children’s education, yet in many cases it has literally meant putting food on the table for families that found themselves enduring extreme social and economic hardship.” He explains that it is still very much an uphill struggle, with no state help having been received to date. As President of the foundation, he is now heading a new committee of dedicated members, made up of teachers, members of the clergy and fellow business people, who meet once a month in an attempt to move forward and address what is an ongoing problem that has seen him donate a substantial sum of money from his private funds. “The poverty I witnessed left me deeply saddened, but what I can do is only a drop in the ocean for what is really needed there. We need State intervention and support, and I appeal to Government to help. The Spiro Mizzi Foundation is more than happy to provide complete transparency in order for people to see where the money is going and the good it is doing.” Leading such a busy life, one also needs to make time for relaxation, and when it comes to downtime and achieving a work-life balance, the conversation turns to Maurice’s lifelong passion for gardening, which really took hold following the purchase of his Bidnija home, Ras Rihana, in 1976. With its original grounds planned by renowned horticulturalist Sir Harold Hillier, the last 45 years have been a labour of love that has seen the gardens of this house extended and landscaped, with the addition of ponds stocked with carp and the challenge of growing many rare and tropical plants alongside indigenous species. Malta’s climate and soil presented considerable challenges along the way, he reveals, together with logistical problems that required over 300 truckloads of soil and explosives to remove rock, as the barren wasteland underwent a transformation and, in many instances, the whole project took on an almost scientific aspect. Maurice’s enthusiasm for this subject is obvious as he discusses the process. “Horticulture these days is a progressive art, new methods are continually being proposed, while new plants are constantly coming on the market. Therefore, it’s imperative to keep up with

the latest horticultural technology and information,” he explains. The result certainly doesn’t disappoint, and today the gardens of Ras Rihana are an oasis of calm and beauty that have been featured in several international magazines. The work has also culminated in an elegant hardcover book, titled ‘The pleasures of Gardening in the Maltese Islands’, which features an array of photographs taken personally by Maurice. Not surprisingly, all proceeds from the book have been donated to the Spiro Mizzi Foundation, and apart from being a magnificent example of what can be achieved in a Mediterranean garden, it demonstrates how, with the initiative and imagination of one man, two entirely different pursuits can find common ground in helping people.

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Insurance

People who look after people


BusinessNow

Insurance

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Earlier this year, Javier Moreno was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of MAPFRE Middlesea plc in Malta. As its 40th anniversary approaches, he speaks to Andrea Christians about Malta’s oldest insurance company, that today remains a market leader.

MIDDLESEA INSURANCE PLC IS MALTA’S OLDEST INSURANCE COMPANY. Registered in 1981, it was the first Maltese insurance company transacting general business, and in 1983, the company also started writing life business. In 1994, Middlesea was the first insurance company to be listed on the Malta Stock Exchange and founded Middlesea Valletta Life Assurance Co Ltd (now MAPFRE MSV Life plc) in partnership with Bank of Valletta plc, to focus solely on life business. In 2011, MAPFRE Internacional obtained a majority shareholding in Middlesea Insurance plc, and, as of that date, the company became a member of the MAPFRE Group. In 2015, Middlesea Insurance changed its name to MAPFRE Middlesea plc to be able to get the best from the MAPFRE global brand, which is present in more than 40 countries, whilst retaining the local Middlesea brand. From 1st April this year, Javier Moreno undertook the role of President and Chief Executive Officer of MAPFRE Middlesea. He explains how its evolution played an important part in defining the company.

“We are a socially responsible business Group committed to the environment and sustainable development.”


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“My vision is to ensure that the company remains extremely competitive, with particular focus on digital transformation which will enable us to provide better solutions for our clients.”

“The core values originate as part of the legacy of the company, when it was a pioneer in the Maltese insurance industry. During this period, a close bond was formed with its consumer base, also involving an educational process of raising awareness of the importance and benefits to be derived from being protected against what the future can bring. Throughout the years, our competent professionals and specialists, through their interaction with the client, established an aura of trust. Over time, this legacy of the importance of ‘caring’ for the customer’s ultimate welfare and of professionalism – and therefore the reputation for being a trustworthy insurer – became ingrained in successive generations of employees, and established itself as a formal pillar of Middlesea’s value system,” he explains.

Needless to say, all of MAPFRE’s employees are responsible for the company’s current success and performance, and it is for these reasons that the company continues to prosper in the insurance industry.”

When it comes to being part of a global brand, Mr Moreno explains that the basis of the company’s growth and success stem from an unfaltering determination to adhere to inherent values. These revolve around the company’s high degree of solvency, integrity, and a vocation for excellent service and innovation towards industry leadership, along with a commitment to teamwork.

“We have taken care of our clients with all kinds of measures, with payment facilities and even premium returns, and helped our agents, suppliers and collaborators, to maintain their incomes.”

“Undoubtedly, one cannot undermine the importance of a company’s brand strength and value. MAPFRE continues to demonstrate outstanding performance in both regards. A brand can keep its strength high by managing to build positive customer perception, by getting its customers to share the values of the company and by getting them to associate it with the best quality on the market,” he affirms, adding that besides the brand aspect, “we also share all the expertise and knowledge within the Group for the benefit of our customers. MAPFRE continues to pave its way as a company that attracts a wide pool of talent and is helmed by some of the best professionals within its respective industry.

In response to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Moreno explains that MAPFRE is taking a methodical approach. “Since the outset of the pandemic we have deployed a specific strategy, based on three priorities: guarantee the health and well-being of employees and collaborators; protect the business by ensuring the continuity of our model based on solvency and capital strength; and help society overcome this pandemic,” he says.

Furthermore, he explains that their foundation, Fundación MAPFRE, has carried out widescale social work to help in all the countries in which they operate. To date, €45 million have been donated, and globally, MAPFRE has mobilised more than €200 million to help society cope with the repercussions of the pandemic. Closer to home, MAPFRE’s commitment to sustainability and innovation was recently demonstrated by the timely introduction of the first electric car insurance on the market in Malta. “We are a socially responsible business Group committed to the environment and sustainable development. In this regard, we have a strategic commitment to promote transformation focused on the client through alliances with different partners and the use of emerging technologies to develop disruptive solutions that generate


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Insurance

a positive impact on our business and on society. The introduction of EV insurance forms part of MAPFRE’s sustainability initiatives to promote a greener environment and fight against climate change,” Mr Moreno states. Looking to the future, the CEO explains that the vision for MAPFRE Middlesea is a clear one. “MAPFRE has a long history of being an innovative company. Innovation is in our DNA, and is one of our main drivers in boosting organic growth and pursuing our strategies. This permanently generates differential value propositions for clients, with a transversal and integral vision that means it can respond to business challenges. My vision is to ensure that the company remains extremely

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competitive, with particular focus on digital transformation which will enable us to provide better solutions for our clients,” he maintains. “I believe that the development of our company must be accompanied by absolute respect for all the groups with which we interact. We aspire to contribute to the wellbeing of society in general by providing the cover they need and their peace of mind,” he continues, and indeed, it is an ethos that is echoed in the MAPFRE Middlesea mission statement: “We are a multinational team that strives tirelessly to improve our services and ensure the best possible relationships with our clients, distributors, providers, shareholders and society in general. This is what we do: we are people who look after people.”


PHOTOS BY BERNARD POLIDANO

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Airport recovery on track for 2024 Despite being over 40 per cent down on passenger numbers when compared to 2019, Malta International Airport is seeing strong signs of recovery – with 418,473 passengers moving through it in September, reflecting its strongest month in terms of passenger volumes since the outbreak of the pandemic. So, as CEO Alan Borg tells Jo Caruana, recovery is on the cards – although a complete return to the highs of 2019 isn’t expected until 2024. FEW PLACES SAW AS DRAMATIC A DOWNTURN in business as airports did when COVID-19 hit. The world over, these buzzing hubs of movement and activity fell quiet, as planes were grounded, and travellers banned from going in and out. “It was unprecedented,” says Malta International Airport CEO Alan Borg, reflecting on 2020. “Everything went quiet almost overnight. The building went from being busy all the time to feeling like a ghost town. I could never have imagined it.” The financials reflect that. As passenger traffic for the year suffered a drop of 76.1 per cent, the airport reported that total revenue for the Group had decreased by €68 million (-67.9 per cent) when compared to 2019. Profits were significantly changed too: in 2019 the Group closed the year with

a profit of €33.9 million, while this dropped to a net loss of €4.3 million at Group level in 2020. It was an unforeseen blow, and Mr Borg and his team grappled with cost-cutting initiatives that helped to stop losses from spiralling out of control. In fact, the company succeeded in lowering its total expenditure in 2020 to €26.6 million (-28.3 per cent), by bringing down salary costs thanks to the COVID Wage Supplement and to temporary salary reductions, and cutting operating expenses by 31.8 per cent. “It was a tough time, but everyone banded together, and the results show the benefits of that,” Mr Borg says. But while hopes remained high for a far-improved 2021, things didn’t begin well – with travel bans

“Although this winter won’t be as easy as we would like, I believe airport closures and travel bans are now a thing of the past and we can look forward to veering closer to normal.”

