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Life in colour

Luciano Micallef’s distinct style










118. 86 IN DEPTH SPOTLIGHT ON: MALTA’S BOOMING LOGISTICS SECTOR Jo Caruana chats to some of its key stakeholders to discover what future a boom in the sector may hold, as well as what the recent Malta Free Zones Bill could mean for the island.








From global trade wars to the slowdown of the local property market, Jo Caruana asks: does the end of 2019 spell trouble for the economy?

Jo Caruana consults the experts to determine what we might expect from the short-term future of this vital pillar of our economy.


27 IN FIGURES PROPERTY… IN NUMBERS A look into the figures related to property in Malta.



Rebecca Anastasi speaks to six female business leaders about leaning in and smashing the glass ceiling, asking: can we bridge that gap?


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 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 month of September 2019. Articles appearing in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission of the publishers is strictly prohibited.

THE MAKING OF VALLETTA’S NEWEST LUXURY HOTEL Sarah Micallef speaks with the creative minds behind the design of the elegant AX Rosselli Privilege Michael Pace and Nikki Muscat to find out what went into the making of Valletta’s first five-star hotel.

118 MEET THE ARTIST SEEING THE WORLD IN COLOUR Martina Said meets prolific abstract artist Luciano Micallef to learn about his decadeslong career, his approach to his trade, and how his distinctive and inimitable style came to be.

The Exchange, Republic Street, Valletta VLT1117 Tel: +356 2123 3873 Fax: +356 2124 5223 EDITOR

Kevin J. Borg Editorial Coordinators

Sarah Micallef Edward Bonello Publisher

Content House Ltd Mallia Building, 3, Level 2, Triq in-Negozju, Central Business District, Birkirkara CBD3010 Tel: +356 2132 0713




Jean Mark Meli Matthew Sciriha sales coordinator

Sue Ann Pisani Tel: +356 2132 0713 Design

Antoinette Micallef

ON THE COVER Painting by Luciano Micallef

Malta chamber’s bronze collaborating partners SEPTEMBER 2019


CC Editorial

Competitiveness, alternative transportation, respectful construction industry and investment in RDI characterise Chamber proposals for pre-Budget 2020 As a proactive social partner, the Malta Chamber has presented Government with a document compiling its proposals for the Budget for 2020, which the Minister for Finance is expected to announce this coming October.


he document focuses on six main issues which the Malta Chamber deems to be of crucial importance and which warrant Government’s immediate attention, namely the Increased labour costs, alternative modes of transport, the rental market reform, the financial services sector, the construction sector and RDI. The Malta Chamber has taken note of the current buoyant economy, characterised by unprecedented growth rates, consecutive fiscal surpluses and full employment. Malta’s economy grew by 6.7 per cent in 2018, making it the fifth year in a row in which


real GDP has grown by over five per cent. with forecasts showing that it will retain this growth trajectory over this year and 2020. The Chamber, however, also warned of forecasts which appear to point towards relatively slower rates of economic growth in the years to come. The lower expansion rates could be caused by higher rates of inflation, which in turn could be explained by wage pressures brought about by the situation of acute labour shortages experienced for the past years. This situation, along with other factors that contribute to national competitiveness, ought to be given due

attention in order to safeguard the buoyant rates of growth which our economic operators have become accustomed to in recent years. With this long-term view, the Malta Chamber has made a series of recommendations to safeguard our businesses’ competitiveness and the country’s broader economic growth. In this respect, the Chamber warned about Increased labour costs that were impacting businesses’ competitiveness. The continuous extension of leave allowances, increased labour mobility and shortage of labour were SEPTEMBER 2019

CC Editorial

all having a negative impact on increased labour costs. The Chamber warned that these were directly impacting businesses’ competitiveness, especially those sectors which were competing on the international market. “Increased labour costs have by far become the number one challenge for most businesses operating in Malta,” the document warned. With this in mind, and in the immediate term, the Chamber recommended to carry out a thorough analysis of wage inflation visà-vis productivity. The Chamber once again said that Malta needed to aspire for an industry vision-driven educational system, which prepared our students for the jobs expected to be available tomorrow. Such an educational system, through synergies created with the foremost leaders of the private sector, would take into account the fact that tomorrow’s economy is expected to become increasingly driven by technology and Artificial Intelligence. The Chamber also reiterated the importance of alternative modes of transportation, placing an emphasis on the solutions of mass transportation and shared SEPTEMBER 2019

mobility. While welcoming Government’s drive to re-invest heavily in the country’s ageing infrastructure, the Chamber pointed out that more needed to be done to encourage alternative modes of transport other than the one-car-one-driver model. Among other proposals, the Chamber recommended improved fiscal incentives for businesses which offered collective transportation to employees. The Chamber believes that the support of shared or collective mobility solutions should be increased further in order to incentivise employers and employees alike to shift to this form of transport system. In the document, the Chamber was once again vociferous about the need for a holistic reform in the rental market. Having gone on record saying that the latest proposed amendments fell short of solving any of the issues faced in the accommodation market, the Chamber reiterated that the rent market required a holistic approach, one which would tackle residential commercial leases and leases which pre-date the 1995 liberalisation of the rental market. Focusing on the financial services sector, the Chamber also underlined the need for this key sector to restore its image and reputation on the international dashboard. In fact, the document recommended the immediate and tangible implementation of the Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) strategy without further delays which would be coupled with adequate human and financial resources to make sure that due diligence is carried out by all financial operators. The Chamber also expressed itself on the need for the country to elevate the Maltese construction and development sector, while respecting third parties and the environment. Fully cognisant of the fact that the construction and development sector employed thousands of workers, and contributed extensively to the economy, recent accidents on building sites could not be ignored as they were seen as the ultimate

proof that the sector needs to be addressed forthwith. With this goal in mind, the Chamber proposed a complete overhaul of the current building and construction regulatory framework to establish one modern and clear body of laws. The pre-Budget document also called on Government to oblige all building contractors to join the Considerate Contractors’ Scheme that is audited by an independent and professional body and that is set on clear and strong ethical values. In so doing, respect for third parties and the environment would be addressed correctly. The immediate setting up of the new Building and Construction Authority with adequate budgets and resources to support its tangible contribution to this dire industry was also considered an absolute priority. Finally, the Chamber noted that the expenditure for Research, Development and Innovation needed to be increased, as Malta was seriously lagging behind in terms of expenditure on this sector, as well as the number of post-secondary and tertiary graduates in STEM-related fields when compared to other European Union countries. Hence the Chamber strongly recommended that Malta establishes a new Maltese Research Fund for competitive funding of basic and applied research, to be managed by MCST, as well as a serious and tangible increase in budget for the MCST-run programme ‘Fusion’ in order for it to fully attain the desired results. In conclusion, this year, the Chamber intentionally chose to keep its pre-Budget recommendations short and focused on the areas it has identified as the ones that needed Government’s crucial and immediate attention most. This placed special emphasis on the key proposals which the Chamber believed should be a priority for the country in terms of economic growth and quality of life. The Chamber remains eager to discuss its positions with Government and other social partners, as well as amplify on its views, providing its expert opinions on matters of competitiveness and economic growth, for the benefit of the country at large. cc



Construction: Is there a sustainable way forward? Malta’s construction industry has been thrust into the spotlight recently, both in terms of its safety and sustainability. Here, Jo Caruana consults the experts to determine what we might expect from the short-term future of this vital pillar of our economy, as well as what new regulations mean for the sector and its operators.


uilding collapses. Tragedies on site. Unskilled workers. These are just some of the recent headlines that have highlighted questions around the safety, viability and sustainability of Malta’s construction sector. And they are issues that have already led to action in some respects – not least the implementation of the new Avoidance of Damage to Third Party Property Regulations that set out to ensure that, before the start of any demolition, excavation, or construction works, steps are taken to SEPTEMBER 2019

minimise the risk of damages to third party property or injury to people involved. Explaining the regulations, Chris Agius, Parliamentary Secretary for Planning and the Property Market, says that the Building Regulation Office, along with the Malta Developers’ Association, has started to compile information on contractors that provide excavation and demolition services. “Over the past few months, we have been working with all the necessary stakeholders to prepare the regulations needed for this sector to keep growing, but with all the

safeguards in place for third party rights,” he says. “The Avoidance of Damage to Third Party Property Regulations were enacted recently, and we have since also started registering contractors – a process that will lead to new regulations that will eventually ensure all contractors are registered and will only perform the activities they are registered for. Beyond that, we are also at an advanced stage when it comes to the implementation of the Building and Construction Authority.” 17


“We are currently exposed to the ridiculous situation where one is required to have a licence to sell ice-cream, but not to demolish buildings and excavate sites!” – Simone Vella Lenicker, President, Chamber of Architects and Civil Engineers

When contacted by The Commercial Courier for a comment about the regulations and wider construction sector, the Planning Authority declined to comment. Meanwhile, not everyone in the sector has been convinced by the new regulations, or that enough is being done to safeguard the industry. “They were drafted hastily in the wake of the collapse of three buildings abutting construction sites,” says Simone Vella Lenicker, President of the Chamber of Architects and Civil Engineers. “While acknowledging that these incidents highlighted serious issues within the industry, and caused great distress to all concerned, it is our firm opinion that the new regulations are not the answer.”

“The ethical standards and quality of our construction industry need to be raised immediately and brought in line with those in other developed countries.” – David Xuereb, President, Malta Chamber 18



Perit Vella Lenicker stresses that the new law confuses the internationally- and locally-adopted contractual relationships that clearly delineate lines of responsibility between the developer who commissions a project, the architect and engineer who are engaged to design it, and the contractor engaged to execute the project, by introducing a new figure – the Site Technical Officer (STO). “This new role, which assumes responsibility on behalf of the contractor to ensure that the specifications issued by the architect and engineer are adhered to, is still not properly defined. The law, however, clearly places certain responsibilities previously borne by the contractor at law onto the STO.” “While the intentions of the new


“Regulations will eventually ensure all contractors are registered and will only perform the activities they are registered for.” – Chris Agius, Parliamentary Secretary for Planning and the Property Market

legislation were to assure better safety and to clarify roles on construction sites, the lack of a proper consultation period led to an upheaval in the industry that could have easily been avoided,” she argues. “It is important to note that the scheme set up by the MDA is not a register as required by the Building Regulation Act (BRO). Rather, it is a listing or directory of contractors who voluntarily provided their

details to the MDA for publication. Various details required to be published in line with the services in the Internal Market Directive are not being made public, thus the use and validity of this listing is questionable. Moreover, appearing on this directory provides no assurance to the public about the competence of the contractors appearing on this list,” she continues.


CC COVER STORY “That said, the Government has committed itself to undertake obligatory registration, licensing and the classification of contractors within the coming months, and contractors will only be permitted to work if they are duly registered and licensed. We are currently exposed to the ridiculous situation where one is required to have a licence to sell ice-cream, but not to demolish buildings and excavate sites!” Meanwhile, leading architect, Dean of the Faculty for the Built Environment at the University of Malta and President of Din L-Art Helwa, Alex Torpiano, goes on to say that on top of what has just been highlighted here, there are many other issues that the construction industry has to contend with at the moment. “The industry is a big ‘machine’ that is difficult to stop, or even to slow down,” he says. “The financial interests are too great, and the operators of this ‘machine’ too powerful to be distracted from the business of making big money, as quickly as possible, by exploiting the loopholes of our paper policies. On top of that, our construction laws are weak and incomplete – and sometimes contradictory – even if they were to be rigorously applied, which they are not.” “However, the biggest weakness in our construction and planning rules is that they are conceptually under-pinned by the perception of the ‘rights’ of an owner to develop his property to obtain the maximum return. Therefore, any constraint to this ‘right’ has to be compensated for. In truth, a planning permit should be understood for what it is – permission by the community to undertake a project. There is no intrinsic right to development; otherwise, permission would not be required. Such permission has the power to make some people very rich; and, obviously, withholding it loses such opportunities for others. The benefit of the project to the community, and, therefore, of the permission to undertake it, is not sufficiently emphasised in our laws and regulations. Permits should be intended to allow development that is beneficial to the whole community,” he contends. Zoning in on the quality and ethical standards that the construction industry should have, David Xuereb, President of the Malta Chamber, explains that the Chamber has already gone on record on several occasions stating that the sector, as a whole, needs to ‘step it up a few longawaited notches’. “We have promoted and facilitated the introduction of the Considerate Contractor Scheme to Malta and with the authorities,” he says. “The scheme was intended to bring about a serious, tangible and credible improvement in standards within the Maltese construction industry and the infrastructure that supports all other industries. On other occasions, we have SEPTEMBER 2019

“Permits should be intended to allow development that is beneficial to the whole community.” – Prof. Alex Torpiano, Dean, Faculty for the Built Environment at the University of Malta and President, Din L-Art Helwa

argued and promoted increased regulation and more comprehensive legislation that tangibly improve the professionalism of all activities that form part of the industry.” Moving forward, Perit Xuereb says there is no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to making improvements in the sector. “We should draw example from successful case studies, and adapt and implement what we have learnt without further delay.” “It makes sense that any developments so far should only be the first steps on a target-driven journey of raising quality standards and upholding ethical operations in the very active construction industry. We steadfastly believe that the ethical standards and quality of our construction industry need to be raised immediately and brought in line with those in other developed countries. Our citizens certainly deserve no less,” he argues. Speaking about the Malta Developers Association’s involvement in the process,

President Sandro Chetcuti says, “we have been pushing for the regulation and classification of building contractors and operators for over two years. To-date, 600 building contractors have registered through our scheme. We are now in the process of setting up the MDA Academy, wherein we can provide courses to all those registered.” I hope that this process will help us improve the modus operandi of the industry. In fact, the response has been very positive, and we believe it is in the interest of all stakeholders to register because of the multiple challenges that exist when it comes to organising each operator, including the acquisition of special licenses for each trade that falls within the industry.” As for the economic viability of the industry in the months and years to come, Perit Vella Lenicker says that there are already various rumblings in the industry, mainly concerning property sales velocity and property prices. 23


“We have been pushing for the regulation and classification of building contractors and operators for over two years.” – Sandro Chetcuti, President, Malta Developers Association

“This news, coupled with the increase in rental rates, will likely lead to a slowdown in the market. Consequently, there will probably be a slowdown in the construction industry, since developers will be more focused on selling their current stock than on bringing new properties on the market. It is difficult to predict this with any amount of certainty, but the tell-tale signs are there, and it is important to proceed with caution.” Prof. Torpiano, meanwhile, looks back on recent growth as ‘abnormally high’ – which implies that there will come a time when the growth gradient will flatten, and then dip. “This is an inevitable economic cycle,” he says. “The hope is that the dip will not be too deep and hence not too painful. But I also hope that what we are left with after this boom is a crop of good quality real estate that will remain viable for a number of years. However, I fear that this will not universally be the case.” Finally, Parliamentary Secretary Agius concludes that – although the dangers of an approaching bubble may exist – he doesn’t expect it to be a pressing problem or an issue in the foreseeable future. “The huge demand for property is still there and I cannot agree that this sector should be slowed down,” he says. cc




Property in malta

€531,502,000 Value of goods and services generated by ‘Real Estate Activities’ in 2018.

€403,264,000 Value of goods and services generated by ‘Construction’ activities in 2018.


Number of people employed in the construction sector in 2018.


Percentage of homes in Malta and Gozo that were either apartments or maisonettes in 2018.

52,448 Total number of development permits approved between 2014 and 2018.

26,827 Number of dwellings yet to be brought to market as at December 2018.

250,000 11,211

Estimated number of housing units as at 2018.

Number of development permits issued for apartments in 2018.

The percentage increase of permits approved by the Planning Authority between 2017 and 2018.


Source: Gozo In Figures, National Statistics Office, Malta

Source: National Statistics Office, Central Bank of Malta, Planning Authority


Percentage of all households that owned their main dwelling in 2018.

Source: Malta International Airport SEPTEMBER 2019



Budget 2020: What should we expect? In the context of global trade wars does the end of 2019 spell trouble for the economy? Jo Caruana consults the experts to find out more.


conomically speaking, it has to be said that things feel a little less certain than they did last year. Internationally, tensions from trade wars, political posturing and the rise in populism is making markets tumble and fears are rising that the next global recession may already have begun. However, before looking at what the economy might expect from the short-term future, I ask Edward Scicluna, Minister for Finance, to talk through the major financial milestones that made up the first half of this year. “Besides ensuring that last year’s Budget measures were rolled out as intended, and revenues and expenditures stayed within their projected pathways, this year’s effort was focused on beefing up our regulatory institutions,” he explains. “At this point, it is safe to say that we are positively satisfied that the changes we implemented are taking effect and are


convincing to the outsider. Malta is showing it is mature enough to accept criticism, and is genuinely serious about its determination to improve and move forward.” Talking more globally about what 2019 has brought so far, Shadow Minister for Finance, Mario De Marco, highlights that the international economic environment continues to be dominated by the tensions caused by the re-emergence of protectionist policies and the negotiation of bilateral and multilateral trade agreements consequent to the US-China trade dispute and the unknown that still lies over Brexit. “The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is, in fact, forecasting slow growth for 2019 and 2020, and suggests the future is more likely to be shaped by risks than opportunities. And similar views were expressed by the European Commission in the Summer 2019 Economic Outlook Report,” he asserts. On the domestic front, Dr De Marco says

that the Maltese Central Bank is forecasting that GDP growth will ease from 6.7 per cent in 2018 to 5.4 per cent in 2019. It will then fall to 4.3 per cent in 2020 and to 3.5 per cent in 2021. “Malta’s positive economic run did continue in 2019, and all indications point to a positive performance in 2020,” he says. “But, clearly, the mood is becoming less upbeat than it has been in the last five years. This feeling of cautiousness is being expressed, particularly, by people involved in the property sector, hoteliers and retailers. So we cannot, and should not, take the positive economic performance of the past years at face value.” Central Bank Governor Mario Vella, meanwhile, stresses that the Maltese economy compares favourably with growth in other European countries. “By way of comparison, year-on-year growth in the euro area as a whole averaged only around one per cent in recent quarters,” he says. “In SEPTEMBER 2019


“As a nation, we cannot go by what was accepted in the past – both in the private sector and the public sector.” – Edward Scicluna, Finance Minister

fact, in the first quarter of the year, Malta recorded the fourth highest growth rate in the EU.” “Now, the robust economic growth observed earlier this year is expected to persist into the second half of the year, as a number of factors should support domestic demand. For example, private consumption is expected to remain buoyant given the still very favourable labour market conditions and strong growth in households’ disposable income. Investment should also record strong growth, partly underpinned by the strong momentum of infrastructure projects in the Government sector and the ongoing expansion of capital-intensive niches in the services sector, such as aviation and health services. The high degree of liquidity in the private sector and the fiscal space secured by Government, in the context of a still accommodative monetary policy should also support activity going forward.” SEPTEMBER 2019



“The mood is becoming less upbeat than it has been in the last five years.” – Mario De Marco, Shadow Finance Minister sensitive to the good, the bad, and the ugly of poorly managed, accelerated development. The good and the bad – high returns on the one side and a noisy and dusty environment on the other – will subside. The ugly – the uneven skyline and the skewed distribution of income and wealth – will remain. The sensitivity to the immediate impact of all this on quality of life will not go away. Serious policies to regulate this sector need to be implemented with executive efficiency.” Asked about where he expects to see growth and where he expects to see challenges, Governor Vella says that, undoubtedly, the uncertainty concerning US trade policies will impact the global economic environment. “This will mostly affect the manufacturing industry, which is usually the first casualty of protectionism and trade wars,” he says. “And this is also likely to see some spill-over effects on services, especially tourism.”

“However, economic and political uncertainty in the external environment is expected to impact on growth prospects. The Brexit saga, trade wars, geopolitical hotspots and slower growth in some of our key trading partners, are a case in point. Preserving and promoting our diversified economy will stand us in good stead in the face of international headwinds.” Malta Chamber Deputy President and economist Marisa Xuereb agrees on many counts. “2019 will continue to be a year of reckoning internationally,” she says. “We are not immune to the global challenges. Some industries, such as manufacturing, have felt the implications of the US-China trade war immediately; others will eventually feel the ripple effects of it.” “In fact, with industrial production slipping in Germany, and the possibility of a no-deal Brexit looming in the background, economic sentiment in Europe is subdued, and this is likely to impact tourism. Our banking sector is also facing some real challenges and, while there seems to be the political will to do what is necessary to restore Malta's credibility, it will take time for the international community to recognise Malta's efforts.” “Construction – one of the key drivers of the economic boom – has also reached a plateau,” Ms Xuereb says. “Thus, domestic demand is likely to be more prudent. We seem to have reached a tipping point where people are becoming increasingly more SEPTEMBER 2019

“We have reached a tipping point where people are becoming increasingly more sensitive to the good, the bad, and the ugly of poorly managed, accelerated development. Serious policies to regulate this sector need to be implemented with executive efficiency.” – Marisa Xuereb, Malta Chamber Deputy President 31

CC COVER STORY “However, with regards to tourism, the continued expansion in Malta’s air links to other countries, the proliferation of boutique hotels in various locations and the popularity of website vacation rentals, are likely to mitigate some of these negative spill-over effects. Even though tourism is starting to show slower growth, with the current level of tourist arrivals of over two-and-a-half million, the sector remains very strong.” “Looking to the future, I expect economic activity in Malta to remain strong, despite these challenges. This will be supported by planned Government and private investment, but also by efforts to continue attracting new investment, including in innovative sectors, and enhanced productivity through the application of AI and digitalisation, that could make up for losses in certain sectors, especially within the context of flexibility in the domestic labour market,” Governor Vella says. Ms Xuereb, meanwhile, underlines Malta’s big advantage over its European counterparts: our relatively low public debt as a result of successive years of surplus. “If the economy doesn’t continue to grow at current rates, the surplus will become difficult to maintain, though,” she admits. “Recurrent expenditure has increased significantly, partly because of administrative public sector growth, but also because demands on our health and education systems keep mounting.” “So, if economic growth eases, this expenditure will be extremely difficult to curb, but tax revenue will contract immediately. It is critical that we resist the temptation of introducing new taxes to replace lost revenue, as this will be counterproductive. While we may have become accustomed to having a surplus, running a small deficit when times get rough is just as healthy as having a surplus when the economy is booming.”

“What is important at this stage is that we exercise extreme prudence in expenditure and we do all we can to contain inflationary pressures. This is particularly important when it comes to labour costs, where increases in pay and/or benefits are always very hard to reverse,” she adds. For Dr De Marco, the future path is also clear: “without further delay, we need to start working on a long-term economic vision,” he says. “We need to identify the niches of tomorrow and start educating our children in them. Beyond that, we need to strive towards a balanced economy for a sustainable society.” Finally, Prof. Scicluna also sets the scene for what we should expect moving forward – locally and globally. “We have to understand that, no matter how rich we become as a nation, we still have to live within our

means. We still need to remain competitive; we have to raise productivity, ensure that a project is objectively feasible, and keep aware that the market is becoming very green at large. This means that cleaner, greener, and more beautiful buildings will be expected to be delivered and not just wished for.” “As a nation, we cannot go by what was accepted in the past – both in the private sector and the public sector. Europe is becoming more self-confident in making its mark globally across various spheres. The Union has now come out of its post-crisis stupor and period of indecisiveness, and we must understand that.” “Nevertheless, I am confident that Malta will continue to surprise. It has a momentum that no one wants to end; so once there is this strong will, the way forward will continue to be laid out.” cc

“Preserving and promoting our diversified economy will stand us in good stead in the face of international headwinds.” – Mario Vella, Central Bank Governor 32



Budget 2020: The business perspective With autumn approaching, rumours begin to swirl about what Government will be prioritising in the upcoming national Budget. Helena Grech catches up with businesspeople working in different sectors to gauge which areas they believe need to be tackled for 2020.


s Malta continues to enjoy a booming economy, the national Budget is increasingly being seen by businesses as an opportunity to correct any misalignments that have come about due to a small island increasing its economic activity and performance at such a rapid pace. Malta’s economy experienced a growth rate of 6.7 per cent in 2018 alone. And while the country is on such strong footing, leading businesses believe that this is an opportune time for Government to address specific issues through the national Budget. PKF is a business advisory firm offering a wide range of consultative corporate and accounting services, with Senior Partner at PKF George Mangion having gained over 30 years of experience in accounting, taxation, financial and consultancy services. Asked about what he hopes to see addressed in the upcoming Budget, Mr Mangion believes “more funds” should be allocated “to upgrade the environment and infrastructure” in Malta. Further to this, he also believes that “a scientific study on how to deal in a sustainable manner with the creeping influx of foreigners coming to Malta, including SEPTEMBER 2019

measures addressing inflation in property valuations and the rental market, the issue of homelessness, as well as actions to address the quality of life,” is needed. Indeed, issues of sustainability and, more specifically, achieving sustainable growth which adds lasting value to the island, appear to be at the fore for Mr Mangion. Turning to more business-focused proposals, Mr Mangion would also like to see further studies carried out on “how to help SMEs through a decrease of tax rates.” He also observes that “it would be interesting to see a larger focus placed on long-term schemes and business incentives having a holistic, strategic plan.” Speaking of the greatest challenges Malta’s economy is facing and how the Budget can address such challenges, Mr Mangion maintains, “the upcoming Budget should address the demographic issue of the ageing population. As people live longer, the rise in the old-age dependency ratio puts pressure on the pension systems,” he contends. Supporting this, the latest demographic review figures released by the NSO show that in 2016, roughly 25 per cent

of Malta’s population was aged over 60. “Another great challenge is that of creeping overpopulation, which can strain many aspects of life that determine one’s health,” he continues, affirming that “overpopulation leads to an increase in the use of private cars. This, in turn accounts for a significant portion of air pollution. A future policy to introduce zero emission cars needs proper planning and appropriate cash incentives as has been done in Norway.” Indeed, due to accelerated growth in job opportunities, Malta has experienced an influx of foreign workers in recent years, with the population having climbed from around 430,000 inhabitants in 2013, according to the NSO, to roughly 490,000 inhabitants in 2018, according to World Population Day statistics – an increase of roughly 60,000 in the space of five years. To address the issue of overpopulation and the reliance on private cars, Mr Mangion stresses the need for planning a “mass transit system such as an underground metro.” Meanwhile, in relation to PKF’s field of business advisory services, Mr Mangion would like to see proposals for increased 35


“It would be interesting to see a larger focus placed on long-term schemes and business incentives having a holistic, strategic plan.” – George Mangion, Senior Partner, PKF

regulation of new technologies, including “enhanced exposure to new anti-money laundering directives, as well as the holding of public discussions on the possible adverse consequences that Brexit may have on the financial services industry, tourism and air travel.” And if he were to put forward a single Budget proposal, Mr Mangion could not pick one measure, saying that he would prioritise “serious rent reforms, reduce VAT on catering, widen the tax bracket for families jointly earning under €35,000 and implement an immediate Brexit action plan to cushion adverse consequences on exports and tourism.” Turning to the real estate industry, Managing Director at Engel and Völkers Sara Grech, Benjamin Tabone Grech, is clear about two areas he would like to see tackled in the upcoming Budget: the banking sector and the construction sector. Starting off with the banking sector, Mr Tabone Grech explains that “it is very difficult to open a bank account today” and “it is very hard to transfer money in and out of the country.” He explains that the Malta Financial Services Authority “previously allowed foreign banks to open in Malta,” and believes that in the interest of protecting Malta and the ease with which business can be carried out, local authorities “should not allow any foreign national from a non-EU country or a watchlist country to bring substantial amounts of money to Malta.” Mr Tabone Grech says that once Malta “closes its doors to certain people and banks, things can begin to get moving again.” Concluding on this subject, he says that regulators should crack down on individuals opening banks in Malta and bringing foreign money to Malta, in order to mitigate any reputational damage. With regard to the construction industry, he vociferously calls for a serious upgrade in the standards regulating the sector. “Without more modern standards such as thermal efficiency tests, prioritising insulation, SEPTEMBER 2019

researching alternative construction materials which may better serve our country’s needs and other technical aspects of the construction industry, the hard work carried out to propel the industry forward will start to come undone,” he states, adding that in his view, the biggest challenge to

Malta’s economy today is that many people, even those in his industry, market Malta as a five-star destination. “Malta is not a five-star destination – maybe it will be in 20 years’ time, but we are not there yet. We are a good three to fourstar destination.

“Without more modern [construction] standards such as thermal efficiency tests, prioritising insulation, researching alternative construction materials which may better serve our country’s needs… the hard work carried out to propel the industry forward will start to come undone.” – Benjamin Tabone Grech, Managing Director, Engel and Völkers Sara Grech 37

CC BUSINESS Let us focus our efforts, through the Budget and beyond, to shore up Malta as a solid four-star destination. This can be done by attracting the right people and making the right investments; however, we must acknowledge where we are at and take the necessary steps to improve.” Deborah Schembri, CEO and Managing Director of STM Malta, a trust and management services firm acting, among other things, as a leading pension provider, believes the introduction of a raft of measures in the upcoming Budget aimed at addressing Malta’s ageing population and the associated strain on state coffers due to pension burdens, would be highly beneficial for the country. She references DBRS, a credit ratings agency, which stated that “aspects which may impact on the Maltese economic future are the burdens of state enterprises and pensions, given that pensions in Malta are only 1.2 times the poverty line, meaning that pensioners are not very far from the income level delineating poverty, and workers might choose to continue working even when they reach an elderly age.” Observing other EU countries, Ms Schembri says that “comparatively, Spain, a fellow Mediterranean European Union member state, has pensions which are 1.7 times the poverty line. This means that Malta needs to work on a long-term strategy as to how to facilitate private pensions and entice voluntary occupational pension schemes.” In light of this, Ms Schembri suggests “lifting the cap on tax relief for personal contributions to private pensions/voluntary occupational pension schemes to €40,000 per annum. This would likely have minimal impact on the treasury. Very few will have sufficient income to take the full advantage. So, the loss to the consolidated fund will be small.” She goes on to highlight how “those who can, will be nearing retirement and seeking to boost their retirement savings. For the rest of the average savers, the higher cap will give more flexibility and ease the burden that Government has to provide for retirees. If there is an issue regarding the tax take, one could add a requirement that part of the higher savings should be invested in an issue of Government bonds issued for the purpose. Such tax relief is similar to the way in which the UK started to introduce the concept of private pensions.” Shifting to her second Budget proposal, Ms Schembri believes there exists a need to “match any new industries being developed with the local banks’ risk appetite.” Tying this with the pension provision industry, she highlights the importance of implementing international workplace pension schemes, including pan-European options. Ms Schembri explains that “Malta 38

“Aspects which may impact on the Maltese economic future are the burdens of state enterprises and pensions, given that pensions in Malta are only 1.2 times the poverty line, meaning that pensioners are not very far from the income level delineating poverty.” – Deborah Schembri, CEO and Managing Director, STM Malta

already has a developed and well-used personal pension scheme administration, albeit with relatively few players. It is already well positioned from a regulatory perspective to administer international pension schemes and PEPPs.” Drawing comparisons with Luxembourg, she asserts that the country “is perceived as a good place to do fund-style pension administration, so it will be perceived to have systems and experience to do the administration.” Luxembourg is perceived as a favourable jurisdiction in this regard and “it is geographically very close to the centre. Moreover, their first language is French, which will help with some of the bigger markets.” Zooming in on Malta, Ms Schembri

stresses that in terms of “experience and regulation, Malta is already there. However, Malta needs to have a focused strategy so as to promote itself as the pensions centre of excellence. This is a huge market which is relatively low risk, and thus in line with the local banks’ risk appetite.” Despite hailing from different industries, issues of sustainability were touched upon by all three industry players, ranging from the sustainability of Malta’s pension and construction sector regulation to issues surrounding pressures caused by overpopulation. Could Malta be a victim of its own success? The experts agree: addressing such issues through instruments such as the national Budget is vital for Malta’s long-term success. cc SEPTEMBER 2019


Photos by Alan Carville

Staying family focused Having recently taken over as Regulator for the Family Business Office, lawyer Dr Joseph Gerada talks to Jo Caruana about the unique challenges faced by businesses in this area and the future of the Family Business Act on the island.


amily businesses are one of the undisputed backbones of the Maltese and European economies. However, that doesn’t mean that running one comes without its challenges – in fact, family businesses can face all kinds of trials within their lifespan, from successful up-scaling to hotly-contested generational succession planning. 40

Locally, this is where the Family Business Office (FBO) comes in. It is an organisation wholly dedicated to tackling the difficulties within this part of the business world, and finds sound, practical and responsible ways to pave a way ahead. Dr Joseph Gerada – the new Regulator within the FBO – is passionate about his role. So much so that he was already involved

in discussions at the FBO before actually stepping into the position, while assisting his predecessor Dr Nadine Lia in her work last year. “The Ministry for Investment and Small Business had initiated discussions with stakeholders on the drafting of the Family Business Act to assist family businesses in their natural transition from one generation SEPTEMBER 2019

CC CASE STUDY to the next,” he explains of his involvement. “So I had the privilege of seeing the legislation take shape and come to life right from the beginning.” Dr Gerada also explains that at the time he also attended councils and conferences with Minister Chris Cardona, where Malta was hailed as the first EU country to navigate through this unchartered territory by creating the first legislation of its kind in the EU. “Therefore, taking over after Dr Lia, who did a sterling job as the first Regulator of the FBO established in terms of the Act, seemed like a natural step in my career. Although it is a very challenging post, I am eager to work on further developing this legislation and seeing its positive impact on our family businesses,” he says. With the Act in place, the FBO was established in 2017 and its first year in action served as a testing period, giving family businesses the time to learn about the office and its services. “A lot was done to educate and spread the word that a new legislation dedicated specifically to family businesses had been enacted and that a number of advantages and incentives were available for those who registered,” Dr Gerada says. “Then, in 2018, a review of the Act was carried out to assess and amend administrative aspects of the legislation, as well as provide clarifications. It was quite a process.” Among its many accomplishments, all of the work in this area has served to underline the importance of family businesses in our economy. Historically, Dr Gerada explains, they have been a mainstay and, ironically, even some of the so-called ‘big dogs’ out there are family businesses themselves. “We tend to think or assume that family businesses are micro businesses with less than five employees, however this is often not the case, as statistics show,” he highlights. “But regardless of size, it is recognised that family businesses around the world face a number of challenges that are unique to them and which need to be addressed through interventions, even legislative, such as the one introduced by the Ministry for the Economy back in 2017.” He stresses that business succession is one of the main challenging processes a family business has to go through during its lifetime as, when not done diligently, it may lead to problems – both for the business as well as for the family relationships themselves. “Fear of failure and growing up in the shadow of strong, driven personalities can be a turn-off for young people,” he continues. “It is for this reason that one of the main aims of the Act and its incentives is to encourage and support the transfer of the family business from one generation to the next during their lifetime. A lot goes into it and it isn’t easy to wade through.” SEPTEMBER 2019

But despite this and other clear contests, Dr Gerada says that he is enthused by his new role and the sector in general. “Since the legislation is very new and Malta was one of the pioneers in the drafting of such legislation, there is always room for tweaking.” “However, now that we have had some experience in the manner it is applied, we are in a better position to see where we can improve it. Legislation is not something that is cast in stone; it is living and its objective should always be that of regulation to the benefit of the public. Therefore, one of the main challenges I have now is to see whether there are areas of the legislation that require amendments so we can address any lacunas there may be. On top of that, I will continue to pursue the creation of new backed-up incentives for the benefit of family businesses in cooperation with other institutions and Government entities.” Meanwhile, there is a lot going on in other aspects of the FBO’s work. Since the office opened its doors, 11 backed schemes have been put in place for family businesses to benefit from, thus facilitating and maximising their operation, growth and future continuity. “I think that the most popular incentive by far was introduced through Legal Notice 131 of 2017,” Dr Gerada says. “This fiscal incentive enables businesses opting to transfer their family business to family members to benefit from a reduced stamp duty rate from five per cent to 1.5 per cent on the uncapped value of the business. This onetime incentive raised awareness about the new legislation and the FBO itself and, due to its success, we decided to extend it so more family businesses could benefit.” But despite the success such as that surrounding this incentive, Dr Gerada underlines that the FBO is still very much in

its infancy, with much work still to be done in the months and years to come. “Over the rest of this year, we would like to add more focus on the Gozo family business community, where the presence of family businesses is even higher regionally than in Malta,” he says. “Discussions have actually commenced with a view to opening a branch and access to the Family Business Office in Gozo. We shall also be looking into a possible niche scheme for Gozo, in line with our objective of increasing the focus on the family businesses operating from our sister island.” “On top of that, we will also be exploring how we can further improve our present incentives – most notably the ones that fall into the remit of Malta Industrial Parks, while also working towards ensuring that the schemes which will expire in 2020 are sustained.” And there is more. The FBO has also opened discussions with the University of Malta (and specifically the Faculty of Economics, Management and Accountancy) with a view to offer and develop the option for students to be able to study further the subject of family businesses. Plus, other initiatives will include the submission of an EU project in collaboration with offices and partners from other countries known as the EU Family Business – Knowledge Share Project. It is set to develop matching platforms to facilitate business transfers, as well as further collaboration with Malta Development Bank. “So there is a lot going on,” Dr Gerada smiles. “I trust that 2019 will bring further success in the family business sector and we hope that, at the same time, we will be able to help more family businesses deal with the challenges emanating from the very nature of their business structure,” he adds. cc

“I am eager to work on further developing this legislation and seeing its positive impact on our family businesses.”



The way forward in the construction industry With public awareness of malpractices and occupational injuries in the construction industry at an all-time high, calls for regulatory changes have been louder than ever before. Denise Micallef Xuereb is the Director of Construction and Development at AX Group, and a council member on the Malta Developers Association, who has long been pushing for more structure and organised practices in the industry. Timothy Vella finds out more.

Photos by Alan Carville


he rapid economic growth this country has experienced over the last decade has led to financial prosperity for many Maltese businesses and citizens. As a result, combined with the influx of foreign workers seeking greener pastures on our island, the demands on the construction and development industry have never been higher. Following a series of unfortunate construction accidents that took place in quick succession over a short span of time, Government issued the new Avoidance to Damage of Third-Party Property Regulations, which came into force in early summer 2019. The regulations serve as an eye-opener for the industry at large, from architects to developers and contractors. As the demand for works within this sector drastically increase, questions have in fact often been raised as to whether standards have been sacrificed as a result, resulting in a decline in the quality of buildings, and leading to risky situations and possibly fatal accidents. “Now is the time to stop, reflect on our situation and improve,” says Ms Micallef Xuereb. “The first and most important step


is the registration of all contractors, from small to large, understanding what their capabilities are, what resources they have available and how much experience they have in the industry. Before, all it took to become a contractor was to rent a truck or crane, not even own it. By introducing a system of registration, contractors can eventually be classified, based on the merits of their work.” No stranger to complex projects, AX Construction – the construction arm of AX Group – has been instrumental in spearheading major jobs like the renovation of the Valletta Old Market and the new visitor centre at St Paul’s Catacombs, and currently the Old Farson’s Brewhouse, all culturally sensitive buildings. “AX doesn’t do just any job. We pride ourselves on handling highly complex projects, and employ skilled tradespeople from the construction industry to work in tandem with skilled tradesmen from our restoration division. While these are certainly major responsibilities, they fall within our niche and it is our responsibility to excel at what we do to a standard of quality

unattainable elsewhere,” Ms Micallef Xuereb affirms. “People often interchange the terms construction and development; unfortunately they are often thought of as one and the same,” she continues, maintaining that these industries have no bearing on whether or not permits to build are issued, as that falls within the remit of the regulator. “The general public feels upset when certain permits are granted within Urban Conservation Areas or outside of development zones, where their natural environment or heritage is being threatened and taken over by the built environment. In addition, certain practices in construction cause people major inconveniences, such as road closures, noise and dust pollution. While the grievances are certainly understandable, there have been improvements to the practices recently, however there is still a long way to go.” She believes that construction companies need to be more diligent and sensitive in the way they execute works, especially when they are working in neighbourhoods, not only when SEPTEMBER 2019

CC CASE STUDY it comes to structural integrity but even when it comes to simple actions like shouting on site. Even these small things give the impression of a bad neighbourhood, and if we want to start improving the image of the construction industry, we need to make a collective effort. According to Ms Micallef Xuereb, the influx of foreign workers, who more often than not lack the necessary training upon engagement, increases the risk of work-related injuries, both to themselves and to other workers. “What is really important is continuous training and monitoring, because when people feel like they are constantly being monitored, they are more likely to comply with regulation,” she adds. “I’ve always believed that safety is not the sole responsibility of the health and safety officers. It is a responsibility for all of us, including the general public. Site inspectors, architects, workers and safety officers should all be in full protective gear at all times when they are on site, and when shortcomings are identified, it is their responsibility to see that these are rectified immediately. Thankfully, in recent years, the Occupational Health and Safety Authority has taken big steps forward, carrying out random spot checks, whereas previously inspections would only happen after a report or accident,” she goes on to say. “The increase in the volume of work has, on certain occasions, led to unrealistic timeframes which in turn lead to little or no planning,” Ms Micallef Xuereb continues, affirming that some clients, companies or developers often come up with unrealistic timeframes, leading to works being rushed, increasing the possibility of physical endangerment, as well as the likelihood of questionable building standards. “Hours of hard physical labour in the sun, tying rebar and handling of bricks, combined with the expectation for works to be completed before an irresponsibly set timeline increase the stress on workers to go above and beyond their physical capabilities. The risk of dehydration, fatigue and sunstroke are all massive threats to manual labourers, especially those on building sites who work at heights or on scaffolds where one wrong step can cost one’s life,” she warns. Ms Micallef Xuereb frequently makes reference to the so-called ‘cowboys’ of the industry, a number of workers who consider themselves to be above the law and fail to adhere even to the bare minimum. “Unfortunately, today you cannot eradicate them completely, and one bad or negligent act by one of these individuals can easily overshadow all the practices carefully carried out by diligent workers. It is unfair that an honest worker’s reputation can be tarnished because of these few individuals, but this ties back in to the licensing and registration process, which would allow for contractors caught breaching regulations multiple times to have steps taken against them to prevent them from committing the same malpractices or preclude them from future works.” SEPTEMBER 2019

The process she highlights is the longawaited Registration of Contractors, which is currently taking place. Interestingly, there are a lot more contractors than previously anticipated, and through this registration process, which ends this September, the MDA and society at large will have a far clearer picture of the names and capabilities of all the contractors in Malta. A lot of work is being done by many stakeholders on various fronts within the industry, including establishing new construction codes to regulate the industry. Twenty years ago, the average project would be a two-storey home, whereas today, multiple seven- or eight-storey buildings are being erected, as well as high-rises, so the codes of practice and the required documentation need to change with the times,” she continues. Another issue Ms Micallef Xuereb considers vital is the introduction of incentives for sustainable construction.

She believes that incentives need to be introduced that tie some degree of monetary value to the use of more environmentally friendly and sustainable materials. In order to get the ball rolling on a change in practice across the board, incentives and reward schemes can be very useful. Using the Energy Performance Certificate as an example, she explains that currently a factor as crucial as electricity consumption has no impact on the valuation of the property, and argues that this needs to change with the aim that environmental consciousness and awareness become traits which are prioritised in the industry. Finally, she iterates, “if as companies we are capable of assessing our own capabilities, we can identify our strengths and weaknesses, which can help us select projects that make the best use of our potential. In order to do so, we must start with that fundamental step, the registration, licensing and classification process.” cc

“Now is the time to stop, reflect on our situation and improve.”



Navigating Malta’s property sector: Where do we go from here? The last few years have seen Malta’s property sector heat up to unprecedented levels. Now that the climate has begun to stabilise, Helena Grech speaks with Engel & Völkers Sara Grech Managing Director Benjamin Tabone Grech for an insider’s perspective on how to add genuine value to Malta’s squeezed property sector.


itting in the sun-soaked offices of one of Malta’s largest real estate firms, my eyes fall on the old advertisements depicting the services offered by the company at the time, testament to its long history of serving the local property sector. With 30 years of experience, Engel & Völkers Sara Grech has seen Malta’s property market change many times over. The last few years, however, have seen growth to unprecedented levels. A KPMG study commissioned by the Malta Developers Association in 2017 found that property prices in Malta increased by 44

20 to 25 per cent in just one year alone, between 2016 and 2017. And it didn’t stop there. According to the National Statistics Office, the Property Price Index (PPI) – which is based on actual transactions and indicates the price changes of residential properties (apartments, maisonettes and terraced houses only) purchased by households – rose by 6.5 per cent in the first three months of 2019 when compared with the same period last year. This follows an increase in property prices of 6.1 per cent in the final quarter of 2018.

Since 2000, the Planning Authority (PA) has approved 119,886 permits for new dwellings, with 24.5 per cent approved in the past three years, according to statistics released by the PA itself. Separate to the property sector heating up, 2019 saw a spate of accidents where three dwellings either partially or fully collapsed due to nearby construction and excavation works. Within this context of a construction industry that is highly active, property prices shooting up and buildingrelated incidents on the rise, many have been SEPTEMBER 2019


“The current First Time Buyers scheme is no longer having the desired outcome since there are few entry level properties priced lower than €150,000.”

“Construction is a positive matter and should continue, however the standards are so poor that many people are losing faith.”

speculating about what action can be taken to help improve Malta’s property sector, add value to dwellings being purchased and put the brakes on rising prices. Taking an insider’s perspective, Managing Director Benjamin Tabone Grech, who holds an MEng (Hons) in Architecture and Environmental Design from the University of Nottingham, is clear about his vision for the sector’s future. Asked about what measures he would like to see Government adopt to help strengthen the sector in terms of value and aesthetics, Mr Tabone Grech unequivocally believes that SEPTEMBER 2019

Urban Conservation Areas (UCA) should be extended. UCAs are specially protected areas within village cores covered by strict rules aimed at preserving the buildings within those areas. Generally speaking, UCAs are areas that deserve protection for their significant historical and architectural value. “UCAs should be made larger,” Mr Tabone Grech asserts, adding that “this will serve to protect our village cores.” Backing up his aspiration to see UCA policy strengthened, he goes on to add that “a standard of construction should be enforced to improve our building standards, and more substantial grants should be given for the restoration of building façades.” In addition, Mr Tabone Grech would like the PA to stop issuing development permits for blocks composed of four levels plus a ground floor within 1km of village cores. He explains that if authorities “extend the core to become an area with two levels plus the ground floor, people would be forced by changes in the law to add extensions to their terraced houses, instead of dropping a home entirely to make way for a block of flats.” Mr Tabone Grech also points out that today “acquiring a house is quite unaffordable for many.” He muses that enlarging and strengthening UCA policy would see the “stock of old houses protected” as, with current regulation, homeowners can easily demolish their house entirely to build a block of apartments, which is likely to provide them with a high yield. Another issue which preoccupies the Managing Director is the standard of construction being employed in Malta. June saw one apartment wall and yet another block come crashing down, very likely due to nearby construction works. This heralded a public discussion on the safety and standards of the construction industry in Malta. On this subject, Mr Tabone Grech makes reference to the Building Regulation Office in the UK which dedicates a good portion of its resources to researching various building materials to determine which is the most efficient depending on the circumstances. “They carry out thorough research on various materials, such as fire retardant materials, which could help stave off disasters, as well as the best thermal insulation materials to use,” he says, explaining that the latter control “how much hot or cold air passes through the building fabric.” He goes on to say that “we in Malta are not using the right materials, neither

are we looking at the thermal performance of the fabrics being used. This should be a standard for local construction practices.” He also questions why the go-to material is oftentimes concrete, observing that it is “massively carbon intensive.” Mr Tabone Grech is concerned about the sustainability of current building practices in general. In his view, “construction is a positive matter and should continue, however the standards are so poor that many people are losing faith in the industry.” He believes that in order to restore faith in the construction industry, a whole new set of basic standards must be created, again referencing the need for assessments of the basic thermal performance of a building for every new site. Moreover, he is of the opinion that highly detailed construction designs should be submitted as part of the planning application process. Moving on to policies which have helped to invigorate the property market at a time when the economy was not growing at such a rapid pace, Mr Tabone Grech praises the ‘First Time Buyers’ Scheme introduced by Government in 2016. He explains that it encouraged a vast number of youngsters to stop procrastinating and purchase their first property, adding that the context is very different in today’s property market. The scheme stipulates that no tax is charged on the first €150,000 of the price of a property. This effectively means that first timers can save €5,250. Moreover, buyers purchasing their first residential property only pay five per cent stamp duty on the balance above €150,000 of the price of the property. Mr Tabone Grech believes that the scheme was “a fantastic idea and worked to invigorate the building industry,” adding, however, that “as the schemes have continued to be extended year on year, they have lost their impact.” He argues that it should not be extended any further, “for two reasons: the current scheme is no longer having the desired outcome, since there are few entry level properties priced lower than €150,000; with regards to extending the scheme over €150,000, my concern would be that we would be extending the inflation of an already over-priced market.” In his concluding remarks, Mr Tabone Grech notes that the PA approved 52,448 residential development permits between 2014 and 2018, with an estimated 25,000 not yet brought to market. He contends that with a change in focus towards quality rather than quantity, Malta’s aesthetic value could improve, resulting in a more sustainable and genuine product for all to enjoy. cc 45


Bridging the gap: Can women in business have it all? Over the past few decades, Maltese women’s participation in the labour market and on company boards has shown signs of improvement, with ambitious entrepreneurs also making their mark. Yet current EU research still shows the stubborn persistence of a significant gender gap on the island. Rebecca Anastasi speaks to six female business leaders about leaning in and smashing the glass ceiling, asking: can we bridge that gap?


n a chilly morning, on the 10th October 1975, more than 90 per cent of women in Iceland went on strike, refusing to work, do housework or look after the children. Instead, they took to the streets to show the country the pivotal role they had in modern society. It was a day which changed history and altered the fates of thousands, with repercussions still being felt in the here and now. Today, the country of just over 350,000 people has been recognised as a world-leader in the global fight against inequality, topping the World Economic (WE) Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index for 10 years in a row, with more than 85 per cent of its overall gender gap closed in 2018. In Malta – a Mediterranean country influenced by many of the region’s cultural traits – women are standing their ground, pushing to make their mark. Yet, the island still ranks 91 on WE’s 2018 index, and according to the European Commission’s 2019 Country Report on Malta, the nation’s employment gap remains the largest in SEPTEMBER 2019

the bloc, despite recent advances made. Moreover, the entity’s Report on Equality, also published earlier this year, underlines that women account for less than 10 per cent of board members in publicly listed companies. In addition, the Commission had, in 2014, also reported statistics showing that Malta had one of the lowest percentages of female entrepreneurs – at 18 per cent – of the Europe-37 countries, which included the 28 EU member states plus Albania, Northern Macedonia, Iceland, Israel, Turkey, Liechtenstein, Montenegro, Norway and Serbia. Indeed, though much may have changed since 2014, there is plenty of room for growth. Maria Bartolo Zahra, Co-Founder and HR Adviser of SurgeAdvisory, underlines that there has been an “overall improvement over the past five years”, when it comes to closing the gender gap in local business, though she has not seen this happen across the board. “This hasn’t been the case in all trades, though this may be due to cultural issues.”

As a case in point she highlights the situations within some family businesses in which “female family members – mothers to be precise – cannot take an active role in the business. At times, the men tend to still believe that, due to women’s maternal commitments, they cannot dedicate the same amount of time to the family business, and thus push them aside.” It is this conflict between women’s traditional roles within the home and their modern aspirations out in the working world which has resulted in increasing challenges for those who want to have it all, she says. “Although I strongly believe that it is all about the skills and not the gender, women, especially mothers, have a more difficult role in business. Motherhood and a career, particularly running a business, are two extremely demanding tasks because it is difficult to neglect one or the other. A woman needs to have the skill to balance these responsibilities and, while success does come from ambition, it most definitely comes from the support of her partner and family.” 47


Thus, men need to support “their partners in both parenthood and careers,” and to take a more “active role in promoting more diversity in business leadership,” she continues, going on to stress that this involves helping to lead “the change, as business owners or leaders, by paving the road for women.” Moreover, this should extend to initiatives created and implemented by the authorities and those in positions of authority. “More measures need to be put in place to help women master both business and family. I believe it all starts from a very young age. There are programmes and financial incentives for women to help them start their own business, but that isn’t enough. Women need to continue being taught about empowerment, ambition and entrepreneurship from a young age,” she stresses. 48

“Motherhood and a career, particularly running a business, are two extremely demanding tasks because it is difficult to neglect one or the other.” – Maria Bartolo Zahra, Co-Founder and HR Adviser, SurgeAdvisory However, when it comes to implementing quotas for women on boards, Ms Bartolo Zahra is unsure whether these will ultimately prove to be the panacea needed. “We are making progress in addressing gender parity in the boardroom, but we still have a long way to go. I think the quotas help ‘jump-start’ the process of helping women get to the decisionmaking positions, but I don’t fully agree with the idea of imposing quotas, on any level, not just at board level. Quotas, in my opinion, pose a risk on women of being seen as on the board only because of the quota and this can influence their ability to contribute to decision-making,” she warns.

Yet she sees the future as positive, as more and more women continue to join the working world as entrepreneurs and leaders, particularly since “there is a collaborative energy amongst women in Malta, and women want to help and support each other in taking on greater roles in the business world.” These views are echoed by Amanda Xuereb, Chief Development Officer for Toly Group, Founder of Beauty Trill and winner of HSBC’s Young Businesswoman of the Year – an award aimed at encouraging young women and girls to take up leadership roles – who said she believes that “women are stepping up to the challenge.” SEPTEMBER 2019


“I believe the future is bright for women in business in Malta. There is more awareness around this topical issue. Companies and Government have this on their agenda.” – Amanda Xuereb, Chief Development Officer, Toly Group and Founder, Beauty Trill

However, she still sees scope for further advancement, which she believes must come from people of all genders. “I believe that more women would like to take an active role in the workplace, however, due to family and home constraints, they refrain as most women still feel it’s their responsibility to take care of the family. Men should be open and willing to support with domestic duties, and together, the couple should create arrangements to allow for their personal profession to prosper.” She also advocates for gender balance on boards, saying that diversity is “a value driver in organisational strategy.” She notes the way in which boards with equal representation can “arrive at better decisions,” since people from different backgrounds “can bring a broad spectrum of thoughts, perspectives and ideas to the table.”

Photo by Daryl Cauchi

Yet female business leaders still require more networking opportunities, access to funding and further encouragement “to make use of their entrepreneurial energy.” Thus, creating a mentorship programme, she says, is key. “This could be a nice idea as that would allow women to connect and inspire other women to take the jump and step outside of their comfort zone,” she asserts. “I believe the future is bright for women in business in Malta. There is more awareness around this topical issue. Companies and Government have this on their agenda. I encourage Maltese businesses to consider diversity as part of their overall business strategy,” she adds. The courage to take a leap into the unknown – and a shift in mentality – is central, maintains Dr Elizabeth Gaerty, a

founding member of EG Legal, a Maltese boutique law firm specialising in legal and consultancy services for businesses on the island. She notes how “women tend to have a more cautious approach to anything, which is a good thing in life but, in business, can put one at a disadvantage.” Moreover, she believes that while “quotas and equality campaigns have helped get women out there, it all boils down to how one approaches life and the determination to make it in this world.” While she sees quotas for women on boards as an advantage, since “they get the ball rolling” she doesn’t see it working in the long run, insisting it “cannot be the end game since established quotas go against the principle of equal opportunity.” She continues that “equal opportunity shouldn’t be interpreted as imposed equal outcome.”

“It should just be equal in opportunity, and men should not be discriminated against because of their gender either, so I don’t think quotas are the best solution.” – Elizabeth Gaerty, Founding Member, EG Legal SEPTEMBER 2019



“I think women are very inspired by time spent together, so idea sharing should be central to future strategies on how to foster entrepreneurship” – Jo Caruana, Founder, Writemeanything and Finesse Consulta

Indeed, she sees such policy to be counterproductive in the long-term, since it increases – rather than offsets – discrimination to both men and women. “It should just be equal in opportunity, and men should not be discriminated against because of their gender either, so I don’t think quotas are the best solution. They may be useful but it’s not straightforward.” Reflecting the statements given by Ms Xuereb, Dr Gaerty sees board diversification as a broader concept, inclusive to, but not limited by gender, since “in every business, what each person can bring to the table is different.” Hence, rather than putting it to gender, it would be useful to challenge the status quo and welcome people of different backgrounds and mentalities to the top table, she says. In her view, things are already on the up and up for women in business on the island, with 2019 seeing much progress in this regard. “Locally, I think there are some great businesswomen who are making a name for themselves, and maybe they need to be showcased more. The pace of inclusion is steady, and women are more empowered and encouraged to do their own thing,” she underlines, concluding in positive terms by saying that, ultimately, “the future of anyone will be as bright as one makes it for oneself.” Jo Caruana, Founder of content and PR company Writemeanything, concurs, noting that she has seen more and more women entering the marketplace “on an entrepreneurial level, whether in start-ups or SMEs.” Ms Caruana, who also runs the business etiquette training company Finesse Consulta, stresses that this may be the result of increased networking opportunities and sees this as key for further progress. “I think women are very inspired by time spent together, so idea sharing should be central to future strategies on how to foster entrepreneurship,” she asserts. 50

Photo by Kris Micallef

Despite this, Ms Caruana underlines the challenges still being faced by women who occupy roles in more traditional businesses. She points out that the “the huge majority of top-level positions in larger companies are still occupied by men,” and says that this may be symptomatic of the fact that, although “female confidence in the business world is higher than it has ever been,” certain successes are still “largely off limits.” Another reason why women may not be breaking the glass ceiling in the business world may also be due to their need for

more security and flexibility, as a result of the conservative roles they have occupied for centuries, she states. However, she also sees opportunity in these qualities since they have, in turn, encouraged part-time entrepreneurs – what she calls “kitchen table entrepreneurs” – in which small businesses are “literally run from kitchen tables.” This avenue seems to suit many mothers, allowing them to balance their practical commitments, so that “they can run their business around their existing job, child-care or other concerns.” SEPTEMBER 2019


“Women are born organisers and multitaskers. At least all women I know are!” – Denise Micallef Xuereb, Construction and Development Director, AX Group

Photo by Matthew Mirabelli

Yet for those in employment, flexibility must come from up top, with companies needing to give staff enough leeway to cope with the long list of personal and professional commitments required to do a good job – whether in the office or at home. This is the philosophy upheld at Writemeanything, the founder says. “We are lucky enough to operate in an industry that can be flexible and, for the most part, our team can work the hours that suit them best in the place that suits them best. This has had knock on positives for the company too, by reducing commuting time (and thus wasted time) for the team and even bringing down our in-house costings. Of course, it can’t work for everyone and every business, but when it does it is certainly a win-win.” SEPTEMBER 2019

Ultimately, female agency in the business world means opening a window to the diverse possibilities the market can offer, Ms Caruana continues. “Overall, I think it’s about talking more to young women about the fact that this career option is open to them by putting visible role models in place,” she stresses. And, despite the demands and challenges of opening and maintaining a business, she sees creativity and hope within the process, which is also “incredibly diverse, rewarding and – hopefully – reflective of solutions these individuals want to see in the world.” Denise Micallef Xuereb, Construction and Development Director for the AX Group, also reiterates this position. “I believe in women and feel strongly about their entrepreneurial

skill sets. As a company we have always promoted women, even in high ranking positions,” she says. Locally, however, she feels that, although “the situation is constantly improving,” there is still “a long way to go.” She highlights the figures reflecting poor female representation on boards, emphasising that this is a result of various factors. “One element I can see is that many companies offer women part-time work instead of allowing women to work full-time but on flexible terms. Part-time work will only set them back and, potentially, it will not allow them to achieve the same goals as their male peers. That is probably one of the reasons we don’t see as much female representation in higher corporate positions. They are just not around for the promotions!” Another reason is also a question of mentality, or, as she puts it, of “selflimitation.” Ms Micallef Xuereb notes how women possess more of a tendency to feel insecure and “cloud themselves with a lot of doubt,” questioning their abilities to “venture out to be able to arrive to those top positions.” This, coupled with “social pressure coming from extended families or friends to quit jobs when they marry or have kids,” or even “possible guilt feelings when it comes to the family-work balancing act,” may hold women back from the juicier roles, she says. Yet, these feelings of self-doubt need to be tempered with the realisation that women are capable and have much to offer, she attests. “Women are born organisers and multitaskers. At least all women I know are!” Indeed, women should be on boards knowing they “have earned the right to be on that board just like anyone else.” 53

CC BUSINESS Quotas, she says, may be counterproductive, since they might create even more insecurity. “Women should be on boards because they want to and are encouraged to do so. If I were a woman on a board that had a quota imposed on it, I would question why I really am on that board. Am I there because I really deserve to be there or am I there to satisfy the requirement? This might create even more insecurity.” On the other hand, businesses which adopt more family-friendly practices and allow for continued awareness “will encourage other women who are still contemplating how they can succeed at managing their work-life balance,” she asserts. Part of this is the realisation – across the board – that “both parents need and should be able to opt to go to work.” Women, she says, should be able to decide for themselves what they want to do in their lives. A step forward in the right direction, she believes, is to ensure protocols converge with the shifts in mentalities. “In that case, the sky is the limit! So, what we need is for policies to catch up to really make it easier for women to get to the top,” she concludes. Maronna Filletti, Executive Director at Joseph Cachia & Son Ltd, also highlights the capabilities women have and the contributions they can make to any workplace. However, she admits that Malta still suffers from “an old boy’s club” mentality in which women have to continuously assert themselves to be heard. However, this assertiveness often gets interpreted as aggressiveness, in her view, with accusations often branding women as “emotional” and “guilty of micro-managing.” Yet, she states that this has a lot to do with culture since Malta – being small and Mediterranean – has its own particular idiosyncrasies. “It’s very difficult to get away from since this is also cultural, both because of our size and because we all sort of end up being related! But we need to start looking at each individual and what they can contribute,” she says. In this regard, women should be chosen on merit – even on boards – Ms Filletti says, since “it’s an insult for women to be appointed just to make up the numbers.” However, she acknowledges that there is still a problem – which requires further investigation – and asserts that company statutes “must define the expertise needed on each board and that this should be distributed between both men and women.” She also underlines the need for women to “bite the bullet and go for each opportunity,” and not to shy away out of a lapse in confidence. “We need to be assertive and we need to help each other along, though we cannot be each other’s crutch.” She states that this is also an issue of commitment since top-level positions demand a lot out of every person. “You have to work long hours, miss things and be on the ball the whole time. 54

“We need to be assertive and we need to help each other along, though we cannot be each other’s crutch.” – Maronna Filletti, Executive Director, Joseph Cachia & Son Ltd There’s a lot of sacrifice.” Yet men also have to step in here, she says, in order to pick up the slack in the home. “Men also need the courage to say to their employers, ‘I need time off to look after my kids.’ A woman cannot improve in her career if they’re always getting a raw deal. Men have time to go to the gym, so why should this be any different?” Moreover, she says that the seeds for equality are sown from a very young age. “Women need to be taught more entrepreneurial skills and how to take the lead on projects. But their soft skills – such as communication, the ability to collaborate and to listen – are also vital.” She also believes

in a co-educational system in which boys and girls learn how to work and compete together. For, ultimately, when they come to compete in the working world, it’s the quality of the person which counts, she says. “If you have a competent person who can do the job well – whether male or female – then that’s the criteria which is going to define your choice.” Concluding, Ms Filletti asserts that she is hopeful for the future. “I’m a very positive person and I’ve seen the situation changing in my 41 years in the business world. We’ve come a long way, so there’s no going back. Malta will continue to forge ahead,” she smiles. cc SEPTEMBER 2019

CC Business

Legal audits: Keeping your business in check A legal audit (or legal and regulatory due diligence process) is an exercise carried out by independent legal professionals who are external to the business or organisation being assessed, whereby the legal, regulatory and compliance status of the business or organisation are audited in order to determine whether the business or organisation is in good legal standing.

Dr Elizabeth Gaerty LL.D, Founding Member, EG Legal


he legal and regulatory due diligence process is traditionally carried out prior or during a merger or acquisition in order to understand the risks tied to such investment and validate the financial offer. However, there is a growing trend outside of Malta to carry out such process as a preventive measure. The outcome of the due diligence process carried out prior to or during an M&A, although similar, is different than what one would expect of a legal audit carried out to assess the legal good standing of the business. In the former instance, one would mainly be assessing risk, potential claims and potential loss of business, while in the latter one is focused on identifying risk liability and solutions in order to present to the client so as to prevent any potential law suits, claims or liability. In Malta, most businesses are family run, and the inclusion of external professionals assisting in a continuous manner is still not part of the majority culture, which generally entails seeking advice when there is a problem rather than taking a preventive stance. Legal audits are extremely beneficial, especially for such undertakings, but not only. Some of the positive outcomes of the process include:


Assessing Directors’ liability – the personal risks associated with being a director of a company are several. In larger organisations, it is difficult to understand this risk, especially in a business which has grown rapidly. Legal audits help in identifying situations posing potential threats to the company’s officers which might give rise to personal liability. Changes in legislation – businesses which do not engage professionals or experts on an ongoing basis or which do not have inhouse counsel tend to operate with obsolete practices or contracts; an example of this would be employment agreements which haven’t been reviewed in years. A legal audit can help identify lacunae, loopholes, or illegal terms which are brought about by changes in legislation or industry practice. Assess legal risks – legal audits can help identify trends or practices in a business which are not considered best industry practice. These can give rise to contention or potential claims in damages which might not only cause financial loss but also reputational damage. Plan of action – having risks identified allows the board or investors to have a plan of action, and also gives peace of mind that the

undertaking is legally sound. The process and intensity depend on the end goal, whether it is a complete or sectorial audit within a group, and the availability of the organisation to assist. The duration of such exercise also depends on the size, dynamics and complexity of the undertaking. It is important for long standing businesses that do not have any in-house counsel or do not seek counsel on an ongoing basis to obtain legal feedback to carry out this process at least every three to five years, or upon any significant changes in regulations pertaining to their industry. For start-ups which have not been professionally assisted from inception, it would be advisable to carry out such process within the first three years of trade in order to ensure the undertaking’s growth is sustained by good practice and good governance. cc

The information contained in this article is for information purposes only, and should be relied upon as a guidance. The information is provided without any warranty, express or implied, including as to its legal effect and completeness. 57

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Enhanced convenience and flexibility as FIMBank announces extension of payment cut-off time


IMBank clients are now benefitting from added convenience and flexibility thanks to the bank’s decision to extend its payment cut-off time. The bank recently announced that payments executed up until 16:00 CET via the bank’s digital banking platform, FIMBank Direct, can now be processed on the day, subject to all criteria being met where applicable. Loranne Pace, Head of Banking Operations and Project Management at FIMBank, says that “the recent extension of the payment cutoff time underlines the bank’s commitment to provide a quality service to its clients. We are constantly enhancing operational efficiencies so as to deliver a higher value service to our customers. This added convenience and flexibility is a key step forward in maintaining FIMBank’s competitive edge as a bespoke provider of local and international corporate banking products.” The bank has engaged a team of international corporate bankers with experience in identifying customer needs and matching these with system solutions, complemented by dedicated support. The bank has also invested significantly in its offering for efficient international settlements in major currencies such as USD, which is enabled through its global correspondent banking network. These settlement options are offered for same day and next day, for both normal and high value transactions. 58

Chris Trapani, Head of Cash Management and Central Customer Services at FIMBank, gave an overview of the bank’s wide range of corporate products. “FIMBank offers corporate relationship support for all business needs, competitive USD and other currency deposit rates for the short and medium term, together with a strong international settlement reach,” he says. He adds that the bank also provides treasury services supporting international payments in a large list of tradeable currencies at competitive rates. Explaining FIMBank’s strategy, he asserts that this “hinges on the commitment to provide added value to our local and international clients by focusing on specialised customer service and sophisticated systems.” FIMBank’s service experience is enhanced by its digital banking platform, FIMBank Direct. This platform is specifically designed to address the needs of corporate customers, providing a framework where accounts can be managed efficiently and securely. Such account holders may execute single and multi-currency funds transfers, as well as competitive Forex transactions, and benefit from other general banking products. cc

“We are constantly enhancing operational efficiencies so as to deliver a higher value service to our customers.”

For further information about FIMBank, visit or contact their business development team on SEPTEMBER 2019

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Express Trailers’ investment in people and safety Today, less and less employees are deciding on whether to stay with a company based on compensation, increasingly focusing on other factors such as the feel-good factor the company gives them, how respected and valued they are, and the opportunities for professional growth and development.


his was proved in a recent survey, which found that employee orientation and recognition, employee development and enhancement, as well as job stability are the top three values that employees find most appealing when considering applying for a post with a new company. Interestingly, remuneration ranked as the fourth quality, followed by creativity and innovation, commitment to quality, customer focus and performance orientation. “At Express Trailers, people are our biggest business drivers and also our biggest investment. They know how respected and valued they are, and in fact, we have a very low employee turnover,” says Franco Azzopardi, Chairman and CEO of Express Trailers.

A new state-of-the-art learning centre Express Trailers has recently completed a new state-of-the-art learning centre for the training of its employees. The LOGIC Learning Centre located within Express Trailers’ premises represents an investment in two interjoined but dividable halls, as well as three mini-lecture rooms which will also serve as meeting rooms, all with state-ofthe-art sound engineering and multi-media video and teleconference equipment. The complex is also served with a modern canteen and outdoor chill area for users of the facilities. The LOGIC will be managed by the company’s Training Academy, which Express Trailers launched last year. Speaking about this investment, Mr

“As logistics leaders, we want to turn Express Trailers into a learning institution for the logistics world because we do not just hire people but train them to become experts in the field of transport and logistics.” 60


CC business Azzopardi explains how this new training centre will also be open to the company’s clients and other parties who are interested to learn more about the intricate world of logistics and commerce, both as a future business prospect and also from a career perspective. “As logistics leaders, we want to turn Express Trailers into a learning institution for the logistics world because we do not just hire people but train them to become experts in the field of transport and logistics. Our people drive our business by optimising equipment, space, distance and time. They bring their experience to address all the logistics risks involved. To keep delivering our hallmark premium quality service, they need to keep getting the best training, and this is what we will be delivering through our new LOGIC Learning Centre,” says Mr Azzopardi. “We are investing substantially in this learning centre and in the training academy so our people will have all the opportunities to learn and become inspired and energised to be better at what they do, so as to serve our clients better. People will connect at The Logic. It is where Express Trailers’ ‘Excellence, Experience and Expertise’ maxim finds its tangible fruition,” he adds. The Express Trailers Training Academy was launched last year to offer all employees continued training, for them to become professionals in their respective fields and to remain abreast of the latest developments in the transport and logistics market. Since then, 35 training sessions have been delivered with the participation of over 250 employees who obtained professional certification in a variety of subjects such as Incoterms and Transport Documentation, Cyber Security, Technical Training and other


training related to specific departments. “Our employees are not just employees. When they start working with us, they become experts and professionals in their work and on many occasions, they are the ones passing on their acquired knowledge and experience to newer employees. In fact, more hands-on training on the job and formal training by experienced employees is being planned from this coming September. Ongoing training, sharing of experience and a persuasive attitude towards working safely form our #WeAreOrange culture.” Investment in a more professional and safer VRT operation Besides the professional development of its people, Express Trailers, through its sister company Express VRT Ltd, has also invested in a new VRT Service Centre. This VRT Centre was formerly located inside Express Trailers’ operations yard but has now been relocated to a larger and more modern space at the top of Imgieret Road, next to the ShipLowCost central depot, just across the road from Express Trailers’ head offices. “Besides an obvious need to optimise our operative space to achieve more efficiencies, the major driver for this move was to offer a safer operative environment, both for our people who manage the

VRT operation and also the many clients who use our VRT service. Our workers and customers can now enjoy a safer environment,” says Mr Azzopardi. “Safety remains a paramount aspect at all levels of Express Trailers’ operations. VRT is about ensuring that cars are safe on the roads and therefore, as professed ambassadors of road safety, we are proud to have entered this huge investment to offer a most modern and safe VRT testing operation,” he adds. Express Trailers has been offering its VRT service for over 10 years. Besides servicing normal vehicles, the Express VRT Service is also equipped to assess larger industrial vehicles as well as commercial car fleets and leased fleets. The Express VRT station is open on weekdays between 7am and 4pm and on Saturdays between 7am and 12pm. For further information one may call 2558 9902. For added convenience, clients may choose to drop off their vehicle at the station and be contacted once the servicing is complete. “At Express Trailers, the three main business drivers are our space, our equipment and our people. Investing in our people and in our operations helps us remain focused on our main purpose – that of adding value to our shareholders,” concludes Mr Azzopardi. cc

“We are investing substantially in this learning centre and in the training academy so our people will have all the opportunities to learn and become inspired and energised to be better at what they do, so as to serve our clients better.”



NEWS Events & Initiatives

01. Scheme to offer cyber security solutions to businesses “No business is too small to be at risk of a cyber security attack,” said Hugh Arrigo, Vice President of the Malta Chamber, at the launch of the B Secure Scheme in June. “The B Secure Scheme shall provide private industry with the necessary assistance to leverage its cyber security posture.” Mr Arrigo noted how each year, global media were reporting increases in cyberattacks around the world, and how Maltese companies were not immune to these hacks. He added that regular updating of software and training of employees were amongst the many effective ways of preventing cyber attacks while generating cyber security awareness. “The Chamber has welcomed the National Cyber Security Awareness and Education Campaign, and it has also collaborated with MITA in conducting a survey among Maltese businesses. Furthermore, a focus group session between 11 SME business owners was held at the Chamber to elicit and assess the level of cyber security awareness among SMEs in Malta,” he noted. The B Secure Scheme was launched at the Malta Chamber by the Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation Silvio Schembri in the presence of Tony Sultana from MITA and Mr Brendeke from Acronis.

02. "Better connectivity is always welcome, yet national airline’s strategic importance can never be put aside" In a statement issued in June, the Malta Chamber welcomed the establishment of the new Malta-based airline Malta Air, which was announced earlier this year. “The Malta Chamber has always argued in favour of improved connectivity to Malta, which has proven over the years to contribute directly to the tourism industry in

01. general as well as a number of other satellite industries that depend on efficient and costeffective connections,” the statement said. The Chamber cautioned that the national carrier Air Malta must remain a priority for Government and all needed to be done to safeguard its position in the market. “The Chamber has argued time and time again how Air Malta is of strategic importance to the country’s economy, not least the tourism sector. Other sectors such as manufacturing, amongst others, are completely reliant on timely and reliable supply of components and raw materials for their competitive operation. The national airline plays a pivotal role in this equation and cannot be in any way placed in any form of danger,” the Chamber concluded.

03. Consultation on SingleUse Plastic Strategy “The Single Use Plastic (SUP) products strategy is a step in the right direction as long as the implementation and actions taken are proportionate to Malta’s small market and lack of economies of scale,” stated Adrian Mallia, Chairman of the Sustainable Development Committee of the Malta Chamber, during a consultation meeting held at the Chamber in June. The ERA officials present at the meeting explained that the strategy forms part of Government’s aim towards enhancing the circular economy.

The strategy identifies the plastic products which will be impacted through market restrictions, economic instruments and existing or new Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programmes or schemes which will be responsible for general litter for certain SUPs. These actions will be implemented between 2020 and 2030. The members present had the opportunity to raise a number of issues related to the strategy. The Malta Chamber prepared its own submissions based on the feedback gathered from members during this consultation meeting and additional submissions by email.

04. Reform will only be successful if all stakeholders have the will to change, improve The Malta Chamber submitted its feedback and recommendations on the new draft Regulations on Excavation and Construction Practices, as part of the consultation process which was concluded in June. “All along, the Chamber has advocated for the highest standards in design, engineering, management and construction, which must become the true objectives. This reform must be a holistic review of our regulatory and practices framework to truly modernise the industry and change the current situation,” the Chamber said. In its document, which was compiled following consultation with its members,

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the Chamber said that it was clear that concrete results would only be achieved if all stakeholders had the will to change and most importantly, improve. The Chamber warned that the new authority that would be established to amalgamate the fragmented agencies that exist in this field must strive to regulate, enforce, educate and motivate the industry and the public to make this industry excel in its delivery and sustainable in its objectives.

05. MAKE IT wins prestigious national enterprise support award MAKE IT, the initiative to encourage young people to consider a career in manufacturing, was recognised by the National Support Awards, organised by

06. the Commerce Department in June. MAKE IT, which is organised by the Malta Chamber with the support of Malta Enterprise, aims at shedding a light on the great opportunities that exist within the manufacturing sector. Since it is mostly targeted at young persons, the campaign is distributed through channels such as social media. The core element of the campaign is a number of testimonials that were purposely shot on video. The testimonials were provided by young individuals who expressed themselves about their choice to work in the manufacturing sector and why they prefer it to other career arrangements. In turn, these short testimonials were shared on social media. All interviewees spoke in detail about the advantages of the manufacturing industry and the thrill of keeping themselves up to date with the latest technological advancements in their specific fields.

06. “Construction industry needs to restore reputation with the people who deserve better”

05. SEPTEMBER 2019

Malta Chamber President David Xuereb said that the building industry didn’t only face difficulties in raising the bar of quality and ethical standards, but it also needed to restore reputation with the people who demanded and deserved better. The Chamber President was delivering his opening remarks at ‘Dialogue with the Prime Minister’ on 27th June, offering the exclusive opportunity to Malta Chamber members to debate tangible and real issues that affect their daily operations with the Prime Minister. Perit Xuereb noted how “the intentions of the Considerate Contractor Scheme,

in fact, fell squarely in line with our 2014 Economic Vision document which advocated a high-quality economy.” The discussion delved into other topics, also referred to by Perit Xuereb. These included how certain economic sectors were facing exceptional growth, while others were expanding at a much slower rate, the study on labour shortages carried out by the Chamber last year, which had concluded that the country recommended sourcing of labour from abroad to meet the demand, compulsory Union Membership, the strains which state pensions where posing on public finances and the launch of Malta Air.

07. Let common sense prevail In a statement to the media in July, the Malta Chamber said it was once again in support of the national airline and those negotiating on its behalf to ensure it remained in a position to operate uninterruptedly, and into the future. "The Malta Chamber has said time and time again that the national airline is instrumental to the smooth running of the entire economy with several sectors depending intimately on its efficient and reliable operation," the business organisation warned. "It is high time that every player in the equation understands the responsibilities and implications of their actions, and act responsibly in favour of the economic stability of the country. The country cannot allow itself to be hijacked by the personal interests of the few," the statement said. The Malta Chamber called for common sense to prevail in unblocking the dangerous impasse for the economy and for the highest degree of responsibility on the negotiation table. 65

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08. Teachers to be exposed to the realities of industry in second edition of voluntary programme At the launch of the second edition of the GO4Industry – Teacher Internship Programme in July, Deputy President Marisa Xuereb said that it was clear that those countries which were not investing enough in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM subjects), would eventually fall behind in terms of competitiveness. Ms Xuereb said that it was estimated that by 2025, approximately 26 per cent of all jobs would be in high-level occupations in science, engineering, healthcare, business and teaching, requiring employees with certain technical and industry-specific skill sets which were currently lacking. This was based on a study by the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop) and research conducted by Chamber members. “We rely on these teachers to pass on the insight they gain through their experiences in industry to their students. These interactions are essential in order to eradicate misconceptions and educate everyone on the exciting opportunities in Malta’s industry today,” the Deputy President concluded. The second edition of the GO4Industry - Teacher Internship Programme is the result of a voluntary collaboration between leading companies and sciences teachers in secondary schools. It is organised by the Ministry for Education and Employment together with the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry.

08. 09. Malta member on the European Court of Auditors Leo Brincat visits Chamber

10. Malta Chamber and Malta Institute of Accountants commit to collaborate in the future

Upon welcoming Malta’s member on the European Court of Auditors Leo Brincat in July, President David Xuereb emphasised the significance and importance of a healthy channel of communication with national as well as European institutions, in the interest of Malta’s business community. Mr Brincat presented the recently published European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) performance audit report for which he was reporting member. Both sides discussed and agreed on the importance of the EU flagship initiative in boosting growth and investment by providing access to finance. The meeting noted that being a demand-driven instrument, its geographical distribution across the EU remained a challenge in terms of the lower take-up by smaller member states like Malta, which could be attributable to the value of the projects and market needs. The Malta Chamber provided Mr Brincat with feedback about the limitations and pitfalls of EFSI on behalf of the local business community. In the same vein, the Chamber expressed its views on what is expected from the upcoming financial instrument InvestEU.

The Malta Chamber and The Malta Institute of Accountants have signed a memorandum of understanding intended to provide a structure for collaboration between the two bodies in the future. By virtue of the agreement, which was signed by Malta Chamber President David Xuereb and Malta Institute of Accountants President William Spiteri Bailey, the two organisations agreed to cooperate actively in the interest of the Maltese economy, and the upholding of business ethics and the promotion of best practice amongst members of both organisations. The agreement was also signed by Malta Chamber Deputy President Marisa Xuereb and Malta Institute of Accountants Vice President Fabio Axisa.

11. Financing business to prosper – a practical approach The Malta Chamber held an information session together with Bank of Valletta (BOV) and Malta Development Bank (MDB) to discuss two schemes launched recently, aimed at aiding SMEs and Family Businesses with Capital Investment. This session is one of a series of events co-organised with BOV in view of the recently extended partnership agreement with the Malta Chamber. The programme gave a detailed insight with relation to the latest financing opportunities available to local based SMEs. Special focus was given with regards to two schemes provided by BOV: BOV SME Invest and BOV Family Business Success.

12. New excise duty band from 1st October

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Importers, warehouse keepers and retailers will be required to affix a new excise duty band for alcoholic beverages with alcoholic content between 10 per cent and 24 per cent as from 1st October 2019. These guidelines were the result of extensive discussions held between Customs and the Malta Chamber, and SEPTEMBER 2019

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for the issues that emerge from this report to be tackled in a decisive and timely manner. Based on the research and feedback from experts being compiled as part of the process of publishing the new Economic Vision for Malta beyond 2020, it is abundantly evident that financial services is to remain a principal pillar of the Maltese economy in the foreseeable future, providing a wide and solid base for several other complementary sectors to thrive on. Any sort of damage to this important sector could compromise its potential for future growth. The Chamber is steadfast in its belief that our country will emerge stronger from this challenge. Once again, the Chamber offers its full support to the authorities for the benefit of its members and of the Maltese economy.


14. The Residential Leases Act falls short of achieving true objectives

11. ensured that the new requirements would not inflict unnecessary burdens on its members’ operations. Represented by its Wines, Spirits, Beverages & Tobacco Executive Committee, the Chamber agreed to a set of principles, based on which the new guidelines were set. The regulation informs importers about changes in ordering, paying and receiving excise tax bands, with the new scheme of excise duty band production and distribution being managed by OpSec Security Malta. The Chamber’s proposals to the guidelines were adopted by Customs. The Malta Chamber retained their excellent rapport with Customs and worked with the department to iron out any challenges which might arise prior to its introduction on 1st October. The Chamber wishes to thank Customs for its cooperation which was conducive to the favourable outcome of the discussions.

the Maltese economy is so dependent. The Malta Chamber noted that money laundering is a global phenomenon which ought to be tackled in a coordinated and concerted manner by all stakeholders. On the domestic level, we need to ensure we are ahead of the game and be seen by one and all as forcefully attending to the present challenges currently facing Malta’s upstanding and reputable operators of the sector. It is undoubtedly to the benefit of our economy’s future prospects and ambitions

The Chamber expressed its disappointment, during a Press Conference in July, at the fact that the recently published Residential Leases Act did not begin to solve the decades-long issues that plague the residential rental market. The Chamber reiterated its strong position that the country needed a holistic plan for the rental market. Addressing the Press Conference, Chamber President David Xuereb said that the bill completely omitted pre1995 leases and failed to tackle its main social and economic objectives: that of safeguarding and protecting the right to adequate, affordable accommodation for all residents, along with the individual’s fundamental right to privacy. “This piecemeal approach does not cater for the impact of spiralling rental

13. Doubts cast on financial services sector must be cleared decisively The Malta Chamber is following with interest the unfolding of the developments in connection with the leaked Moneyval rating of Malta’s anti money laundering measures, due to its direct impact on the financial services sector, on which SEPTEMBER 2019

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rates on the property and labour markets. Nor does it provide protection from the resulting illegalities of low standard shared accommodation, consequently impacting the surrounding residential environment and Maltese community at large,” Perit Xuereb said. For the benefit of the lessor and lessee alike, the Malta Chamber advised that this law would be re-drafted, given a broader scope and refined in concept to really constitute a much-needed reform of the rental market.

15. Launch of Young Chamber Network The Chamber welcomed young entrepreneurs for a Gin & Calamari evening in August. Guests were welcomed by Perit David Xuereb who introduced the concept of Young Chamber Network (YCN). Amanda Xuereb explained how the YCN would bring together a high-powered pool of individuals who can support each other within the context of the Chamber. All participants introduced themselves to the group, providing a strong basis for a successful networking session afterwards. YCN thanks Farsonsdirect, Infinitely Xara, Attard Co Wines & Spirits and Karl Borg Events for their support.

16. Stakeholders meeting for Economic Vision 2020 and Beyond The CEOs that were chosen to contribute their ideas for the Chamber's Economic Vision 2020 and Beyond, met on the first week of August, to discuss the progress so far. 28 of Malta’s most prominent CEOs were welcomed by Malta Chamber President Perit David Xuereb, who gave an overview of the

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15. complete restructuring process currently taking place at the Chamber. Perit Xuereb noted how the Economic Vision underlines the Chamber’s vision to be a proactive voice for business in a modern economy. David Spiteri Gingell, who is compiling the document, made a presentation following a set of interviews he conducted with the CEOs previously, as part of the Economic Vision compilation process. The meeting was followed by a dinner at the Council Room of the Malta Chamber. The Economic Vision 2020 and Beyond is expected to be launched later on this year. This document will serve as a follow-up to the first edition ‘An Economic Vision for

Malta 2014-2020’ and shall once again strive to provide Government with a business agenda for the country’s economy.

17. Construction Agency must only be the first step in a long journey of raising standards In a press release in August, the Malta Chamber congratulated Government on setting up the Building Construction Agency. "Looking ahead, the Chamber augurs that this is only the first step in a target-driven journey of raising quality standards and upholding ethical operations in the very active construction industry," the statement said. The announcement continued to enforce the suggestions which the Malta Chamber has, up till recently, been very vociferous about. One of which is the need for a complete overhaul of the construction industry, no less the establishment of an authority that would be tasked with tangibly raising the standards of this important industry. The Chamber advocates a high-quality economy where mediocrity and substandards become a thing of the past, and are replaced by a culture of excellence, where the current ‘good enough’ attitude is replaced by ‘nothing but the best’ within a specified timeframe. The Chamber of Commerce believes that the ethical standards and quality of our construction industry need to be raised immediately and brought in line with those in other developed countries. SEPTEMBER 2019


NEWS Internationalisation

Malta Consortium to offer information and personalised services tailored to the companies’ needs, thanks to the varied business expertise available. By putting its local business knowledge into advice, supplemented with a vast network of international connections, the Malta Chamber provides the value-added support which is needed to reach high impact outcomes. The Malta Chamber, as part of EEN in Malta, can offer a number of services to its esteemed members, some of which include innovation support, technology transfer advice and advisory to access finance, amongst others. Companies that wish to learn more about what’s in it for them can contact Enterprise Europe Network in Malta and set an appointment to assess their current state of play, plan coherently how to develop their business strategy towards jointly-established outcomes, identify financial streams to turn their ideas into commercialisation and outreach to grow and scale up through various international networking opportunities which can bring them in contact with the right investors.

03. Export and import survey sheds light on Chamber members’ operations and priorities

01. 01. Business Forum promotes opportunities with Bangladesh The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry has collaborated with Trade Malta and the Counsellor’s office at the Bangladesh Embassy in Athens, on organising a Business Forum between Maltese business representatives and a high-level delegation from Bangladesh, headed by Dr A K Abdul Momen, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Malta Chamber President David Xuereb expressed the Chamber’s desire for Malta, of pursuing a journey towards establishing solid commercial relations with Bangladesh. As a result, this could provide tangible opportunities for respective business communities. He underlined the Chamber’s role as an influential interlocutor to improve bilateral ties by solidifying reciprocal confidence and trust. The Business Forum was addressed by Carmelo Abela, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion in Malta, who SEPTEMBER 2019

explained how this visit made history in the bilateral relations as it was the first time the respective Ministers met in Malta. Minister Abela said that it is his intention to seek avenues of commercial collaborations in conjunction with the Malta Chamber and Trade Malta, to further nurture the friendly relations between both countries. The economic and business environment of the two countries were presented during the Forum by Trade Malta and the High Commission of Bangladesh for Malta respectively, delving in depth on the commercial perspectives and several opportunities for business communities. The Forum was followed by a networking session which facilitated informal exchanges amongst the participants to foster commercial collaborations.

02. Malta Chamber, as part of Enterprise Europe Network (EEN), can help you Over these five years, the Malta Chamber has teamed up with the EEN

Over the past weeks, the Malta Chamber has been conducting an internationalisation survey with the aim of producing a clearer picture of aspects relating to this area. Special focus is given to importers and distributors, together with manufacturing and services providers. The research is targeted towards understanding the operations of exporting and importing companies represented by the Chamber. Some issues tackled include main countries of exportation and importation, interests in pursuing new potential markets and respective export and import modes of doing business. Although this research is still ongoing, the survey is already providing the Chamber with valuable data that can result in the organisation of Business-toBusiness (B2B) events and other support initiatives tailored to the companies’ needs. From the results that are expected to emerge, the Malta Chamber will get a clear idea on potential new services which it can provide in assistance to firms of such expertise, in any current or future internationalisation activities. cc 73


Laferla Insurance signs significant race boat team sponsorship ‘Ton Ton Laferla Insurance’ Racing Team participating in the 40th edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race.

Laferla have announced a sponsorship agreement with Malta Charters, the owners of S/Y Ton Ton, a Dufour 44R race boat. The substantial investment has helped to make possible the upgrading of the racing boat in time for the 40th edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race in October. The agreement has also strengthened the long-standing relationship between Laferla and Malta Charters. Jonathan Gambin, Managing Director of Malta Charters and owner of the Ton Ton team, is excited to see how the racing boat performs in this year’s Rolex Middle Sea race, following various improvements including a custom-made carbon fibre mast, new sails and greatly improved safety features, as part of a substantial investment. This is more so as, after a promising start last year, Ton Ton had to leave the race early following technical difficulties. “The upgrades wouldn’t have been possible without Laferla’s contribution. I am excited and encouraged to put Ton Ton back in the race where she belongs following this total overhaul, especially for the race’s 40th edition,” shares Mr Gambin. But Rolex Middle Sea Race is not the only household name celebrating a special anniversary. The sponsorship comes as part of Laferla Insurance’s 35th anniversary celebrations as they seek to honour their accomplishments over the years. “We are very proud of the way Laferla Insurance has grown over the past three and a half decades. We have worked very hard to make the company what it is today and to build the relationships we have today,” states Mark Laferla, Chairman and founder of Laferla Insurance Agency. “We are excited to mark our 35th anniversary with such a promising partnership, and hope that the Ton Ton Laferla Insurance racing team is successful in this race, as they surely deserve to be!” Scheduled for the 19th October 2019, the established and much-awaited event will award its prizes to the winners in a prize-giving ceremony one week later, on 26th October. Laferla Insurance Agency Ltd would like to wish the best of luck to all the teams at this year’s Rolex Middle Sea Race, although they must say, they have their eye on one very special boat. cc #rolexmiddlesearace #rmsr2019 #TonTonLaferla



CC make the headlines

Matthew Bezzina eCabs CEO

Technology central for eCabs’ success for ‘The Perpetual Trip’ A foreign app would indicate that a trip from Balluta to St George’s Bay will take less time than a trip from Marsa tunnels to St George’s Bay. With our centralised tech systems however, we know it’s actually the other way around, especially due to the recent road network upgrade in the Sta Venera region. At eCabs we know this also because the technology we have built is a knowledge-based technology where routes and timeframes are being calculated through the constant flow of real-time data based on road density, changing topography, weather conditions and human behaviour – all agents that affect the flow of traffic. 76


CC make the headlines


obility is a currency,” says Matthew Bezzina, CEO of eCabs, “and it is going to be the country’s biggest socio-economic challenge for the next 10 to 20 years. Our mission at eCabs is to create a vision for Malta’s mobility patterns based on optimised technology running on a constant harvesting of primary and secondary data.” Indeed, technology has always been at the very heart of eCabs’ operations. The way the company has been applying technology is defining its identity, to the extent that today, eCabs considers itself as a technology-based company. “We are creating the technological tools that help us optimise our service and the huge amounts of data related to mobility patterns that we are gathering are helping us look into the future. And from a mobility perspective, our future is full of promise and potential.” When Matthew set up eCabs in 2010, he was still 24. His company’s first business plan was drafted whilst he was researching for his MBA dissertation. But he saw it all coming in the changing demographics, the increased demand for more mobility options and the transformation of local lifestyles. “Many people are still not aware that we develop our own technology in-house through a fully-dedicated team of developers and third-party partners. We carry thousands of passengers every year, within a context where the needs, realities and complexities of our local market are truly unique. This is further exacerbated by the fact that Malta is one of the most densely-populated countries and has the highest road density network in Europe. The technology we are creating is already able to cater for this environment, with all the unpredictability it brings, caused by the weather, ongoing road works and changing driving patterns. It also supports our international aspirations in that the technology we are building, although applied in Malta, can also be exported to other jurisdictions.” Matthew explains that the technology linked to the infrastructure, together with the drivers and the fleet of vehicles, are the three pillars on which eCabs’ proposition is built. “We developed and now own our IP. This has been developed to operate on the local scene, taking the high density of our road network into consideration. Few people stop to think that our roads were built around the unique physiognomy of our towns and villages which already existed before the car arrived in Malta. Over the years, the car kept muscling into the already very limited space and today, the results are there for everyone to see,” he says. “Our vision at eCabs is to change the mentality. We have built a booking platform which is accessible through five distinct channels: namely our app, telephone, website, over the counter service and soon, through a variety of social media platforms. This means that we are aggregating data through


technology, Artificial Intelligence and human intervention, and this data is helping us take important and more efficient decisions. It also means that we can provide our service to anyone and according to the demand without limiting people from certain demographics. The service is thus more sustainable and shockproof.” The perpetual trip Matthew Bezzina considers the use of “smart technology as one of the most defining aspects of the company, with the control centre, which operates on a 24x7 basis, as the heart of eCabs’ operational set-up. “The idea behind our logistics and control centre is to optimise the service levels and our operational capacity. The control centre gives us the visibility in real time of all our fleet, whilst the IT platform enables our operators and drivers to devise the best route possible for them. Our systems are built with a complex web of algorithms to optimise all the operation in real-time, even at peak operational levels,” he asserts. “It all boils down to maximising efficiencies. In our sector, a vehicle is either idle and waiting for the next booking, being driven to pick someone up, or carrying the passenger. As we keep gathering data and improving our systems, we are striving to decrease the idle time as much as possible, in order to achieve bigger efficiencies and more cost control, whilst also enhancing the customer experience. By optimising the route and matching the various trips and their duration, we would be getting closer to the ideal scenario where idle time and trips with no passengers will be at a minimum, while giving the end customer better pricing options. The perpetual trip can become a reality, but this will only become possible with more data and increased volumes.”

Developers for eCabs’ growing IT team Matthew Bezzina recalls how in 2010, the industry was still in its infancy. “Back then, our prime motivation was to create an environment in which we could attract drivers to work with us and attract customers to be serviced. It wasn’t easy as it required a big culture shift, but we managed. The next phase was attracting people to work in our operations and administration departments, and we managed, even to the extent that the bigger percentage of these employees are female. After a year, we knew that we had to set up our own development team to have the flexibility to grow according to the needs of the market,” he maintains. “Today, our effort to keep optimising trips is taking place through a driver matching process which is a mix of automatic datadriven intervention and manual intervention. The process is very fragile, and a simple road upgrade or closure can be a game changer. However, our mixed decision-making process is already very granular, and can decide which car and driver to send based on customer profile, locality, vehicle address, road physiognomy and vehicle type. But the next leap is to have technology which optimises our service through a near-automatic driver matching system.” “Today’s tech community is noticing our work, and more technology professionals and developers are being attracted to eCabs as they see a sense of mission in what the company does. We are seeing interest from both young and experienced developers seeking to join the company from industries such as gaming and finance, as they are excited to be part of eCabs’ journey. They will be working in the knowledge that here at eCabs, we are striving towards creating a vision for Malta’s mobility to be based on optimised technology. What we’re doing here is creating and envisioning Malta’s mobility future.” cc

“Our effort to keep optimising trips is taking place through a driver matching process which is a mix of automatic data-driven intervention and manual intervention.”


Fashion Trends

01. Regency necklines Picture yourself in a Jane Austen novel for this one – just think of what you’d wear to meet Mr Darcy! As autumn rolls around, the Victorian-inspired collars that were so popular last spring will make way for softly rounded, Regency-inspired square necklines, as seen on the runways of various designers, including Bevza, Chalyan and Paul Costelloe.

02. White

03. Ruffles In a trend that’s likely to be everywhere this season, ruffles will be tiered and out in full force this autumn. Be inspired by the beautiful examples showcased at Erdem and Molly Goddard for a take on the trend that will take you from the office right through to the festive season.

05. Capes There’s something so elegant about a cape! Short or long, capes are the cover-up du jour this season, seen all over the autumn 2019 runways from Chanel to Mishka. Apart from looking ultra-chic and keeping you warm, capes also have the double effect of instilling a sense of power – and we could all use some of that in the office!

06. Big bags


Tired of tiny bags that can barely contain your iPhone? Well, it looks like bag designers have paid attention, coming back with bags that teeter on the other edge of the spectrum. Enter the largerthan-life tote, as seen at Proenza Schouler, Jacquemus and Stella McCartney – there’ll be no limiting what you take with you with these larger than life lovelies. cc


Massimo Dutti

You’d be forgiven for thinking that all-white outfits should be relegated to the summer months, but not this year! Head-to-toe white ensembles make for a chic way to dress for cooler climes, as showcased in collections by top brands like Roland Mouret, Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi and Chanel. Keep the fresh feel of summer throughout your autumn wardrobe – you can always pretend you’re off on a chic ski trip!


Last spring, it was all about the rounded collar. Come autumn, we’re after sharpernecked shirting, with ultra-pointed collars. The trend has been forecast to be big news this season by everyone from Alexa Chung to Fendi and Victoria Beckham, and if you’re feeling nippy, just layer the collar of the lapels of your jacket or jumper for a toasty take on the trend.


As the heat of summer begins to make way for a cooler autumn, our wardrobe changes right along with it. Sarah Micallef discovers what to look out for this season.


04. Pointed collars

Ro da rte

04. 02.

Tom Ford

05. Ermanno Scervino

06. Kwaidan Editions SEPTEMBER 2019






Office Trends

04. All in the details

While modern workspaces have become more techoriented, the human element still shines through. From augmented reality to co-working spaces, Jillian Mallia explores the trends that are currently ones to watch out for.

Workspace experience has become increasingly important as an office trend this year. The idea stems from the desire to create a comfortable workplace, where staff feel happy, valued and can work productively. And this is all in the details. From the quality of tea and coffee to having exercise facilities and games areas to unwind, this trend keeps the staff’s perspective in mind with a holistic style.

01. Co-working

05. First impressions

Co-working spaces have caught on like wildfire, with more popping up in various industries. Such spaces have changed the culture of work, having upgraded work environments and grabbed the attention of multinational enterprises. Co-working spaces are also areas that give creators the freedom to brainstorm and work individually, as well as with others.

02. Screen-centric spaces

Work Design Magazine


Technology and computing have become an integral part of workplaces over the years. A screen-centric future is already here and doesn’t only revolve around youth. The smart office is a reality and screen-centric spaces create a more dynamic way of working.

03. Artisanal interiors

First impressions can make or break a job interview, deal or sale. When it comes to interview rooms, the aura of the room impacts an employee’s choice to work there. A new trend is being observed whereby dedicated interview rooms appear in larger office spaces to leave a desired first impression on prospective employees.

06. Augmented reality Augmented reality is making its way into the office, bringing two worlds together. Merging virtual elements with the physical world, augmented reality can stimulate face-to-face meetings for participants around the world, as well as provide access to real-time information, anytime, anywhere, allowing a new level of responsiveness. cc

The demand for mass-produced and ordinary materials is dwindling in an era of hand-crafted, artisanal and locally sourced products. Companies are tending to participate in fair trade economy and purchasing materials from small business vendors that not only promote artisanal products, but also sustainable initiatives.



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SolidSmack SEPTEMBER 2019


Of building relationships and quality architecture Anthea Huber, Partner and Head of Design at Archi+, tells Martina Said about the architecture company’s recent design projects, its new set-up, and how fostering a positive work environment comes above all else.


etting foot inside the Archi+ office in Lija, you’re instantly met with two feel-good factors that showcase why this young but dynamic firm has grown into what it is today. First is the design of the relatively new office, which thrusts you into

Photo by Alan Carville


a motivating environment, worlds away from the busy Lija area it is located in. But even more palpable is the buzzing and energetic vibe created by the people who occupy it. I meet Anthea Huber, Partner and Head of Design, who tells me right off the bat that the positive work environment at the firm is one of the reasons for its inception. “The founders, Adrian Mangion and Warren Falzon, started the company around nine years ago, and back then it was a team of three people trying to do something different. They wanted to create a work atmosphere where people felt comfortable, and since the beginning, their main priority has been their relationships with employees.” Anthea was the sixth person to join the firm three years later, at a time when it was growing slowly, despite it being a bad time for the profession. “It was 2009, the time of the credit crunch, so setting up a company seemed a little crazy at the time, but it was that energy which got the founders where we are today, with a growing team of 37 people.” Another reason for the company’s success is the relationships fostered with clients over the years. “We pride ourselves on creating friendships rather than just business relationships. When we start a project, we treat it as our own, possibly too much at times, but that encourages clients to feel comfortable with us, and evidence of this is the fact that we have quite a few repeat clients.”

Photo by Alan Carville

Although gradual and over several years, Archi+’s growth called for a new structure to organise the company in a more efficient and formal manner. What followed was a rigorous exercise to assess and highlight the main principles that team members had been acting on for the past years, leading to the establishment of four departments, each one led by a different partner. Anthea heads the Design Department, which is the creative engine of Archi+, responsible for ensuring that ideas conceived on paper become reality. Adrian Mangion leads the Planning and Valuations team, which, through expertise in building regulations and planning policies, ensures a smooth and efficient application process. Lino Micallef, who joined the firm four years ago, leads the Structures team that is responsible for fulfilling designs from concept to real-life structures, often through innovative engineering. The Project Management team is led by Warren Falzon and is tasked with being hands-on in a project from start to finish, while solving any technical challenges that arise along the way. “Our growth is what called for this new structure, and this gives us a good foundation to move forward and continue growing in the years to come,” says Anthea. “Exploring the foreign market will be our next big adventure when the time is right, and having a good basis and structure here is key to getting there.” SEPTEMBER 2019


230 Works – Photos by Therese Debono

“Nowadays, clients want the architect to get more involved with designing interiors. There is a better understanding of the requirement for that service, and that is the kind of client we’re after.”

Having this structure in place also facilitates the smoothness of projects with prospective clients. As the architect explains, every project moves through the four departments, starting with the design team. “We establish a brief and what is required of the project, and one individual is made responsible for it so that the client has one point of reference throughout the life-span of the project. This makes communication with the client easier and more straightforward, which is crucial,” Anthea explains. “This person consolidates the work of the various teams for the client, and is usually someone from the design team.” Next is the planning stage, and the highly-specialised team – which also provides valuations – is responsible for obtaining the required permits. Once the design is established and permits are in place, the structures team comes in to work its magic, often pushed to its creative limits by the design team, as Anthea puts it. Once all this is laid out, the project management team gets involved. “With this set-up, we have the facility to accommodate all the phases of a project.” This development in the company’s evolution marks a new phase for Archi+. With a vibrant new office that accommodates growing numbers and an improved operational set-up, the firm is staking its claim and also standing its ground, focused on creating quality architecture locally at a time when it is desperately needed. SEPTEMBER 2019

At the Borderline – Photo by MAS for Homeworks



Celebrating Curves – Photos by MAS for Homeworks

Last July, Archi+ received a special mention for the Emerging Practice category at the Premju Emanuele Luigi Galizia, an awards programme organised by the Kamra tal-Periti, which celebrates and recognises excellence in architecture, civil engineering, urban regeneration and interior design. As Anthea explains, standing out from the crowd isn’t easy, but Archi+ is managing to do that on its own terms. “Locally, in terms of planning, it’s a mess, and we feel that we have a huge responsibility to create beautiful things. But, unfortunately, there’s only a handful of architects who carry that ethos, and to get there we’re all working towards the same goal, but we’re still a minority. This, and a lack of enforced design guidelines, makes it a challenge to work in this environment.” On the upside, however, Anthea notes that respect for design has grown substantially in recent years, and the architect is no longer viewed as the perit who simply constructs your house. “Nowadays, clients want the architect to get more involved with designing interiors. There is a better understanding of the requirement for that service, and that is the kind of client we’re after, which is very different to how it was a few years ago.” Going through the company’s portfolio from recent years, Anthea highlights some of the most important projects Archi+ has worked on to date, including ones which have received recognition. “Celebrating Curves is a residential interior project, an apartment we received in shell form that had many curves built into it at a time when curves weren’t really in, but we thought best to make the most of them. Although the client had a good budget, this meant that most of the furniture had to be custom built, but we balanced that out with budget-friendly finishes, such as concrete flooring. This is the first project we received an award for, so it’s a special one.” Archi+ also received an award for the office interiors of AAT Research Group, a company which develops medical devices for children on the Autism spectrum. “The hardest part for us was understanding what they do and 84

how they work, and then moving away from the clinical feel typically associated with companies involved in the medical field. They also work long hours and overnight shifts, so it was important to create a homely feel inside the office, and we did this by creating an industrial home office.” Noni restaurant in Valletta, completed in 2018, is another interiors project which the team received an award for. Anthea explains that the space was originally Xmun Borg & Sons Bakery, then subsequently used as a jazz bar, before being taken over by the current owner who turned it into a restaurant. “There was a huge wood-fired oven at the back, which the chef uses, and when we stripped the cladding from the walls we found beautiful stone walls and a series of arches in the main dining space, which we retained. We introduced new arches to contrast with the existing ones, creating an

interesting play between old and new.” Considered to be their star project is At the Borderline, a villa in Madliena which the team worked on from concept to completion. The site, which was long and narrow, presented plenty of challenges which they were keen to take on. “All there was on site was a beautiful rubble wall which we retained, that acts as both a boundary as well as an introduction to the villa. The rest is a new build, and includes structural interventions such as a skylight, double height spaces, and a stunning staircase. This is one project where we handled the architecture and the interior, and it shows that there’s congruence between the two.” One of the firm’s most recent projects is 230 Works, a co-working space in Mosta that opened its doors last May, and also presented an interesting set of challenges to the team in charge. “The site was basically a garage –

“We still have a lot to learn and improve on before we can explore the foreign market, but it is on our minds and we all know that it’s the next big step for us to take.”

Noni’s – Photo by Brian Grech SEPTEMBER 2019


L-R: Lino Micallef, Warren Falzon, Anthea Huber, Adrian Mangion. Photo by Alan Carville

42 metres long with just two service shafts and no natural light. The challenge was to introduce light and break up the space, while giving it an outdoor feel,” says Anthea. “We did this by introducing landscaping internally and angles which broke up the linearity of the space. Artificial lighting was important here, as it stood in for what we lacked in natural light.” Other projects still in the works include a residential property in Madliena and an old palazzo, which, with its fascinating historic background, presents new and exciting

“The founders wanted to create a work atmosphere where people felt comfortable, and since the beginning, their main priority has been their relationships with employees.” challenges to the Archi+ team. Looking ahead, however, Anthea asserts that the team would like to expand its presence overseas at some point in the near future. “We’re still in early discussions and need to consolidate what we have here before taking steps to expand abroad. We still have a lot to learn and improve on before we can

make that move, but it is on our minds and we all know that it’s the next big step for us to take,” she explains. “Doing this is also a safe decision to future-proof the firm against slowdowns in the Maltese market and to be a step ahead, but only when the time is right. Beyond that, it’s a very exciting prospect that we can’t wait to explore.” cc

AAT 1 – Photos by Allen Venables SEPTEMBER 2019



Spotlight on: Malta’s booming logistics sector Logistics is big business, and many consider it one of the most important sectors of the moment. Here, Jo Caruana chats to some of its key stakeholders to discover what future a boom may hold, as well as what the recent Malta Free Zones Bill could mean for the island.


t was probably Neolithic man who first realised the geographic effectiveness of Malta’s location in the middle of the Mediterranean – but he wasn’t the last. Ever since the history books began, our island has been seen as a gateway and stepping stone; everyone from the Phoenicians and Aragonese to the Knights of St John and the British have used Malta to get from one spot to another. Today, things really aren’t all that different, and Malta is still seen as a midway point between Europe and the Middle East. As 86

a result, the islands have retained their importance when it comes to trade, and hundreds of thousands of planes and ships stop here every year to pick things up, drop things off, and connect people on their onward journey. This knowledge isn’t lost on anyone involved in our local logistics sector. Recent research by the Malta Chamber of Commerce found that this industry could contribute directly to up to €770 million of Malta’s GDP, while further development of it could create another 9,000 jobs and attract up to 150

companies to our shores. And this is exactly why news of the recent Free Zones Bill that was passed through Parliament providing for the regulation and administration of free zones in Malta was so welcome – both by industry stakeholders and Government. “As an administration, we want to further promote Malta as a hub for international logistics, particularly within the context of regional trade,” says Minister for the Economy, Investment and Small Business, Chris Cardona. SEPTEMBER 2019


“Therefore, the Free Zones Bill is part of a broader strategy to turn this sector into a potential main pillar of our economy. Our freeport is one of the best in the region, with good technical systems and highly-trained people. But it lacks warehouse space and is now operating at its limit. Similarly, while the airport has a superb long runway and great facilities, it lacks its own central warehouse.” “This legislation is intended to address these shortcomings by facilitating the establishment of customs free zones. The close proximity of Malta’s seaports to its international airport is a great advantage, allowing the easy transfer of goods.”

Minister Cardona explains that, globally, free zones are estimated to account for almost 25 per cent of international trade. At the moment, there are around 87 customs free zones in the EU, which he cites as a convenient location for trade across the Union. “Malta already has an international profile as a regional logistics hub,” Minister Cardona continues. “There is a huge number of freight forwarders on the island and the industry is well-equipped with a variety of different service providers. Most of these operate in mainland Europe with a network of partners in other countries that allow them to offer specialised services.

“The Free Zones Bill is part of a broader strategy to turn this sector into a potential main pillar of our economy.” – Chris Cardona, Minister for the Economy, Investment and Small Business SEPTEMBER 2019



“Free zones would give way to a new market that is currently lacking in the Maltese economic setting.” – Robert Aquilina, Chairman, Logistics Business Section, Malta Chamber

various possibilities for bringing goods in and out of the country with less difficulty and bureaucracy,” he says. “As a Chamber, we have voiced our view several times in the past, clearly stating that free zones would give way to a new market that is currently lacking in the Maltese economic setting. With a great deal of satisfaction, we note that both the Government and Opposition were in agreement with our view, and helped lead the way towards this goal. It is thanks to this long-term vision that, today, we are witnessing the beginning of what we are optimistic to see develop into a new industry,” he says, adding how grateful he is to all those who have worked tirelessly on this project so far.

“The advantage of EU membership is that an international operator that needs a base in the EU from which to service clients would be able to use the free zone in Malta and postpone payment of any customs duties or import-related charges until the goods are physically shipped to the client. This will allow the international operator to significantly lower the cost of operations since it eases pressure on cash flow. Similarly, free zones are equally useful as a base from which to service clients in third countries, as the goods do not pay any EU taxes while stored in a free zone and only become liable to third-country import duties when they arrive at their final destination.” Explaining further what free zones will mean for Malta, Robert Aquilina, who leads the Logistics Business Section within the Malta Chamber of Commerce and is also Chairman of Salvo Grima Group, explains that these zones are known to attract investment internationally, including production, import and export, and distribution. “They provide

“Malta could provide specific solutions and expertise to support the EU in continuing to be one of the world’s largest trading blocs.” – Michel Cordina, Executive Director and Head of Business Development, HSBC Malta SEPTEMBER 2019


CC IN DEPTH Asked about how he sees the Act contributing to the development of logistics in Malta, David Fleri Soler, Head of Sales and Business Development at Express Group, says it will simplify supply chain operations in Malta by having less regulation and therefore faster transiting of goods. However, moving forward, he says the biggest related issue in Malta remains the saturated road network. Hubbing inevitably requires the use of entry and exit points from Malta and road networks that will entail higher investment in tractor units, trailers and trucks, which in turn need large parking areas that come at an unsustainable premium cost. “To put things into perspective, Express Trailers already operate 3km of bumper-to-bumper road vehicles that require 10,000 sqm of parking at night,” he says. “Hence the importance of looking at infrastructure requirements and bottlenecks when analysing such a potential economic driver. “EU regulation already imposes on governments the need to cater for trailer parks. In Malta we don’t know if the authorities would be interested in supporting the infrastructure in this way. Hubbing is a good concept but, for good hubbing practice, there needs to be a good supporting road infrastructure. Perhaps extending logistic operations at night, encouraged by tax incentives, could alleviate the strained road and trailer parking limitations.” “This could not only lead to less heavy vehicles on the roads and a lighter load on the infrastructure during the day, but also to a logistics sector operating better and more efficiently.” Meanwhile, speaking from a wider financial perspective, HSBC Malta’s Executive Director and Head of Business Development Michel Cordina says that this legislation provides an incredible opportunity to boost Malta’s GDP, create new jobs, generate expertise and appeal to both domestic businesses and international multi-nationals seeking growth here on the island. “It would also put Malta in a strategic position within global trade routes, both within and outside the European Economic Area (EEA),” he explains. “This is one of the reasons why industry bodies such as the Malta Chamber, with whom we are working very closely, are championing this Act as a growth pillar.” “For the EU, this represents the creation of another centre of excellence for logistics to support importers and exporters doing business with the EU (or from the EU). In a world where there is volatility and constantly-changing flows of liquidity, multi-nationals need to be more flexible and hence require stability and pace of execution. A location such as Malta could provide specific solutions and expertise to support the EU in continuing to be one of the world’s largest trading blocs. As a final point, Malta’s small size and proximity to transport hubs is actually an advantage as it enables rapid 90

“Good hubbing practices need good supporting road infrastructure.” – David Fleri Soler, Head of Sales and Business Development, Express Group movement of goods by either air or sea.” Mr Cordina goes on to specify how the banking sector may be able to offer its support. “We are here to help economies and businesses to thrive and, as a sector, are able to provide support via a number of services and facilities, such as the provision of trade finance and knowledge of international connectivity,” he says. “Using HSBC as an example, we are the world’s largest trade finance bank, with a network covering 90 per cent of global trade and capital flows. Financing trade is how HSBC started in 1865 and, last year, we facilitated $740 billion of international trade.” “Of course, it is important to add that the freeport and free trade zone must operate at the highest standards, as this will facilitate the banking sector’s ability to support,” he adds. Now, looking to the next stages of how the sector could evolve, Mr Aquilina highlights that the Chamber’s Logistics Business Section has always been vocal about creating a Logistics Hub, building upon examples across the globe. “This could provide optimistic results on a local and international level,” he says. “The Chamber, in collaboration with

Government, should focus on implementing a framework introducing an element of publicprivate partnerships operating these free zones. This could continue to complement the results of this Act. Meanwhile, as a Section, we will continue to provide our expertise and opinions in the area to make this venture a success for the country’s economy and society at large.” Finally, and thinking long term, Minister Cardona says he hopes to see the establishment of modern and efficient logistics centres that would lower the cost of doing international logistics in Malta. “This will generate more wealth, both directly and indirectly, by improving Malta’s international transport links. Ideally, these investments will be joint ventures between Maltese and international operators.” “In the meantime, work has already started to identify potential sites for these logistics centres, and we are looking for possible international partners. As we are situated next to one of the busiest sea-lanes in the world, I am optimistic about Malta confirming its role as a main logistics hub in the Mediterranean,” he concludes. cc SEPTEMBER 2019


Improving citizens’ lives through new technologies From large-scale infrastructural projects such as the Malta-Sicily interconnector, to the supply of automated devices, Joseph Cachia & Son Ltd, a subsidiary of M. Demajo Group, has been at the forefront of using innovation to transform the islands. Here, Rebecca Anastasi speaks to Executive Director Maronna Filletti about the firm’s commitment to invest in Malta’s future.


e always keep our finger on the pulse,” smiles Maronna Filletti, Executive Director of Joseph Cachia & Son Ltd, as we sit in the firm’s long-established offices in Valletta. A member of M. Demajo Group, the 10-person strong entity has grown from strength to strength over the past decades, leading fundamental projects within the fields of energy, the environment, money-handling and security, which aim to introduce technological advances on the island, and thus, better the day-to-day of the average Maltese. “I think it’s an integral part of our DNA – we always feel we want to give back; we want to participate and invest in Malta’s growth and its economy,” she explains. To achieve this, the small enterprise is consistently punching above its weight, competing with bigger players for large-scale tenders, while also keeping its eye on the more functional necessities required in a buoyant market. “We have to be proactive. We usually conduct research on the emerging priorities for the country and we then liaise with international companies to propose advanced technological solutions to be able to match those necessities,” she says. As a result, Joseph Cachia & Son Ltd “is constantly evolving,” adapting to the


vagaries of a nation whose history, and economic development, has compelled it to be agile and astute. The firm first opened its doors as an import and distribution company in 1901, founded by Joseph Cachia, who helmed the company for decades. Following a short transition period, in which Joseph M. Demajo was asked to manage the firm for six months, Mr Cachia decided to sell the company to the Group in 1965. “Mr Demajo was a visionary leader and it was his idea to diversify,” Ms Filletti asserts. “From a small firm which mainly dealt with retail outlets, it was transformed, and we now handle multi-million-euro projects, using Maltese resources and expertise in supporting international players.” The Executive Director herself has been an integral part of this growth, having started at Joseph Cachia & Son Ltd 41 years ago as a junior secretary, before moving on to become Mr Demajo’s PA and later, Human Resources Director for the entire Group. “I ended up where I started,” she laughs, “except that I’m now running the subsidiary and introducing new products and services both locally and overseas. Of course, there were others before me who put the company on course and, now, my scope is to continue their good work, developing the entity in line with our internal competencies,” she states. Indeed, over the years, the firm has led the way in introducing innovative solutions across sectors. The supply of boilers at Delimara Power Station was one of the first major commissions; followed by the provision of security products such as the Maltese Biometric Passports and the National Identity Management System (NIDMS), as well as money-handling machines and airquality monitoring stations. The company’s Principals were also awarded the MaltaSicily Interconnector bid of €200 million, which took five years to locally manage and complete – as well as the more recent MaltaGozo fibre optic link, which will take nine months to finalise, but which has been in the pipeline for more than three years. “These all involved internationally renowned suppliers, and, while our projects in Malta are considered to be rather small – because of the size of the island – we get our partners to recognise the country as one to be reckoned with,” Ms Filletti states, going on to emphasise that “this is where

our capability lies.” Moreover, the team at Joseph Cachia & Son make it a priority to navigate the diverse cultural mores and expectations involved with working with teams from other countries. “We have to adapt to the country we’re dealing with, even on a personal level. Of course, it’s easier if they can also understand our idiosyncrasies, but we aim to bring everybody together to make the most of everyone’s competencies, track record and know-how.” However, Ms Filletti is at pains to emphasise that the smaller projects being handled by the firm are just as essential as the larger, more high-profile commissions. “For instance, we introduced Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) and applied it to the route between Mgarr and Mellieha, with the aim of laying water pipes without having to unearth the surface,” she states. To complete each assignment, the firm today consists of two divisions: the contracts and sales team, which is responsible for SEPTEMBER 2019


“We want to participate and invest in Malta's growth and its economy.”

Photos by Alan Carville

the trading of various products such as money-handling equipment and queuing systems while also overseeing applications and project management for tenders; and the technical services department, which manages the day-to-day maintenance and support of those products and projects already underway. “Our team is highly specialised and trained, usually graduates from the University of Malta or MCAST. And our technicians are also well-versed in the products we’ve introduced with our global partners. We have long-term maintenance agreements with our suppliers, and so, our staff’s expertise has to adapt to the products we’re representing,” she explains. However, she says, one of the challenges currently facing the firm is the difficulty in finding the required human resources. “There’s a lacuna in the field of environmental engineering for instance, and we find it very difficult to find people who can bridge the gap between traditional engineering and environmental know-how, SEPTEMBER 2019

those who understand the issues with air and noise pollution, among other concerns.” Moreover, there are also difficulties in finding “bid specialists”, that is, qualified personnel who understand the technical and sales angles of each project, including the intricacies of the legal and financial facets. “It’s a real career path. We’ve learnt on the job, but this is a profession which has scope,” she asserts. Indeed, finding the right human capital is a constant battle, since “tendering is a long process and there is no immediate gratification; things just take a long time and some may not enjoy the slow-burn aspect.” The island’s limited pool of people also exacerbates this situation, she explains. Another hurdle on the horizon is Brexit, according to the Executive Director. “Since we liaise with many UK companies – who supply us with equipment, which also needs to be maintained – there’s a fair amount of uncertainly especially with a ‘no deal’ scenario, although we are certain that we

shall overcome the hurdles and turn them into new opportunities,” she attests. But, what else might the future hold? “We definitely need to sustain what we have, though we are not afraid of a growth spurt or of adding more divisions to the enterprise, as long as they are integrated within the philosophy of the firm,” she attests. Venturing in new territories – such as the North African market – is on the books, she explains, while also stating that the firm is well-positioned to offer solutions to the island’s newer challenges, such as Malta’s move into the cashless economy. However, she stresses that sustainability is key – even when diversifying – and it’s vital to look ahead to pre-empt issues. “We have to be futuristic and understand what our needs will be. We have to be proactive. This is what Joseph M. Demajo taught us all. He was always thinking outside the box, and it is this ethos I want to pass on to my colleagues for the continuance and prosperity of the firm,” she concludes. cc 93


Bank of Valletta: A return to its roots The holistic transformation programme which is currently underway at Bank of Valletta is aimed at lowering the bank’s risk profile and ensuring its long-term sustainability and profitability. With a strategy that is structured and proactive, CEO Mario Mallia talks Emma Mattei through the short- and long-term aims of the process.


he Bank of Valletta is of systemic importance to Malta’s economy, and its current transformation programme, with its own multi-million Euro budget, is being implemented to ensure that BOV is able to continue to offer stable, safe and reliable services to its core customer base. The execution of the programme is taking place with the help of two global consultancy firms, and the changeover is being overseen by a committee comprising BOV directors, local and international consultants. The Core Banking Transformation, through which the bank is replacing its core IT system, has been taking place over the last four years, and BOV is expected to launch the new system early next year. “We are currently in the process of intensifying the programme, which touches on two major issues,” says CEO Mario Mallia. “One is strengthening the risk management framework, which includes risk appetite and internal controls, to ensure


the bank is stronger and safer, with a more sustainable business model. The second leg of the process deals with anti-financial crime alongside the raising of standards all over the world, and the strengthening of these defences has become of high priority globally.” Anti-financial crime measures have seen BOV’s international counterparts having to strengthen risk management, with many banks exiting certain high-risk businesses in order to assure long-term sustainability; the changes taking place within Bank of Valletta are in line with this direction. “We will be losing some customers which are outside the risk appetite of the bank,” continues Mr Mallia, “and we will forego a level of profitability. Global international consciousness about the need to combat money laundering continues to grow, and today, banks are faced with a number of threats being financed by illegitimate money.”

Whilst money laundering has been an ongoing challenge for the global banking system, what has changed is the way in which banks function and manage these threats. Mr Mallia explains that whilst technology has been of enormous benefit to the efficiency of management, it has come with its own risks, and created the need to mitigate the potential hazards brought about by immediacy and globalisation. Mr Mallia continues, “Malta is marketing itself as an international financial centre; as an economy based on creativity, talent and services, and unless adherence to regulation is up to international standards, this will never take off.” The staff at BOV once knew their customers intimately, and local banking was based on personal interaction. Nowadays, with a more international scenario, the bank needs to be able to classify its customers as low-risk, medium-risk and high-risk. “Unless we have enough information, we cannot SEPTEMBER 2019

CC BANKING between the bank and the customer, the system will fail. Whilst the bank provides a service, it is in the customer’s interest to strengthen their relationship with the bank. With regards to shareholders, there is bound to be an initial decrease in profits – there is a time to reap and a time to sow – now is a time to sow.” “This is a return to the Bank of Valletta’s initial status as a utility bank that is reliable, safe and well capitalised,” Mr Mallia continues, affirming that the long-term aims consist of exiting various peripheral businesses such as trust services and custody services, as well as no longer offering safe custody services. While the bank will be retaining its existing customers, he says, it will not be accepting new business in these areas, and will be dimensioning international deposit accounts. “Banks provide the infrastructure for customers to conduct their business – the relationship is in fact a partnership,” says Mr Mallia. “Whether you have a business, savings to manage, or a family to run, the bank provides you with payment channels,

tailor services to the needs of the customer,” says Mr Mallia, adding that “as a regulated entity, the bank is putting its services at the disposal of the customer and therefore has a right to this information – these services need to be conducted within the terms of banking regulation.” Most of the changes will be invisible to the public, but the Know Your Customer (KYC) review programme will be carried out in conjunction with the bank’s core customers, and this will be the most visible aspect of all. This procedure involves bringing customer data up-to-date, ensuring that it is accurate and complete. Further to this, customers will be asked questions relating to their expected yearly turnover, and the bank will monitor this to ensure it is consistent with their economic activity. The accelerated remediation plan is transforming customer and shareholder relations. Mr Mallia explains, “banking is based on trust. Without complete trust SEPTEMBER 2019

mobile banking and investment expertise that enable you to bank efficiently and to your benefit.” This explains why banks require certain information about their customers who are using their infrastructure, in order for the partnership to be maintained. The information given to the bank is only accessed on a legitimate business needs basis, with internal data protected by strict constraints on what a bank employee can access. “There’s nothing new here,” Mr Mallia continues, “but we’re ensuring that our records are being brought up-to-date.” Once the transformation is complete, Bank of Valletta will be focusing on strengthening its business offerings to its core customers. Besides developing its electronic channels, the bank is looking into pensions, wealth management and asset management, as well as continuing to provide tailored packages for SMEs. “The process may be painful, involving many resources, effort and time, as we are retrenching rather than going out to get new business, but once this is done, we will be able to look ahead with renewed confidence,” Mr Mallia concludes. cc

“Banking is based on trust. Without complete trust between the bank and the customer, the system will fail.” 95

Tech Trends

From cameras to smart clocks and robots, Jillian Mallia has the lowdown on the latest tech trends to watch. 01. Samsung Bots Samsung is primarily known for its TV and mobile services. In addition, the tech company has introduced a new robotics platform offering a variety of uses. Samsung Bots have different functions, for example, Bot Care is like a live-in nurse that checks on the elderly, while Bot Air detects and filters polluted air.

02. Polaroid Instant Classic Camera Kodak’s Instant Classic camera is undeniably amazing, and a must-have to capture those important memories. Emulating analogue photography through digital tech, the polaroid-style camera instantly prints your photo on zink paper, reminiscent of old ‘pull-and-peel’ cameras. And the Kodak companion app allows you to print photos which are already on your phone!

03. The North Face FutureLight Material The North Face brand released a new kind of proprietary waterproof, breathable material they call FutureLight; made through a process known as ‘nanospinning’ (similar to creating a membrane using very small fibres). The resulting material lets air breeze through, keeping you comfortable even when you sweat, but keeping the rain out.




04. Panasonic S1 and S1R full-frame cameras Panasonic has released its first fullframe, pro-grade mirrorless cameras. The S1 and S1R have new modes, like high-resolution mode which combines several pictures into one bigger image. Both cameras use new lenses developed with the help of Sigma and Leica, allowing you to shoot with precision.

05. Willow 2.0 handsfree breast pump Working mum? The first all-in-one, wearable breast pump fits comfortably inside your bra and your schedule. The updated version of this hands-free breast pump is easier to assemble, more comfortable to use, and more effective when it comes to preventing spillage. It’s mobile, quiet, and mothers everywhere have made stellar reviews.


Samsung Global Newsroom

06. Lenovo Smart Clock with Goggle Assistant Interactive screens in the home have become a rising trend, with Facebook Portals, Amazon Echos and Google Hubs. Lenovo’s new Smart Clock prides itself on this one feature: its simplicity. It won’t video conference or stream TV, but it covers all the necessary bases: telling the time, charging phones, and gently waking you up with a clock face that gradually brightens before your alarm goes off. And just by connecting it to Google Assistant, you can instruct it to do a whole lot more. cc






Chrome Unboxed

Outside Magazine




Food Trends

03. Tahini

Fads or the future of food? Martina Said singles out six current food trends that are leaving their mark on the culinary world.

Widely known as the magic ingredient in hummus, tahini – a paste made from ground sesame seeds mixed with oil – is gaining widespread appeal. Chefs and home cooks alike are using it in salad dressings, sauces as well as desserts, to great effect.

01. The alternative burger

04. Innovative ice-cream

Plant-based diets are steadily gaining popularity, but one thing that most people who give up meat tend to miss most is a good burger. Thankfully, creative alternatives are ever emerging – and we’re not talking dry or mushy veggie burgers, but rather ones with interesting combos and flavours, like quinoa, mushroom and gruyere cheese.

02. Fermented drinks


Customers are being drawn to the influence of good bacteria on gut health. Beverages such as kefir – a fermented milk drink made from kefir grains – and kombucha – a fermented, sweetened black or green tea drink – are part of the global fermented beverages market that is on a steady upward trajectory.

Exciting ice-cream flavours are finding favour across the globe, and we’re not talking pistachio or chocolate fudge. Olive oil, basil and citrus Earl Grey ice-cream flavours are emerging as the new, nextlevel ice-cream essences to take note of.

05. A twist on the Mexican horchata Horchata, the popular Mexican rice milk beverage, is getting a ‘dirty’ twist with the addition of an espresso shot. It sounds like a regular iced coffee, but it’s more than that. The creamy and sweet rice milk is flavoured with sugar and lots of cinnamon which, combined with espresso and ice, is the most refreshing drink imaginable.

06. Potent powders



Customers are constantly on the lookout for products that pack a nutritious punch, and that’s become available in the form of powerful combination powders such as mushroom coffee, turmeric and matcha chocolate. cc



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The making of Valletta’s newest luxury hotel Sarah Micallef speaks with the creative minds behind the design of the elegant AX Rosselli Privilege Michael Pace, partner at Forward Architects, and Nikki Muscat, leading architect for the project, to find out what went into the making of Valletta’s first five-star hotel.




Photos by Jeremy Debattista


little over three years ago, local architecture practice Forward Architects was approached to create the design of a new luxury hotel in Valletta. “The client’s ambition was to open the first five-star hotel in the heart of our capital,” Michael Pace, partner at Forward Architects and Nikki Muscat, leading architect for the project, explain. The client also wanted to step away from conventional hotels and move towards the new trend in ‘lifestyle’ hotels, with visitor experience at its core. “With self-catering and self-check-in apartments growing in popularity, our clients wanted to bring hospitality and the ‘butler’ experience back into the everyday running of the hotel,” the architects tell me, revealing

that the selected site consisted of a palazzo at 167, Merchants Street, Valletta. “We knew that converting an existing building to fit a new brief would be a challenge. The numerous operational intricacies and standards to be met to achieve five-star classification made the task at hand even more testing than we had forecast,” they share, though this didn’t stop them from achieving their brief, and then some. The result is the elegant AX Rosselli Privilege, which went on to scoop the Interior Spaces Special Commendation at the recent Premju Emanuele Luigi Galizia by Malta’s Kamra tal-Periti. Speaking of the initial brief, the architects explain that the aim was to

convert this baroque palazzo into a five-star hotel comprising 25 spacious, unique suites. “Our target was to enhance all of its spaces, both the interior and exterior, and to stir emotion through a bold and uncompromised design approach,” they say, affirming that in designing Rosselli, the team was adamant in exposing and celebrating the original architecture of the building by removing any accretions and alterations that had been implemented over the years. “The courtyard for example, which had been reduced in size, was restored to its original three arch symmetry, and a full-span mezzanine built within the piano nobile was removed to re-expose its original double height.”

“We knew that converting an existing building to fit a new brief would be a challenge.” SEPTEMBER 2019



Naturally, all of this had to be done whilst accommodating the complex operational and technical requirements of a five-star hotel. Fire safety standards had to be met, and heating and cooling needed to be incorporated without compromising or hiding the original ceilings of the spaces, the architects reveal, adding that the hotel also needed to be accessible for persons with disability and provide different forms of access for staff and guests. “Apart from that, back-of-house, front-of-house and operations all came with their own detailed lists of requirements. Our job was to merge these

requirements into a cohesive design solution, without compromising the intended look and feel of the space,” they explain. Looking back on the design stage, Michael and Nikki maintain that their point of departure was the “grandeur and unapologetic boldness of baroque architecture, and the emotion it provokes.” While they admit that boldness is of course risky, they also knew that if implemented with care, the approach could provoke emotion on a similar level and leave its mark with visitors. “We wanted this project to be an example

“The courtyard was restored to its original three arch symmetry, and a full-span mezzanine built within the piano nobile was removed to re-expose its original double height.”


of a union between preservation and contemporary intervention – so we embraced the language of the original build, rich as it is in its architectural history, and used that as a canvas for a tailored design that will co-exist, unchallenged and yet in harmony with the existing architecture, without falling victim to popular design trends,” they say, maintaining that their clients wanted each suite to be unique – hence the six different collections. “Some are inspired by youth, rich in texture, colour and architectural motifs, while others are suggestive of Valletta’s secret gardens, with feminine undertones and adorned with dark floral walls,” they reveal. Meanwhile, the calm atmosphere of the palazzo’s courtyard provides the setting for another set of suites, each with its own private spa facilities that include an indoor terrace, wellness area and sauna, while the east-facing suites deliver an innovative twist on traditional flooring and plastering techniques, with added textures to add a hint of nostalgia to the contemporary feel. “The duplex piano nobile suites have an unusual and whimsical feel,” they continue, “with their double height they remind us of Valletta’s architectural grandeur. And finally, there’s the executive suite, which brings together a dedicated private working lounge with interconnected sleeping quarters, with intricate solid wood flooring and a modern-day interpretation of traditional craftsmanship.” Speaking of the state of the building before work started, the architects reveal that the palazzo had been vacant for over 10 years and had previously housed the offices of a major audit firm. 103


“We wanted this project to be an example of a union between preservation and contemporary intervention.”

“Over time, a number of accretions had been built in the courtyard, concealing the arch at the right wing of the building,” they say, adding that the fountain was also no longer in the centre of the courtyard – not typical of Baroque palazzos that usually celebrated symmetry. “We also noted that several split levels had been added to the property to increase office space. The original configuration of the rooms had been retained in most parts but with little regard to internal heights and to the location of the windows on the facades,” the architects note. The team at Forward Architects adopted a mix-and-match approach of finishes, objects and fittings which they describe as “at times unrelated but work together to provoke similar emotions,” opting primarily for classic finishes that would stand the test of time. These include artisanal details like composite marble flooring, 104

intricate wood panelling and hand-crafted brass inlays, with similar emphasis on craftsmanship and detail when it came to furniture selection and design. The resulting design is one which Michael and Nikki feel provokes the emotion they were after. This intention, they explain, set the basis for most of the design decisions they took, and it has been achieved at many levels, “from the calm, introspective space of the courtyard and the soothing tactility of the suites that include private spa facilities to the overwhelming romanticism of the suites inspired by youth.” And while they admit that the interior of the hotel might not be Baroque in its purest form, the undertones are certainly similar. “Forms are bold, decoration is rich, and colour and texture are audacious. Rosselli is an attempt on timeless design, in the hope of retaining its appeal even as trends change.” SEPTEMBER 2019


“Forms are bold, decoration is rich, and colour and texture are audacious.”

When tackling projects of this scale, the balance between aesthetic appeal and practical usage of space is of particular importance, and the architects reflect that naturally, the hotel needed to meet the minimum safety requirements as stipulated by law. “For example, although the property had a grand staircase and granted access to most floors, it could not be utilised as a fire escape. Without major intervention, an independent fire escape was introduced on the left-hand side of the building, which spanned from top to bottom. Another example is in the installation of HVAC units concealed within timber units around the frame of each door to provide the required heating and cooling without compromising the visible original building envelope,” they reveal. Although it wasn’t without its challenges. Michael and Nikki name the main challenge as the integration of back-of-house within the limits of the palazzo, for which every detail needed to be mapped out meticulously to ensure a seamless interface, all the while respecting heritage, safety and sanitary concerns. Another major stumbling block when rehabilitating a historical palazzo for commercial use is the issue of full accessibility for all, they maintain. “Most entrances at the time were designed with a few steps near the doorway. Having a better understanding of finished levels, we realised that this issue could be resolved by converting the ground floor windows of the façade into doors,” they say. And now that it’s completed, I ask, which SEPTEMBER 2019

are the aspects they’re most proud of? “If we had to pick, it would probably be the entrance, public circulation spaces and courtyard,” they share, explaining that the palazzo’s entrance naturally lent itself to the five-star feel, and they knew that the space needed to be enhanced and celebrated. “The area was treated in a darker and more dramatic finish to the other areas, and the walls were lined with pinstriped bevelled mirrors which give an interesting play on light. The courtyard is another volume that we are

proud of, particularly in the architectural approach we embraced when extending above the original space, allowing the original arches to be clearly distinguishable from the repeated smaller arches of the addition,” they divulge, affirming that the space has been transformed into a place of congregation, defining the front of house. “The colour is white, other than that of the sky overhead – this is a place of rest, a break from the hustle and bustle, a perfect reset button to mark the start or end of a day.” cc


CC aviation

Malta – The European aviation hub By Dr Edward Meli, Associate Malta has done its utmost to propel itself to the forefront of the aviation industry by creating a jurisdiction which is attractive for aircraft owners and operators. Over the last few years, the sectoral push has evidently provided positive results, considering the increase of industry players choosing Malta in their search for registration of aircrafts and Air Operator’s Certificates (AOCs) within Europe.

What are the main reasons for the growth of Malta’s aviation sector? The increased popularity of the Maltese registry, showcased by the proliferation of aviation industry players choosing Malta, boils down to various key aspects including: i) the introduction of new revised legislation such as the Aircraft Registration Act 2010 (‘Act’) of which a bill for ‘The Aircraft Registration (Amendment) Act, 2019’ has been proposed this August, further displaying the Transport Malta Civil Aviation Directorate’s (‘TMCAD’) will to keep developing the legislative framework within the sector; ii) procedures being implemented in various Government departments to further develop the sector; iii) the ratification and transposition of the Cape Town Convention, which provides owners and operators of aircrafts access to the International Registry for the registration of security interests over Malta-registered aircrafts and their engines; iv) as an EU member state, the National Aircraft Register (‘Register’) permits free circulation of aircrafts in the eurozone – allowing taxfree commercial operations; v) as an EASA certified state with an FAA Category rating, safety and security standards are of the highest level; and vi) the TMCAD are skilled and pro-active in providing an efficient platform for registrants, with which DF Advocates boasts a great relationship, allowing the firm to keep in close and direct contact with the TMCAD. What are the benefits of registering an aircraft and AOC in Malta? Malta boasts a substantial growth in the aviation sector with the number of registered aircrafts doubling since 2012 to over 340, in conjunction with an increase of AOC holders from 18 to over 35. This considerable increase in trust in the Maltese jurisdiction has been made possible by the continuous work undertaken by the TMCAD, together with the vast array of attractive benefits that Malta has to offer. The benefits afforded to registrants of an aircraft and an AOC coincide, emanating amongst others from the introduction of the Act which has provided broader registration


opportunities. The advantages of choosing Malta include: i) the opportunity to maximise revenues made by aviation companies whilst keeping costs under control; ii) a strong growing aviation environment and favourable jurisdiction eager to attract key roles within the sector boasting a well-trained workforce in place; iii) relative fees are amongst the most competitive in Europe whilst maintaining a high-standard of work and safety; and iv) enjoyment of access to the European aviation market since Malta is a full EASA complaint jurisdiction. In view of the above-mentioned benefits, Malta’s already expanding aviation industry may reach new heights when Brexit takes place. The trust placed in the Maltese jurisdiction by big-name players such as TAG Aviation, which has shown overall growth since relocating to Malta, reiterates the fact that Malta is truly a viable option for relocation within the EU. Considering Malta’s strong bilateral relationship with the UK together with a flexible, unrestricted, pro-active approach taken by Government and TMCAD, Malta has become an avant-garde jurisdiction offering great value to aviation companies wishing to set up base elsewhere. Does Malta provide security interests over aircrafts? The introduction of the Act has played a vital role in introducing new concepts, such as the incorporation of security interests over aircrafts. The TMCAD recognised that efforts must be made to entice financiers and lessors to Malta, therefore, the authorities created a wider notion of security interests within the Act, paired with a dynamic registry, which integrates the aircraft and mortgage registers. The Act provides for the registration of a mortgage over an aircraft, and the recognition and enforcement of a foreign mortgage registered in the International Registry. Notably, within the Act, aircrafts constitute a particular class of movables whereby they form separate and distinct assets within the estate of their owners for the security of actions and claims to which the aircraft is subject. Thus, if an aircraft owner goes bankrupt or insolvent, all actions and claims, to which the aircraft may be subject, shall have

preference, on the said aircraft, over all other debts of the estate. In addition, since Malta is a signatory of the Cape Town Convention, owners of an aircraft also have the right to grant an Irrevocable De-Registration and Export Request Authorisation (‘IDERA’) which once issued will be recorded at the TMCAD. It is clear that Government and TMCAD are ready to listen to the market and provide an end result that is both up to date with today’s market and conducive to industry players’ needs. This is where Malta, after years of sectoral improvement, comes across as an aviation friendly jurisdiction doing its utmost to promote the industry. cc DF Advocates is a law firm based in Malta providing legal advice to local and international clients on a multitude of matters across various industries including the aviation sector.


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Your partner in business with BOV SME Invest Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are the heart of our economy and a major source of entrepreneurial skills, innovation and employment. To grow and reach their full potential, SMEs need easy and affordable access to financing. After all, managing costs is as crucial as increasing revenues. With all this in mind, Bank of Valletta, in collaboration with the Malta Development Bank, has launched BOV SME Invest, a product specifically designed for SMEs seeking growth. BOV SME Invest facilitates access to finance for SMEs carrying out capital investment through highly reduced collateral requirements, finance costs and an interest rate that is lower than the normal benchmark. An average of 80 per cent of each individual amount will be guaranteed by the Malta Development Bank, reducing the burden on enterprises. The extendible security requested by the bank on the loan may increase or decrease according to the

Achieve peace of mind with Cloud ERP With the commercial landscape gravitating more and more towards being data-centric, the larger a business grows, the greater the need for software solutions to manage data and information.

risk profile of the proposal. The loan amount can range between €200,001 and €750,000 and can be repaid from one to 10 years. BOV SME Invest is ideal for start-ups, SMEs venturing into new business sectors or traditional SMEs wanting to invest in, revamp or strengthen their current business model. Visit a BOV Branch or Business Centre or send an email to for more information. We will help you find a solution to your particular needs – because at Bank of Valletta, we understand SMEs like nobody else! cc

All loans are subject to normal bank lending criteria and final approval from the bank. Terms and conditions are available from Issued by Bank of Valletta p.l.c., 58, Triq San Zakkarija, Il-Belt Valletta VLT 1130. Bank of Valletta p.l.c. is a public limited company regulated by the MFSA and is licensed to carry out the business of banking in terms of the Banking Act (Cap. 371 of the Laws of Malta).

If you’re constantly struggling to obtain business-critical data in real-time, then you’re probably falling behind in the race against your competition. Through seamless integration, automated processes and unhindered mobility, implementing a modern Cloud ERP solution will go a long way in bringing efficiency to the workplace, allowing everyone to focus on what’s important. From the way you manage and access data to the way you work, here are some distinct advantages of modern Cloud ERP systems.

Other than the potential for costly human error, this hands-on data management is inefficient and presents a high opportunity cost when you consider that all such processes can be automated by Cloud ERP software. When your employees are not inundated with spreadsheets and manual processes, they can focus more on strategic tasks and problem-solving without the need to constantly call IT for assistance.

Full system integration provides instant performance visibility The beauty of most Cloud ERP solutions is their integration capabilities. It puts your core business processes and data in a single place, covering all functions such as finance, sales and marketing, project accounting, distribution and manufacturing. This empowers users across the organisation to work more efficiently with the same up-todate information, whilst also providing an on-demand 360-degree view of business performance in a single dashboard. Business process automation removes human error With legacy ERP systems, certain everyday processes will still include manual tasks. SEPTEMBER 2019

On-the-go access anytime, anywhere In the past, significant amounts of information came in the form of paper documents, but nowadays the majority of data is transferred digitally. Likewise, processing capacity and availability wasn’t as demanding as it is at present. This is why modern ERP solutions are built for the cloud – enabling users to tap into their business documents, customer data, product or service information, reporting and more from any connected computer or device, no matter where they are. cc Cloud ERP has the added benefits of being faster, more cost-effective and easily scalable. To find out more about Acumatica Cloud ERP and how it can take your business to the next level, visit or email 111

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Inspectra Ltd: More than an inspection company Inspectra Ltd was founded in 2005. The company was originally set up as a third-party inspection company for the manufacturing industry. Today, the company has diversified into four main business units. Third-party quality control inspection: Inspectra provides third-party inspection services to over 70 Maltese and foreign clients. The company has become a benchmark for its third-party inspection services and certification of product by providing its clients with the peace of mind of certified product and on time delivery to their customers. Inspectra is ISO 9001: 2015 certified, specifically for this operation. Sub-contracting: Inspectra offers its clients the possibility to carry out inspection at the clients’ own premises. Inspectra employees are sub-contracted to the clients for the periods required. This gives clients the opportunity to have the manpower to carry out sorting operations swiftly during the required periods. This is a cost-saving measure for our clients.

Calibration: Inspectra has invested heavily in its calibration lab and offers its services to various industries in Malta and abroad. The following are amongst the categories of calibration services offered: • Weighing scale calibration: ISO 17025 accredited calibration of weighing scales • Weigh bridge calibration • Gauge block and linear calibration • Force calibration • Volume calibration (pipettes) • Electrical calibration • Torque wrenches • Load testing of lifting equipment including lanyards, scissor lifters • Pressure instruments • Temperature calibration • Humidity (data loggers) • Mass calibration • Gas sensors • Revolutions Cleanroom and Isolated Environment Calibration: Inspectra has substantial expertise in

cleanroom validation. Its employees have trained and graduated in specialised institutes abroad in this highly regulated field. Inspectra validates cleanrooms to the ISO specifications they were purposely built for and certifies that the various parameters are meeting the standard expected. Information Technology: This Business Unit has recently been added to Inspectra’s portfolio and is offering the following services: • Code: full software development • Consult: finding elegant solutions to prickly problems • Design: accessible and intuitive business logic, user-driven development Inspectra: flexibility, extremely good rates, punctuality and efficiency. cc If you have any queries on our services we will be pleased to receive your request on or call on 2122 6841.

Calamatta Cuschieri Group appoints Head of Distribution Calamatta Cuschieri is proud to announce the appointment of Sergio Bellizzi as the Head of Retail Distribution as part of the ongoing strategic growth objective for the firm. Mr Bellizzi, who joined the firm in June 2019, brings with him over 20 years’ experience in financial services predominantly in retail banking and wealth management. Prior to joining Calamatta Cuschieri, he was Head of Distribution at HSBC Bank Malta plc. He started his career at Midland Bank plc and eventually transitioned into HSBC Bank plc during the takeover of Mid-Med Bank. During his time at HSBC, Sergio also had a number of overseas appointments in Ireland, Brazil and the United Kingdom.  Alan Cuschieri, Co-CEO of Calamatta Cuschieri said, “we are proud to welcome Sergio on board and we believe that he is the right person to be entrusted with taking the firm’s financial advisory service to the 112

next level. As the firm grows it has become crucial for the Group to recruit high calibre individuals that have the knowledge, drive and experience to head the company and make a difference. We have made a series of high calibre appointments in 2019 which had a very positive impact, both on the firm and our clients.” Calamatta Cuschieri is one of Malta’s largest financial services firms, which pioneered the local financial services

industry as early as 1972. The Group currently employs more than 160 people, and offers a wide range of services including Investment Advice, Live Online Trading, Life Insurance, Savings Plans, Pension Plans, Wealth Management, Software Development and Marketing services, amongst others. Calamatta Cuschieri is also the representative and main distributor for UBS Funds in Malta. For more information call on 2568 8688 or visit cc SEPTEMBER 2019

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Malta’s largest HR event – FHRD’s annual HR conference FHRD is proud to announce the 2019 Annual HR Conference and Expo – HR Transformation: Unravelling the Future, which will be held on 23rd October at the Hilton Conference Centre. Malta’s largest HR event will this year have a strong line-up of international speakers coming from Grupo Santander, Cisco, HR Forecast, UiPath, PwC Luxembourg, and CIPD, together with speakers coming from local organisations. The event this year will also see the participation of a number of high-profile CEOs who will discuss their views on the role of HR in organisations. The conference has become Malta’s leading event for all things related to HR, training and business management, and will address what the organisation of the future looks like, as well as the re-shaping of the HR function to support organisations going through this transformative change.

HSBC Malta launches €250 million International Business Fund Fund to spur ongoing economic growth and connect Maltese businesses to new opportunities. As part of its growth strategy, HSBC Bank Malta plc has launched a €250 million HSBC International Business Fund (HIBF) to support ambitious companies looking to steer their business to new horizons. A launch event was held at The Sheer Bastion reflecting the campaign’s sea-faring theme as well as Malta’s rich maritime trade history. It was led by HSBC Malta CEO Andrew Beane together with Executive Director and Head of Business Development Michel Cordina, and Head of Commercial Banking Joyce Grech. Michel Cordina said, “the €250 million fund enables investors, traders and businesses to embark on new journeys by connecting them to international SEPTEMBER 2019

This year’s theme has been selected as ‘now is the time to act’, as the HR function is at a crossroads in this evolution, with aging legacy systems and processes, and is pivotal to meeting the needs of tomorrow’s workforce. With Malta’s economic growth and influx of foreign companies, it is essential for HR professionals to be proactive in adapting to this transformative change. This year’s conference will address the salient points of how the HR function needs to position itself more strategically, adopting a more integrated model and ultimately creating an innovative employee experience, resulting

opportunities. With offices on the ground in 53 countries and territories, and more than 5,000 relationship managers operating worldwide, HSBC is in a unique position to connect potential customers in new markets, provide local insight through our people on the ground, and offer the financial support for businesses in Malta to expand globally. This fund is also available to assist international businesses who want to invest in Malta to continue assisting the local economy to grow.” HSBC’s global reach and expertise help approximately 1.5 million business customers – from small businesses to multinationals – unlock their potential. HSBC’s relationship managers are supported by specialists in four fields: Global Trade and Receivables Finance, Global Liquidity and Cash Management, Global Banking, and Insurance and Investments. HSBC Malta CEO Andrew Beane said, “today’s economy is global and interconnected, and at HSBC we are able to connect Maltese businesses to fast-growing markets around the world. With the launch of our quarter of a billion euro International Business Fund we are ready to support local companies that have the ambition to stretch towards new horizons.” Meanwhile, HSBC Malta’s Head of Commercial Banking Joyce Grech said, “I am

in organisations being more productive and competitive. In line with last year’s turnout, FHRD expects 500 plus participants from a wide range of organisations, making it an unparalleled opportunity for HR professionals to network. In addition, more than 25 exhibitors will be showcasing their products and services on the day. cc Registration and selection of workshops can be done solely online by visiting http://fhrd. org/2019conf. Corporates are also eligible for discounted group rates. For more information email:

(From left) Andrew Beane, Joyce Grech, Michel Cordina

delighted that we are launching this fund as I take up leadership of HSBC’s Commercial Banking operations. My team and I are looking forward to assisting companies in using HSBC’s capabilities to their best advantage.” cc More information is available on 115

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Top-quality eco matting Jmp have always chosen their suppliers with care. One of the prestigious brands we represent is Mountville Mills. We decided to partner with this company over others because of their quick response and energetic team, top quality and extensive range of front door matting. Above all, the brand gives us the opportunity to supply eco matting to our customers in Malta. The matting they produce falls under the below categories: • Logo matting • Water absorbance • Dust control • Marketing matting • Anti-stress matting Logo matting Colorstar TM high-performance, eco-friendly logo mats are the most stain-resistant mats on the market, and have a significantly extended lifetime when compared to traditional logo mats. The unique PET yarn fibres are manufactured with 50 per cent recycled postconsumer plastic bottles and have excellent colour and wash fastness. Colorstar TM logo mats are manufactured

New vPBX solution keeps your business online, all the time Say hello to simple, cost-effective communication, anywhere Since your team, suppliers and clients are always on the move, your business should be too. You never want to miss important calls and updates, so a smooth connection is essential, wherever you are. That’s where GO’s Virtual PBX comes in. GO Business vPBX benefits If you have a GO vPBX and an internet connection, you have full access to your office at all times. Not only is this reliable, but it’s also on the Cloud. This means that no hardware is necessary, and with a ‘pay per seat’ subscription, you get the flexibility to add/remove lines as your business changes or grows. Meanwhile, you will avoid time and costs associated with additional set-ups – thus freeing up resources to let your business grow.


with a high definition printer for photo-realistic designs and have a standard 66 colour pallet to match virtually any décor. