COURIER THE OFFICIAL BUSINESS MAGAZINE OF THE MALTA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, ENTERPRISE AND INDUSTRY SINCE 1947
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NEWSPAPER POST GOLD COLLABORATING PARTNERS
IN THIS ISSUE WILL THE DIGITAL GLOBAL INDUSTRY LEAD TO A MAJOR ECONOMIC REVOLUTION? / DEMAND FOR COMMERCIAL OFFICE SPACE FUELS MAJOR CAPITAL PROJECTS / TOLY CEO ANDY GATESY ON THE OUTLOOK OF THE LOCAL MANUFACTURING SECTOR / CHEMIMART GROUP CHAIRMAN REGINALD FAVA DISCUSSES HIS CAREER AND PRESIDENTIAL HONOUR / THE UNIQUE PORTAITURE OF PHILIPPA BIANCHI / THE LATEST BUSINESS NEWS
COURIER FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
12 COVER STORY ADAPTING TO THE FOURTH INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
87 DESIGN TRENDS
With a major global economic revolution afoot, Marie-Claire Grima speaks to four Maltese digital experts to find out how this sea-change will affect Malta’s economy and business community.
OF INDUSTRIAL DESIGN AND BAROQUE ARCHITECTURE Martina Said finds out what went into the Saint John boutique hotel’s remarkable renovation.
27 COVER STORY
OVER 100,000SQM WILL SOON HIT THE MARKET TO MEET DEMAND FOR OFFICE SPACE
DISRUPT BEFORE YOU GET DISRUPTED Toly CEO Andy Gatesy speaks to Marie-Claire Grima about reinvention, re-shoring and the revolutionary changes shaking up the manufacturing industry.
With large-scale developments cropping up all over the island, Martina Said reaches out to some of them to find out what’s in store.
41 IN FIGURES
LOCAL AND FOREIGN SHAREHOLDING IN MALTESE COMPANIES… IN NUMBERS
THE BUSINESS OF PHARMACY: A LEGACY
A look into the figures related to local and foreign shareholding in Maltese companies.
116 MEET THE ARTIST AN INTIMATE PORTRAIT OF LIVES
Chemimart Group Chairman Reginald Fava discusses his career and recent Presidential honour with Sarah Micallef.
stablished in 1947, The Commercial Courier is the official magazine of the The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry. It is the leading business magazine, having one of the best distribution channels in the sector. The publication is distributed for free to the members of the The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry. It is also distributed with The Malta Business Weekly as well as delivered to leading business people on the island. This issue covers the period February/March 2018.
Rebecca Anastasi catches up with Philippa Bianchi to talk about the excitement of new discoveries, and the way her art strives to honour her subject’s achievements and humanity.
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ON THE COVER The Saint John boutique hotel
Malta chamber’s bronze collaborating partners FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
Helping companies innovate and grow internationally The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry has always been at the forefront to assist companies in various areas of need in their development, daily operational processes and growth through internationalisation. Companies are affected by new legislation and policies or public administrative decisions that leave an impact on them. The Chamber utilises different ways of providing this support. Sometimes it utilises its own internal resources that are close to the impacted entities and other times it partners with other high-level institutions or networks to strengthen its effectiveness and value to its members.
oday, a substantial number of companies are frequently ending up in a situation where they have to refuse work due to shortage of skilled people. To address this important challenge, the Chamber collaborates very closely with institutions like the National Skills Council and Jobsplus to find practical solutions. Skills
development is desperately needed to fill the current shortfalls, which need immediate practical solutions such as international mobility. However, this must be part of a forward-looking and long-term planning process focused on providing the right skills to adapt to a resource-constrained reality. In other instances, the Malta Chamber
assists companies in growing through the internationalisation process. Its active collaboration as a consortium partner within the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) â€“ a network of experts that help companies to innovate and grow internationally â€“ is contributing to provide invaluable support to these companies. 09
CC Editorial EEN can be found in more than 64 countries across the world, providing on the ground market intelligence and innovation expertise to improve the companies’ innovation capacity. It is worth noting that almost eight out of every 10 ambitious Maltese companies which replied to a pan-European survey commissioned by EEN towards the end of 2017 said that they are satisfied with the services received from the network and would recommend the services to others. These companies approached EEN to expand business overseas with the aim of reaching new partners, clients or customers to boost their growth. Despite challenges on the international scene, doing business overseas is becoming increasingly essential, requiring an ambitious company to develop its organisational structure well to go global. The key is gaining a comprehensive understanding of other markets with their legal requirements, cross-border issues and documentary requirements, as well as the company’s readiness to internationalise.
Professional reliable advice to assist companies to successfully expand their operations and boost sales is recommended. The Chamber is also aware of the importance of companies improving their operations through digitalisation. One of its specific projects addresses the retail sector, wherein efforts are being made to encourage this sector to go online through e-commerce. The cooperation between country experts who form part of EEN Sector Group – Retail enabled them to compile an e-commerce guide which delves into the practical setting-up implications of e-commerce, domestic platforms and other essential legislative considerations. This tool will help EEN advisers to support their clients in developing their business online and SMEs to expand their business via online channels. Helping SMEs adopt the right strategy to better manage their innovation processes and improve the efficiency of the innovation expenditure features highly in EEN’s actions for this year. It also includes the facilitation to access different sources of EU funding, such as H2020. As part of H2020, the SME
Skills development is desperately needed to fill the current shortfalls, which need immediate practical solutions such as international mobility.
Instrument is a case in point, which supports innovative SMEs in three fundamental phases of product development: (a) the technical feasibility and commercial potential of a breakthrough innovation, (b) creating the prototype and (c) commercialising the product. This instrument financially supports projects that excel, have high level of impact and high implementation efficiency. All this put together places Malta Chamber in a good position to assist companies to develop, grow and widen their market potential. cc
CC COVER STORY
Adapting to the fourth industrial revolution Digital is rapidly transforming every single aspect of business, and this change will only pick up momentum as time goes on. With a major global economic revolution afoot, Marie-Claire Grima speaks to four Maltese digital experts to find out how this sea-change will affect Malta’s economy as well as its business community as a whole. 12
ave you noticed that we’re in the midst of an industrial revolution? This time around, there aren’t any chimneys or coal mines – the fourth industrial revolution, also known as Industry 4.0, is one that, according to a 2016 global industry report by PwC, is focused on “the end-to-end digitisation of physical assets and integration into digital ecosystems with value chain partners.” Industry leaders are taking their essential functions digital, adding and improving their product portfolio with digital FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
CC COVER STORY supercomputing. This dramatic change is ubiquitous and is fundamentally changing the way we live and the economies in which we operate,” says digital entrepreneur Gege Gatt, co-founder and CEO of an AI product called ebo, and a director at ICON. “What makes this industrial revolution different from previous ones is that it is merging the physical, digital and biological realities in a way which re-defines us as humans. Google’s CEO has called this change more fundamental than the discovery of fire or electricity!” Dr Gatt says that locally, there have been mixed approaches towards the adoption of digitalisation. “The ICT industry has ushered in a large amount of disruptive Industry 4.0 concepts which are being absorbed by some sectors such as gaming, financial services, travel and logistics. However, other sectors still lag behind: healthcare, retail, education, construction and public Government systems. This adoption pattern, which is similar to that we see on the international horizon, is often influenced by misplaced fear and a general sense of lethargy towards the imperative of change.” While disruption and business transformation naturally come with risks, Dr Gatt says that the rewards for those who are able to disrupt and innovate are huge. “In my experience consulting several firms through this stage of digital transformation, I have found excessive caution to often be the reason why disruptive strategies don’t get executed. This is often fuelled by a fear of the unknown, lack of focus and a culture whereby
functionalities, and introducing innovative data-based services. Industrial companies that successfully complete this process will become “true digital enterprises, with physical products at the core, augmented by digital interfaces and data-based, innovative services,” which will work together with customers and suppliers in “industrial-digital ecosystems.” But what does this all mean when it’s at home? “The evidence of Industry 4.0 is all around us: from artificial intelligence to mobile FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
decision-making is not driven by data and macro-economic trends but is limited to the known ‘local story’. With the right access to talent and a sense of discipline, adopting disrupting strategies can have significant benefits for Malta, helping its businesses build real value and carving a more relevant space within the global commercial space.” The tools that are now at a business’ disposal allow a company to ‘zero-in’ on the needs of its clients, a development which has transformed the relationship between a business and its customers, Dr Gatt states. “Big data mining techniques, artificial intelligence, NLP and other techniques allow us to not merely ‘know’, but also to ‘predict’ customer needs. In turn this allows business leaders to better plan their resources to match changing market patterns.” “This revolution is not merely one of superficial process-change,” he argues “It’s deeper. We often push our customers to embed a digital culture deep in the company’s DNA. This implies working and thinking faster and in a more collaborative way. Just when a business thinks it got the knack of things, the landscape changes and reinvention becomes necessary. Change in and of itself is the first challenge to Maltese business. We are inherently change-resistant! Malta needs to embrace the power of digital to drive change and to use this to unlock powerful digital tools that enhance the journey of the customer and re-position the approach of business.
“What makes this industrial revolution different from previous ones is that it is merging the physical, digital and biological realities in a way which re-defines us as humans.” Gege Gatt, Co-founder and CEO, ebo 13
CC COVER STORY
“The number of companies out there that I see doing well and that will be floundering in a few years is incredible. They seem to think that if they do what they did over the past 50 years then they’ll be fine. They won’t. I can guarantee it.” Richard Muscat Azzopardi, CEO, Switch Digital & Brand
To do this, Maltese companies must side-step hierarchy and allow for connections between people across the organisation within a ‘fail-safe’ environment. The goal of digital adoption needs to become a shared purpose – a common ethos – which defines the future of the company.” Overcoming a resistance to change is a common component when it comes to the elusive nature of digital business success. “The number of companies out there that I see doing well and that will be floundering in a few years is incredible,” says Richard Muscat Azzopardi, CEO of Switch Digital & Brand. “They seem to think that if they do what they did over the past 50 years then they’ll be fine. They won’t. I can guarantee it. The world is changing fast – what worked
I believe Malta has the potential to become the next start-up hub of Europe. It’s an amazing place to beta test any product due to the diverse economic landscape, people and size.” Benji Borg, Co-founder, ANCHOVY.
yesterday won’t necessarily work tomorrow. Most of them are still lucky that the Maltese are still scared of starting new businesses and attempting disruption, but when someone disrupts, the market is ready for it. Think about eCabs. No one thought the taxi industry needed fixing, but just look at it now.” While it might seem fashionable to think that Maltese companies need to be disruptive to thrive – “and there is a lot of truth to that: true disruption, combined with incredible luck in terms of timing can lead to immense achievements,” Mr Muscat Azzopardi says, the power of sheer perseverance and commitment to excellence must not be ignored. “They can make up for a lack of disruptive effort. We can either try to be first at something or the best at something, very few people can do both. It’s not a sexy view on things, and it’s not a terribly inspiring one, either, but I think that consistency is a far more realistic target to aspire to than disruption in the state that we’re in.” The size of the Maltese market may be the saving grace that has given Maltese companies a bit more leeway and time to adapt to the new reality of the digital revolution. “Imagine what would happen if someone like Amazon really attacked the market,” he asserts. It’s already eating into local sales on a regular basis, but then it would start killing off businesses in rapid succession. It would be a massacre. The picture, at the moment, is far rosier. FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
CC COVER STORY At the end of the day you need a few key ingredients to be sprinkled throughout the education system to help us grow a better crop of young adults.” ANCHOVY.’s co-founder Benji Borg easily fits the bill as one of these visionary young adults. After starting the digital agency ANCHOVY. with his brother in his early 20s, he has since gone on to establish other start-ups in Malta, including Briiz, a cleaning company, and Fetch It, a delivery service. Mr Borg agrees that disruption is important and necessary, but not the be-all and end-all of the digital industry. “I don’t believe that you need to disrupt to survive. Established companies or start-up companies can take exciting proven business models and transform them digitally, allowing them to operate at better margins and acquire customers faster than ever before.” He believes that innovation is driven by the consumer. “The client’s role is pivotal. Businesses are constantly trying to reach new customers and providing them with a better product that is easier to view, purchase and maintain. With the introduction of AI we can now track customer behaviours faster, providing a better experience for the end user. Data is one of the most important
starting points. Companies are sitting on valuable data and doing nothing with it. The first block to going digital should be arranging all your data and then analysing it to make concrete business decisions that allow you to create long-term strategies.” Even though Mr Borg is not yet 30 years old, he already sees a difference between digital immigrants and digital natives. “I still remember not having a mobile phone, let alone having internet on it – in fact, I clearly remember when emails became accessible on the first iPhone. The new generation that are born connected are using digital media and platforms in ways we could have never imagined. With more and more people connected, we are collecting more data than ever before. I strongly believe that the global economic revolution is just getting started. In the meantime, I believe Malta has the potential to become the next start-up hub of Europe. It’s an amazing place to beta test any product due to the diverse economic landscape, people and size.” Bjorn Azzopardi, CEO and Founder of THINK, agrees with this assessment. “If your aim is to expand your service offerings overseas, Malta’s size can be used as an advantage. We are perfectly sized to validate
“Business-to-client relationships will change radically as the human element will be eliminated and we will soon be dealing almost exclusively with machines.” Bjorn Azzopardi, CEO and Founder, THINK
an idea and then take it to larger markets. However, if you plan to offer digital services solely in Malta, it’s difficult to focus on just one niche.” The business landscape in Malta will need to embrace digitisation, a process that has already started, Mr Azzopardi says. “Business-to-client relationships will change radically as the human element will be eliminated, and we will soon be dealing almost exclusively with machines. This will naturally continue and one will need less or no human interaction to consume services or products. It is a difficult transformation, especially for a country like Malta – generally speaking, we love the human element within a business. However, this change is inevitable.” While there isn’t a standard modus operandi that can guarantee success, Mr Azzopardi says that knowing your customers is imperative in any offering. “Analytics tools help the business understand what their clients really want. These tools vary from basic analysis on usage patterns to screen recording to understand user behaviour. However, I think each industry needs to look at their offering and how they can disrupt the space they operate in to make their offering more attractive to their consumers whilst also digitising it to reduce operational costs. We are on the brink of this revolution which will totally transform the way we live, work and relate together. Nobody has any idea of what will result from this, but the picture is getting clearer as time passes. It is a truly exciting time.” cc
It looks like Maltese businesses have started realising that there is great potential online, and that paradigms are changing. We keep getting more and more clients coming to us with a very open mind – and they’re succeeding far beyond their expectations. So my bet would be that the business landscape in Malta will look healthy in a few years’ time – but we might be seeing a very different set of faces at the helm.” “There’s no clear blueprint that can guarantee success, but there are measures that we can take to improve our standing on the global stage. You need a sense of entrepreneurship and risk-taking, therefore changing the mentality of a steady ‘job for life’. You need curiosity, and the will to challenge the status quo. You need logic, and how to apply it to all walks of life – it’s incredible how far a simple ‘if->then’ statement can take you, yet most people seem to take it for granted. They are not quick-fix measures, but they can guarantee that we improve our chances for success. FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
The digital revolution So many aspects of business are now spearheaded and underpinned by the digital world. Here Jo Caruana meets sector leaders to discover their thoughts on how their industry will continue to develop.
Ing. Raphael Micallef Trigona page 20
Joseph Lanzon page 23
Frederick Micallef & Kevin Camilleri page 23
David Walsh page 20
Elsa Gaffiero page 24 FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
Ing. Raphael Micallef Trigona – Managing Director, Eworld Ltd “Eworld Ltd is an IT solutions provider, focusing on IT infrastructure, security, cloud and support services. We place great emphasis on working with worldleading IT brands, such as Hewlett Packard Enterprise for server, storage and network infrastructure, Microsoft for cloud solutions such as Office 365 cloud productivity solutions and Azure cloud infrastructure, F5 Networks for secure application delivery, and Hewlett Packard Inc, for workplace solutions including desktop and mobility computing as well as managed print services.” How would you describe the digital global industry at the moment? “The only way to describe it is as ‘continuously evolving at an ever-increasing pace to provide innovative and productive services to the commercial enterprises, public sector and industry as well as the individual consumer’. This implies an unrelenting pace of innovation and complexity requirements from underlying infrastructure of compute power, data storage, network infrastructure and security, which, in turn, underpins these new commercial and consumer applications.” How is it impacting the global economy? “The advances in the digital experience drive efficiency gains and cost savings in
most areas of the global economy – we are all aware of the global economy ‘business interrupters’ which are challenging not only every facet of business and service, but also the cyber security requirement.” What is Eworld’s focus at the moment? “At Eworld we understand the key IT threats and opportunities being experienced in the business sector, and we are well-positioned to design, implement and support the required IT server, data storage, network and security infrastructure that may be most appropriate, whether that is on-premise, in the cloud, or based upon a multi-cloud or hybrid cloud approach. “I see it as a privilege to provide a service via Eworld, and our support teams are key to that. Furthermore, it is our customers who are at the centre of all of our operations, and we strive to meet them as often as possible, not least through a series of quarterly IT events, each with a particular focus area, such as the recent Eworld Business Breakfast about F5 secure application delivery and Eworld’s Microsoft Azure and appointment as Microsoft Tier-1 Cloud Service Provider.” What developments do you expect in the year to come, and further into the future? “We are committed to rolling out the leading-edge IT solutions by means of our
investment in personnel and training, as well as by working with the authorised and certified accreditations of world-class IT providers and investing in our own onpremise demonstration and development IT infrastructure, in order to constantly develop our level of expertise.” How do you see the sector developing? “Cloud services and security requirements will develop further into the driving force for innovation in the field.”
David Walsh – CEO, KPMG Crimsonwing “KPMG Crimsonwing is an international software and professional services business focusing on enabling digital transformations based on Microsoft technology. Working closely with KPMG’s management consulting capabilities we provide the means to create, deliver and manage cloud-based solutions that drive operational efficiency and customer engagement. My job is to lead and guide this practice for KPMG in a period of substantial transformation in the industry.” How would you describe the digital global industry at the moment? “It’s incredibly buoyant, and we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of what it means for traditional business operations, products and services.” How is it impacting the global economy? “New techniques in machine learning, robotics process automation, and the emergence of cognitive or artificial intelligence capabilities will challenge the current fulfilment of many business processes that rely on human input. This will be disruptive but at the same time liberating in creating new areas we can turn our potential to.” 20
What is KPMG Crimsonwing’s focus at the moment? “In order to access the required resources and know-how requires a business to adopt a cloud-first strategy. The cloud gives a business the tools to manage and analyse huge data volumes and to access intelligent processes. Capabilities beyond the investment of any one business now become more affordable and secure. We are working with our clients on this journey and helping them in realising the opportunities they can then address.” What developments do you expect in the year to come, and further into the future? “Digital transformation is delivered as end-to-end business transformation. Using KPMG’s industry, analytical and best practice know-how I expect KPMG to be at the forefront of helping businesses address and exploit the tremendous opportunities. KPMG know-how will be at the heart of this.” How do you see the sector developing? “The cloud platforms will become more function-rich, accessible and will more easily integrate with a business’s existing
technology. There will be a growth in business-savvy IT expertise and in deeply technical cloud architects. Our vendors are transforming into providing more managed services, and traditional development services will fade. Our role will change towards providing KPMG IP, high-value advisory, services aggregation and solution and technical architecture expertise. It’s a great time to be in the technology sector.” FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
Joseph Lanzon – Director, Bits & Bytes “Back in 1990, my wife and I dreamt of opening a business that provided the most efficient IT systems available, with a business plan based on reliability and trust. Over 25 years later, Bits & Bytes is the leading retailer in cables, adapters and converters on the island. As an engineer, my aim was not just to sell the latest innovative products, but rather to provide my clients with products best suited to their needs. Our dream has not changed.” How would you describe the digital global industry at the moment? “Owing to the rapid advances in research in technology, the digital global industry is an ever-changing market, with technology becoming outdated within a few months. While its strength is that new products usually mean quicker processes, its weakness can sometimes be that the overall IT system is less efficient. This is also due to the fact that the focus of new technology has shifted from products being sold on the basis of workability to products being sold based on the experience they bring with them.”