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“I think most people will be ready to travel by next summer, and keen to get back out there and explore the world… I don’t think COVID-19 will stop people for much longer.”

to ring in the new year and restrictions in place throughout the winter and well into spring. “We first saw light signs of recovery in May, when Government announced things would be opening up in June,” the CEO continues. “It was good news after a tough first four months when just 140,000 passengers travelled through the airport – the kind of numbers we would have expected in an average summer week preCOVID-19!” The start of summer saw numbers top up slowly and, pleasingly, Mr Borg says that August and September went on to exceed initial expectations. In fact, for the first time ever, September’s traffic exceeded August’s by 11,038 passengers – despite August being the month that traditionally marked Malta’s peak traveller intake. “Thankfully, the summer gave us a much-needed boost,” continues the CEO. “It encouraged morale all round and reminded us what it feels like to have passengers streaming through our doors. It was important to have that period because, admittedly, I don’t think winter will be as easy as we would like it to be – although it won’t be as hard as 2020. That said, I believe airport closures and travel bans are now a thing of the past and we can look forward to veering closer to normal.” Mr Borg still believes Malta has some work to do to make it easier for tourists to choose the destination and travel here, instead of some of our southern European competitors. “There are more restrictions to come here than other places,” he explains, highlighting that – at the time of printing – visitors could only travel to Malta if they were fully vaccinated. “However, Government has now announced that it will be accepting recovery certificates and those who can prove they have had one vaccine, which

is an important step. It would be good to see further restrictions reduced in the coming weeks, as that will help to stop us lagging behind other countries that are less constricting to incoming visitors.” Shifting focus to the longer-term future, Mr Borg believes it will be a while until our peak 2019 numbers are back in play. “We think it will be 2023 or 2024 when Malta reaches pre-pandemic numbers,” he says. “Globally, it will definitely be 2024.”

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“People will still travel for work, but they will do it less – and not just because of the pandemic, but because sustainability is becoming a louder conversation too.” He stresses that the ‘new normal’ will impact travelling for a long time, in the same way that the 9/11 terrorist attacks still do. “We will have to social distance and be far more wary of hygiene. But, in general, I think most people will be ready to travel by next summer, and keen to get back out there and explore the world. I travelled for the first time again recently and was reminded quite how wonderful it is. It felt like I was travelling for the first time! Yes, there are a few more forms to fill in and hoops to jump through but, as always with travel, the benefits far outweigh the negatives. I don’t think COVID-19 will stop people for much longer.”

Business travel, on the other hand, will likely be impacted further into the future – but not eradicated. “People are getting back into work mode in many ways and yes, Zoom calls have been critical, but they don’t replace human contact completely. People will still travel for work, but they will do it less – and not just because of the pandemic, but because sustainability is becoming a louder conversation too.” On that note, the airport has placed its ongoing sustainable development front-and-centre for its future, as has the wider travel industry. Malta Airport has set a goal of 2050 to achieve carbon neutrality and a lot is being done in the run-up to that to expedite improvements, including investing in solar energy and switching to LED lights. “Airlines are making important modifications too, by cleaning up their fleets and reducing their CO2 emissons. As the general public becomes more discerning in this area, I think they will travel less but they will opt for quality over quantity, and I think that’s an opportunity for Malta. The island has some work to do in this respect, but I do envisage a very positive future.”




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“As the general public becomes more discerning, I think they will travel less but they will opt for quality over quantity, and I think that’s an opportunity for Malta.”

In fact, Mr Borg says this is the ideal time for Government to encourage private companies to invest in Malta’s touristic future. “There’s so much that can be done, although one of the challenges being faced by the sector now is the lack of human resources. We have to find ways to make working in this sector more appealing, and I believe financial incentives are going to be needed from Government. Hospitality is going to be a critical pillar in Malta’s recovery, but we need the education and support to ensure all stakeholders are on board with that, and that we have the staff to match. This is the ideal time for that investment in our product and our people to take place, to ensure we are ready for the next exciting phase in Malta’s hospitality journey.” Now, as he reflects on 18 months of upheaval, Mr Borg is proud of what his team – and Malta as a whole – has

achieved. “We kept going and we kept our eye on the prize,” he says. “Here at the airport, work never stopped. We kept moving on projects including Skyparks 2 and the new apron with 120,000 sqm of aircraft parking; we continued to work on upgrading our food court, relocating the fuel station, building the cargo village, and installing photovoltaic systems. It’s certainly setting us on the right path.” “So, as summer shifts into winter, I am cautiously optimistic that the worst is behind us, and we can look forward to summer 2022. Our focus, as always, will be on our guest experience and making our passengers feel welcome. Our whole team is ready to deliver,” he adds.


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A company tailormade to cater for the needs of the modern trader Triton Capital Markets’ newly appointed Tax Compliance Manager, Elysia Cachia Pace, talks to Andrea Christians about her exciting new role, Malta’s way back to economic recovery and the importance of doing what you love.

Asked how one could know what her chosen profession would be at such a tender age, she explains, “I believe finance is the heart of the global economy. It is the lifeblood of any business.” After several years of experience in the finance industry, Ms Cachia Pace has recently taken up the role of Tax Compliance Manager at Triton Capital Markets Ltd (TCM). TCM holds an Investment Service Category 3 Licence and is regulated by the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA). “Tax Compliance is a newly formed department within our company,” Ms Cachia Pace explains, affirming that, “like any other financial institution in today’s global environment, we face complex challenges that include increased regulatory requirements, and evolving tax obligations. The purpose behind this department is to have the necessary expertise in-house to oversee and assist the company to meet all tax compliance obligations, locally as well internationally.”

PHOTOS BY TYLER CALLEJA JACKSON

GROWING UP IN MALTA, Elysia Cachia Pace says that she knew from a young age that she wanted to pursue a career in the finance industry. With this goal in sight, she went on to study and graduate in finance and banking, and started her ACCA journey that will soon see her sitting her final exam.


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In addition to working and studying for her exams, Ms Cachia Pace is also a mother to two young children, making her life indeed very busy. “I can’t deny the fact that the ACCA journey has been challenging, but juggling a good work-life balance is the key that has made it all work. I am a very ambitious, motivated and determined person. I believe that if you have a goal, you’ll get there, not by wishing for, hoping for, or dreaming about it. You will only achieve it by working hard for it,” she maintains. There can be little doubt that Ms Cachia Pace is passionate about her work. Her new role as Tax Compliance Manager is an important one in the global tax sphere and requires a new set of skills and responsibilities. In fact, she reveals, one of her key responsibilities is setting up and managing a US Qualified Intermediary (QI)

“I believe finance is the heart of the global economy. It is the lifeblood of any business.”

regime process within the organisation, and ensuring that effective controls are in place. Ms Cachia Pace explains that the QI regime was introduced in January 2001 to identify US account holders holding US securities in offshore accounts. This was developed with a view to shielding income from US tax obligations and ensure that non-US persons are subject to the correct withholding taxes. “In 2020, TCM entered a qualified agreement with the US Internal Revenue Services (IRS). The QI agreement also allows certain foreign persons to enter into an agreement with the IRS to act as Qualified Derivatives Dealers (QDDs) and to assume primary withholding and reporting responsibilities on all dividend equivalent payments that they make. We also obtained status as a QDD,” she says. Ms Cachia Pace continues by explaining that being a QI-QDD brings with it new roles and responsibilities. “There are some interactions between FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) and QI, like certain documentation, withholding and reporting. However, there are some key differences in the regulatory requirements like governance, types of documentation and customer identification,” she maintains.


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“What I love most about TCM is the belief that success is built on effective communication by understanding the key points of view of those who are working within the company.”

Her other duties include providing support to her colleagues in other departments (mostly the finance and the compliance departments) and to process FATCA and CRS (Common Reporting Standard) returns of group companies. Her role also requires her to support and assist with the review of customer tax compliance forms and exchange due diligence information with counterparties, together with maintaining the required information and records for income tax and VAT. Ms Cachia Pace says she finds her new role as Tax Compliance Manager very interesting and enjoys the dynamic of working within TCM. “What I love most about TCM is the belief that success is built on effective communication by understanding the key points of view of those who are working within the company and presenting them with a vision that they will be happy to implement.” When it comes to the current economic climate and Malta’s recent grey listing, Ms Cachia Pace concurs that certain implications will inevitably be felt in the financial sector. These include increased procedural burdens and monitoring costs, banking difficulties and even lost foreign investment. However, she remains optimistic. “In my view our country has achieved a lot in this regard over the years, but more needs to be done. I believe that we need to enforce and enhance existing regulatory rules, reduce tax obstacles for business, carry out proper due diligence and improve tax compliance and reporting. This will help repair Malta’s image abroad. Technology and digitalisation can be very effective tools to be used to fight tax fraud. Our industry is very well regulated. There should be no cut corners when applying these regulations, and we should try our utmost to adhere to them,” she stresses. Despite the uncertainties that lie ahead, Ms Cachia Pace sees a bright future, both for Malta and her professional life. No one can doubt her enthusiasm for her chosen profession, as she reiterates that going to work every day is more meaningful and enjoyable. A great believer in personal development, she insists that it is important in life to do what you love, and lives life by her own motto. “Do what you love. Follow your dreams, your passion. Follow your instinct and, above all else, never stop believing in yourself,” she concludes.

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The importance of succession planning in family businesses Earlier this year, the Family Business Office launched several new fiscal and governance incentives to assist family businesses with succession planning and generational renewal. Dean Muscat speaks to Dr Joseph Gerada, Regulator at the Family Business Office, about the importance of safeguarding local family businesses and the unique challenges they face.

FAMILY BUSINESSES HAVE BEEN AN INTEGRAL PART OF MALTA’S ECONOMY for decades. However, in recent years, Government had begun to spot a trend for these businesses to dissolve when reaching the third or fourth generation. On closer investigation, the main obstacle for the survival of family businesses was revealed to be a lack of clarity about who should take over once the founder or main decisionmaker of that business passed away. Furthermore, an influx of extended family members invited into the company over the years was often resulting in fundamentally different opinions on where the business should go. With no captain at the helm and no clear vision for the future, these businesses would ultimately flounder and fail. “The Family Business Act was introduced back in 2017 for this reason – to assist family businesses with planning ahead so that they would not be lost,” explains Dr Joseph Gerada, Regulator of the Family Business Office, on why Government

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decided to draw up legislation that recognised the specific obstacles that family businesses continue to face. Identifying succession planning as a key concern for many local family businesses, the FBO has continued to offer professional guidance and financial aid to help businesses successfully pass on from one generation to the next. “Families bring certain issues into the workplace that can create problems in the business structure itself. You start getting issues such as jealousy and nepotism. That’s why we encourage family businesses to adopt certain aspects of a corporate structure,” Dr Gerada explains. “Succession plans based on structure will promote the business passing from one generation to the next.” Dr Gerada insists that succession planning is not about excluding family members. On the contrary, it’s an effective way to ensure the best person for the job is appointed. Family members should be invited to sit for hiring interviews. If they


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“The COVID period was an interesting one to see how family businesses function. We realised that they were much more willing to adapt to ensure their own survival than others.”

can prove that they have the qualities required for the role and the aptitude for that business, then they should be given the opportunity. However, if an external candidate can deliver better results, the decision should be a no-brainer.

business to its name, which has a legacy and reputation in the local market, means they are less likely to give up when faced with extreme challenges. And never was this put more to the test than during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Being involved in a business just because you happen to be a family member does not make sense. We encourage businesses to employ external CEOs or directors. This enables an objective view that family members might not have. Some businesses create a family charter, which establishes rules that apply to all family members. With this in place, no one can feel as if one family member is being given preference over another. The main objective always has to be to think about the benefit to the company itself, rather than family interests,” he says.

“The COVID period was an interesting one to see how family businesses function. We realised that they were much more willing to adapt to ensure their own survival than others,” he reveals.

When harnessed through a robust succession plan, Dr Gerada has seen the very same inner family dynamics that can drive businesses apart also form the foundations to make them more resilient. The fact that a family has a

Family businesses also continue to offer other overlooked benefits that have left a positive and lasting impact on Malta’s economy. This has further incentivised Government to safeguard these businesses and ensure they have a future through effective legislation and financial aid. For one, they ensure many traditional trades and skills endemic to Malta remain intact. “Other businesses, when looking at the profits that can be made off labour-intensive trades, like pottery or certain

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“The FBO encourages succession planning to ensure younger generations of a family can easily integrate into the business and lend their talents and vision to its future.”

types of traditional food-making, may decide they’re simply not worth it. They’d rather go for something more profitable and less time-consuming, such as by exporting goods from China. But family businesses would be willing to invest more time into their products and services because there’s an element of pride involved,” he explains. Additionally, family businesses are more likely to invest profits within the business itself. Whereas most companies would opt for a lease or a rental of a property, Dr Gerada explains how many smaller or micro family businesses in Malta commonly refrain from taking a dividend in order to pour their profits into a family-owned factory, shop, or office. Despite these healthy contributions to Malta’s economy, family businesses started suffering from disadvantages when it came to tax and capital gains. As such, one of the first incentives Government introduced in 2017 was to give family businesses a beneficial capital gains rate of 1.5 per cent when they transfer immovable property from one generation to the next. “One of the main reasons for the failure of these businesses was that tax implications were so high when they were going to pass on to the next generation, that very often the new generation would not be in a position to pay for those liabilities,” Dr Gerada explains. However, since the Family Business Act has come into force, the FBO has seen the situation steadily improve. “Between 2017 and today, we have seen a lot of businesses transferring their properties and shares to the newer generations,” he says with pride. Towards the end of last year, several of the incentives the FBO introduced in 2017 expired. Since then, the FBO has analysed the take-up and success of these incentives to better understand what family businesses are looking for. The rejigged incentives launched earlier this year are designed to better cater for the needs of today’s family businesses and facilitate their succession planning. One such change was a shift from arbitration to mediation. The FBO realised that when dealing with sensitive issues, local family businesses were proving unwilling to air disputes with unknown third parties and submit to their judgement. “We came up with a better alternative and introduced mediation instead of arbitration. Families can opt to have their trusted

accountant or lawyer – someone who they’ve built up a trusted relationship with over the years – act as mediator. As long as that person is an accredited professional, we will accept to assist that business financially so that they can use our mediation services,” Dr Gerada explains. The new incentives also seek to further promote education and training by identifying certain skills and areas of knowledge which would be of direct benefit to local family businesses in general, such as digitalisation and e-commerce. This move was partly inspired by the pandemic. “During COVID, many shops were forced to close their doors and rely on other income streams. Suddenly there was a spike in demand for e-commerce websites, which continued to benefit these businesses once restrictions eased. Some family businesses have seen their market increase tenfold, with greater reach in Malta and abroad.” “Digitalisation in general will help businesses become more efficient and competitive, and this ties into succession. Younger generations are more likely to bring in new ideas and introduce new technologies


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into the business. They are also more likely to understand the market today, rather than how it was 10 or 15 years ago,” he explains.

launch a new platform hosting a range of educational modules specifically addressing issues related to local family businesses.

Unfortunately, the FBO continues to see younger generations reluctant to join the family business because they are aware of familial tensions and strains within the company.

“We know how busy family businesses are. So, we wanted to give them flexibility with resources available at their convenience,” he says.

“This is causing something of a brain drain from these businesses. That’s why the FBO encourages succession planning, to ensure younger generations of a family can easily integrate into the business and lend their talents and vision to its future,” Dr Gerada maintains. The FBO has also continued to minimise bureaucracy and improve application authorisation times in order to make the process as simple as possible for family businesses. “We are always trying to find new ways to request the minimum possible in terms of documentation. Obviously, we need to ensure that there is no abuse. But if we see the intention and objectives are in line with the guidelines of the incentive, then we are very likely to authorise assistance,” he reveals. Family businesses seeking to take advantage of these incentives must first register with the FBO. Once eligibility is identified, an FBO representative takes each applicant through the process and guides them on the incentives that best apply to their business and requirements. “The idea behind the incentives we offer is to give family businesses just a bit more than other businesses, because we believe they have to face certain obstacles that other businesses do not. For example, when it comes to an incentive like Micro Invest, family businesses can benefit from a higher tax credit ceiling. For family businesses it’s €70,000, whereas for other businesses it’s €50,000.” Going forward, the FBO is planning even more incentives to support family businesses, especially with regards to education. Later this year, the FBO in collaboration with Malta Enterprise and The Malta Chamber is planning to

“If you’re not planning, you’re planning to fail. Planning is not an option; it is a necessity.”

The FBO is also collaborating with Tech.mt on a campaign to promote digitalisation in business and enable companies to build websites with e-commerce functionality. Dr Gerada promises more details will be revealed soon. All in all, the FBO is continuing to seek effective ways to encourage succession planning and generational renewal. Family businesses have been a vital part of the local economy and Dr Gerada is confident that the FBO is establishing the groundwork to see more family businesses adapt to today’s realities and flourish into the future. “At the FBO we like to say: If you’re not planning, you’re planning to fail. Planning is not an option; it is a necessity. I would encourage all family businesses to approach us so we can guide them through this plain-sailing process and ensure their longevity,” he concludes.

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Peace, luxury and a sense of place Corinthia Palace General Manager Adrian Attard discusses the process behind crafting the beautiful Athenaeum Spa with Sarah Muscat Azzopardi, and how, like a puzzle, all the elements come together to create an inimitable experience of tranquillity.


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RE-OPENING ITS ELEGANT DOORS FOLLOWING A MULTI-MILLION EURO refurbishment project last year, the Athenaeum Spa has formed an integral part of Attard’s luxurious Corinthia Palace since its inception in the mid-1960s . However, as General Manager Adrian Attard reveals, it wasn’t always the haven of tranquillity many have come to associate it with today. Describing those early days, Adrian explains that the Athenaeum was primarily a fitness centre, at a time before the concept of spas had really entered the market. Then, in the late 1980s, Corinthia was the innovator on the island, opening the first dedicated spa experience within a hotel. The facility would go on to be refurbished in 1993, with Athenaeum Spa continuing operation until recently, with some minor refurbishments and touch-ups. Then, some three and a half years ago, Adrian reveals that the team began to look at business opportunities aimed at enhancing the Corinthia Palace as the foremost luxury destination in Malta. “Of course, the Palace is not a ‘normal’ hotel, by the beach, in Malta. It is a very special property in the heart of the island, surrounded by gardens, and so it is really focused on a different market segment and customer profile to the rest of the island,” he explains.

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PHOTO BY RENE ROSSIGNAUD

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Adrian Attard, General Manager, Corinthia Palace

“We are in the heart of the Mediterranean and the sun plays a role in our lives – it has the ability to heal, the ability to bring wellness, and give a boost.” Along with its location and a strong food and beverage offering, the Athenaeum Spa forms a special part of making the hotel a sought-after destination. “We wanted to create another reason to engage with the Corinthia Palace. And the spa was the most natural way for us to do it,” Adrian says, citing the hotel’s history as a spa resort, affirming that there is a very strong market for spa travel. “We believed that there is a business purpose for creating a very special destination, a spa where the focus is on lifestyle – on well-being, self-care, and giving yourself time to ‘find yourself’ – and therefore planned the investment and the development of the spa,” he continues, revealing that they are already seeing the fruits of their labour. And, as you walk through the elegant new facility, it’s not difficult to see why. Boasting seven treatment rooms and a Vitality Suite – a private area where one can enjoy several facilities that include a steam room – it also houses Swiss showers, a therapy pool with


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bubble beds, hydro treatments and a sauna. But Adrian’s personal favourites are the marble heated beds, he reveals, “these are slabs of marble on which you can lounge, that reach a certain temperature to loosen the muscles and eliminate stress out of your body without you knowing that it is even happening!” The space is also complemented by a garden with an external paddle pool, sun loungers and a lounging area, in which you can spend time individually, as a small group or as a couple, to enjoy quality time to look after yourself and really unwind.

grey day, but we also have the vast majority of beautiful sun-blushed days,” he maintains. So, when it came to the design, sunlight formed a very important part of the brief. Another integral part, Adrian continues, was creating a spa that spoke to destination, of the place we are in – the Mediterranean – as well as focusing on the hotel’s history. “We are a heritage property, our hotel dates back to 1962 and our Villa to the turn of the 20th century. So there is that heritage, but there is also a lifestyle and a connection to Malta, to our roots. With the Athenaeum, we very much wanted to engage those two concepts,” he explains.

Speaking of the design of the space, Adrian affirms that as a company, Corinthia owns a number of hotels with fantastic spas, each having its own identity. For the Athenaeum, the team wanted to do something different.

The team did this by looking outwards, also incorporating the idea of recreating la dolce vita of the 1960s, drawing inspiration from the citrus trees, the honey, the lifestyle of fun and joy that one associates with the southern Mediterranean during that time. To do this, the Corinthia worked with a design architect out of the United Kingdom, a company called Goddard Littlefair, who were, Adrian says, “inspirational in developing this concept and theme.” They also worked with QP Management Projects based out of Malta, also an arm of Corinthia, on the project.

“We are in the heart of the Mediterranean and the sun plays a role in our lives – it has the ability to heal, the ability to bring wellness, and give a boost. When you come to Malta, you want to engage with the sun – you want to feel it and see it, and even in the winter months, yes, we have the odd

“The architecture and interior design organisations came together and created something very special: a sense of the Corinthia Palace in the heart of the Mediterranean, with a feeling of lifestyle, of wellness,” the General Manager maintains.

“In this modern and fast-paced world that we live in, we are seeing that many of our guests are looking for an escape, a reason to sit and think, and to enjoy time on their own to find peace. The Athenaeum Spa has that purpose very much in mind,” he maintains.

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“The architecture and interior design organisations came together and created something very special: a sense of the Corinthia Palace in the heart of the Mediterranean, with a feeling of lifestyle, of wellness.” “It was important for us that when you walk into the spa, you immediately feel a sense of calm, and that is reflected in the colours and textures that were chosen for the walls,” he continues, referencing a smooth Veneziano wall finish when you first walk into the spa, which is contrasted in the arches by a hard stone which blends with the smooth cream colour scheme, surrounded by plants, both inside and outside. The choice of colour scheme when it came to the textiles for cushions, pillows and leathers, as well as the detailing in the furniture, also contribute to this serene effect. “I can say that your journey starts as you walk towards the spa on your way to the pool. You can smell the plants – rosemary and different herbs – so that as you walk past, your

sense of smell immediately triggers a feeling of peace. Once you walk into the spa proper, you hear the calm music, smell the scents, and really feel the experience of walking through the facility with its arches and its curves,” Adrian enthuses, highlighting the many curved elements of the space, and the fact that there are no hard corners . “Once you are upstairs, there is a beautiful sofa where you sit for your pre-treatment consultation, and again, the curves and the chairs all form part of the small details that combined, create the journey. The detail of the subconscious in the design allowed us to create this very special space,” he adds. Creating a space that spoke of the destination also extended to the primary materials and finishes used, Adrian continues,

PHOTO BY BRIAN GRECH

Michelle Reynolds, Athenaeum Spa Director

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“It was important for us that when you walk into the spa, you immediately feel a sense of calm, and that is reflected in the colours and textures that were chosen.” affirming that where possible, the team favoured finishes that are honest and true to Malta. “We worked with partners who are local, and what we couldn’t find locally, we again looked at the geographic region,” he says, mentioning paints from Italy, the marble beds which are from the south of Italy, and the team’s consultants for the Vitality Pool, who were from Spain, “always trying to be as honest and truthful to Malta and to the destination.” Describing the defining elements of the space, Adrian reveals that for him it is the sense that there are many different spots within the Athenaeum Spa, which he loves. “It has not been an unusual thing to see the GM of the hotel with his laptop working in the Serenity Lounge when it’s a quiet morning, because it truly is a fantastic space – it releases the mind, it’s inspirational. It gives that sense of peace,” he says. Apart from that, he considers the colour, materials and sense of destination that the team created as what make the space special. And of course, he notes, the space alone is not enough – a beautiful, architecturally pleasing and well-designed space is only a part of the experience. “Some of the best spa people I have had the pleasure to work with, including Spa Director Michelle Reynolds, have developed an experience. We looked at the senses, we looked at the music that we play, we looked at the smell, we looked at all the textiles that we use in the building, and what you sit on and what is covering the bed; the type of towels we use, and the bathrobes

and the slippers. It is a complete experience that we put a lot of thought into,” he reflects. “There are many parts to this puzzle. But when it’s put together, it’s something beautiful, something unique. And this is what we wanted to do. We wanted to create something very special in Malta, based on our international experience in the luxury sphere around the world. Malta deserves a facility like this, and the Corinthia Palace and Athenaeum Spa is the right place for it.”



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Meet Adriana Zarb Adami,

Bupa Malta’s Branch Manager & LifeStar Health Managing Director PHOTO BY INIGO TAYLOR

YOU MAY FEEL HEALTHY AND FULL OF STRENGTH NOW, but the future is unknown, and if you leave it too late to get health insurance, you may find it difficult to get coverage for all medical conditions, Bupa Malta Branch Manager and LifeStar Health Managing Director Adriana Zarb Adami advises in a wideranging interview with Business Now. Bupa, a brand that is recognised worldwide, is this year celebrating its 50th anniversary since it first opened its office in Malta. Why is this an important anniversary? And what does it mean to you? I feel very proud and honoured to have been part of the Bupa Malta set-up for over 30 years. This year makes it an even more important one because it marks the 50th anniversary of when the Bupa principals opened their operation on the island. I am also very proud to remark that, out of all the countries in the world, Bupa Malta was chosen as Bupa Global’s first overseas branch and we remain strong half a century later. Bupa has been a pioneer in health insurance and to date it is the only agency focused solely on health. How do you describe its evolution over the years? There are quite a few insurers on the island who offer various classes of business, but we are the only ones whose focus is solely on health. Therefore, all our efforts are concentrated on the health and overall well-being of our valued clients. With Bupa Malta being the only private medical health insurer on the island back in 1971, it’s a bastion we proudly hold on to.


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What have been the marked changes you’ve witnessed in the past years? A major one was in 2018. Our company, passed through a bit of turmoil, resulting in a change in practically all of the management and a huge staff turnaround. I was asked to step in, and being the loyal employee that I am and having so much faith in the company, I once again became a full-time employee dedicating more and more time to the workplace. I am now happy to confirm that the group has overcome most hurdles, rebranded and is now LifeStar Holding plc, and has positively moved on. Bupa Malta this year chose to convert a backyard at Dar Santa Tereża in Żurrieq into a playground for the young children at the home. It also organised Christmas in July at the home, which is run by the Daughters of the Sacred Heart of Malta and forms part of Fondazzjoni Sebħ. What inspired this altruistic decision? We wanted to mark this milestone by giving something back to the community. It felt so rewarding to see the backyard of Dar Santa Tereza in Żurrieq being converted into a playground to provide a safe space for the six young children currently living there. And it gave me such personal satisfaction to see the little children’s faces light up with a smile. Another step which Bupa Malta linked to its anniversary was the launch of a new dental rider. What does this bring to the market? As part of its 50th-anniversary celebrations, Bupa Malta introduced three levels of dental cover for different age groups that can easily be added to members’ existing Bupa plan. This dental add-on cannot be bought as a standalone but is available to existing members, community-rated groups on renewal, or new clients seeking to purchase new health insurance cover. Why do you believe private medical health insurance is such an important investment? Health is the most important asset of our lives and my advice is to invest in it early. Once you have a Bupa Malta health insurance plan in place, there is no age limit as our plans come with a lifelong renewability feature without any maximum renewal age. An important point though is to ensure its timely renewals. Plan early, so when you retire, and your income reduces – and with it the probability of medical treatment increases – you will have peace of mind knowing that any treatment you may need will be covered by your health plan. You have been with the company for so many years that you’ve become fondly known as Ms Bupa. What keeps you passionate about the job over the years? I love what I do. I love my clients and always follow the principle that the ‘client is king’. Mind you, the client is not always right, but I believe that with the right attitude, as well as bearing in mind that health is a very sensitive matter and clients at times just want a shoulder to cry and lean on, somehow my meetings with our clients always end on a very good note. Most of my clients are now my very good friends.

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When they cry, I cry, and when they joke or laugh, I do the same! I consider Bupa as my second home. I am passionate about it and in fact, I get teased that when I die, I, Ms Bupa, will take it along with me! What are the values that drive your work ethic? Professionalism, integrity, dedication, reliability and productivity are the values that drive my work ethic. These help me face my daily challenges. Can you describe a rewarding moment? One rewarding moment I will never forget is when a young boy, aged around six, went to watch a water polo match with his father. The boy got badly hit by a car and had to be hospitalised. I was so upset to see this little boy who had gone out to have fun end up in the state hospital with operations planned for the next day. Later that evening I learnt the boy was a client of ours, so I immediately informed my principals overseas of this unfortunate incident and discussed how we could go about cheering him up. The next day, Bupa had delivered to my office a box containing an inflatable balloon, colouring books, reading books, video games and a musical box with nursery rhymes. I managed to get this box to the boy about two hours before his first operation. His eyes shone with delight and this initiative certainly took his mind off what he was going to undergo a few hours later. The prompt action was a clear example of how much Bupa cares. What are your professional accomplishments to date? I joined Bupa Malta over 30 years ago, working in almost all the departments and slowly climbing the ladder until I reached my current position of Bupa Malta Branch Manager and LifeStar Health Managing Director, where I handle the branch’s daily running. This takes up most of my day and evening, but I enjoy every bit of it. Apart from this, I sit on the LifeStar Health board and I am active on various other boards and charity organisations. Apart from constantly keeping abreast of what is happening in my area, it’s also an opportunity to give something back to the community in Malta. How do you care for your own health? Now, this is a difficult one! I do not take care of my health as well as I should. I am not a big eater and can easily do without food, but I definitely and certainly cannot stay without my sweets. I have now made a promise to myself to start following a healthier diet. I do hope I will adhere to it. One good thing though, is that I go walking every day to remain active and clear-headed. Who/what makes you smile? The closeness of my family gives me the greatest smile and satisfaction. I just love being with them. Also, another thing that makes my day is seeing that my colleagues and clients are content. How do you unwind after work? I love to travel, dance and socialise. I’m very focused when at the office, but then when I socialise, the party animal makes an appearance. I am blessed to have so many friends who are always there for me.

LifeStar Health Limited acts as an insurance agent for Bupa Global Designated Activity Company (Bupa Global DAC), which has passported its services through the European Passport Rights for Insurance and Reinsurance Undertakings. LifeStar Health Limited is enrolled as an insurance agent under the Insurance Distribution Act, Cap 487 of the Laws of Malta and is regulated by the Malta Financial Services Authority of Notabile Road, Attard BKR 3000, Malta and subject to limited regulation by the Central Bank of Ireland. Registered office: LifeStar Health Limited, Testaferrata Street, Ta’ Xbiex XBX 1403, Malta. Company Registration No. C6393. Bupa Global DAC, trading as Bupa Global, is a designated activity company limited by shares registered in Ireland under company number 623889 and having its registered office at Second Floor, 10 Pembroke Place, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, DO4 V1W6. Bupa Global DAC, trading as Bupa Global, is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.


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Raising the bar: A commitment to service and quality in corporate catering General Manager Joseph Zammit discusses the premise behind The Big Kitchen with Andrea Christians, revealing how the concept company takes the idea of catering a step further than traditional catering establishments.


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“At TBK we believe that cooking is an artform and that the meals we serve have the potential to create memorable experiences for our clients”

WHEN ONE THINKS OF CATERING, it’s likely that images of buffets for weddings, anniversaries, or corporate events spring to mind. However, one concept company is fast revolutionising the contract catering industry in Malta, offering greater flexibility and a tailormade approach. The Big Kitchen, or TBK, is the brainchild of Joseph Zammit, the grandson of the founder of Neriku Catering, a company that has become a leader in the outside catering scene in Malta since its inception in the 1960s. Joseph describes his grandfather as “a true entrepreneur and visionary leader.” Now in its third generation, the parent company currently has 50 employees, with Joseph’s father (Charles Zammit) and uncle (Raymond Zammit) as Directors; his sister (Anne Marie Zammit) as Sales, Marketing and Events Manager; his brother (Christian Zammit) as Financial Advisor and his cousin (Karl Zammit) as Operations Manager.

PHOTOS BY TYLER CALLEJA JACKSON

Talking to Joseph it is obvious that he is passionate about his work as he recalls childhood memories of helping his late grandfather, Neriku, and it comes as no surprise that he followed his footsteps into the family business. “I knew I wanted a career in catering from a young age. I enrolled in a Food Preparation and Production course at ITS – a four-year course which teaches students the skills required to be a successful chef. The course offered a one-year international internship, and I had the opportunity to work at the Hilton in Brighton, UK, which was a great experience for me, both professionally and personally.”

After graduating from ITS, he started working at the factory, continuing his studies in marketing and finance whilst working his way up from the most basic jobs to the role of General Manager in the family business. Around six years ago, however, he realised that the catering world was evolving and changing, and that an opportunity existed to capture a niche market. Drawing on the family’s experience and knowledge of the last 50 years and, after a careful market analysis that lasted 18 months, Joseph and his management team knew exactly what was needed, and invested in the necessary equipment and kitchen facilities, and bringing the right people on board. The result is The Big Kitchen (TBK), providing contract catering services to a host of companies, offering a solution that is both cost-effective and high quality. By offering a strategic service, it enables organisations of all sizes to focus on their core business while TBK focuses on optimising the performance of its catering service. To date, TBK has a broad base of clients – who have all understood the advantages of outsourcing their catering needs to a third party. The strategy is proving to be a winning formula, enabling companies to significantly reduce their costs by handing over the responsibility to experts whilst their workforce or clients are guaranteed a superior product that can be tailored to meet individual needs. Now, as General Manager of both Neriku and TBK, Joseph sees the legacy started by his grandfather continuing to develop in an exciting new direction, and is witnessing TBK grow at an exponential rate.


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A ravioli dish which TBK prepares for clients in the care home sector

Joseph explains that TBK currently provides services to four different sectors. “The first is the healthcare sector. We currently supply daily meals for two elderly homes. The second is education, where we are contracted by the Education Department for the Breakfast Club, which provides breakfast for thousands of children throughout Malta and Gozo during the scholastic year. The third sector is tourism; we supply buffet lunches for chartered boats as well as lunches for some language schools. The fourth is businesses – we cater for companies that want to offer their employees food. Our industry expertise is very comprehensive, including the operation of on-site catering, vending machines and meal delivery services.” Joseph describes his days as “long and full”, as in addition to fulfilling the role of a General Manager he is committed to the smooth-running of TBK and, although some clients have their own account managers, he adopts a very hands-on approach in the day-to-day running of the business.

“Our approach is customer-centric; our clients can always expect flexibility, responsibility and distinctive service,” he maintains, affirming that it is this personal touch that gives TBK the edge and that it is important to be easily contactable and available to discuss with clients, whenever needed. He adds that in an ideal scenario for the company, consumers from every sector would be happy to eat the same meals, but this is far from reality and this is where TBK draws its strength – in providing a service that can be tailormade to cater for different clients’ needs. “At TBK we believe that cooking is an artform and that the meals we serve have the potential to create memorable experiences for our clients,” he says. In addition, the chefs constantly seek to craft varied menus using fresh, seasonal produce and to create dishes that offer a mix of traditional and contemporary meals using only ingredients of the highest quality. “Using research and our team’s expertise, all the menus at TBK are crafted with the highest standards whilst keeping the different clients, their needs and requests in mind,” Joseph continues, using the example of care homes for the elderly, where food intolerances

Turkish food prepared by TBK to cater for foreign clients


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“We are committed to consistently deliver the highest quality and performance, whilst relentlessly driving to be the lowest cost, most efficient provider.” are less frequent but other factors such as diabetes and high blood pressure must be taken into consideration when creating a menu. Breakfast Clubs for school children are another challenge, as many children today have food intolerances. Joseph also recounts how TBK is catering for companies employing foreign workers that have particular preferences, including a number of construction companies that cater for Turkish, Indian and Filipino workers as well as another with an Indonesian workforce. Above all else, he believes that it is this flexibility that gives TBK the advantage over its competitors, along with the fact that it is a family-run company, and that a happy workforce

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is also important. “As a family business, we try to remain approachable, flexible and understanding to our clients but also to our employees. It is important to us to create a pleasant working environment and have a one team approach,” he explains. TBK, the General Manager says, is dedicated to staying upto-date with culinary trends and consumer attitudes, and to be readily adaptable to these in the future. Whilst there is a constant battle between cost and quality, Joseph explains that it is of the utmost importance to be au courant with the latest developments in the industry, and that today’s challenges include providing environmentallyfriendly packaging, healthy food and catering for specific dietary requirements such as halal or vegan. But perhaps TBK’s mantra to provide and excel at an affordable price is best summarised in its mission statement: “We are committed to consistently deliver the highest quality and performance, whilst relentlessly driving to be the lowest cost, most efficient provider.”



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Gastronomy Trend Report: Autumn 2021 As the season changes and our taste buds yearn for autumnal produce, it’s an exciting time for food. Sarah Muscat Azzopardi discovers what’s hot in the world of food in the coming months, both locally and abroad. Grazing boards As the weather cools down, the season of wine bars, cheese and charcuterie is heralded in. Intricately styled grazing boards have been a popular trend in recent months and will continue to feature heavily in autumn. The best part is that they’re easy to put together, comprising a variety of fresh ingredients that need no prior cooking or preparation – simply arrange in a pleasing flat lay to wow your guests. Beefbar to open second restaurant at The Phoenicia Malta Following the success of its St Paul’s Bay restaurant, international meat-centric eatery Beefbar has announced that it will be opening a second eatery on the island, within the prestigious Phoenicia Malta. Dubbed ‘Beefbar in the City’, the new outlet is expected to be a welcome addition to Malta’s fine dining scene, and if the menu of its Bugibba restaurant is anything to go by, will feature a selection of iconic meat dishes presented with elegance and simplicity. Time for tea While it’s in no danger of overtaking coffee as many’s warm drink of choice, tea comes with many benefits, and is experiencing somewhat of a resurgence. With countless varieties to choose from, including decadent flavours like Masala Chai and Sweet Rose, we’re set to drink a lot more tea this season… and if taking it warm isn’t your thing, trendy sparkling tea might be worth a try!

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PHOTO BY NICKY SICICLUNA

Gastronomy Trends

Nicholas Diacono to head kitchen at Tico Tico In September, celebrated local chef Nicholas Diacono announced that he will be taking over the kitchen of popular Strait Street restaurant and bar Tico Tico. In a post on social media, the chef said he would be bringing the restaurant “back to life” with “sharing dishes paired with cool cocktails and great wines”. Known by many for his previous venture, Fat Louie’s, within which he co-launched a popular ‘nose to tail’ approach to meat, he is celebrated for unconventional menu items including bone marrow served with toast, and a foie gras burger. Poke and tartare Both locally and abroad, the increase in fast casual poke chains has given rise to greater experimentation with raw proteins beyond sushi. And while poke is leading the way, it’s not exclusive to fish – with different meats like bison and venison also presented as tartare dishes. Smoked food It’s been a trend for some time, but while smoked meats have taken the culinary world by storm in recent years, the smoking craze looks set to extend beyond classic cuts of meat like ribs or brisket. These will run the gamut from smoked cocktails, salt and butter to experimental dishes featuring smoked veggies, like smoked carrot risotto or sugar smoked pineapple.



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Laboratory equipment: Are you looking to update, renovate or simply start from scratch? QUALITY LABORATORY EQUIPMENT CAN LAST A LONG TIME. At Evolve, we’ve seen some microscopes, lab furniture and other scientific facilities last more than 30 years. But no matter how much you invest in laboratory maintenance, there will come a time when it’s necessary to renovate or replace. At Evolve, we have specific-sector knowledge and tailor scientific solutions to your requirements by selecting and adapting our service offering, which includes free scientific consultancy and a very good quality equipment service. At Evolve, we champion potential to help the people, businesses, and institutions we serve. We support our customers at every stage of their journey, we are easy to deal with and we are powered by a love of science, innovation and building long-lasting partnerships with our suppliers and clients alike. T: 2248 9900; E: info@evolveltd.eu; www.evolveltd.eu

Shipping firm EuroBridge announces new CEO Robert Cassar EUROBRIDGE SHIPPING SERVICES LTD recently announced the appointment of Robert Cassar as CEO. The role of CEO is a new one at EuroBridge, as the company continues on its positive growth path. Robert joined EuroBridge in June 2021 and has undergone a handover process prior to taking the reins fully. Meanwhile, David Abela will be moving from Managing Director, a role he held for the past 21 years, to Director, and will remain active in business development as a consultant to the business, with EuroBridge continuing to tap into his wealth of experience, and knowledge in the sector. The combination of Robert’s experience, culture and drive makes him an ideal fit for EuroBridge’s next stages of growth. “EuroBridge is going through a healthy growth phase, increasing in the number of customers, employees, and suppliers. I am thrilled that Robert joined EuroBridge as CEO.

He has a customer-centric approach to running the business, which is at the core of EuroBridge’s values. I’m sure he will take EuroBridge to the next level,” says Mr Abela. “Upon joining EuroBridge, I found an organisation built around the customer, one always on the lookout to find new, innovative solutions to offer reliable logistics and shipping services. I look forward to being part of this success story, and to continue building upon David’s and the entire EuroBridge team’s work,” Mr Cassar shares. E: robert.cassar@eurobridge.com.mt; www.eurobridge.com.mt




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A legacy in wine Sarah Muscat Azzopardi talks to fourth generation Marsovin CEO Jeremy Cassar about his longstanding family business, and the significant role it has played in the history of winemaking in Malta.

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The Marsovin Cellars


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REGARDLESS OF YOUR PERSONAL FONDNESS FOR WINE, if you’re a local, you’re bound to have heard of Marsovin. A household name that’s become synonymous with the production of premium wines on the island, it boasts a strong legacy that dates back to 1919, when enterprising local Anthony Cassar decided to set up a wine merchant business with his brother George.

which would grow to play a significant role within the history of winemaking in Malta.

It was in the 1930s, however, that Anthony would part ways with his brother, creating Anthony Cassar & Son, and together with his son Joe, began to set the business on the trajectory that would go on to make it a household name. As a result, Marsovin was incorporated in 1956 as a family-run company,

“World War I had just ended, and he didn’t come from money. They’re humble beginnings, of someone who had courage and determination, and worked very hard. During World War II, those who knew him always described him as being blind to danger, still delivering wine across the island,

“My great grandfather started with close to nothing,” says Jeremy Cassar, who makes up the fourth generation in the family to head Marsovin. At the outset, he describes the circumstances as very different to what they are today, within an environment that wasn’t easy.

“I think the biggest transition, that stepped up the quality in a big way, was when my father invested in our cellars and vineyards, starting in 1992, all the way through to 2005.”

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Jeremy Cassar at the Marsovin Cellars

A young Joe Cassar in his office

Marsovin founder - Anthony Cassar in his office

“Today, the market is more quality-oriented and we are happy to continue down that road.”

Grapes arriving at the winery after being harvested

even while it was being bombed. It was his frame of mind, within a very different context,” explains Jeremy, with reverence.

this particular case, from what I have been told, it was a very obvious transition, and one he was very happy to make.”

He likens this to any major challenge businesses have had to face over the years, bringing it to bear on the latest one for many – the COVID-19 pandemic. “Today, we have initiatives like the Wage Supplement, for example, to help us overcome such a challenge. It was a very different time, back then,” he maintains.

Yet one milestone that Jeremy considers having changed the course of Marsovin in perhaps the most substantial way, happened in his own father’s time – that is, the third generation.

Luckily, after Anthony’s initial trailblazing years, the transition of the business to the second generation, his son Joe, was an easy one. “Anthony was a very proud father, and considered his son to be God sent,” smiles Jeremy, describing his grandfather Joe as a bright young man who would continue to strengthen the business. “With family businesses, it is not always the case, but in

Combining the entrepreneurial spirit of his grandfather and the modernising aspect of his father, Tony Cassar would see Marsovin invest in five estates around Malta and Gozo, specifically intended and selected for premium winemaking. “Up until the 1970s, Malta had more of a beer-drinking culture, due to the British influence,” Jeremy explains, affirming that today, premium wines are sold more


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frequently. “I think the biggest transition, that stepped up the quality in a big way, was when my father invested in our cellars and vineyards, starting in 1992, all the way through to 2005. Each one was chosen specifically for the types of wine we wanted to produce.” “If you want to say that you’re a quality wine producer, you need to have access to your own vineyards, so as to manage the quality from beginning to end. We weren’t doing that before, and it wasn’t something which was believed in locally,” he continues, maintaining that having your own vineyards sets you apart. “That was really important as a wine producer.”

Sunrise at the Marnisi Estate

Another major milestone for Marsovin, according to Jeremy, was overcoming Malta’s EU accession. “That was not easy for all operators on the island – but it was a question of adapting, and today, the market is more quality-oriented and we are happy to continue down that road,” he affirms, highlighting the company’s continued emphasis on raising the bar on quality. Looking back on his family legacy, Jeremy reveals that growing up, “Marsovin was everywhere”, joking that as a child coming from a family with a wellknown business, wherever he went, he’d come across it. Still, he laughs, having an endless supply of drinks at home was great, “and as I got older, we had an endless supply of wine too, so certainly from an entertainment perspective it was good!”

In 1960 Marsovin enlarged its distribution considerably from one van and one truck in the early 1950s to 11 trucks

On a more serious note, Jeremy says that he always admired what his father did, and the way he did it, and while “the business and the family were like one thing”, his decision to join Marsovin was not an automatic one. “I went to live in France when I was 21, and spent a year and a half working and studying there. It was there that I fell in love with the culture of wine,” he explains, referencing the importance of having that culture, which also happens to be the company’s slogan.

Tony Cassar and Jeremy Cassar at the Cheval Franc Estate

In 1965 Malta’s first temperature-controlled tanks for fermenting wine were built on the initiative of the company Chairman, the late Joe Cassar

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“The culture of wine is really important… without it, it becomes a business like any other. It’s got to be in you to do a good job. In fact, whenever we look for people to join the winery, within whatever role it may be, we try as much as possible to choose people that are also engaged in the business; to have some sort of link – either a passion for wine or a willingness to learn,” Jeremy continues. “I have fond memories of my father and grandfather working in the business as I was growing up – everybody was always very passionately involved in the business, and it was something that as a child, made you feel very attached and proud of it.” Speaking of his own experience at the helm, Jeremy says that adapting as time goes by is key, as is following through with the plans carefully laid out by his predecessors. “Once you have a business that is established and which has taken a certain path, particularly with a long-term business, your main responsibility is to stick to the plan – one which was set out from the late 70s to the early 90s in our case, that of having estates around the island and producing quality wines from them – I have a responsibility to manage the estates and continue to improve on them,” he shares.

Ramla Valley Estate in Gozo

“I went to live in France when I was 21. It was there that I fell in love with the culture of wine.” Apart from that, of course, he has his own stake in the family legacy, and has his sights set on the next project: building a boutique winery within one of Marsovin’s vineyards, which he envisions to be a reference point, both in terms of design and quality standards moving forward. “This should happen over the next two years. I’m hoping that it will be the next milestone,” he smiles. Speaking of how the landscape in the industry has changed, Jeremy reveals that it has become more competitive and saturated, and the only way to deal with that is to continuously strive to lead the way. “I believe in innovation. Within the wine business, there are limits to innovation,” he acknowledges, but feels that you can innovate in different areas, including the wine styles produced. “We are the only ones on the island to make wine in the noble méthode traditionelle for sparkling wine, for example. We’ve been doing that since the late 90s, and we’re very proud of it. In the grand scheme of things, these details may seem small, but they are what make us stand out.”

Malta’s first bottling plant for wine was installed, an initiative of then Marsovin Chairman, Joe Cassar. At that time Marsovin employed 17 people in the bottling department

Anthony Cassar & Son premises

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Antonin Noir

Primus

Meanwhile, Jeremy feels that Marsovin’s strong legacy also plays a part in making it a frontrunner in the sector, coupled with the capable team of people that run it every day. “We have six qualified viticulturists and winemakers, and a mix of local and foreign staff that work hard to constantly improve our standards. You can dream of having good wine, but if you haven’t got the team to do it, it’s very hard. We have the team to do it. The heritage is nice to have, but it’s in the past. The future is in the hands of the people doing the job, and that is our strength. It’s a team that is unique on the island – we have a lot of work that is still left to be done, to constantly improve and raise the bar,” he maintains, adding that nowadays, the team is no longer only contending with other local wineries, but with wines from around the world, so the quality has to be on par or better than the average wine of similar value, from wherever it may originate.

Grand Maître wine range

“The heritage is nice to have, but it’s in the past. The future is in the hands of the people doing the job, and that is our strength.”

“We always try to deliver on our promises, pushing the bar on quality, and trying to always raise the level, year after year,” he says, affirming that it’s about pushing the standards and maintaining them, which is critical. “We have a commitment towards Maltese farmers and viticulturalists. We work with over 220 farmers every year – we are very loyal towards them, and they are the same towards us. Agriculture is so important to the island, and it is not given as much importance as it should be,” Jeremy continues, appealing to locals to have a greater appreciation for what Malta produces from its own land.

As for his plans for Marsovin moving forward, Jeremy says that while the immediate objective is to have more of a physical presence within their vineyards with a winery, for the long run it is to further establish the company’s name as a leading wine producer, and to do more with it.

“Even if it costs a bit more, it’s worth buying local. From a carbon emissions perspective, it’s better to buy from a local supplier than getting it from halfway across the world. It’s important for people to recognise when a quality product is produced in Malta,” he notes, referencing a belief that locals tend to undervalue locally produced products.

“We do enough for what there is today but being a premium wine producer by today’s standards is only enough for today. What’s it going to take in 20 years’ time? If one takes a graph to chart the quality since 1919, it’s only gone up, and it’s going to continue. And because of that, everything you do also has got to continue going up,” he concludes.



PHOTOS BY ALAN CARVILLE

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Young Entrepreneurs

“I’m on a mission to encourage others to restore, reuse and purchase pre-loved goods.”


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Saving the planet, one shoe at a time In March 2020, 21-year-old Julia Tonna left the shuttered Sheffield University to fly home. Together with her family, she hunkered down to wait out the pandemic. But just as the rest of the world was slowing to a halt, Julia’s entrepreneurial mind was picking up speed. Teri Spiteri finds out more about the start of her new business, WhizzFix.

“WHILE I WAS STUDYING BUSINESS AND MARKETING AT UNIVERSITY, I learned a lot about sustainability, the environment and carbon footprints. I grew conscious of the environmental consequences of fast fashion, and wanted to do something about it. Then suddenly, the pandemic had retail outlets closing their doors. People started being more careful with their money, thinking harder about the repercussions of their actions,” WhizzFix Founder Julia Tonna explains. So, on one of many quiet lockdown days, she turned to her father. “I was having an open discussion with my dad about what to do. We had the chance to spend time together, discussing opportunities and brainstorming ideas,” the young entrepreneur says. And Julia’s father brought some rather specific experience to the table. “When my father was 18, he joined my grandfather’s lifelong business in the shoe industry. He was one of the main manufacturers of shoes in Malta and, when my dad joined, he taught him all the tricks of the trade. He’s worked with shoes ever since. As the third generation, I have to say… it’s in my blood!” “We realised that nobody on the island was offering shoe and bag restoration. That’s how the idea for WhizzFix came about,” she continues, describing it as “the perfect marriage of two ideas: offering quality shoe and bag restoration while promoting sustainability to make the world a greener place. After all, why throw something away if you can fix it?” When asked about the business model, her eyes sparkle. Julia’s ardent enthusiasm is palpable as she talks through the concept, affirming, “I’m on a mission to encourage others to restore, reuse and purchase pre-loved goods. I want them to appreciate the value and sentiment in the items they own or that have been passed down to them, while encouraging them to be conscious about the environment. So, I combined the services of a traditional cobbler with the modernised service that customers have come to expect of a contemporary business.”


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Young Entrepreneurs

And just like that, a business was born. Its focus is mostly on the restoration of shoes and bags, but WhizzFix also offers seamstress services that give clothes a second life, as well as laundry services to keep it all spick and span. Meanwhile, home pick-up and delivery are standard, making the process easy, efficient and COVID-friendly. Business grew steadily, and it wasn’t long before Julia spotted another opportunity to further her mission. Understanding that, sometimes, people simply fall out of love with the items they own, the young entrepreneur is determined to save them from the landfill nonetheless. In her own words: “if you own something that’s no longer to your taste, why dispose of it or leave it to rot when you could give it a second home?” This led to the launch of her first sub-brand, WhizzFix Outlet. Here, Julia collects good-quality items that are well looked after and promotes them for resale on her social media pages. If any restoration is needed, she’ll take care of that herself – her only goal is to find a new home for these items. After taking a small commission of 15 per cent of the price, Julia passes the payment onto the original owner. Her studies in business and marketing have given Julia a solid foundation to launch the venture, although she admits that a lack of practical teaching did make things quite tricky. “I did

face quite a challenge in setting up the business myself. I had no idea how to handle the corporate registration process and, once that was sorted, I found that I lacked practical knowledge of all the marketing tools that are available. I taught myself everything I know about design, communication and branding, and while it was quite a steep learning curve, I’m happy with how far I’ve come,” she says. Still, there was one other challenge that threatened to stunt her business from the start, one that would prove to be a lot harder to overcome. “There is quite a stigma in Malta about repairing and reusing, and even about buying second-hand items. I received a lot of discouraging feedback – people claiming that they would never consider buying someone else’s used shoes,” she reveals. It would take more than a few brush-offs to quell Julia’s steadfast determination, however. She stayed the course, explaining her reasoning and showcasing the quality of her work online. Over time, she noticed a growing interest in her services: “I was breaking through the throw-away mentality and getting people to repair and reuse. I was so happy – it restored my faith in the Maltese population!” “This shift in mentality is how I measure success. It takes an insane amount of polluting chemicals, water and resources to

“This shift in mentality is how I measure success. It takes an insane amount of polluting chemicals, water and resources to make just one shoe, so if people had to understand the carbon footprint that’s required to produce the items they own, they’d be blown away.”


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Young Entrepreneurs

make just one shoe, so if people had to understand the carbon footprint that’s required to produce the items they own, they’d be blown away. Seeing my clientele grow is a sign that I’m making an impact on the way people think. It’s highly motivating to feel like I’m actually getting somewhere and making a difference,” the WhizzFix Founder maintains. Shifting a nation’s mentality sounds like a full-time job in itself. This begs the question: how big is the WhizzFix team? “I’m actually a one-man band, although I’m lucky to have my father backing me up. He’s very supportive, and takes time out of his busy day to help me maintain and grow the business. However, I’m mostly thankful that he’s willing to share his years of expertise. He’s taught me everything I know about restoration.” It’s not the first time she’s gushed about the support she gets from her parents and younger sister. “I’m ambitious by nature, but my family have always encouraged me to pursue my ideas and follow them through to fruition. In the Tonna household, it’s always a learning curve – never a failure,” she smiles. It’s also worth mentioning that throughout all this, Julia never stopped studying. She’s just graduated, and couldn’t be happier

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“The flexibility and freedom to expand my ideas without having to follow orders is what I love the most about starting my own company.” to continue building her business on her own terms. Having taken a gap year before University to work at a gaming company, she has already experienced life in a nine-to-five job – and it just doesn’t do it for her. “The flexibility and freedom to expand my ideas without having to follow orders is what I love the most about starting my own company,” she says. However, she’s quick to acknowledge that her year of work and training in customer care is something she’s grateful for today. “Knowing how to establish and maintain a personal relationship with each of my clients is the most important part of the business. It’s about trust. These are


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Young Entrepreneurs

“There are going to be people that pull you down and others that encourage you, but whatever people say, don’t get distracted. Stay focused and keep moving forward.”

valuable sentimental items I’m handling for them – their grandmother’s wedding shoes or the bag they wore to their first interview. They need to feel secure in making that transaction, to know that they can be open with me about their requests, expectations and feedback.” With her sights set on growing the business over the coming years, Julia admits that she’s looking into third-party services to handle collection and delivery in the near future. Nevertheless, she’s determined to retain that personal touch with each of her customers by any means necessary. “I make sure to call or text each of my clients to check that they’re pleased with the results. I believe that listening to their feedback is essential if I hope to grow the business,” she continues. On that note, I ask about her plans for the future. “Right now, I simply want to do more of what we’re doing. I want to better myself and the service, finding new approaches and focusing on our clients and their needs.” In the long term, she hopes that this will translate into a larger clientele served by a bigger team – all with the aim of encouraging more consumers to embrace the sustainable approach to fashion. “I’m very happy with what we’ve achieved so far, but I know there’s more that I can do,” she adds. She speaks with a self-confident determination that makes you forget she’s only 22. It’s clear that the business is the main focus right now, but I’m curious about her personal life. Does she struggle with work-life balance at all? “It’s not something that bothers me. Every morning, I wake up excited about what I’m going to do next. My boyfriend shares this ambition – he’s starting up his own company as well, so we’re both super focused on our work and encourage each other to keep going.” “I did have to make some sacrifices, of course. Partying with my friends on the weekends was something I gave up early on. Since my week is taken up with restoration work, pickups and deliveries, I dedicate my weekends to marketing the business. I take photos, plan my posts for the coming week and get it all scheduled. I have no time for hangovers.

I’m very passionate about the work I do, so I’m happy to do it,” she states, smiling broadly. As our conversation draws to a close, I think about how this all started just a few months ago in her family living room. One year on, what advice would she give to anyone starting a business? “There are going to be people that pull you down and others that encourage you, but whatever people say, don’t get distracted. Stay focused and keep moving forward. Don’t get side-tracked by comments and challenges that arise, and don’t look back. There’s no time to dwell on what could have been. Stay focused, overcome the hurdles and keep going.”



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Meet the Artist

Ioulia’s love affair with clay

PHOTO BY INIGO TAYLOR

Greek born Ioulia Chante talks to Lisa Borain about BABAU Ceramics, her penchant for monsters, and how the pandemic has allowed her to develop her passion for clay.


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Meet the Artist

PHOTO BY IOUILA CHANTE

PHOTO BY INIGO TAYLOR

“I was witnessing people creating sculptures and I liked the idea of making something functional with features to make it unique.”

HAVING GROWN UP WITH AN ARTISTICALLYSPIRITED MOTHER in an environment that celebrated craft and design, Ioulia Chante’s path as a ceramic designer was always there, waiting to be unveiled and nurtured. Born in Greece, Ioulia currently lives and works in Malta as an architect at ME Architects. After focusing on jewellery design for a number of years while studying architecture at a university in Greece, Ioulia has evolved her creative practice into creating ceramic mugs, tea sets, oil burners, tea candle holders, teapots, plates and bowls, inspired by an intention to exalt her own pieces. Her ceramics are characterised by endearing monsters, hence the derivation of the name BABAU (‘boogie man’ in Maltese). She gives them personas with whimsical comments on social media, such

as ‘Deadly smile, fiery eyes. She’s got the look! This monster was one of my favourites...’ or ‘this is a piece that I made a while ago. A vase that protects your property from thieves and intruders.’ “I love putting my emotions and thoughts out there,” Ioulia says. “As a child, I always had a pencil and paper in hand, and sketched everything. I used to love knitting with my aunt. I enjoyed experimenting with all types of materials, and particularly with copper wires in my dad’s industrial automation lab. Creating with my hands is cathartic.” In Malta, Ioulia became enchanted with local pottery studio, Space For Clay, where she began her love story with the material. The studio offers budding artists the chance to choose structured courses to follow. Students can also develop at their own pace and

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Meet the Artist

PHOTOS BY INIGO TAYLOR

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convenience – from simply learning how to throw on the potter’s wheel to studying how to hand build, using clay as the medium. Artists can purchase a block of several hours that can be utilised over a period of three months, she explains, which means that those who have a full-time job can create their ceramic pieces whenever they have the free time. “Clay is such a unique material with endless possibilities. You can really put all your emotions and mood in one piece. It’s something very tangible and personal,” Ioulia says, admitting that “the reason I got so attached to clay is because both wheel-throwing and sculpting offer me stress relief. In general, pottery is a highly fascinating science. It’s a whole new world to me. There are so many things to discover – from different qualities of clay to various techniques and glaze compositions.” “I love all of it; the material of clay itself, but also sharing ideas and knowledge with the like-minded people who frequent Space for Clay. The studio encourages networking and open discussion on all aspects of ceramics; from skills to techniques, and even sales,” she continues, explaining that in the beginning, it just happened. “I had free time and I was just experimenting. I was witnessing people creating sculptures and I liked the idea of making something functional with features to make it unique. My friends encouraged me to post some of my ceramic work online and I discovered that people noticed it. Social media allows me to get my work out there to people who may be interested in it.” Instigated by the pandemic, Ioulia began taking the clay home to work on it further. “The pandemic actually gave me a lot of time that I wouldn’t normally have had to discover more about the material and what I could do with it. It takes time. Mistakes are made and you learn more through these mistakes,” she says.


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Meet the Artist

“I enjoyed experimenting with all types of materials, and particularly with copper wires in my dad’s industrial automation lab. Creating with my hands is cathartic.”

From a technical aspect, Ioulia’s background as an architect helps her with understanding proportions to create pieces which are fully practical. At university, she spent a lot of time building correctly proportionate engineered physical models of all projects with various materials (from carton and pieces of wood to plaster). This experience helps Ioulia immensely now, when it comes to designing proportionally and building up perception and awareness. Further to that, she worked as a barista for a stint, which helps her understand the pieces’ functional needs. A natural born designer, she confesses to instinctively observing details of objects and when younger, would even sketch furniture designs for fun. “In the initial stages, my ceramics teacher helped me understand the gravity of a cup and from there, I began to implement small artistic features onto the functional proportions. Clay’s different attributes are a great challenge from an engineering aspect, as I am really

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Meet the Artist

PHOTOS BY IOUILA CHANTE

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“I think there is a lot of talent in the local art scene and there should be more light shed on what’s happening. Every day I discover new artists. I find a lot on Instagram but unless I was actively seeking them, I probably wouldn’t get to know about them.” intrigued by this science as well. I am captivated by how small parts and different stages of the process can combine to build a perfectly functional piece… then blend an artistic narrative into the final composition,” she explains, and plans on taking it further still. “I would like to explore and learn more about the chemistry part of it to start creating my own glazes.” The budding ceramicist is also part of a local group of artists who specialise in various mediums. They discuss and exchange ideas, motivating and instigating one another to create. Ioulia gives special thanks to artists such as Riaan Steenkamp and Jeremy Tua for their art, which inspires her

work – Riaan for his sketches and Jeremy for the art and technique of his pottery. “Riaan Steenkamp is an architect and artist who happens to be my housemate. We have a great synergy, and his sketches motivate me greatly. All of us discuss and discuss, always exchanging opinions and gaining a lot of feedback from each other. In turn, we all help to develop each other’s ideas and grow together. They are a huge source of inspiration to me,” Ioulia says, sharing her belief that there is a lot of talent in the local art scene, and that there should be more light shed on what’s happening. “Every day I discover new artists. I find a


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lot on Instagram but unless I was actively seeking them, I probably wouldn’t get to know about them,” she says.

because my work at the architectural firm is extremely busy,” she reveals, regrettably.

The coronavirus pandemic has profoundly affected the art world, including ceramics. “The pandemic allowed me and so many others to work on our art and portfolios. Apart from this, on a personal level, it helped me begin to appreciate time and give it more value,” Ioulia reveals.

Ioulia’s laugh is genuine as she says, “I would love to take this passion further and dedicate more time to it. I think I need to learn how to say no more. Or yes more. I’m not sure which.”

And while the young ceramist has taken on commissions and exhibited her work for a short time at a café, she plans to present more in future. She has a corner at Pole Pole Music Café in Msida; a small, cosy place where visitors are encouraged to ‘slow down, kick back and feel at home while sipping on something, reading a book or listening to their favourite [vinyl] record’. “I’ve reached the point where the hobby has become costly and time consuming, as I don’t have my own kiln and there are quite a few breakages as I trial and error. It would be great if I could strike a balance timewise to make some money out of it. Now that things are going back to business as usual, I have to give it a rest

Follow Ioulia Chante on Instagram: @babau_ceramics or Facebook: BABAU


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Style Trends

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Gucci

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1. Chunky knits As the weather turns cooler, soft and comfy clothing reigns supreme, and nothing is quite as soft and comfy as a chunky knit. And this year, it’s been given an XXL upgrade – with endless layers and extra chunky knits dominating collections by Acne Studios, Chloé and Proenza Schouler.

4. Visible logos In seasons past, the chicest fashionistas would seek out those pieces by their favourite designers with the least visible label. Well, that’s set to change, as brand names are coming in hot and fast – as seen on runways by Balmain, Max Mara and Gucci.

2. Head-to-toe colour Bright pops of colour have been on trend for a few seasons, but whereas previous years have seen it take the form of colour blocked mix and match, this autumn, it’s all about head-to-toe colour. Get inspired by Versace, Ferragamo, Prada, Loewe and Chanel, and go all out with your look this autumn.

5. Puffer jackets Another season favourite that’s set to make a comeback is the puffer jacket, and this year, the more dramatic (or, well, puffy) the silhouette, the better. Don’t believe me? Check out the fall collections of big-name designers like Isabel Marant, Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga and Celine.

3. Granny Smith green Speaking of colour, one hue will rule them all: Granny Smith green. Whether you choose to go all-in with a full look or take things a little more cautiously with a pop of green in your outfit is up to you, but don’t be afraid to embrace the green!

6. Suiting up In what could possibly be a direct result of the frustration with leisure wear over the lockdown months, suiting is set to be huge this autumn. Most notably, flared shapes in both jackets and trousers, as seen by Stella McCartney, Victoria Beckham and Zimmermann.

Victoria Beckham

There’s nothing quite as exciting as the start of a new season in the fashion world. Sarah Muscat Azzopardi discovers the top trends to look out for this autumn.

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Burberry

Style Trends

Rodarte

Christian Pellizzari

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