How is it impacting the global economy? “Due to the constant technological advancements, more and more money is being invested into research. This also means that stores are forced to update their shelves every few weeks, with little hope for any of the ‘latest’ products which are already considered old.” What is Bits & Bytes’ focus at the moment? “We aim to provide products that bridge the old and new, or the new and the newer. We understand that it is impossible to keep up with the ever-changing ‘standard’, and so we try to stock products which enable people to keep what they find works for them, while giving them the opportunity to improve on what they already have.” What developments do you expect in the year to come, and further into the future? “It is the age of information – everything you want to know is one Google search away. However, this does sometimes limit us to thinking within the parameters of the information presented to us. Bits & Bytes aims to think outside this box, trying to use
products in innovative ways, and making this information accessible to our clients, even online.” How do you see the sector developing? “Advancements made in one corner of the world are now available to the rest of the world on the internet. While this increases competition between leading brands, the internet provides a platform where smaller retailers, such as ourselves, can exchange both products and technical know-how, even when miles away. Our place in the economy is not lost – websites can sell the products, but only a place with experience, such as Bits & Bytes, can provide the knowledge to go along them.”
Frederick Micallef – Managing Director Kevin Camilleri – Technical Director, DataByte “DataByte has been in the IT industry for over 30 years – but we like to think of ourselves as a five-year-old start-up with 25 years of experience. This is the essence of the dynamic between the two people that run the company – Frederick and Kevin.“The company is fully focused on the development of cutting-edge cloud-based applications. With the launch of the WorkForce suite of applications, we combined several years of experience in payroll, time and attendance, and other HR software with our new Fusion cloud infrastructure. The results have been interesting.” How would you describe the digital global industry at the moment? “I would use the word ‘crossroads’. On one hand there is a heavy shift towards cloud
infrastructure – information accessible anywhere from any device and the element of diverse systems talking to each other. On the other hand, there are significant threats against the security of data and more legal protection regarding data protection. These factors are shaping the future of the industry.” How is it impacting the global economy? “We are certainly living in a global economy where making and spending money through digital services is no longer a fluke or an exception. This has, in some cases, caught legislators and traditional organisations unprepared for the mainstreaming of this reality. The implication is that economies that are faster to adapt tend to reap the benefits.”
What is DataByte’s focus at the moment? “We have two main areas of focus at the moment. The first is the continuation of work on our Workforce Suite, with another module – HR Documentation Management – that will be released sometime in Q3 this year. The other main area of focus is a joint venture with Express Trailers regarding the development of a cutting-edge 3rd Party Warehousing and Logistics solution. For this project, Gartner are also supporting us with the product placement of the solution on the international market.” What developments do you expect in the year to come, and further into the future? “The next 12 months will be interesting because we have set some challenges for ourselves. Without giving too much away, our WorkForce customers can expect some major news related to security enhancements, integration with two industry-leading solutions, and possibly a new employee portal that will change the game.” How do you see the sector developing? “I believe we have entered the true era of Software as a service. It will take some time for this to be accepted everywhere – but in the end, the disadvantages are far outweighed by the benefits.”
Elsa Gaffiero – Product Leader, Talexio “Talexio is a cloud-based recruitment software. Our focus is to simplify and automate the recruitment lifecycle of companies of all sizes and recruitment volumes through intelligent technology processes, leading to time and cost savings. Talexio is built to suit different company needs and adapts to scale. We have now been around for nine years, and service clients in various industries, from aviation to telecommunications.” What is the biggest challenge facing clients within your sector? “One of the main challenges faced by a number of companies is that they have not yet made the shift of seeing HR as a strategic partner as opposed to an administrative function. This may result in lack of investment in HR or even worse, spending money on non-value adding activities. HR should be squarely focused on the experience of potential future and current employees within the organisation. On this front technology can be a real enabler.” How is the digital global industry impacting your sector at the moment? “Various technologies have made advancements in many sectors possible and relatively easier. Technology has become intertwined with most aspects of life. This
includes job searching. We have seen the shift from newspaper advertising to online job boards, the rise of social media recruiting, mobile apps for job searching and recruiting, paper CVs to recruitment software solutions, simple candidate database searches to the need for more complex text index and semantic-based searches. The local market is still catching up on these trends. “With the current candidates’ market situation, it ultimately boils down to providing candidates with a positive and seamless experience. On the other side of the coin, digitalisation has affected how fast hiring managers need to act to find and secure the best talent, and has created a need to statistically track recruitment success. Companies embracing these changes will be ahead of the game. “Another facet is the secure storage of data that is very difficult to manage without a digitized platform. With the GDPR coming into force in May, this should be at the forefront of all employers’ agenda.” What are you working on at the moment in this area? “The continuous improvement of Talexio’s user experience, both for job seekers applying for jobs and for recruiters managing vacancies. We strive to add another level of analytical rigour to our processes that
guides the building of more intelligent and automated workflows that adapt to user behaviour, and which give companies using the system a significant edge.” What developments do you expect in the year to come, and further into the future? “AI is becoming ever more present within recruitment – leveraging technology to reduce and automate time-consuming tasks such as screening CVs and auto matching candidates to jobs. Moving forward, automation will be the focus of many recruitment softwares, Talexio included. We pride ourselves on being flexible and building our system based on clients’ real needs, especially when they appreciate the positive impact of such an investment on their business.” cc
CC COVER STORY
Over 100,000sqm will soon hit the market to meet demand for office space Demand for high-end office space has soared in recent months, and a tidal wave of projects ensued to step up to the occasion. With large-scale developments cropping up all over the island, Martina Said reaches out to some of their developers to find out what’s in store.
alta’s landscape and urban environment have been under the spotlight for some time now, and not only due to the unprecedented rate of construction and development taking place around us. This year, a substantial number of large-scale commercial projects are expected to start taking shape, some of which with the potential to change Malta’s landscape permanently. Notwithstanding the controversy that has surrounded some of these proposed projects, particularly those considered to be highrise buildings, they’ve pushed the country’s boundaries in more ways than one, not least through the sheer volume of commercial space they’re putting on the market at unprecedented prices. One project located in central Malta is Trident Park, the redevelopment of the 1950 Farsons Brewery site in Mriehel, which will consist of seven low-rise buildings and extensive landscaped courtyard gardens. While the building’s original art-deco façade will be retained, the new office buildings will offer modern facilities and spacious interiors, says Charles Xuereb, CEO of Trident Estates plc. “The Park will be flanked by the iconic Farsons Brewhouse, which will be converted and rehabilitated into a unique, mixed-use development.” Mr Xuereb says that Trident Estates plc is now listed on the official list of the Malta Stock Exchange, and tenders for civil, mechanical and electrical works will be awarded within the coming weeks. “Funding for the project, including a hybrid of own funds, bank funding and an equity issue that is planned for 2019 and for which the company’s three main shareholders have signed an undertaking agreement to take up their proportionate share, is in order and hence everything is geared up for the project to start. 2018 will be a busy year, starting
off with the soft stripping of the premises, followed by demolition, excavation and construction. The project is expected to be complete within three years.” In view of a lack of publicly-available information on the commercial real estate market in Malta, the company commissioned an office market study to better understand local supply and demand in this area. “Currently, the Maltese property market is doing exceptionally well, with significant upward rate and price movements observed over the past few years. Simultaneously, there are a significant amount of projects in the pipeline,” says Mr Xuereb. “Various demand drivers have impacted the market for office space, including the financial services and gaming sectors. Trident Park will place 16,000sqm of International Grade A offices and conference facilities on the market, and while rates have not yet been announced, they are envisaged to be competitive when compared to the rates per square metre being demanded in areas such as Sliema and St Julian’s.” Mr Xuereb asserts that the Trident Park development will be following best practice in terms of environmentally sustainable design and aiming for BREEAM excellent certifications. “Our vision is to provide a working environment that is second to none. We have sacrificed large areas to be used as courtyards and gardens, landscaping and stepping back the office building with particular attention to quality rather than quantity. The net developable volume could have easily been trebled.”
In view of the number of large-scale projects promising to offer premium office space in the coming years, could this sector already be reaching its full capacity? Mr Xuereb says that the success of Malta’s real estate market, particularly the commercial one, is impinged on the country’s ability to continue to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to our shores. “The FDI stock position has increased over the years, with around 98 per cent being attributable to financial and insurance activities, both sectors requiring office space. If all the projects being talked about come to fruition, I dare say that we are risking saturation in about five years from now. But in reality, not all projects will bear fruition and hence saturation may actually be a long way ahead.” A stone’s throw away from Trident Park are The Quad Business Towers, a joint development between Gasan Group and Tumas Group, comprising four towers dedicated to office space and a number of surrounding amenities. Joseph A. Gasan, Chairman of The Quad Ltd, says the progression of Malta’s economy in the last decade has created a high demand for larger, quality office spaces, and Mriehel is fast becoming the emerging area of choice. “We were among the first people to recognise Mriehel as an ideal location for offices. In 1998, when there was only the MFSA here, Gasan Group purchased a large parcel of land in Mriehel and developed the Gasan Centre. In 2008, we felt there was more quality office space needed in Malta, and Gasan Group and Tumas Group acquired the 10 tumoli site where The Quad is being developed.”
“We have sacrificed large areas to be used as courtyards and gardens, with attention to quality rather than quantity. The net developable volume could have easily been trebled.” Charles Xuereb, CEO, Trident Estates plc
Line drawing featuring Trident Park
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“In 2008, we felt there was more quality office space needed in Malta, and Gasan Group and Tumas Group acquired the 10 tumoli site where The Quad is being developed.” Joseph A. Gasan, Chairman, The Quad Ltd The Quad
Mr Gasan asserts that the Group’s aim is for The Quad to set the bar for the business district concept in Mriehel, by providing a unique business address, further solidifying the area into a recognised business centre. “2018 will be a pivotal year for us. From a project development aspect, we started excavation of the site in 2017 and will shortly commence construction of the lower levels.” The Quad will provide 44,000sqm of mixed Grade A office and commercial space, with five underground levels for parking (accommodating over 1,300 vehicles) on a site area of 11,200sqm that includes 6,000sqm of open landscaped areas. “The project’s design, that of four stepped and elliptical towers interlinked with bridges above a public open square, has enabled 28
us to concentrate the commercial space around the piazzas and across the lower two levels. The services being planned are various, ranging from a supermarket, retail outlets, childcare and fitness centre, and needless to say, food and beverage outlets – services that are not readily available in the environs of the project,” says Mr Gasan. “The rates for space vary according to the level and type, however, we have adopted very competitive market rates throughout, and from initial feedback we can see that they offer a uniquely attractive investment.” The project is expected to be completed within 40 months, and the first tenants should take occupancy by mid-2021. “We have recently launched The Quad to the
market for leasing and sale of office space, as well as commercial space concessions through a request for expression of interest. We are now ‘open for business’ and ready to engage with interested investors,” says Mr Gasan. Asked whether the market for premium office space is already becoming saturated, Mr Gasan says that it’s a frequently-asked question, particularly in light of the property market. “Our belief is that there will always be a market for something unique, for quality, whether the market is booming or reaching a plateau. The Quad offers a combination of location, design and sustainability, which will ensure that investors or tenants are buying into quality. FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
CC COVER STORY With this project, we are on the road to achieving Platinum LEED certification (a globally recognised symbol of sustainability achievement), which would make it the only development in Malta to reach this status. Furthermore, similar to another 12 existing developments in Malta and Gozo, The Quad has been granted SDA (Special Designated Area) status, giving it increased international attractiveness.” Peter Diacono, CEO of Pendergardens says location certainly plays a huge role in the demand for office space, and companies realise the benefits of having both a recognisable address and quality bespoke office space, which are extremely important to a company’s profile, employees and clients. “Pendergardens Business Centre is located in the heart of Malta’s business and entertainment district which intrinsically generates demand for it. The location, just off the main arterial Regional Road – with plenty of underground parking, a manned reception area at street level, bright, spacious and contemporary office spaces, and all amenities needed found within walking distance – make Pendergardens a safe and obvious choice. This year, we will be wrapping up work within the Business Centre by finishing off the common areas including the lobby, lifts and other infrastructure,” says Mr Diacono. Pendergardens Business Centre is providing 5,500sqm of office space spread over seven floors. Four of these floors (around 3,000sqm) have already been leased out to GiG (Gaming Innovation Group), which will be expanding its operations to Pendergardens from 2019. “The remaining floors are available for between €280 and €305 per square metre. As a minimum, one can rent out either a quarter of a floor, which ranges from 140sqm to 230sqm, but can combine several areas together to create either half a floor, an entire floor, or more, depending on the need,” he asserts. “The offices are being leased out in shell form with the external fabric complete and all common areas highly finished.” The entire project, including the last remaining residential apartments and other commercial premises at Pendergardens, are set to be completed by Q2 of 2019, while Pendergardens Business Centre will open its doors in January 2019. Fit-out by tenants, however, is expected to start as early as February or March this year. Looking ahead to Malta’s potential for more real estate of this kind locally, Mr Diacono says that Malta had long been crying out for premium office space. “The island is now considered to be a European hub for financial and insurance services, amongst others, and therefore the availability of quality office space is a must. To compete with other jurisdictions we need to have the proper infrastructure to attract these FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
The first seven floors within Pendergardens’ block T1T2 are dedicated to the Business Centre. Photo by Bencini & Associates
“The island is now considered to be a European hub for financial and insurance services, amongst others, and therefore the availability of quality office space is a must.” Peter Diacono, CEO, Pendergardens
companies, and consequently, I do not think that the market is saturated.” In neighbouring Sliema, The Centre, owned by Mid Knight Holdings Limited – a company jointly owned by MIDI plc and Mark Weingard – is the latest phase of the Tigné Point development to be completed, providing 15,000sqm of office space over nine floors. The Centre consists of two blocks connected via an atrium bridge overlooking the
historic Garden Battery, which is currently undergoing restoration. Once fully occupied, The Centre, which has tapped into the growing demand for office accommodation of this kind, will house over 1,000 occupants. Already fully tenanted, it is set to house Me Direct, Kindred, Bet 365, Play and Go, and Evolution Gaming, and among its various attractive qualities is Iniala 5, the art gallery found on the ground floor. 31
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“Already fully tenanted, The Centre is set to house Me Direct, Kindred, Bet 365, Play and Go, and Evolution Gaming.” The Centre The project was developed at a cost of €28 million over two and a half years, and will be the first in Malta to achieve Gold LEED certification for its environmentally-aware design. Another development just a few roads away in Sliema is Townsquare, the extensive, €100 million luxury project, which will be offering retail and high-end office space at the core of this town. Michael Soler, Townsquare’s Executive Director, says the land for the project has been in the family for six decades, and is finally being transformed and used to its fullest potential. “We are very excited about this quality urban development, which we are convinced, will add value to the Sliema area, creating open space in the heart of the town nearly
equivalent in size to the Independence Gardens,” says Mr Soler. “A total of 7,300sqm from a footprint of 12,000sqm will be completely pedestrianised, making way for retail outlets, leisure facilities, cafés and plenty of cultural activities. The dilapidated Villa Drago will also be restored to its former glory and take pride of place, while the project will create around 750 underground car spaces, significantly increasing parking facilities in the area.” Townsquare will comprise around 15,000sqm of commercial space, 5,000sqm of which will be high-end offices spread over two blocks close to the Villa Drago area. “As we have just started excavation, the sales effort to lease the offices will be determined later on this year, though office rentals in
Sliema can range from €200 to €600 per square metre depending on location, size and specifications.” Excavation and foundation works for the car park are projected to be completed this year, while the target date for completion of the project is 2021. Mr Soler adds: “availability of office space in Sliema is limited, so we believe the demand will be there. We expect our 5,000 square metres of office space to be available in around three years’ time, which is unlikely to cause an imbalance between supply and demand. We are totally committed to ensuring Townsquare becomes an iconic landmark for Sliema that will not only benefit its residents, retailers and office users, but also our neighbours and the business community.” cc
“We are convinced Townsquare will add value to the Sliema area, creating open space in the heart of the town nearly equivalent in size to the Independence Gardens.” Michael Soler, Executive Director, Townsquare
On the up and up The office leasing and supplies sector has experienced a massive boom, with an increase in take-up from both foreign and local companies. The Commercial Courier speaks to key players in the industry to find out the reasons for this strong performance and how it can be encouraged and sustained.
Amanda Balzan – Office Manager, Business Office Services International “Business Office Services, centrally located in Malta’s financial district, offers accommodating office solutions, affording businesses the freedom to develop their potential. The flexibility of our serviced workplace allows companies of any size, and of varying budgetary requirements, to benefit from an all-inclusive facility.” Has the demand for office space increased and to what would you attribute this rise? Malta is an attractive country to work and reside in, and it is managing to attract new companies. Clients are increasingly considering centrally located options, such as Mriehel, as their first choice of preference. Another trend which we have observed in the last couple of years is that an increasing number of businesses are opting for serviced offices rather than for renting or leasing out traditional office space. What investments has Business Office Services Malta made to ensure it keeps up with these demands? Business Office Services Malta has grown from a mere 860sqm of serviced office space in 2015 to a footprint of almost 2,500sqm in 2018. It is our clear objective to continue to provide
both aesthetically and functionally pleasing offices accompanied with highly professional business services to accommodate a wide range of requests. To ensure that our clients’ expectations are regularly exceeded, we have also invested in improving both the facilities and the services provided. What are the factors that will ensure that demand for office space remains strong, and sustainable, in the long-term? What are the range of services and facilities BOS offers to its clients? An important consideration is that Malta’s infrastructure needs to continue improving to be able to attract further businesses, especially those of a high calibre. The general improvement is not only necessary in our roads and traffic management but also in other aspects such as increased options for private schools and improved and increased public facilities. At Business Office Services Malta, besides a fully furnished office, clients can also expect a number of all-inclusive services, including IT assistance on set-up; a secure private network; a telephone set and personalised answering; mail handling; copying and scanning equipment; complimentary beverages and the use of a fully equipped kitchen as well
as private parking. Clients also have the possibility of using multiple meeting rooms with full conference facilities. What is in the pipeline for Business Office Services Malta? Our intentions are to continue improving our services and to continue exceeding our clients` expectations. This, in turn, will further establish our reputation as a leading provider of exclusive and executive serviced offices. We believe that by doing so, we will continue growing and we will manage to achieve our ambitious goals and targets.
Alex Montanaro – Managing Director, Exalco “The requirement for high quality offices in Malta is constantly on the increase. Exalco Group currently owns and manages four prestigious business centres in Malta. The buildings are mainly corner blocks, situated in prime areas and are considered to be of the highest standards possible, with stateof-the-art amenities and installations.” Has the demand for office space increased and to what would you attribute this rise? At Exalco Group, we are constantly facing an increase in demand for office space in our business centres, and attribute this mainly to the good reputation the brand has, as well as due to the buoyant economy in the country.
How can office leasing companies balance the needs of both local businesses and foreign companies – who traditionally pay more – to ensure that the former don’t get priced out of the market? We do not differentiate between local and foreign companies. Demand influences the market price and that is it - whether the company is local or foreign. What are the factors that will ensure that demand for office space remains strong, and sustainable, in the long-term? The main factor that would ensure the demand for office space remains
strong and enjoying growth is, of course, the economy. Attracting more foreign companies of substance to set up in Malta is also an important factor. Malta must ensure it has all the necessary attributes and infrastructure to place itself as an ideal location for conducting sound and sustainable business. What is in the pipeline for Exalco Group? We have plans to continue growing as a company, and there are new projects in the pipeline which we’ll announce when the time is right.
What investments has Exalco Group made to ensure it keeps up with these demands? Exalco Group has recently added a highly impressive seafront office block at St George’s Bay to its portfolio. In addition, we constantly re-invest into our chain of business centres, making improvements and ensuring the buildings are well kept. We also have new projects lined up for the future. FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
Michael Valenzia – Managing Director, LINK Projects “LINK Projects is a long-established company offering high quality solutions in core activities, including providing quality office furnishing which provides stability but also versatility and design. We are proud of our associations with leading office furniture manufacturers that are dedicated to providing the optimum solution for our clients’ specific requirements.” Has the demand for office space increased and to what would you attribute this rise? We have definitely noticed an increase in the demand for quality office space over the last few years. The igaming and financial services sectors have clearly grown and therefore this has meant that many companies have had to either relocate or increase their actual workspace. As exclusive agents for Styloffice, a reputable brand from Italy, we have the necessary tools to offer a wide range of office solutions, both with regards to quality and price.
What investments has Link Projects made to ensure it keeps up with these demands? As a company we are continually trying to stay ahead of the pack. A prime example is the recent need for shared workstations, something that is relatively new to the market. We have been able to offer many solutions for this type of working set up to some very established companies on the island, namely PWC, Vodafone and Vistajet. Apart from this, Link Projects is committed to an aftersales service. We are determined to offer our clients that one stop shop that sees to their every need in the short and long term. We are aware that there is a lot of competition on the market so we strive to offer our clients that individual attention which is not so common in this day and age. How can office leasing companies balance the needs of both local businesses and foreign companies – who traditionally pay more – to ensure that the former don’t get priced out of the market? I believe that, across the board, we have seen an inflation in rental prices. Foreign companies have definitely given our economy a boost and we need to ensure that we are
their market of choice for the long term. With regards to the local companies, it is important that they continue to grow and invest in both their people and infrastructure so as not to be left behind. However, from our experience, we have seen that many local companies have now been able to compete for office space due to their growth and, without a doubt, compete at the highest level with regards to their investment in a sound working environment. What is in the pipeline for Link Projects? At Link Projects, we hope to continually challenge ourselves to being the company of choice when it comes to the sectors we find ourselves in. Apart from office solutions, we are responsible for some of the largest outdoor structures on the island such as Smart City, Fontanella Tea Garden, Chop House and Buddhaman at the Corinthia Resort. We also offer a wide range of flooring both for residential and commercial clients. This year, we shall undertake some of our largest projects to date and hope that with our experience and enthusiasm, clients will be satisfied with their choice to engage Link Projects to assist.
Robert Spiteri Paris B.A. LLD – Director and Head of Lettings, Perry Estate Agents “The reason clients choose Perry Ltd is because we have over 35-years-experience in the real estate market in Malta and dedicate ourselves to an unparalleled customer service. Perry is recognised as one of the most successful estate agents on the Maltese Islands and we guide our customers through every step of the property buying/ renting process. One of the areas we specialise in is providing premium office space.” Has the demand for office space increased and to what would you attribute this rise? The rise can be attributed to business incentives such as favourable corporate taxes as well as our fantastic climate and lifestyle; low crime rate; geographic location which is ideal to conduct business within Europe, Africa and the Middle East; as well as the fact that we have a multilingual and efficient work force which uses English as a business language. We also have a strong legal and fiscal framework. What investments has Perry made to ensure it keeps up with these demands? At Perry we have geared up for this demand by expanding our operations and opening
two new branch offices in the main commercial hubs of St Julian’s and Valletta. We also inaugurated our new seafront state-of-the-art office, which is serving as Perry’s dedicated letting and commercial department, in 2016. This department has enjoyed fantastic growth over the last few years and this new office gives it the perfect platform to keep up with the ever-increasing demand for our services. How can office leasing companies balance the needs of both local businesses and foreign companies – who traditionally pay more – to ensure that the former don’t get priced out of the market? Soaring demand for office space, especially in the harbour area or prime business district consisting of Valletta, Ta’ Xbiex, Gzira, Msida, Sliema and St Julian’s, is in fact resulting in many local firms being priced out of the prime office market, since they struggle to compete for prime office space with major international companies who are generating revenue by servicing large overseas markets. Many local leasing companies have grown wise to this situation and have increased their business opportunities by diversifying their offering, also investing in building quality office space to cater for local companies.
What is in the pipeline for Perry? We have invested in exciting IT and media companies. Just recently we have introduced cutting-edge video tours of some of the finest properties available on the Maltese market, which can be viewed on Perry’s YouTube channel and social media. Our highquality property tours have added a new dimension to the firm’s advertising and allow prospective buyers a unique view and insight of the property they are interested in before actually going to view.
Andrew Grech – Area Manager, Regus, Malta “Regus offers a fully-furnished and equipped workspace: simply turn up, plug in and get straight down to business. It provides everything you’d expect to find in a modern office, without the hassle of management and maintenance. We also look after the details so there’s more time to spend on what really matters. Flexibility is at the core of everything we do, so if your business changes, we’ll change with it.” Has the demand for office space increased and to what would you attribute this rise? There are three principal reasons why more people are using flexible workspaces. Firstly, digitalisation and new technologies are changing how people work. Secondly, people want the benefits of flexible working, having the choice of where and how to work and live and a better work-life balance. Thirdly, businesses want the financial and strategic benefits of flexible working. What is the gap between demand and supply in the Maltese market? Certainly, demand for flexible workspace
is increasing, and the Maltese market, like many countries across the world, will need to provide high-quality flexible workspace to meet this demand to support workers and businesses in the country. So, the property industry needs to move away from selling square metres to selling a complete property solution, on demand, to businesses with all the pieces they want. Property companies that just rent out square metres are not likely to succeed – it requires a solution that is attractive to the end consumer. They need choice and that is exactly what we are doing. We are leading the workspace revolution by providing choice. Our companies help 2.5 million people to work more productively, by providing a choice of professional, inspiring and collaborative workspaces, communities and services. Our customers are people; small and midsize businesses; and large companies in every industry. We also partner with real estate companies to help them tap into the increasing success of the workspace industry. In total we have over 3,100 centres in over 110 countries and 1,000 cities worldwide, and we’re only just getting started…
What challenges does the real estate market in Malta currently face? One challenge is to find a bridge between property industries and other industries using platforms like International Workplace Group (IWG) to ensure the real estate industry taps into the vast demand for flexible workspace in a way that works for landlords and end users alike.
Anthony Mercieca – Chief Operating Officer, Brands International Ltd “Brands International Ltd was established in 1985 and has since been involved in operations connected to the timber, DIY and furniture sectors. Today, the focus is on providing complete furnishing and finishing solutions for the residential, commercial and contract sectors, through a full range of top quality European branded products, all under one roof.”
rental apartments, with developers investing in additional floors or refurbishing their existing spaces to keep updated with the latest trends and market requirements. Trend updates such as technological innovations, efficient space management, employee welfare and collaborative environments are taking top priority in human resource management, leading to most significant changes currently.
Have you seen an increase in the demand for furniture recently and for what types of businesses? To what would you attribute this increase? The demand for furniture in the past few years has definitely increased, especially for indoor and outdoor projects related to hospitality, restaurants, office spaces and
What investments has Brands International Ltd made to ensure it keeps up with these demands? The most significant investment was related to human resources as we engaged specialised personnel from management to assemblers so as to meet the specific requirements of contracts, offices and residential projects more effectively and efficiently. We have also enriched and consolidated our product offering with wider selections and customisation options. What service can customers expect from Brands International Ltd? Creating a space worth living in is what Brands International is all about. We take pride in offering a comprehensive service for commercial and residential clients by offering an all-inclusive service – starting from layout design, product selection and customisation, followed by installation and after-sales service.
Since one of your major brands is Bo Concept, which has Danish origins, have you seen an increase in business with the burgeoning of Scandinavian gaming companies? I do believe Scandinavian gaming companies have brought in a greater influence to the market and we have seen requests rise significantly, but not only from gaming companies. While Scandinavian design has always been sought after, one can truly start to appreciate the change in quality of life when Scandinavian design principles are used in the work environment too. It further strengthens the belief and vision we had 15 years ago when our company was amongst the first to introduce Danish design and make it more available locally. What’s in the pipeline for Brands International to ensure it keeps up with demands? We have got an interesting year coming up with various plans ahead. However, one of the first and most relevant is a dedicated display space for contract furniture which will showcase a wider range of products aimed at bringing together the highest product standards and trends, while meeting clients’ tastes and budgets. cc
CCCC COVER in IN INTERVIEW figures FIGURES STORY
Local and foreign shareholding in Maltese companies
Shareholders from this many countries worldwide have a stake in companies in Malta.*
The total number of companies, including ones with foreign shareholding, that have been added to the Maltese register of companies in the past four years alone.
The number of companies in Malta with British shareholders. The British are the second largest group of EU nationals working in Malta.
The number of companies registered in Malta with foreign shareholding.
The number of companies which have foreign shareholding coming from Libya, which has been unstable since the collapse of the Muammar Gaddafi regime in 2011.
84,000 3,500 As of end 2017, there were more than 84,000 companies registered with Maltaâ€™s financial regulator.
The number of companies with Italian shareholders. There are almost 6,000 Italians working in Malta, making them the largest group of EU nationals earning a living here.
The number of companies in Malta with German shareholders. Ironically, Germany is one of the most vocal critics of the tax imputation system that incentivizes multinational corporations within the EU.
While Maltaâ€™s de facto corporate tax rate stands at 35 per cent, foreign companies registered in Malta enjoy a 6/7 tax rebate, effectively allowing them to pay five per cent corporate tax on company profits.
*The figure includes Yugoslavia, which dissolved in 1992. According to the MFSA, these companies (35) were registered years ago and have not yet changed the status of their nationality. Sources: Parliamentary Questions, Eurostat, NSO, MFSA Source: Gozo In Figures, National Statistics Office, Malta
Source: Malta International Airport FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
The business of pharmacy: a legacy With a career spanning over half a century and having recently been made member of the National Order of Merit of Malta by President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, Chemimart Group Chairman Reginald Fava is an undeniable stalwart in Maltaâ€™s business landscape. Here, he discusses his journey and honour with Sarah Micallef.
Photos by Alan Carville FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
ooking back on how he got started in the business world, Reginald Fava, Chemimart Group Chairman, explains that he began by importing and distributing before going into opening pharmacies and perfumeries, with his first outlet opening its doors in Freedom Square, Valletta in the early 1960s. “I always had a business mind,” Mr Fava explains, “so before going to University, I looked at areas where I could use my business acumen,” he says, remarking that pharmacy can also be seen as a business, primarily consisting of dealing professionally with customers. Upon completing his postgraduate studies in pharmacy and bio-chemistry in the UK, Mr Fava came across an ad in the Financial Times calling for pharmacists for the Navy, and decided to join. “I applied for the job on condition that I would be stationed in Malta, where I had my then-girlfriend, who is now my wife. I was in the Navy for 11 years, and it was a fantastic experience,” he recalls, maintaining that during that time, he had already begun working on setting up his business. “I started importing in partnership with a very well-known entrepreneur, Joe Gasan – who I had met in my early days upon my
“Unless you move with the times, you will fall by the wayside – regardless of your age.” return from the UK. It developed from there and I eventually went into pharmacies and retail,” he continues. And recently, by mutual agreement, Mr Fava took over the entire business. With a career spanning just over 50 years, I could not help but ask: how has the industry changed, since the 1960s? “At that time, I pioneered what is called self-selection for the customer. There were no pharmacies, when I started in the early ‘60s, where you could go to and choose your requirements, so I set up the first outlet in Valletta. I was told at the time that it wouldn’t work, and a good friend even warned me I’d go bankrupt because of the location and the self-selection concept. I said we’ll see about that, and of course I didn’t,” he smiles. Nowadays, he continues, the profession has become more demanding, while customers’ expectations are high. “Giving a pharmaceutical service to patients is not an easy task. Medicines are very diverse and varied, and you really need to know what you’re doing,” he explains, which certainly isn’t a problem for Mr Fava. Recalling his
Navy days, he says, “I was consultant in pharmacy to all the specialists at the naval hospital, so they would phone me and tell me about what problems their patients had, and ask what the latest medicines available were – and that’s what I would recommend!” Looking at the local business landscape in a broader sense, Mr Fava affirms that it has also changed drastically, mentioning the speed and ease of communication as one defining factor. “When I first started out, when a problem cropped up within the business, I’d send a solution to that problem and it would take a week or two to get an answer. Today, upon trying to solve a problem, the reply is immediate, by email, so we’ve really moved from A to Z when it comes to processes,” he says. Stressing on the importance of being dynamic in a highly competitive field, Mr Fava highlights being professional, adding with a smile, “today, if you don’t give a good service, you find that you’re immediately on Facebook, so you’ve got to be very careful! Unless you move with the times, you will fall by the wayside – regardless of your age. FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
“I received a call from an official from the office of the Cabinet to make the pronouncement that I was nominated, and I said, ‘You’re joking! I’m at a meeting, don’t waste my time!’”
My motto is that unless you keep up with the standards that are expected from you, you should move out of it, because if you don’t leave voluntarily, you will be forced out.” Looking back on his years as President of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry during 2002 and 2003, Mr Fava describes it as a great experience, despite being stressful. “Being President of the Chamber is a huge responsibility, and you must dedicate the time it deserves. Upon being elected, I remember saying to my colleagues, ‘As from today, my business is the Chamber’, and it was. We were negotiating
Malta’s entry into the European Union, and I visited various European countries, often along with the President of the Republic at that time, Prof. Guido de Marco.” And while Mr Fava has been a member of the Chamber since the early ‘70s, he remains on the Council till this very day. “I’m probably the only President Emeritus who has served on the Council for all these years after serving as President, and I enjoy it. The Chamber is part of my life, and I’ve enjoyed servicing the Chamber for all these years – it’s something I’m very proud of. I also represent the Malta Chamber on the Swiss-Maltese Chamber of Commerce,” he adds, apart from serving on various other boards and committees for which he’s either appointed by the Chamber or Government. “While it takes up a lot of my time, I don’t consider it to be a strain, because I enjoy it,” Mr Fava maintains. And the latest feather in his cap came last December, when he was made member of the National Order of Merit of Malta by the President – a badge he wears with great pride. “It’s something I’m very proud of, and it means a lot. It’s recognition from my country that I’ve contributed to the business community and my profession,” he says, letting me in on his unexpected reaction upon being told of his nomination. “When I was informed, I was attending a meeting at the University, where I sit on the council. I received a call from an official from the office of the Cabinet to make the pronouncement that I was nominated, and I said, ‘You’re joking! I’m at a meeting, don’t waste my time’,” he laughs. “He said that it was a normal reaction, but that he wasn’t joking!” Meanwhile, another proud moment relates to his company: Chemimart Group has now welcomed its third generation via Mr Fava’s grandchildren. “My son and daughter are two pillars of my business today, and the grandchildren are also on their way. It’s a great satisfaction to see them join, and not just join, but also love what they’re doing. I always say that you have to love your work, because otherwise it will be a strain – and we have enough strains out there,” he laughs. Moving forward, Mr Fava’s plans for the group involve further expansion, as he says, “in business, you either expand or withdraw. We’ve just opened another outlet in Valletta, which will be officially opened in March – this will be another jewel in our little crown. We also have plans to open more outlets elsewhere, and other projects which are top secret for now!” Speaking of Valletta, I ask for his thoughts on the capital’s role as European Capital of Culture this year, and this definitely brings a twinkle to Mr Fava’s eye. “I must say that Valletta is slowly returning to what it was in my student days,” he says, recalling his time at the old university in St Paul’s Street. 47
“We have to be prepared for a rainy day, and the rainy day will come along!”
“Upon finishing our lectures at about 4pm, we’d walk to Republic Street and meet girls, or discuss various problems or lecture topics over a coffee. At that time, you could hardly pass through Republic Street without hitting someone, it was so densely populated,” he smiles, lamenting the city’s decline in later years. “Before 2013, in the afternoon, Valletta was a cemetery. Today, it is bubbling once again with restaurants, coffee shops and nightlife – you’ve got everything. It’s beautiful 48
to go to Valletta in the evening and just walk around and enjoy the history. There’s been a great effort to bring Valletta back to life, and it’s been done. I can vouch for it, because I’ve seen it moving from 100 to 0 and back again. There’s so much to see and learn in Valletta – it is a jewel for Malta and for Europe, and this is why we have the title of European Capital of Culture.” Finally, moving on to his outlook for the coming year, Mr Fava asserts, “if the country is doing well, the rest follows. Businesses are
doing well. This year is going to be a good year, and so is 2019, but we have to be careful as we don’t want to overdo it.” He goes on to issuing a word of warning concerning an issue that he considers a worry: rising rent prices. “Many people are buying to rent and in my opinion, this won’t last, so we may easily find that we’ve over-stretched ourselves, and this is certainly something we don’t want to do. We have to be prepared for a rainy day, and the rainy day will come along!” cc FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
05. Nanoleaf Remote
01. The Wall
06. Nvidia BFGD gaming monitor
The 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas – which gathers hundreds of tech names under one roof each year – has come and gone, but it unveiled a flood of cool and quirky gadgets for all consumers, as Martina Said finds out. Samsung’s latest television has been revealed, and it claims to be “the world’s first consumer modular MicroLED television”. The 146-inch TV which delivers incredible definition, allows users to tailor the size of the screen depending on the environment, while the micrometre-scale LED lighting removes the need for backlights, thus also reducing its energy consumption.
02. Nikon telephoto lens Nikon unveiled the AF-S NIKKOR 180400mm f/4E TC1.4 FL ED VR lens at CES this year, and at a whopping €10,000, it is the brand’s second most costly lens. This professional telephoto lens includes a built-in 1.4X teleconverter, has a focal range of 252-560mm and eight Extra Low Dispersion elements – a highly engineered product specifically aimed at sports and wildlife photographers and videographers.
Smart home lighting producer Nanoleaf presents its new remote, which is capable of controlling the modular Nanoleaf wall lighting system. Each of the different faces of the remote can be programmed to correspond to a different lighting scene or action, configured through a smartphone, as well as dimness control or switching to a rhythm scene for parties.
Built and designed with gamers in mind, Nvidia has launched the Big Format Gaming Display (BFGD), and this 65-inch monitor definitely lives up to its name. The size of a large living room TV, the low-latency 4K monitor is supported by Nvidia’s G-Sync technology, which uses variable refresh rates to synchronise the display’s refresh rate and gameplay frame rate to prevent lags and stutters. cc
03. Da Vinci Nano 3D Printer 3D printing is increasingly becoming more accessible and affordable thanks to the variety of designs and brands available on the market, and XYZ Printing has made it even more so through the da Vinci Nano printer, which is small enough to be portable, connects to a mobile app and allows printing to be done quickly, easily, and on the move.
04. Velco Wink Bar Cyclers, listen up! Velco has revealed its latest product, the Wink Bar – a smart and connected handlebar that can be controlled from a smartphone. The bar and its app includes GPS-assisted navigation, geolocation of your bike in case of theft or loss, as well as integrated headlights. The app also records usage statistics to help you reach your fitness goals.
06. FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
04. The polo neck This warm item of clothing has always been a winter wardrobe staple for women, but this time, men have been seen sporting the look too. While the weather will start to get warmer, have a couple on standby to whip out for those days when the chill sets in, or when you are travelling on business meetings.
It’s time to start peeling off the layers! Rebecca Anastasi has the latest trends, hottest styles and outfits which will have you wishing it was spring all year round. 01. The jumpsuit Not an outfit you can wear all day, every day (mainly due to bathroom logistics), this is a great look for those who want to be smart, yet right on trend. It has been seen on catwalks for several seasons now, and its popularity shows little sign of abating. Just opt for something in a lighter material and fresh colour as the weather gets warmer.
05. Go west The trend for all things ‘western’ (and by that we mean ‘the style of the frontier’) may have been inspired by the recent spate of Netflix shows set in that place and era. But, how can you adapt it to modern-day living, and, more specifically, your working life? Think studded handbags and leather pencil skirts for women, or textured shirts for men.
02. The pencil skirt This may be a classic, but this season it is all about bold colour and funky prints. Don’t be a wallflower and choose tones which will stand out. And, there’s no need to pair this slinky little number with a subdued shade on top – be brave and remember, this is the season to let lightness reign!
This type of shoe, perennially associated with elegance and class, is a great grown-up alternative to the flat trainer. For weekend wear or just a day at the office, they go with everything and are so comfortable you’ll forget they’re even on. Opt for lighter colours and materials (suede is right on trend at the moment) though be careful to delicately clean them regularly. A must for every adult who knows a little bit about style. cc
03. Back to the noughties
Ronald Van Der Kemp
Many of us remember the ‘90s the first time around, and even the second time around! But, this time the noughties are back in. It may have only been a few years’ ago, but the trend is slowly making its presence felt on catwalks. The most savvy will want to adapt some of the style and incorporate it into their wardrobe. Think indigo denim, long belts and sweater-vests (yes, this is not just something your dad would wear).
Marcus Tondo Indigital
06. Oxford shoes
04. 05. Paul Smith FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
CC CASE STUDY
The important business of heritage A few months into his role as CEO of Heritage Malta, Noel Zammit talks Jo Caruana through the agency’s milestone achievements and the exciting plans in place for safeguarding many of Malta’s historical gems.
cross the world, cultural and heritage-related industries are worth millions, with countless people visiting museums, historic homes and other sites on a daily basis. Malta is no different, and it is the sterling work of Heritage Malta that ensures many of our most important gems – including the Hypogeum and the prehistoric temples – are consistently open to the public and kept in the best condition possible. At the helm of all this is Noel Zammit, who took over as CEO of the organisation in October 2017. Mr Zammit explains that people often describe Heritage Malta as the ‘national agency for museums, conservation 54
practice and cultural heritage’. “And that’s fine,” he says, “but I like to describe Heritage Malta as a bunch of teams made up of committed people ready to do what it takes to ensure our cultural heritage is protected, made accessible, enhanced, improved, conserved, interpreted, researched, marketed and enjoyed by the public in the most sustainable and effective way possible.” Looking back on his 14 years with Heritage Malta, Mr Zammit explains that he started out as an ICT executive before working his way up to ICT manager and then head of ICT and knowledge management. “It was at that point that I realised I could give more to the agency, especially after
I was entrusted with the departments of finance, business development, marketing and communications, stores and security, as well as ICT, digitisation and knowledge management. That was in 2012, and I have never looked back since.” Several successes have led Mr Zammit to this point. Over the years, the agency always suffered a deficit. In fact, the commercial arm, Heritage Malta Services Ltd, registered a structural deficit as well, and it was his intention to change this. “In 2013, we registered the first surplus – a mere €20,000 – ‘mere’ when compared to the €12 million turnover! The commercial arm today boasts a profit of over €100,000 FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
CC CASE STUDY
“We need to be ambitious and to aim high to achieve and excel.”
Photo by Heritage Malta
a year and, again, my intention is to improve and increase those numbers.” 2017 was a record year for Heritage Malta with over 1.3 million paying visitors, with over €7 million generated through entrance fees and an unprecedented surplus. “But these numbers are not the sole performance indicators,” Mr Zammit stresses. “They are only part of a bigger picture. Important acquisitions such as the (infamous) Preti painting (Daniel interpreting Nebukadnezzar’s dream), improving the product and service, organising international exhibitions and moving from old, traditional methods to enhanced, engaging, interactive communication and interpretation methods such as audio-visuals, immersive experiences such as Hagar Qim’s 3D theatre, the Hypogeum immersive show, Fort St Elmo’s Cavalier experience and so on, have given us, in my opinion, that extra impetus.” Now looking firmly towards his first full year as CEO, Mr Zammit says he will quickly FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
attempt to address internal issues that have been left on the back burner for years. These include improving internal communication, creating boundaries for decision-making across all expert areas, empowering people and museums to take decisions that are (as yet) bottlenecked somewhere, and instilling a culture of self-sustainability and resourcesharing in the best way possible. “For starters, we intend to change the 2002 Cultural Heritage Act to reflect today’s needs and demands, and then work on a four-to-five year strategic plan,” the CEO continues. “This will involve changing the organisation’s structure and, possibly, moving away from a one-size-fits-all solution for our museums. What works at the Maritime Museum does not work for Fort St Angelo, for instance. Therefore, we must analyse the needs and requirements of each museum or site separately, and then react and create the structure to meet the site’s requirements accordingly. “We must also invest in our best asset – not the artefacts or museums, but our people. This will be done through an extensive HR management exercise as we profile each of the 319 people working with Heritage Malta and determine their training needs, so that we can equip them to best meet their respective objectives. And speaking of objectives, we have already embarked on an exercise to create departmental key performance indicators, which then cascade to individual objectives so that everyone will be appraised at the end of the year.” Mr Zammit firmly believes in management by objectives, especially for knowledge workers and knowledge-generating firms, such as Heritage Malta. Plus, as he explains, communication will be addressed using IT tools, while a reorganisation will also help to set decision-making boundaries. “New policies and procedures are in the making to ensure that empowerment, especially financial, does not get out of control. We need to be ambitious and to aim high to achieve and excel. Some may say it’s easier said than done, and I would say: definitely! But our longer-term objectives will be clearer once we
draft the strategic plan, all of which has to be created in line with national and international policies and strategies.” In the meantime, though, Mr Zammit and his team will be enjoying what is going to be a very special year for the agency. “We will launch MUZA, ‘MUZew tal-Arti’ – a flagship Valletta 2018 project and a €10 million ERDFfunded project completely led by Heritage Malta. It is our best link to Valletta 2018 – but we do actually have more. The end of March will see us launch the Schranz exhibition at Fort St Elmo, where we will display prominent works of art by the Schranz family, and this will even be visited by a member of the British Royal family! We look forward to sharing more news about that soon.” And other key plans are in the pipeline. Heritage Malta will be launching the Fort St Elmo hall dedicated to Maltese regiments this year, as well as starting work on the €10 million ERDF-funded restoration of the Grandmaster’s Palace and regeneration in Valletta. Plus, there’s the restoration of TalPilar church in Valletta, restoration works of the Gran Salon at the Auberge de Provence hosting the National Museum of Archaeology, the launch of an augmented reality mobile app at the Inquisitor’s Palace in Birgu, and the regeneration and restoration of the Old Royal Bakery hosting the Malta Maritime Museum in Birgu through an EEA Norwegian fund of around €2 million. “And more and more,” the CEO continues with a smile. And even though Heritage Malta already has so much to cover in its remit now, there could be even more in its future. “Few appreciate the fact that we open 24 museums and sites daily, but effectively manage over 40. Some are completely cordoned off and inaccessible to the public, some are open only by appointment, while others are just ruins scattered around the island but which are under our responsibility. Looking to the future, I would say it’s definitely our intention to continue investing in and to open other sites. It is our mission to make our cultural heritage as accessible as possible in the most wise, effective and sustainable manner possible,” Mr Zammit concludes. cc
Haġar Qim Temple - Photo by viewingmalta.com
CC CASE STUDY
On the road to making Malta a technological hub Martina Said speaks to Silvio Schembri, Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation, to find out about Government’s plans for the coming year in the fast-track field of technology.
arlier this year, during a conference in Dubai, Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation Silvio Schembri announced that a legal framework to regulate services in Blockchain and virtual currencies will soon be launched, which will eventually be expanded to include the sectors of artificial intelligence and Internet of Things (IOT) devices, making Malta the first country in the world to do so. ‘Blockchain’, ‘Cryptocurrencies’, ‘Bitcoin’ and ‘virtual currencies’ are but a few terms that repeatedly made headlines in local and international news of late, at the same time that virtual currencies, such as Bitcoin, were taking the investment world by storm. Mr Schembri agrees that virtual currencies have indeed flooded the market in recent years, and asserts that while this space is constantly evolving, and being monitored closely, one thing is for sure: “Whether one likes it or not, it is very difficult to imagine a future without cryptocurrencies. In whatever shape or form, they are here to stay.” “Different virtual currencies come with slightly varying features, but the majority of them exhibit, fully or partially, one of three characteristics: a means of payment, a store of value, or a utility value,” he explains. “Even if, in theory, they have all three properties, in practice, one property tends to dominate over the others. For example, in the case of Bitcoin, it is rarely used for exchange purposes – mostly because of its volatility, but instead viewed as an asset.” Virtual money can be defined as a digital representation of value that is issued and controlled by its developers, and used and accepted among the members of a specific community. Unlike regular money, it relies on a system of trust and is not issued by a central bank or other banking authority. Bitcoin, for instance, uses peer-to-peer technology, and the processing and spending of bitcoins happens collectively through a network. Every payment gets encrypted by a unique secret key and is sent from one address to another over the blockchain, which is a decentralised public register that tracks everyone’s bitcoins. This system bypasses the need to involve an intermediary, like a bank, for the transfer of ‘money’. The surge in interest in cryptocurrencies has also raised eyebrows about its lack of regulation. Mr Schembri asserts, however, that cryptocurrencies are not the first attempt to create digital currencies. “Prior to the emergence of cryptocurrencies, 56
“When we say that Malta will be the first country to regulate the outcomes of blockchain, we mean that we intend to create a transparent and robust legislative framework that will facilitate innovation while at the same time tick all the boxes in terms of compliance.” attempts were made to create digital cash but none of them were successful, mainly because they were based on a centralised system. Bitcoin, the first cryptocurrency, was developed as a completely decentralised currency, where transactions are an open source, controlled by a code, and that relies purely on a network. No third party can affect the currency, which may explain why cryptocurrencies have surged despite the lack of regulation.” What Government is aiming to do is not regulate the technology as such, but
rather give certainty to the whole space, the Parliamentary Secretary adds. “When we say that Malta will be the first country to regulate the outcomes of blockchain, we mean that we intend to create a transparent and robust legislative framework that will facilitate innovation while at the same time tick all the boxes in terms of compliance, such as consumer protection and Know Your Customer (KYC). The Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) will deal with the regulation of cryptocurrency and other related services under a new Act. However, FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
CC CASE STUDY we will also be setting up a national regulator to oversee the technological side of things, and will cover the registration on a voluntary basis of System Auditors and Administrators of DLT platforms. These entities will be subject to initial and ongoing supervision by the new authority.” Last November, the MFSA issued a consultation document proposing a policy to the industry on the regulation of virtual currencies and Initial Coin Offering (ICO). “What we are proposing is that, in order to achieve the objectives of financial regulation, certain virtual currencies and activities pertaining to them would be licenced and regulated under a new legislative regime,” he asserts. “This new Act, and any relevant subsidiary legislation, would regulate the carrying out of business associated with virtual currencies falling outside the scope of the existing EU and national financial services legislation. It is important to highlight that the Act will apply a principlesbased approach to regulation rather than detailed rules which would possibly stifle technological innovation.” What about the value of cryptocurrency – how does it hold against non-virtual currencies as we know them? “If we approach the valuation of a digital currency as we would approach other financial instruments, we would first examine its fundamentals, such as the growth of the number of transactions as well as new users and merchants supporting this currency,” says Mr Schembri. “However, it is obvious that there is a large discrepancy between the fundamentals and the market price. It is easy to conclude that current prices are mainly driven by expectations due to current growth momentum of prices. Therefore, some currencies are being used for their value function, and the fact that they exhibit low or almost non-existent correlation with the real economy gives them properties considered as ‘desirables’.” Underpinning virtual currencies such as cryptocurrencies is blockchain technology, the scope of which extends beyond virtual currency alone and which could be applied more widely. “Blockchain, as a technology, provides a more secure and transparent way of processing all kinds of data. While it is not a silver bullet that will solve all our problems, blockchain still represents a new multipurpose technology in the digital information toolbox, which is gaining a degree of traction across many industries and business processes.” Mr Schembri asserts that the private
sector has already started to recognise the full benefits that blockchain can offer, and in the last few months, several private initiatives have been put forward. “As a Government, we have long recognised the benefits of shared ledgers and smart contracts. The opportunity to lead in this area will result in benefits that will be enjoyed by many. Of course, there are risks. Some aspects of blockchain, such as immutability, may represent challenges with regards to certain data protection aspects, in particular the upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). However, the technology may also arguably facilitate the protection of personal data in that it is embedded with characteristics which inherently increase the protection of data, such as encryption.” Government has a number of key duties that could be impacted by blockchain technology, particularly in the areas of privacy and data portability. Its applications to Government services include the use of smart contracts and registry of ‘assets’. “By registering assets on a distributed ledger, all property could effectively become ‘smart assets’, providing a robust and trustworthy proof of record for a broad variety of services that currently cost time and money. Examples include registering IP and patents, wills, notary services, health data and social security benefits.” With the adoption of such specialised technology, however, often comes a sheer shortage of human resources equipped with the right skills for the job. Are there plans to address this gap? “The pool of people with profound expertise in this area is limited, not only for Malta but also worldwide. Let’s not forget that this is a new technology and has entered the mainstream only in the last two or three years. But this also presents an opportunity for Malta, which can offer leadership in this space.”
Just as other industries locally have benefitted from overseas human resources which helped contribute to Malta’s economic success, so too will this specialised industry, which can gain from specific expertise while continuing to diversify the country’s workforce, says Mr Schembri. “The new regulatory authority will serve as a centre of excellence in this regard. Part of its remit will be to serve as a consultative body for all other entities in Malta in the application of this technology, thus helping to avoid duplication of work and optimise the use of expertise,” he adds. “Government is being proactive in this regard. Later this year, a blockchain hub will be launched. This will help attract expertise to Malta as well as foster local expertise as well. We are also actively exploring the possibility of collaborating with the University of Malta in order to start offering specialised courses in blockchain, both at degree and master levels.” Government also recently announced the imminent setting up of a task force with the aim of attracting Fintech and Regtech companies to our shores, after setting up a blockchain task force for the same purpose. Mr Schembri says that the reason for doing so is due to the fact that the Fintech and Regtech sectors are expanding at a rapid rate, where new companies are being set up in order for the needs of the industry to be met. “The function of such task forces is to assist in enticing investment, exploring new markets, as well as obliging financial institutions to make the required amendments to compliance. If we look around us, we can see that funding for Fintech companies is on the rise, support for the industry from governments is increasing and an abundance of both incubators and accelerators are offering start-ups the means and assistance to grow within the industry. We aim to be at the forefront of this new wave of innovation.” cc
“As a Government, we have long recognised the benefits of shared ledgers and smart contracts. The opportunity to lead in this area will results in benefits that will be enjoyed by many.” FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
CC make the headlines
F5 Secure Application Delivery and the Microsoft Azure Cloud Eworld Ltd has built up quite a reputation for reliable delivery of enterprise IT solutions, servers and data storage, networks and security, backups and recovery, from design and proof of concept through to implementation and support. Attesting this was the 100+ strong attendance at the latest in Eworld quarterly business breakfast events, held on Tuesday 6th February 2018 at Microsoft’s Innovation Centre at SkyParks, Luqa. The focus for this event was Eworld’s partnerships with F5 Networks and Microsoft, leaders in their respective worldwide IT fields. These effectively extend the scope and reach of Eworld’s solutions and services corporate portfolio. Eworld showcased its appointment as Microsoft Cloud Service Provider Tier-1, and is now well geared to provide advice on the appropriate cloud strategy for businesses, as well as handling the migration and providing a complete cloud service. Typically, a business may consider migrating certain applications only, such as, for example, Microsoft Office 365. Alternatively, it may consider adopting Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) via Microsoft Azure, or even a hybrid cloud solution utilising both on-premise
and public cloud. A further option is a multi-cloud solution, adopting more than one public cloud. Security is tantamount and the Microsoft Azure Cloud offers the highest compliance with security standards including GDPR. Adopting a cloud approach offers an opex cost model as opposed to a capex, upfront payment approach. Over and above, the issues of upgrades, patches, power, cooling, sizing and performance are all covered to the extent of the Service Level Agreement selected. The partnership between F5 and Eworld goes back quite a few years, with Eworld having many successful implementations under its belt. One such reference case, a bank, participated in a Q&A style interview session to share its experiences when
selecting and implementing an F5 solution, as well as to share the benefits, to date, of the F5 infrastructure and the vision going forward. The F5 team gave an interesting insight into the latest security concerns and solutions, specifically regarding secure application delivery. The vulnerability of applications with non-secure containers or micro-services, for example, to various threats including ransomware, was highlighted and F5’s solutions to resolve these issues were demonstrated. Eworld hosted the gathering of IT professionals for a business breakfast and networking sessions, where valuable experience was shared and notes compared. Judging from the buzz, there is yet loads to be done in the security and cloud service space! cc Ing. Raphael Micallef Trigona is Managing Director of Eworld Ltd
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Digital transformation The Maltese economy has been doing well for the past decade and has seen a cumulative growth of around 35 per cent – depicted as one of the fastestgrowing economies in Europe. This did not happen by chance, but is due to the exertion of the proper fiscal management of the economy, the foresight of global commercial trends, and our robust and stable banking system. It is ironic that while our European counterparts have been undergoing austerity and youth unemployment, Malta has seen a decline in unemployment, and the economy has grown, including a vast amount of job creation. No one doubts that today’s digital technology is moving at such speed that it is difficult to keep up. In certain sectors, like the gaming and the ICT industries, they cannot afford not to keep up. But other sectors may not appreciate this, and due to this, they could be missing out on opportunities. This is bound to compound itself further as we move into the unknown future. Disruptive technology created digital transformation in organisations and will definitely create new opportunities that are there to be taken. In the past, the World Wide Web was one of the biggest disruptive technologies, and although it shook business
models from top to bottom, it created so many global opportunities that today most successful companies cannot survive without it. The disruptive and change in technology will bring a transformation in business operations. Those that embrace this change and prepare for it stand to benefit from an increase in business and competitive edge, while those that don’t will risk a loss in business. What is certain is that some of the disrupting technologies that are being mentioned will come, and in fact, have already started. These include Artificial Intelligence (AI) and cognitive systems, robotics and their convergence, Internet of Things (IoT), Data Analytics, and Blockchain, to mention just a few. Of course, this is creating a considerable demand for cybersecurity, data protection, and the upskilling of the workforce. For example, IoT is not just the use of the internet, but enabling devices to connect to the internet technology, possibly with cloud data, to extract instantaneous information update to be able to carry out business analytics within a secure environment. Many times this results in a considerable reduction in costs and increase in business. Knowledge, digital skills and attitude are the major areas that must be recognised if companies are to seize the opportunities and grow. Knowledge acquisition and foresight of these technologies are key, and although an organisation can outsource this function, in the long-term there must be a process within the organisation to gain knowledge regularly in-house. Through this, e-leaders are created and nourished, who would recognise immediately how emerging technologies can be used in their organisations. E-leadership skills are needed by ICT professionals and business leaders of every type. Both
roles can exploit the best use of emerging technology by recognising the opportunity to increase competitiveness and the reduction of cost through transformational change. Additionally, the workforce needs to remain employable and competitive. The digital skills gap has been widening and the industry must realise that their employees need to be given the awareness necessary of where and how technology is moving in their sectors, and then properly upskilled not only in the run-of-the-mill digital skills, like the traditional office tools but new ones based on emerging technologies. It is widely accepted that those companies who manage to bridge the digital skills gap will be those who would lead and have a competitive edge over the others. This also means that the earlier that organisations change their attitude towards the use of current and upcoming technology, the earlier their business will start to flourish. Employers and their employees must think digital first, to be able to take advantage of technology. This change in attitude will eventually encourage entrepreneurial leaders to invest in the latest technology and processes. We must admit that Malta does have a challenge ahead, because some of our European counterparts have already realised the advantages of digital transformation, and in fact have used this to help get them through their recession and be among the leaders in the use of technology. Malta’s booming economy may be the envy of many European countries, and with the right digital transformation, it will keep the same trajectory. cc Carmel Cachia, Executive Coordinator, eSkills Malta Foundation FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
NEWS Events & Initiatives
01. Chamber calls on Government to strengthen ties with UK post 2019 Teaming up with the British High Commission in Malta and MEUSAC, the Malta Chamber led a discussion on the desired nature of economic ties between Malta and the UK post 2019 on 4th December at the Exchange Buildings. The event featured the participation of key stakeholders including James AshtonBell, Head of Trade and Investment at the Confederation of British Industry, Dr Christian Cardona, Ronald Attard, Stefano Mallia and High Commissioner Stuart Gill. The panel discussion was moderated by leading business journalist Vanessa Macdonald. Malta Chamber President Frank V. Farrugia said that the UK’s exit from the EU will most likely have a negative impact on the Maltese economy, given the close ties with the UK’s economy. “Most definitely some form of trade arrangement will need to be retained and the Chamber looks forward to discussions on the matter within both the Government’s Brexit Unit and the Brexit Taskforce,” he said. “It is imperative that the UK Government promotes the element of compromise and strives towards a winwin solution for both sides,” he said. At the same time, the President urged the Maltese Government to be a voice of reason during the ongoing debates and negotiations since any disruptions to present trade practices will have severe repercussions on the Maltese economy. Keynote speaker James Ashton-Bell
highlighted the potential impact of Brexit as well as the likely scenarios for continued trade between the UK and the EU, and the UK and Malta following 2019. The panel discussion with the participation of Dr Christian Cardona, James AshtonBell, Stefano Mallia and Ronald Attard focussed on the sentiment of the Maltese business community, potential opportunities and stumbling blocks in the negotiation process, desirable outcomes and situations that must be avoided. Concluding the event, High Commissioner Stuart Gill appealed to Maltese business to accept the fact that Brexit will happen, and to allow room for serious thought and adaptation throughout 2018. He stressed that trade remains good for everyone and so it is fundamental for politicians
to find a solution that allows the intense relationship between Malta and the UK to not only remain, but to develop further.
02. Chamber holds annual dinner The Malta Chamber held a dinner in honour of the Prime Minister at the Agostino Portelli Hall in the Exchange Buildings. The dinner, which is attended by members of the Council of the Malta Chamber is held annually at Christmas time. Welcoming the Prime Minister and Mrs Muscat to the Chamber, President Frank V. Farrugia said that the country had experienced a general election that year – a process which did not create any disturbances to business, the same with the Budget Speech for 2018. “Indeed, despite the election, our
01. FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
approach towards constructive dialogue and our healthy working relationship continued seamlessly throughout the year which shall soon pass us by,” he said. Mr Farrugia said that throughout 2017, the Chamber showed that its overarching interest was the common good and prosperity of the Maltese people, which, after all, was also the principal objective of the country’s political leaders. Speaking about the excellent relationship the Chamber enjoys with the Prime Minister, Mr Farrugia said that the Chamber appreciated Dr Muscat’s promptness in replying to communications and requests. The Chamber, the President quipped, now expected all Government’s ministers and the entire public service to climb on board Dr Muscat’s speed-machine. In his reply, the Prime Minister expressed his appreciation for the Malta Chamber’s work in the fields of business and the economy, and augured more collaboration between the organisation and his Government in the new year.
03. Chamber hosts annual Christmas drinks The Malta Chamber hosted its annual Christmas reception at its iconic premises, the Exchange Buildings in Republic Street, on 6th December.
The event was attended by the President of Malta Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, the Leader of the Opposition Adrian Delia, numerous members of the Cabinet, members of Parliament, members of the diplomatic corps, as well as Maltaâ€™s foremost exponents of the business community.
04. Reginald Fava receives honour from President of the Republic Reginald Fava, former President and member of the Council of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry was made member of the National Order of Merit of Malta by the President of the Republic Marie Louise Coleiro Preca on Republic Day. The honour was bestowed on Mr Fava in recognition of his long career in entrepreneurship, particularly his contribution to the pharmaceutical sector in Malta. Convening on 14th December, the Council of the Malta Chamber congratulated Mr Fava for the honour and wished him many more years of service to Maltaâ€™s business community. Mr Fava served as Malta Chamber President between 2002 and 2003.
05. Chamber exchanges best wishes for the new year A delegation from the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry visited the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Archbishop of Malta to exchange new year greetings. The Malta Chamber contingent which was led by President Frank V. Farrugia, was composed of the members of the Board of Management and the Director General Kevin J. Borg.
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Wishing the leaders of the country the very best for the festive season and the new year, Mr Farrugia underlined the Malta Chamber’s drive to continue working with the pertinent authorities, towards the country’s economic growth and the people’s prosperity.
06. Chamber clarifies penalty points system with Minister During a meeting with Minister Ian Borg, the Importers, Distributors and Retailers Executive Board of the Malta Chamber clarified the situation arising from the extension of the penalty points system on all drivers in Malta as of late 2017. Minister Borg explained that the points system was totally separate from the contravention system currently in place. Infringements which also carried points deduction are linked to the driver of the vehicle at the time of the contravention. This means that the officer noting the contravention has to stop the vehicle in order to ascertain the identity of the driver where the offence also carried a points deduction.
04. The only case where points can be deducted without the vehicle being stopped by an enforcement officer is that of overspeeding detected by speed cameras. In this case one can petition LESA to contend
any case of incorrect points deduction. In the case of companies, these have the facility to register on the LESA website the names of the drivers using particular company vehicles. Where this is not possible because vehicles are used by a number of drivers, the company would need to contact LESA to identify the driver driving the vehicle at the time of the contravention. The Malta Chamber clarified that it was not in favour of any preferential treatment to delivery vehicles, as it was in the drivers’ interest to lead by example and contribute to safer roads in Malta. The delegation was made up of Chris Vassallo Cesareo together with Charles Zahra, Charles Borg, Andrew Mamo, Kevin J. Borg (Director General) and Anton Spiteri (Head Sectors).
07. R&D business support scheme launched at the Chamber
“A country which supports its business community and nurtures Research, Development and Innovation will reap constant long-term added value,” said Frank V. Farrugia during the launch of the Business Enhance Research and Development and Innovation grant scheme at the Exchange Buildings, Valletta, on 11th January. Mr Farrugia said that the proactive action will mostly become clear during periods of economic slowdown, where countries investing in R&D would not need to resort to drastic austerity measures such as increasing tax rates, raising the retirement age and reducing social benefits as has happened in several southern European countries over the last decade. “The ‘spill-over’ effect that research and innovation has onto other business sectors by creating a better economic scenario and a more competitive offering as a country FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
is known but often forgotten,” he said. “When R&D is conducted successfully, it automatically leads to increased investments in capital equipment and human resources. This does not only generate new ideas and products to satisfy and enhance consumer demands, but also improves business processes and opportunities, increases productivity and results in an overall competitive advantage.” Mr Farrugia explained how optimising the economic conditions for business activities across the European region depends considerably on the ease and facilitation of technological transfer of knowhow and the availability of a highly-skilled workforce. The event was also addressed by Aaron Farrugia, Parliamentary Secretary for EU Funds and Social Dialogue. A presentation on the details of the scheme was delivered by Moira Attard, Director General, Measures and Support Division.
08. Malta Chamber underlines importance of national airline Following a statement issued by the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry underlining the importance of the national airline Air Malta to the whole economy, negotiations with the union of airline pilots led to an agreement that was reached in the evening of Monday 12th January. In a statement issued to all media on Monday morning, the Malta Chamber said that saving Air Malta was a must, while it expressed its support for those negotiating on the airline’s behalf to ensure it remained in a position to operate uninterruptedly, and into the future. The Malta Chamber noted how it had supported successive governments in the past, in the country’s quest to ascertain a sustainable future for Air Malta. “Today, in the national interest and that of businesses, the Chamber is once again in support of the airline,” the press release said. The Malta Chamber expressed its grave concern on possible irresponsible industrial action intended to interrupt Air Malta’s services, as such action would not only result in devastating effects on the airline itself, but also on the country’s economy at large. In conclusion, the Malta Chamber said that the country couldn’t allow itself to be hijacked by the personal interests of the few. The Malta Chamber hence called for common sense to prevail in unblocking this dangerous impasse for the economy and for the highest degree of responsibility on the negotiation table. FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
07. 09. National interest has prevailed In a statement issued on 19th January, the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry welcomed the positive vote taken by members of the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) the day before, approving negotiations with Government on the future of the national airline Air Malta. While it congratulated all parties involved, the Malta Chamber noted that the national interest had evidently prevailed, as the greater good was ultimately given the deserved top priority. “The Malta Chamber appeals to all involved to continue putting the national
interest first. We must avoid at all costs situations that cast even the faintest shadow of uncertainty on the uninterrupted and efficient operation of crucial elements in our economy,” the statement said. Looking ahead, the Malta Chamber augured all parties to work hand in hand in the best interest of the national airline. “The Malta Chamber hopes that now, the cloud of uncertainty that has hovered over the survival of the airline for the past years has finally lifted, for the benefit of businesses and citizens alike. We must now ensure that the ambitious plans for Air Malta may finally materialise,” the press release concluded. 73
01. Chamber builds on diplomatic ties Through its Projects and Internationalisation Unit, the Chamber held a number of formal meetings with representatives of the diplomatic corps, with the scope of registering regional and bilateral commercial networking in the interest of the Chamber’s members. Avenues of cooperation were identified during each meeting, subject to prior assessment of members’ feedback, identifying best ways to match companies within specific commercial sectors with corresponding ones from the country concerned. In this context, the Malta Chamber’s role as part of the Maltese consortium within the Enterprise Europe Network played a pivotal role through its wide networking reach of over 60 countries across the world. A favourable economic climate in Malta augurs well to enhance business opportunities, a factor which is enhancing the interest of more countries to register more bilateral cooperation agreements with our country and our Chamber.
02. Supply chain challenges – the German and Maltese perspectives The German-Maltese Business Council within the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry organised an event titled ‘Supply Chain Challenges: The German and Maltese Perspectives’ on Tuesday 6th February. The German-Maltese Business Council works at enhancing and fostering business ties between the two countries and at times, addressing issues which are prevalent in both countries is a way to assist companies to perform better in their business activities. With this in mind, the event addressed different aspects within the supply chain. Armin Eckermann, Chairman of GMBC, moderated the event which delved into challenges being faced on a day-to-day basis by Maltese companies such as transportation, logistics and the labour supply, and how they are being solved, if at all. Furthermore, the seminar featured a case study of Seifert Systems Ltd and their experience as a German company
managing their supply chain in Malta. In view of the fact that Germany is considered to be one of the leading European countries when it comes to Supply Chain Management, Armin Dullinger, Managing Director of Andreas Schmid Logistik AG was invited to illustrate the German experience, solutions and best practices. The other presentations were delivered by Emanuel Farrugia, Head of Supply Chain at ProMinent Fluid Controls Ltd; Ing. Ruben Cuschieri, General Manager of Seifert Systems Ltd and Clyde Caruana, Executive Chairman at Jobsplus. The event which was sponsored by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, Seifert Systems Ltd, Farsons and World Express Logistics, closed with a networking reception following a Q&A session and a factory tour of Seifert Systems Ltd. cc
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Alter Domus: an international financial services provider within the Maltese context Seven years after the founding of Alter Domus in Malta, the company has grown in leaps and bounds. The executive team discuss the factors to which they owe their success, future challenges and the company’s further plans for expansion. By Marie-Claire Grima.
Left to right: Andrew Muscat; Chris Casapinta; Amanda Cini; Przemyslaw Koger
he financial services industry in Malta had already started developing at a fast pace towards the end of the 2000s, and it was around this time that Chris Casapinta, the Malta Country Executive, realised that there was a space in the market for an international service provider within the local industry. This pushed him to work hard in obtaining the necessary licences, in agreement with the Alter Domus head office in Luxembourg, in order to commence Alter Domus’ operations in Malta from 2011. Alter Domus’ worldwide client base includes top international private equity houses, the largest real estate investors, successful venture capitalists, large listed corporates and private clients. The Group, which was founded in Luxembourg in 2003, now counts 33 offices and desks across five continents, serves nine of the 10 largest private equity houses, six of the 10 largest real estate firms and five of the 10 largest private debt managers in the world. The backing of the company’s formidable global profile helped Chris and the team hit the ground running with their Maltese operation.
“At that time in 2011, the operation was rather lean, with just myself and two other hard-working colleagues. However, by 2012 we had accumulated a number of important clients. This meant that the operational platform and human resources had to quickly be upgraded to meet our clients’ demands,” Chris says. “Over the years, we have continued to attract top clients and now, we have the second-largest office within the EMEA region of the Alter Domus Group. We currently employ over 130 experienced professionals and we continue to grow at a solid double-digit rate.” Due to the increase in the number of clients, Alter Domus Malta’s operational platform had to change. “We moved from having two large teams – one in fund services and one in corporate services – to six teams, with each team having its own area of specialisation across all our product segments. Having managed to attract a number of prestigious clients over the years has made it easier for us to attract further new clients, and our growth is expected to be exponential.”
Nowadays, Alter Domus Malta is a fullyintegrated provider of Fund Administration and Corporate Services, where its wide range of services is being continuously expanded to cater for the clients’ needs. The range of services includes company formation and fund launch, corporate management, fund administration, accounting and consolidation, corporate and legal compliance, tax compliance, transfer pricing, regulatory services, liquidation and depositary services. “Just recently we have also launched a number of additional services including co-sourcing services – whereby our own staff will fill up posts within our clients’ businesses for the short or medium term; middle office services – which moves beyond back office support to a more value-added middle office function and puts us closer to our asset manager clients; and capital markets. We have been seeing an encouraging number of capital market transactions locally which require assistance in terms of setting up SPVs and listing in the various European stock exchanges, and we are here to help.” 77
CC make the headlines In 2018, Chris expects a healthy influx of new and prospective clients, as well as growth in the company’s personnel. “We are conscious of the fact that the industry is growing at a fast pace in terms of technology and also in terms of regulatory and fiscal frameworks especially across Europe. With this in mind we need to be nimble and proactive to manage operational processes to reflect the changes in the industry. We also expect to increase our headcount by at least another 25 employees by year end. This being said, the biggest challenge will be to attract the right talent to service our clients at the optimum level of quality.” Amanda Cini, Alter Domus Malta’s HR Senior Manager, adds to this by stating that the success of the business is due to the Group’s hard-working, loyal and passionate staff. “With this in mind, we focus our efforts on providing our employees with an attractive career opportunity and a unique working environment. Alter Domus Malta fosters diversity and inclusion, which is evidenced by the fact that our team of 130 employees includes individuals from 18 different nationalities, with an average age of 28 years. These unique characteristics and the way our working space and teams have been structured contribute to a dynamic and vibrant atmosphere. This is complemented by a very active social committee that annually comes up with a full and balanced social events calendar which includes fun events, corporate social responsibility initiatives and also programmes promoting a healthy lifestyle.” Alter Domus Malta also gives employees the possibility of working within virtual teams, allowing them to gain global exposure by liaising with international clients and also international talents. “Employees are also encouraged to work on all aspects of client delivery and in the process gain experience in different areas. Furthermore, we also strongly believe in engaging our employees by involving them in strategic projects and tasks, even at the lower grade levels. This gives employees the opportunity to shine, grow and also take ownership,” Amanda says. “We offer tailor-made talent management programmes which are structured around the employee, by spending time with our employees and listening to what they would like to accomplish. It is not a ‘one-size-fitsall’ approach; at Alter Domus we take pride in having a team of individuals who are different and need to have a specialised development programme which motivates and helps them achieve their career ambitions. Achieving ambitious growth is all about matching an employee’s talent with our business needs. These two aspects go hand in hand to retain our employees whilst also managing organisational growth. We also believe it is important to mentor our employees so they will become assets for the company, not only in the present but 78
Left to right: Andrew Muscat; Chris Casapinta; Amanda Cini; Przemyslaw Koger
also in the future.” Andrew Muscat, Alter Domus’ Head of Operations and Deputy Country Executive Malta concurs, stating that the company is a people business, and its main asset are its employees. “Considering our growth ambitions, more effort is required to ensure that high potential employees feel that they are being looked after and that there are managers they can look up to who are invested in their career and their growth. The fact that we manage a sizeable portfolio of clients makes it even more critical that we organise ourselves to ensure that each client has a focused, dedicated team of individuals looking after their mandate and also responding to changes in their requirements.” “Our current operating structure has been designed to offer the flexibility required to respond to our clients’ developing needs, as we pride ourselves on fulfilling and exceeding their expectations. In my experience, there are a number of factors that are key to successfully managing a company that is experiencing growth in such a short period. First, we ensure that proper processes and procedures are in place from the outset and that they are scalable, allowing flexibility in our approach to cater to each client’s individual needs. To do this we need to continue to innovate and improve quality and efficiency. Second, many of our clients make a conscious decision to choose a service provider rather than building an in-house team. They do so because they expect us, as specialists, to invest in the right technology and remain at the forefront of legal, accounting and regulatory developments. Our processes need to be kept up to date to ensure we deliver on this expectation.” “Third, we need to put together a sound management structure of individuals to ensure that decisions can be taken at a decentralised level and equally. It is equally important to ensure that the decisions taken at the top level are filtered down in an effective and efficient manner to the lower levels. Fourth, we need to ensure that key employees continue to feel aligned with the objectives of the Group. Finally, we need to maintain the personal touch and the desire to fulfil and exceed clients’ expectations that made the company successful in the first
place – our focus on our understanding each of our client’s business and their needs.” Przemyslaw Koger, Director and Head of Relationship Management Malta, brings the interview to a close by saying that Alter Domus Malta has a number of unique characteristics, which differentiate it from other companies in the sector. “We have a proven and strong track record in the administration of funds investing in alternative assets as well as underlying subsidiaries and asset holding vehicles throughout the key jurisdictions in Europe, US and Asia-Pacific, giving us a unique position in today’s competitive landscape. We’re dedicated to the private equity and real estate market, as well as corporates and multinationals. This includes ensuring we have a strong understanding of each client we service, that we tailor our services accordingly to ensure efficiency and afford minimal (if any) disruption to our client’s day to day operations.” “Furthermore, our 130 employees within the Malta office have backgrounds and experience ranging from investment managers, Big Four accounting firms, to specialist fund administration providers. We also believe that in addition to their experience, it is important that stability and motivation are key features of a successful business so we offer our staff a range of opportunities, including secondments, to keep them interested and motivated.” “Finally, we have an ambitious growth plan in place. 2017 demonstrated clearly that the entire Alter Domus Group has an ambitious plan which is being executed at a dynamic pace. The key highlights of the last year included the opening of two new offices in Madrid and Barcelona, expansion in the US through the acquisition of Carta Fund Services, Cortland Capital Market Services LLC (pending authorisation), and the launch of the third-party AIFM management platform. As part of a Group that has broad technical and international capabilities, clients can benefit from our cross-border experience and extensive local technical knowledge. This helps with the implementation of complex international investment structures while servicing their local administrative needs.” cc FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
CC CASE STUDY
Constructing our future As one of the women leading Maltaâ€™s construction industry, Denise Micallef Xuereb is putting her focus on restoration and high-quality results. Here she tells Jo Caruana how she and her team are helping to build the future while protecting the past.
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A “AX Construction has certainly completed some formidable projects in recent years, including the Suq talBelt, which opened its doors just a few weeks ago.”
Photos by Alan Carville FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
X Construction is easily one of Malta’s best-known construction companies, with a history dating back to 1974, when it was launched by Anglu Xuereb. Today, though, it is his daughter Denise Micallef Xuereb who is running the show, and she has quickly proved that she has all the skills needed to spearhead a mammoth operation of this kind. “My dad started out in the ‘70s as a oneman-band, and literally grew the business from pavements up,” she says with a smile, sitting in AX Construction’s smart new offices in Burmarrad. “His company grew as he started to take on a number of national projects, including the Freeport, the Delimara Power Station, the Ta’ Qali Stadium and more, and AX was soon one of the largest construction companies on the island.” Years later, in 2008, Denise started her own training in the business, and began work in the company’s hotel sector. “We were finishing off The Palace back then, and I started to oversee the project floor by floor,” she says. “I quickly realised how passionate I was about construction – I loved the idea that I could take an empty space, build it and then finish it to high standards.” That’s when she decided to embark on her MSc in Project Management in Paris, after which she returned to Malta to get even more hands-on in the business. “I started following projects from tender stage all the way up to completion, and really enjoyed it. Then, before I knew it, I was running the company without a title, so we decided to make things official and I took over as managing director. Today, my father doesn’t involve himself very much in the construction side of things, and I am proud to be continuing his legacy on his behalf.” Denise has placed much of her focus on turning AX Construction into a service-driven organisation, and she is proud to count some truly unique projects among its portfolio, with clients including Arkadia Group, KPMG and De La Rue. “These kinds of clients aren’t just looking for a contractor but a company that will go the extra mile,” she explains. And AX Construction has certainly completed some formidable projects in recent years, including the Suq tal-Belt, which opened its doors just a few weeks ago. “Working in the heart of Valletta during the EU Presidency, with a tight deadline and on such a fragile building, was no easy feat,” she smiles. “It wasn’t a case of going in, gutting it and rebuilding it, but working carefully to restore the building’s many elements and to preserve them. It was a challenge but I loved it.” And there have been other interesting projects too. “AX Construction handled all the above and belowground works on St Paul’s Catacombs, including the construction of the new Visitors’ Centre, restoration works on the catacombs and underground pedestrian walkways. That was another highly complex
project because we couldn’t work with large machinery as it was a very delicate and sensitive site. It was worth it though, and we were very pleased with the end results!” AX Construction now places quite a lot of emphasis on the restoration side of the industry, as well as the specialised concreting works. “There aren’t many companies that can do both well, but we specialise in just that, and our wonderful team is truly driven to achieving fantastic results in highly complex jobs. We all enjoy working on high-profile buildings or unique projects as there is a lot of satisfaction that comes from knowing you’re not building just another block of flats or factory but building something that stands out both in quality and complexity. We obviously prefer the ones where we are preserving something for the future. We even stress exactly that in our motto: Building our Future, Restoring our Heritage.” Denise is passionate about reconditioning old buildings in general, and one of the company’s next projects will be the construction and restoration works at the St John’s Co-Cathedral Museum in Valletta. “Yes, sometimes we have to construct from scratch on new land, but I much prefer rehabilitating and reusing old spaces that have become derelict or unusable in their current state; it’s what gives me my drive. Knowing that a building like the Suq was sitting there empty and dead for years, and that it is now a thriving space that the community is enjoying, is a wonderful feeling.” And these kind of high-end, rehabilitationfocused projects will be very much part of AX Construction’s future. “We have already developed an edge when it comes to combining construction and restoration, especially when it comes to focusing on quality and service. We have differentiated ourselves in that way and I believe it shows across our portfolio. We’re proud of what we have achieved and look forward to continuing to work hard in this way,” Denise adds. cc 81
CC CASE STUDY
Waste not The world’s waste problem is not going away – on the contrary, it’s getting worse. But some companies – like Specto Ltd – are providing options and solutions. Here Jo Caruana meets company director Francis Micallef.
Now, the company is also moving beyond all these services and tackling education – which, Mr Micallef says, is a key issue locally. “We’re actually in the process of setting up a training academy that will start to address the lack of awareness that exists when it comes to waste management, occupational health and safety, and other related issues,” he continues. “Backed by a UK university, we will be aiming to fill a void that exists right now. My dream is to offer a range of courses, from basic options right the way up to a Masters in Environmental Waste Management.” Meanwhile, Mr Micallef talks about the company’s other dimension. “Our sister company, Arete, imports laboratory chemicals. By combining the expertise of both companies, we are able to offer a complete-cycle service to our customers. Whatever waste we are putting into the world, we will find an ethical way to get it out – it’s quite a new concept for Malta.” Mr Micallef also works with labs that have large amounts of chemicals to throw away – some of which have been sitting there for years and have expired. “We give people an alternative to pouring them down the drain,” he says. “That sort of problem is actually a lot more serious than you think, and can be extremely damaging. Just like in so many other aspects of our business, we want to find a solution to a horrible problem.” Looking back over the successes of Specto so far, Mr Micallef highlights the company’s first major project in 2005, which saw them dispose of over 80 tonnes of pharmaceutical waste in an ethical manner. Since then, and among their many accomplishments, they
“As a society we need to understand that our resources are finite – they’re not going to last forever.”
Photos by Alan Carville
n a world of waste, it can feel overwhelming: what can we do to stop our waste from becoming even more of a problem? Thankfully, there are businesses out there helping to tackle that exact problem and, locally, Specto Ltd – a company specialising in waste management – is one such entity. Its history goes back to 2002, when the then company directors realised that there was a gap in the market when it came to the provision of waste management services. “At the time, Government was trying to attract pharmaceutical companies to the island, and it was obvious to us that these companies would be producing waste that couldn’t be disposed of ethically in Malta. Back then, the island was negotiating its entry into the EU, and the only waste management structure in place was the Maghtab dump. We knew we could provide better options than that.” It took the team three years to get the first permits in place, largely because nothing like this had ever been offered in Malta before. Then, in 2005, they were the first company in the country to secure a waste management brokers’ permit, which meant they had the capability to take waste away from local waste producers and send it to proper disposal sites in the EU. Since then, Specto has exported over 5,500 tonnes of waste, including sludges, plating waste, printing waste, pharmaceutical waste, electronic waste (WEEE) and laboratory waste. “We take waste off the companies that generate it – whether they’re factories, labs or even WasteServ itself through tender business – and we send it to the right disposal or recovery site in the EU, based on the type of waste that it is,” Mr Micallef continues.
have also taken 11.5 tonnes of waste away from a major educational institution. “It had been accumulating for over 30 years,” the director says. “This year we took a further nine tonnes away, so that’s 20 tonnes from one client alone.” However, challenges to that success do exist, and Mr Micallef stresses that the biggest local problems relate to regulatory frameworks and the fact that we don’t have enough enforcement, which means a lot of players across various sectors are allowed to work under the radar. “The result is that we’re poisoning the environment we live in. People are dumping as they please, and this ends up getting into the ground, into our aquifers and into the air that we breathe. It’s very short-sighted to think that out-of-sight is out-of-mind.” Mr Micallef believes the only way to combat FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
CC CASE STUDY
Francis Micallef with daughter Emma, who recently joined the company.
this would be through enforcement and strict fines. “I hope that, in two generations’ time, we may have created citizens that are a bit more appreciative of all these concepts,” he says. “The right kind of awareness goes well beyond the disposal of our waste; we have to accept that every activity we engage in generates waste, and to reduce that significantly. We should also look at whether our waste could be a resource to someone else. For instance, in Germany, 40 per cent of dumped mobile phones have been found to be still in good working order. Couldn’t they be put to better use? As a society, we need to understand that our resources are finite – they’re not going to last forever. Both individually and as a collective we need to start examining our lifestyles and to make the shift from waste disposal to waste reduction.” The good news is that some companies FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
are starting to make changes. “For instance, a number of businesses have started to look at their procurement,” Mr Micallef continues. “They’ve learnt that it doesn’t make sense to buy two tonnes of material at a cheaper price and to then have to dispose of it when you don’t use it; it’s better to buy less to begin with. But that’s just scratching the surface… we have to start questioning things. After all, so much of waste is the difference between what we use and the purchases we didn’t need.” Now, Mr Micallef hopes to further underline the bottom-up approach that he believes is needed to start making a change – by combining education and enforcement. “Whether we like it or not, the major fault lies with the authorities – they’re not setting the best example. While education is needed long-term, the right enforcement
could make a difference short-term, which would be very valuable.” And it isn’t only the environment that’s saved when you switch to a more ‘eco-focused approach’ – money is saved too. “People might think waste management is a huge cost but it’s not, so long as it’s not just about waste disposal. If you start looking at the waste you’re generating and reduce it, you will save a lot of money.” It’s with all this in mind that Mr Micallef hopes there will be positive changes in the years to come – and that Specto will be at the forefront of that. “Commercial industry needs to spearhead these changes because it should be their responsibility. If a company is thriving, this is their way of giving back. Many companies have already risen to the occasion and we look forward to seeing more and more of that in the future.” cc 83
CC CASE STUDY
A medical solution OK Medical is one of the local leaders when it comes to the provision of medical equipment to both the public and private sectors. Here, CEO Paul McAlister tells Jo Caruana why, for him, its success comes down to excellent service.
f there’s one thing we all want to hold on to, it’s our health. And that is exactly why the demand for medical-related products – including mobility aids, pressure checkers and equipment for special needs – has soared worldwide in recent years. Locally, OK Medical is one of the companies leading the way within this specialised industry. Based in Swatar and Paola, and with plans afoot for further outlets, the company provides a range of medical equipment and hospital supplies to both the private and public sectors. CEO Paul McAlister explains that the company began by selling consumables in the rehabilitation market in 2014. “Back then, we mostly supplied products to assist the elderly or those with injuries in their day-to-day needs. However, as time went on, I started to consider more product ranges including those for oxygen therapy, sleep apnea and hearing implants. Hearing products are actually a very important part of what we do now – hearing is the only sense that you can regain through a surgical operation and our business in this area has grown substantially.” Today, OK Medical boasts an impressive product range and its experienced team has the medical knowledge to go with it. “We’re able to supply everything that is medically-
related, except pharmaceuticals,” Paul goes on to say. “Innovation is what really drives us and we’re constantly looking at new ways to assist our clients. In fact, my own background is in IT, so I am currently reevaluating our website to make it even easier for people to buy the products they need from the comfort of their own home.” With that in mind, Paul also stresses that OK Medical places a lot of importance on getting products to people in a timely manner too. “We provide quotes there and then or within the same working day to ensure that our clients aren’t waiting a long time for an item that will make a difference to their lives. We understand that these kinds of products are usually needed in a hurry and our service reflects that. Even deliveries are usually carried out within 24 hours.” As Paul explains, hearing aids have become one of their key sectors and they are dedicated to providing the best possible service in this area. “Even though they may be having problems hearing, our clients are often put off the idea of an aid because they don’t like the way it looks or because it can be very pricey to get a hearing test done in a clinic. Here we’re proud to offer tests for free, which we hope will encourage people to come in and at least test their hearing without worrying that they’re going to have a big bill to contend with. We also keep all our aids in stock and clients can trial them for free before committing to buy, which also means they’re not put on the spot or placed under pressure. One in five people will actually suffer from hearing loss at some point in their lives, so it’s definitely worth considering that help is out there.” And OK Medical is also planning to go one step further for their customers, with the launch of MediPay later this year. This payment service will enable clients to pay for higher-priced items – like portable oxygen concentrators, power scooters or wheelchairs – in instalments and without interest. “We often encounter people on lower income scales who really need the help of medical aides but can’t afford to make the investment,” Paul continues. “It might even be stopping them from getting back to work. This is where we hope MediPay will help, as they will be able to have access to the item and to pay it off over a pre-agreed amount of time. We can even help people to apply for a number of Government subsidies that could be available to them, which could help to stretch their budget even further.”
Photos by Alan Carville
It’s actually this approach and dedication that really sets OK Medical apart – it’s a company dedicated to being part of the community and helping people in their time of need. “We want to be there for our customers, wherever they are in Malta. Once our Swatar outlet proved to be a success we opened our second store, in Paola, towards the end of last year, making it easier for people in the southern part of the island to get the equipment and advice they need. We now have further outlets planned, and hope to open them this year. “We are also working with a couple of residential homes to help them better their medical equipment, and would even like to open our own care homes in the future. We believe that our understanding of people’s needs and our experience in this field really does set us apart, and that it has given us unique insight as to the sort of care that our clients – whether elderly, disabled or unwell – really need.” FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
CC CASE STUDY
“Innovation is what really drives us and we’re constantly looking at new ways to assist our clients.”
Finally, Paul turns his sights to the future of the medical product industry in general and believes it to be coming on in leaps and bounds. “For instance, there is very promising research in labs that shows how hearing can be regenerated through the cochlear nerve, which means we might see a shift away from traditional hearing aids in the future. “Equipment is also becoming a lot smarter thanks to the number of very talented young designers who are dedicating their careers to coming up with ground-breaking products. I hope that, in the future, their advances will give our patients even more freedom and comfort. “As for us, well, we’ll be focused on staying at the forefront of this industry so that we can offer the very best to clients here in Malta, combined with the best possible service. We believe it is what sets us apart and we are dedicated to exceeding all expectations,” Paul adds. cc FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
CC DESIGN TRENDS
Of industrial design and Baroque architecture Housed within a former merchant’s residence on Valletta’s historic street bearing the same name, The Saint John boutique hotel has come a long way since its foundation in 1870. Martina Said finds out what went into the hotel’s remarkable renovation.
CC DESIGN TRENDS
alletta is steadily becoming the capital of more than just this very island – it’s catching up and, for some, surpassing other areas for its nightlife, dining and accommodation offering, and arguably becoming the best area locally for boutique lodging on the island. Among the crop of charismatic spaces to retreat to for a few days is The Saint John, a warm and sophisticated boutique hotel on Merchants Street, housed within a property that’s been around since at least 1870. Claire Zammit Xuereb, AX Group Hospitality Director, says that investing in Valletta had been on her agenda for the past decade, however, during that time, nothing out of the ordinary was happening in the city. “It took us 10 years to find the right properties in the right location, and once we did, we bought two properties in the same week. The idea of having two is a strategic one, for economies of scale purposes when it comes to administration and other functions that can be carried out as one, without any compromise to the operation.” One of these properties lent itself to a number of purposes and trades throughout its known existence, from a former merchant’s residence and shop to housing a company that sold electronic goods. However, grand plans were in store for it once acquired by AX Group, including the restoration and preservation of some of its oldest and most charming features. Chris Paris, Director and Head of Estate and Development of the Group, says that while the building seems to have been constructed in around 1870, indicated by a prominent inscription at the entrance, it was actually built over a previous building, the existence of which has not been tracked yet.
“The building is a typical courtyardcentred house with a number of rooms overlooking the internal court. The entrance, which is a standard design of the period, has a barrel vaulted ceiling that leads onto the courtyard and links the ground floor to the other floors through a formal staircase,” says Mr Paris. “The first floor is the piano nobile, with high ceilings and rooms overlooking Merchants Street. The second floor boasts a big hall which stretches the full width of the building, where the rooms are accessible from the main stairs, with a spiral staircase at the far end that served the back rooms.” Mr Paris asserts that while the main formal staircase was retained, the spiral staircase was beyond repair. However, the façade’s original features were restored to their former splendour, along with a
number of old patterned floor tiles, while two adjacent properties at ground floor on either side of the main entrance were acquired in order to restore the façade to its original formation, thus adding overall value to the property. “Structural works were quite extensive – especially the replacement of damaged timber beams supporting the traditional stone slab ceilings, known as xorok, of a number of floors, while others were preserved and retained. The new ceilings were built to reflect the original ceilings of the building. The courtyard was excavated down to basement level, to allow the spaces at this level to obtain the required natural light and ventilation, but the courtyard ground floor level was then reinstated through the addition of a walk-on glass platform,” says Mr Paris.
“The concept behind The Saint John made it different to what was being offered on the market. We introduced industrial finishes, which is an unexpected touch for a Baroque building in Valletta.” Claire Zammit Xuereb, AX Group Hospitality Director
CC DESIGN TRENDS
Two passenger lifts were installed in the building: one facilitating access to six guest rooms overlooking the façade on Merchants Street, connecting the ground to the first, second and third floors, while the second lift provides access to the remaining 16 rooms at the back, most of which have an internal view of the courtyard spread over five floors.
Three of these back guest rooms have lovely views of Marsamxett Harbour, and a large terrace at fourth floor level provides a relaxing space for al fresco dining or events. At ground floor level, there’s the hotel’s main entrance, reception, and two outlets with a main entrance from the street – the Cheeky Monkey Gastro Pub, which serves breakfast
to guests and is connected to the hotel from the lobby area, as well as the latest addition, Cheeky Monkey Creperie, which will be opening soon. The hotel’s design and décor is unlike many other boutique hotels locally – from its bow tie branding to uncommon pieces of furniture, attention to detail was certainly not spared. FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
CC DESIGN TRENDS “The concept behind The Saint John made it different to what was being offered on the market. We introduced industrial finishes, which is an unexpected touch for a Baroque building in Valletta,” says Ms Zammit Xuereb. “I am a firm believer in well-executed contrasts, and the contrasts indeed created interest. The style we chose also appeals to the audience we are trying to attract: the independent traveller who is after comfort, practicality, luxury, and style.” Mr Paris asserts that integrating modern designs within an existing building always presents challenges, especially when the building has a defined and imposing imprint from the Baroque period. “The result proved to be successful and pleasing, but nevertheless, it was not an easy task. Most of the furniture and fittings had to be custombuilt or fabricated to achieve the level of sophistication we were after, and although the design is industrial in style, it is very refined.” Wherever possible, original patterned floor tiles were retained, thus dictating the choice of colour schemes for most of the guest rooms. “This helped us achieve a balance between the current minimalist trend of single-tone colours and the contrasting colourful, multi-design patterns found in old floors of the period,” says Mr Paris. “The elegant stone mouldings and internal features were painted white against a contrasting dark grey back wall. The use of natural timber for the furniture gave the rooms a comfortable look and feel, complemented by the rich heavy fabrics used for the bedding. The furniture, though mostly in timber, was mixed with raw steelwork, which complemented the industrial look while adding further contrast.” Every room boasts an individual style designed to preserve the historic value of the building, whether set internally with windows facing the hotel’s courtyard, or with a traditional Maltese balcony overlooking pedestrian Merchants Street. Ms Zammit
“The furniture, though mostly in timber, was mixed with raw steelwork, which complemented the industrial look while adding further contrast.” Chris Paris, AX Group Director and Head of Estate and Development
Xuereb adds that the raw materials used characterise the individuality of each room, accentuated by the heavy presence of wood as well as warm fabrics, homely accessories and natural colours that radiate a sense of comfort and luxury. “The colour scheme and materials blended beautifully with the architecture of the place. The Saint John was an in-house project from start to finish, and in the end, it exceeded our very own expectations.” With the hotel’s location at the very heart of Valletta, limited access and logistical constraints made the project’s timeline even more ambitious. “During the construction phase, Malta was entrusted with the EU Presidency, and most of the formal meetings were held at the Grandmaster’s Palace, which is one block away from the hotel, making our work somewhat more challenging,” says Mr Paris. Despite the setbacks, however, The Saint John opened its doors last year, adding another feather to
Valletta’s already-bursting cap. Adding to the peculiar style of The Saint John is its branding, featuring a sartorial twist: bow ties. Ms Zammit Xuereb says she was inspired by Valletta’s greatest jewel, St John’s Co-Cathedral, for the hotel’s name, as well as masculine tones and the exclusive feeling of a club for the hotel’s overall look and feel. “When developing the concept for The Saint John, I wanted to create a personality for the hotel – a style which is primarily masculine but which overlaps into the feminine world, and the bow tie was a right fit. We teamed up with fashion designer brand Cessani to design original bow ties that appeal to the fashion forward, and chose to display them at the entrance of the hotel. As we developed the concept, we got inspired by Helmut Newton’s photography, and chose to display his prints in all our public spaces. It was a finishing touch that complemented the style of the hotel impeccably.” cc
The latest indicators show that 2018’s interiors trends will be all about controlled chaos and embracing imperfections. Marie-Claire Grima finds out how to maximise them in the office. 01. Dark wood Pale, bleached woods have been very popular over the past few years, thanks to the craze for anything Scandi, but 2018 is the year where darker wood tones reclaim their place, signifying a resurgence for retro glamour, and providing a new take on modern office luxury.
02. Botanical prints Like evergreen plants, flowers and botanical prints are always in season, but from a different perspective, they can feel brand-new. From small-scale prints straight out of a forager’s handbook to highly-detailed, monochrome impressions, this is surely the easiest and most stylish way to bring the outdoors in.
03. Violent violet
No, it’s not the green stuff you get with your sushi – wabi-sabi is derived from an ancient Japanese philosophy of making peace with your imperfections. In décor speak, this means cherishing the blemishes and bumps in your surroundings because it’s what makes them beautiful and unique, rather than cookie-cutter copies that are all the same.
05. Mixed metals Mixing metals with different finishes is an instant way to add originality and interest. Furthermore, if you’re doing a total overhaul of your office and want it to look immediately lived-in, combining brass with rose-gold, or gold and silver will create the impression that the contents of the space have been carefully curated and collected over the years.
06. The fifth wall A statement ceiling is the perfect solution if you want a statement wall but don’t have room for one. From bright, contrasting colours, to eye-catching textures and intricate wallpapers – when it comes to statement ceilings, the sky’s the limit! cc
Pantone’s Colour of the Year is ultra-violet, a “dramatically provocative and thoughtful purple that communicates originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking that points us toward the future.” Purple is associated with mindfulness practices, and a pop of violet in the office will give you some respite from when you’re feeling most harried.
03. 02. Lumens
Greystone Statement Interiors
FOOD&WINE Jessica Sepel
03. Peruvian cuisine
From decadent doughnuts to ethnic cuisine, Sarah Micallef dishes up the newest and tastiest food trends to discover. 01. Unique doughnut fillings
01. My Sequined Life
Simple chocolate-glazed doughnuts are so YESTERDAY. Today, our mouths are watering for non-traditional doughnut fillings like banana malt, pear clove, espresso cardamom, custard and even Snickers bars, thanks to trail-blazing doughnut shops like Café Dulce in LA and Donut Papi in Australia. Named one of the top food trends for 2018 by the US’ National Restaurant Association, we can’t wait to sample some of these unique flavours and fillings.
02. Ethnic twist breakfast Millennials’ obsession with ‘doing brunch’ shows no signs of slowing down this year, and the trend has bred all manner of twists and variations on tradition. One exciting variation is putting an ethnic twist on tried-and-tested breakfast classics: think chorizo scrambled eggs and coconut milk pancakes. We can’t think of anything more exciting to wake up to!
While relatively small on the map, Peruvian cuisine is making waves in the food world this year, with three restaurants located in Peru making it into 2018’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants List – one of which even made it into the top five! A sure-fire sign that Peruvian food is on the rise, the South American cuisine is certainly a hot trend to watch out for this year.
04. Protein-rich grains Apart from the protein-packed quinoa, which has been a darling of the food world since 2013, a number of other grains and seeds are making their way into the limelight, including hemp, chia and flax seeds. These protein-rich grains are being added to everything from yoghurt and oatmeal to peanut butter, and will only gain popularity throughout 2018.
05. Edible flowers It’s no surprise that edible flowers are a serious trend in the food world, what with photogenic food being quite so popular! No longer exclusive to fancy restaurants and haute cuisine, edible flowers are also making their way into everyday dishes and drinks, making them look pretty as a picture, while also doubling up as herbs in interesting variations like lavender lattes and rose-flavoured foods.
06. Naked cakes Milk Bar owner Christina Tosi (of MasterChef fame) is credited as one of the first to present naked cakes in her bakery, and the trend has been going strong for some time now. Featuring tiered cakes with unfrosted layers to show the cake’s make-up, these birthday and occasion favourites are everywhere from bakeries and weddings to home cook’s kitchens. cc
02. Food & Wine
Fit Mitten Kitchen
06. FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
Disrupt before you get disrupted More than one in every 10 people in Malta work in the manufacturing sector, and despite its relatively low profile, this sector is undergoing a steady resurgence. Toly CEO Andy Gatesy speaks to Marie-Claire Grima about reinvention, re-shoring and the revolutionary changes shaking up the industry.
anufacturing is not an industry that generally tends to evoke images of futuristic glamour, but a visit to Toly’s innovation centre in Bulebel will quickly change that. Think of almost any beauty brand, from high-end luxe products to budget-friendly pharmacy standards, and chances are that its packaging was devised here in Malta. Toly, which creates innovative packaging for the beauty industry, counts 21 of the top 30 beauty brands in the world amongst its clients. It has offices all across the US, Asia and Europe, and factories in China and South Korea too, but the business is led from Malta, where talented designers dream up the beauty packaging that will dominate virtual and real retail shelves in the FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
months and years to come. Toly was founded by a Hungarian toolmaker named Zoli Gatesy, who fled from his homeland after the 1956 revolution and was accepted as a political refugee in the UK. By the mid-1960s, he had established his own company, building tools and injection moulding for the toy industry, but due to strong overseas competition and worsening labour relations in the UK, was forced to consider an alternative manufacturing location. He and his partners chose Malta, and set up the factory in 1971, which was the first to open up in what is now the Bulebel Industrial Estate. Although the company started out as general trade moulders, by 1975 the firm had developed a number of
custom compacts for the European cosmetics industry, so Dr Gatesy decided to focus the company’s energies fully in this field. “In 1991, I’d estimate that Toly was a €7 million business,” says Andy Gatesy, who took over the company from his father as Chairman and CEO 27 years ago. “We hit €90 million in 2017, growing 29 per cent in that year alone. Our target for this year is to hit €100 million – we thought we’d do it by 2020, but we’re now three years ahead of our goal. Building this innovation centre changed our business. We used to have one customer per month visiting the factory, but nowadays, we have three every single week. When they see what we can do in our innovation and design workshops, they all want to partner with us.” 99
CC INTERVIEW Mr Gatesy says that Toly – which last year won the overall award in the first-ever Malta International Business Awards organised by TradeMalta – is a business that’s reinvented itself multiple times. “We’ve disrupted the traditional packaging business over and over again. In the 1970s, my father used to say Toly was an engineering business. In 1991, I said, ‘we need to change our thinking’ – so we presented ourselves as packaging suppliers that could create a beautiful package for our clients.” “As of 2017, we’re different again – we’re now a solutions provider to the beauty industry. We believe we are the most creative team in this industry, and how have we achieved it? By investing constantly in innovation and creativity. For us, innovation consists of linking new trends with technology with different ways to improve the consumer
experience. Our innovation centre moves directly in line with the way the fast beauty industry is growing, and that is why we’re growing – we’ve managed to create a really agile, diverse business model.” More than one in every 10 people in Malta work full-time in manufacturing, making it the second-biggest sector in terms of employment in Malta, and Mr Gatesy believes the industry is at the start of a renaissance. “Manufacturing in Europe was very tough for a number of years. There haven’t been any new factories built in Malta for 10, maybe 15 years, but all that’s changing. There’s a buzz because of what’s going on, and you can feel it. We’re investing €15 million in opening our second factory in Malta, and so are a number of other manufacturers in Malta, including Playmobil and Crane Currency.”
“There haven’t been any new factories built in Malta for 10, maybe 15 years, but all that’s changing.”
Why is the revival happening now, when so much of Malta’s economy seems to be focused on the tertiary sector? “There are a number of reasons why this is happening. First of all, when we opened up China in 2005, the labour cost was 1:11 – the ‘China price’. China was the factory of the world. Today, the labour ratio has risen to 1:2, so costs have gone up a lot. Second, there’s the dollar-euro exchange rate, which changed from 1.4:1 to 1.1:1 USD vs EUR. At 1.4:1, Malta was around 30 per cent more expensive, but at 1.1:1, a lot of this price difference was wiped out. When you take into account freight and duty, businesses started to realise that products in Europe can be made at almost the same price. Third, there’s the issue of supply-chain agility. The time it takes to have products made in China, put on a boat, and sent here is around six weeks, and in industries like ours, where so much depends on agility and immediate reactions to trends, that length of time is unacceptable.” “Fourth, lots of companies are starting to re-shore. We’re hearing the same thing from lots of different brands. The world is FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
adopting a more protectionist approach – look at Brexit, and at Donald Trump – he’s encouraging manufacturers to stay in the US, talking about trade tariffs, and building walls. The shift to offshore is turning around. Last, there’s the question of sustainability. Many brands are saying that they want to make a serious commitment to sustainability. Is it sustainable practice to make products halfway across the world and then ship them back to your country just because it’s cheaper? Of course not.” Mr Gatesy is realistic about the challenges facing the industry in Malta. “It’s tough to manufacture here because we have some major disadvantages. Locally, we have no suppliers and we have no customers. We have to import all our raw materials, convert them into products and export them again for sale.” Additionally, while he believes that Maltese authorities and Government bodies are generally supportive of the industry, he says that the European Union’s rules can put a damper on growth. “If Maltese manufacturers, through Government support, start offering
something that major European manufacturers like Italy, Germany or UK aren’t offering, the EU will come out and say that it isn’t allowed because of the EU’s state aid rules. The Malta Chamber has been trying to lobby and influence the EU to change its rules on state aid for Malta, but it’s very, very difficult to influence the European Union. As for applying for EU funds, just forget it – it costs more in compliance than the money you’ll end up getting. Small companies that want to be agile don’t have time to go through all that bureaucracy.” At the same time, he believes that Malta has a number of unexpected advantages, including its miniature size. “Size can be an advantage if you use it the right way. With our new factory, we’re giving up three units because we’re going higher, rather than wider. You can easily triple Malta’s manufacturing facility by building up instead of out. Plus, with Malta being so small, everybody on the island is an active stakeholder in order to make the country more successful. 103
CC INTERVIEW And don’t underestimate the skills of the Maltese workforce either – Maltese people are smart, hardworking, loyal, talented, and creative.” Manufacturing also has one of the most diverse workforces in terms of nationalities – 12 per cent of those who work in the industry are expats. At Toly alone, Mr Gatesy says that around 15 different nationalities are represented within the workforce. “Malta has a great quality of life, it’s a safe place to live, the weather is fantastic, and the distances are short. The only problem I see is that with the new factories opening up, each company will be trying to take each other’s people, particularly those who are technically skilled, at least until the equilibrium settles down. We’ve been very vocal in saying that we need to relax the restrictions on bringing in people, both EU and non-EU nationals, and allowing them to work here – otherwise we’ll be choked.” The major developments that Mr Gatesy believes will have an impact on the longterm future of manufacturing include increased awareness and outcry about plastics pollution – “there’s a whole industry that can disappear if certain materials are banned”; advances in 3D printing technology – “I’m convinced that in 20 years, our entire manufacturing process will have been replaced with 3D printing”; and China’s new role in the global manufacturing landscape, as it now focuses on developing its own internal market instead of making products to sell to the rest of the world. “As long as Malta finds a way to support manufacturing and offset the disadvantages,
“With Malta being so small, everybody on the island is an active stakeholder in order to make the country more successful.”
I believe there’s a good future for manufacturing on the island. But if it doesn’t, if it ignores manufacturing and doesn’t invest enough in it, there’s a good chance
manufacturing will disappear completely. We’ve seen it happen in the UK – it could happen here, too. We have to disrupt, before we get disrupted.” cc
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HSBC Premier customers off to enjoy a Mastercard Priceless Experience Following the launch of the HSBC Premier World Contactless Mastercard in Malta, HSBC hosted a number of its customers at the Hilton Quarterdeck Bar, where the evening turned into something extra special for two HSBC Premier customers. Following a draw held during the event, Herald Bonnici and Renald Theuma each won a Mastercard Priceless Experience. The winners, together with a guest, will enjoy a four-day holiday which includes flights, luxury accommodation, transport, a private tour of the host city, exclusive meals in top-end restaurants, a €150 pre-paid Mastercard card and tickets to a Champions’ League semi-final. Senior officials from Mastercard Europe, HSBC Malta and other guests were present for the event. HSBC was the first major bank to launch contactless cards in Malta and HSBC Premier customers were the first of HSBC’s customers
The four biggest AML D4 risks for iGaming companies Last June’s introduction of EU Directive 2015/849, better known as the 4th Anti-money Laundering directive (AML D4), brought about a sea change in the way iGaming companies treat risk – and it’s vital that compliance professionals bring themselves up to speed. Failure to adequately comply with AML regulations could result in regulatory penalties, bad press, and a massive loss of consumer trust. Whilst all the items on the AML D4 list are important, here’s a list of the four biggest risk factors that compliance teams have to manage.
From left: Aspa Palimeri, Herald Bonnici, Nathalie Ellul, Renald Theuma and HSBC Malta CEO Andrew Beane
to benefit from this technology. The bank will roll out contactless cards to all its customers in the near future. Contactless technology allows customers a faster, more convenient way to pay for just about anything under €25 simply by tapping their card on a point of sale machine. The new Premier World Mastercard gives cardholders access to the Mastercard World programme through which they can enjoy enhanced travel experiences, rewards, protection and assistance in the event of losing their card. “Whether you are a frequent traveller or prefer the luxuries available at home, the Mastercard World card is an excellent benefit to HSBC Malta’s Premier customers,” said Aspa Palimeri, Country Manager Greece, Cyprus and Malta, Mastercard Europe.
Sergio Bellizzi, HSBC Head of Customer Value Management, said: “HSBC’s relationship with Mastercard is a long-standing one and enabled us to be the first major bank in Malta to roll out contactless technology for our Premier customers. Through Mastercard’s World Programme we are able to offer our Premier customers a credit card that provides enhanced travel experiences and rewards worldwide.” cc
1. PEPs as owners, beneficial owners, or people of significant control One of the AML D4 risk guidelines warns that when compliance professionals are contemplating their involvement with a company, they should be on the lookout for any possible associations that the proposed client or business partner might have with politically exposed persons (PEPs). Finding out if the company itself, its owners, directors, or persons of significant control (PSCs) are PEPs is crucial.
companies are advised to ensure that they have solid due diligence procedures in place to ensure that they are aware of the sectors in which any potential partners or customers operate.
2. Cash-rich industries According to the AML D4 guidelines, companies should avoid becoming involved with businesses that have links to sectors that involve significant amounts of cash and/ or their beneficial owners. It’s important to understand that cash is hard to trace and is therefore favoured by money launderers. Cash transactions are among the simplest methods to transform ill-gotten gains into money that appears above-board. 3. Business interests or dealings in certain high-risk sectors The AML D4 guidelines stratify corruption risk levels according to certain economic sectors. As far as the assessment and avoidance of risk is concerned, according to the AML D4 guidelines, not all industries are equal. iGaming
HSBC Premier is an exclusive banking service, tailored to individual financial needs and providing internationally-minded customers with access to global banking and expertise in over 40 countries and territories. More information about HSBC Premier and HSBC Premier Mastercard World can be obtained by calling the dedicated contact centre on 2148 9100.
4. Adverse media reports from credible news outlets The AML D4 guidelines suggest keeping an eye out for negative stories about potential business partners or customers in news items which include allegations of criminality or terrorism, whether proven or not. Likewise, if any company or its beneficial owner, or anyone significantly associated with the company is reported to have been subject to an asset freeze due to criminal proceedings or allegations of terrorism or terrorist financing, this should set alarm bells ringing for compliance professionals. AML D4 Transaction Monitoring Learn how AXON enables you to automate and optimise your regulatory and compliance functions by tracking and reporting on critical data in real-time. This provides a major benefit in time saving, versus a manual process where you are limited to performing individual checks on each data source. cc Contact Computime Software on T: +356 2149 0700; E: email@example.com; www.computimesoftware.com/axon-gaming 107
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An exclusive collection of brands Apart from being renowned for its gorgeous selection of jewellery, GB Jewellers also prides itself on offering a vast range of watches. We provide our clientele with an array of exclusive brands. Three of these premium brands are Eterna, Jowissa and Jacques Lemans. Each name has its own set of unique qualities, all representing the highest standards in watchmaking. At GB Jewellers, we not only work tirelessly to offer excellent products, but also ensure to deliver second-to-none after-sales service: from a Swiss battery replacement to the best-quality watch strap replacement by Hirsch. Eterna Synonymous with timepieces of the highest quality, Eterna is the epitome of Swiss watch-making tradition, with an outstanding spirit of innovation. The passionate desire to master horological challenges and the need to incessantly improve existing features has
been the driving force behind Eterna since 1856. Nowadays, Eterna still manages to maintain this ingenious creativity, fashioning its own in-house calibre movements. The current collections reflect the brand’s respect for tradition, together with Eterna’s commitment to pioneer new designs and movement technologies. Jowissa Founded in 1951, in the Swiss town of Bettlach – within a region which has long been celebrated for the art of watchmaking, Jowissa crafts watches which are exceptional in style and design; from its classic Roma collection to its unique Facet collection. Jowissa is an up-market brand, offering a diverse range of Swiss-made watches for both men and women, with an affordable price tag and superlative design. Jacques Lemans Jacques Lemans is an international watch producer, offering top quality and reasonable prices. Jacques Lemans watches are outstanding; owing to their premium manufacturing, absolute reliability, innovative technique and above all, sophisticated elegance. The Jacques Lemans collection exudes
classiness, offering versatile styles for men and women which vary from retro to classic and casual to avant-garde – there is quite literally a watch for everyone and anyone who appreciates high quality and elegance. cc At GB Jewellers, our products embody quality, style, and uniqueness. Couple such attributes with great after-sales service, and you have yourself a winning customer experience! To view our range of watches, visit us at Micallef Watch Dealer in Valletta and GB Jewellers. cc GB Jewellers – 451, Fleur-De-Lys Road, Birkirkara; GB Jewellers – 156A, The Strand, Gzira; Micallef Watch Dealer – Zachary Street, Valletta. T: 2149 9679; E: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Risk management in mutual funds Dorianne Tabone Risk Manager - BOV Asset Management Ltd
Risk is an integral part of our lives and the same applies to investments. Generally, high risk assets offer high potential returns and vice-versa. An investor is classified as a conservative, assertive or an aggressive investor depending on his/her risk appetite which in turn is determined by the current scenario, past experience, future outlook and investment attitude. Based on one’s risk appetite, one must attempt to enhance the value of the investment through prudent risk management. The key to investing wisely is not eliminating risk but garnering the ability to manage it. For a retail investor, an optimal way to manage risks is by investing in mutual funds. A mutual fund is not an investment in itself, but an investment vehicle, that allows the investor to get a slice of various asset classes such as equity, debt and even real estate and gold. UCITS is a term that applies to the majority of mutual funds in Europe that are offered to retail investors. Investors in UCITS funds benefit
from mandatory diversification of assets, assurance that the fund’s assets are held at an independent custodian bank, as well as easy to buy (subscribe) or sell (redeem) fund units, and the cost or proceeds correspond to the value of the investor’s share of the fund assets, subject to any fees and commission charges. As clearly stated by CESR in the Risk Management Principles for UCITS, the risk management function in a UCITS company should operate in accordance with adequate standards of competence and efficiency. This function is hierarchically and functionally independent from the operating units and reports directly to the Board of Directors and Senior Management. The function should be appropriate and proportionate in view of the nature, scale and complexity of the company’s business and of the UCITS it manages. This segregation provides the retail investor with greater comfort that the investments are being managed with a target return within an adequate risk management framework. Investments and risks always go hand in hand, but if one uses mutual funds well as an investment route, one may protect oneself adequately from the many market risks. Risk management and proper asset allocation that are in sync with one’s financial plan, will help to minimise losses and maximise profits. cc
Disclaimer: The writer and the Company have obtained the information contained in this document from sources they believe to be reliable but they have not independently verified the information contained herein and therefore its accuracy cannot be guaranteed. The writer and the Company make no guarantees, representations or warranties and accept no responsibility or liability as to the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in this document. They have no obligation to update, modify or amend this article or to otherwise notify a reader thereof in the event that any matter stated therein, or any opinion, projection, forecast or estimate set for the herein changes or subsequently becomes inaccurate. Investments should be based on the full details of the Vilhena and BOV Investment Funds Prospectus, Offering Supplements and the Key Investor Information Document, which may be obtained from BOV Asset Management Limited, Bank of Valletta p.l.c. Branches and Investment Centres and other licensed financial intermediaries. Furthermore, past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results. BOV Asset Management Limited is licensed to conduct investment services by the Malta Financial Services Authority. Vilhena Funds SICAV plc licensed by the MFSA and qualifies as a UCITS. Issued by BOV Asset Management Limited, registered address 58, Triq San Żakkarija, Il-Belt Valletta, VLT 1130, Malta. Tel: 2122 7311, Fax: 2275 5661, E-mail: email@example.com, Website: www. bovassetmanagement.com. Source: BOV Asset Management Limited.
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Leading players across sectors Established more than 100 years ago, the company Joseph Cachia & Son Ltd is a member of the M. Demajo Group. It has strong business relationships with leading suppliers, some of whom it has teamed up with to successfully bid for large-scale tenders involving complex infrastructural projects in the fields of energy, the environment and security. Among the various prestigious projects within Joseph Cachia & Son Ltd’s portfolio, one finds Malta’s first biological sewage treatment plant, the first two boilers at the Delimara power station, sophisticated airmonitoring stations as well as the nationwide installation of low-flow water meters. The Malta to Sicily power interconnector, one of the island’s high-value infrastructural projects is the latest in its accomplishments and testament to the company’s position as one of the leading players in the energy sector.
JCS has also been involved in the supply of various security-related products, such as the Malta Driving License Cards, Maltese (Biometric) Passports and the National Identity Management System (NIDMS) for Malta. Another business interest of JCS is the supply and distribution of special products such as money-handling machines, queuing systems, road lighting, light fixtures, power and communication cables, noise pollution and air monitoring equipment and guardrails to commercial and industrial entities and niche market segments. Additionally, the company also provides sustainable energy solutions for both the trade and consumer markets. Apart from representing world renowned brands and companies, one of the key strengths of Joseph Cachia & Son Ltd lies in its fully-trained technical team, providing a 24-hour round the clock maintenance and support service. It is ultimately on the basis of this, coupled with the company’s years of extensive experience, that it has built a success story across Malta’s various economic sectors, by managing, delivering and maintaining large complex projects and equipment to its customers’ full satisfaction. cc
Maronna Filletti, Executive Director
firstname.lastname@example.org; T: +356 2552 9000; F: +356 2552 2882; Demajo House, 103, Archbishop Street, Valletta, VLT1446, Malta www.jcs.com.mt/www.demajo.com
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MaltaPost extends its SendOn service to cater for priority shipping from France Intended to enable clients to shop from stores which do not ship directly to Malta, SendOn is now offering a priority shipping service from France. Clients can now shop from stores located in France and have their shipping transfered to MaltaPost’s priorty hubs, where they will be forwarded to Malta. This offers a logistical solution at a cost-effective price, starting from just €6 and with a short
delivery period of seven business days. MaltaPost will then deliver the shopping straight to the client’s chosen delivery
address, or to one of the nationwide network of 24/7 Parcel Lockers positioned in various localities around Malta and Gozo. Online shoppers who wish to use SendOn simply need to complete the registration form available online at www.maltapost.com/sendon. Following sign up, customers will receive a reply via email with a unique generated code and addresses. Clients then simply need to send the purchased item to one of the SendOn addresses that they wish to forward their items to, together with their full name and unique SendOn code. SendOn is the popular delivery medium for individuals and businesses which require consignments of different sizes to be delivered from the UK, Europe, USA and China to Malta in a safe and costeffective manner. To calculate the cost of shipping, the SendOn website also provides an easy-to-use calculator. Insurance options per consignment are also available for greater peace of mind. cc Maximum permissible weight, dimensions and other restrictions may apply. More information about this service is available at www.maltapost.com/sendon or from MaltaPost Customer Care on 2122 4421 and email@example.com
CC MEET THE ARTIST
An intimate portrait of lives
he studio is a place of alchemy and magic, where you can uncover secrets and new possibilities,” portrait artist Philippa Bianchi says, as she shows us into a room filled with canvases, sketches and an assortment of artist’s tools. The great-granddaughter of famed artist Giuseppe Cali, Philippa sees in painting the captivating power of personal and artistic discovery, and is thrilled by the pursuit ‘’to create exciting paintings”. And her paintings are more than exciting. They are more than life-like. Her intimate portraits of famed and notable individuals – 116
politicians, cardinals, members of European aristocracy – gaze back at us and help us see her familiar subjects anew. There’s a truth in her artistic strokes, which only comes from years of dedication. A life spent in service. “It’s a full-time way of being. It’s allencompassing and demands your every attention mentally, emotionally and physically. The more you keep growing, the more engrossed you are likely to become,” she tells me as we discuss her work a bit later in her family living room, with paintings by her great-grandfather adorning the walls. Like most portrait artists, she works on
Photo by Inigo Taylor
After living on the move for years, portrait artist Philippa Bianchi is finally back home. Rebecca Anastasi catches up with her to talk about the excitement of new discoveries, and the way her art strives to honour her subject’s achievements and humanity.
CC MEET THE ARTIST commission, her paintings as she describes are “a celebration of lives” and “a way of honouring people’s achievements and what they stand for”. But, there is no implied pressure to simply flatter her subjects. Rather, she sees her sitters as belonging to an arena of action where they do more than just sit for her. “I’ve started to see my subjects more as people who are doers, rather than as sitters; therefore instead of perceiving someone by title, I try to think of them by verb. For example, for my current commissions, in particular the Cardinal, I am portraying him as ‘believer’; an ambassador would be as ‘negotiator’; the former university rector as ‘visionary’. This immediately places them in
a realm of raison d’être and I like this idea of placing people in this context of a personal role.” Maybe this is because Philippa herself is a woman of action, having spent her formative years away from the island she called home. “I’ve mostly lived out of two suitcases and constantly travelled with tubes of canvas on my back. The experience of being gypsy-like for so many years has been challenging and I’ve often had to find a new way to work, be it off a dining table or a kitchen counter.” She describes some of the extraordinary places she has worked in, from a back room in St Thomas and Guy’s Hospital, with a ladder as her easel, as well as backstage at the Royal Opera House in London.
Cardinal Prospero Grech, Oil on canvas, 150 x 106 cm, 2017
Photo by Inigo Taylor
“The studio is a place of alchemy and magic, where you can uncover secrets and new possibilities.”
CC MEET THE ARTIST “had to do something sensible and reliable”, for the art form was “not going to suffice as a source of income and security.” The initial idea was for her to become a designer – a trade which is intricately linked to industry – and so she reluctantly went through “four gruelling years of study” in London, all the while keen on furthering her education in a more haloed form: painting. She recalls the pact she made with her father: “if I’m going to get through this and graduate, I am going to go to Italy to become a painter. He said you have a deal.” And, that is exactly what happened. An apprenticeship in traditional atelier painting in Florence followed her years in London. Today, she looks back on her time in both countries as being equally essential. “My training in Italy was very much placed in the past, and I think London and this design school (Central St Martin’s College of Art) is placed firmly in the future and focused on creative thinking. It taught me how to push boundaries and this is important for growth. Two particularly helpful tools were learning to work towards a brief and learning to collaborate with other practitioners.” Indeed, it is this collaboration and creativity that is the cornerstone of sustainable artistic endeavours according to Philippa. She advocates embarking on “a system of productivity”, emphasising the necessity to “find the demand and to supply”, stating that, today, most successful artists are highly organised individuals.
Madame Brigitte Hottinguer, Oil on canvas, 92 x 120 cm, 2012
Mrs Anne Cole, Oil on canvas, 100 x 80 cm, 2017
Indeed, while the places and faces have changed, art has been a constant, ever since Philippa was a child. But, was it her esteemed family heritage which inspired her to take up the form? “Well for me, it is not so much works of art or things that influenced me growing up, but rather people in my life, their enthusiasm for art, and their stories surrounding art that left me in wonderment, and to whom I am most grateful.” She mentions her uncle, Nicholas de Piro, whom she calls “a great preserver of stories and of art history”, and her greatgrandfather, Giuseppe Cali, as formative influences. She recalls her grandmother 118
talking about Cali, his process of working and his temperament “and just feeling in awe of this man and thinking he was a hero,” she says. But, it is also the women in her life who seem to have been a great source of inspiration. She has fond memories of being invited into her aunt’s studio “with a lot of enthusiasm” and being asked “my humble opinion on her painting”. “I was in admiration of my aunt, of her smile and her happiness as a painter. I wanted to be just like her,” she smiles. However, the plan was for her not to become a painter, being advised that she FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
Photo by Inigo Taylor
CC MEET THE ARTIST
“For me, it is not so much works of art or things that influenced me growing up, but rather people in my life, their enthusiasm for art, and their stories surrounding art that left me in wonderment, and to whom I am most grateful.” Dr Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, President of Malta, Oil on canvas, 150 x 110 cm, 2016
She believes this is the key to creativity since “the story of art is not separate from patronage and societal need, so once you embark on this system, new ways of painting will be enlightened to you over time.” The ability to cater to specific demands – in an imaginative manner, and without ever compromising on quality – is essential in her view. “I think that you have to do your best to seek the demand, but not drop your standards of work. As a crude example, if someone came along and said, ‘I have a blue sofa and I want a blue painting to match it’, instead of thinking to yourself ‘how ghastly!’ you might be able to say ‘’well, I’ve always wanted to paint the sea!” For Philippa, flexibility is a source of inspiration, in much the same way as other artists and stories. Having moved to Boston after Italy, she discovered the American artist John Singer Sargent and the Boston school of painters. The Renaissance painter FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018
Raphael is also a big influence “because of the beautiful radiant light and colours in his work”, as are female painters who have had to confront “certain life challenges and how they’ve put that into their work.” She mentions the American Georgia O’Keeffe and Mexican painter Frida Kahlo as being particularly formative. Places and cultures have also stirred Philippa’s artistic sensibilities and affected her development as an artist. She calls Mexico, a country she settled in for four years, “a spiritual home”. Their “unapologetic use of colour”, which has made her work bolder, moreover, and their large-scale paintings encouraged her to go bigger in scale. But, after 21 years living abroad, she has now returned home to plant some roots. As a result, she has noticed a change in her work, discerning a more introspective quality to the paintings she’s producing.
Mr Anthony Mizzi (posthumous), Director Alf. Mizzi, Oil on canvas, 70 x 90 cm, 2017
CC MEET THE ARTIST
Photo by Inigo Taylor
“The excitement is in feeling that you are starting to create a new language with what you’re doing. It’s a competition with yourself, and not with other painters.” Dr Lawrence Gonzi, Prime Minister of Malta, Oil on canvas, 140 x 110 cm, 2015
Photo by Inigo Taylor
“Because there is less adrenalin in my life here in Malta, I am able to take more risks in the studio. My style is freeing up into its own calligraphy. My subjects are less literal and progressing into outward expressions of internal beings,” she describes. Yet, it is still the thrill of creating a new way of seeing which stirs her. “The excitement is in feeling that you are starting to create a new language with what you’re doing. It’s a competition with yourself, and not with other painters. You go in every day and you ask: ‘How can I be better today? How can I grow today?’’’ She now has a busy year ahead, with several back-to-back commissions from clients in Malta, Rome and Paris, and is also in the process of designing a new studio in Balzan, another source of great motivation. “When you have worked for so long in borrowed, makeshift rooms, the chance of having your own studio space and the ability to spread out is such an incredible opportunity. ”The larger space, she hopes, will enable her to expand her practice “and work on three metre canvases”, as well as potentially employ other people. But, what is most striking about Philippa is her feeling of being at ease. She seems content to be back on the island, comfortable settling into a role and an identity she had never forgotten. “I am happy for now to base myself in Malta, surrounded by southern light, olive trees and pushing the boundaries in my casa bottega. I am ready to plant a seed and watch it grow.” cc 122
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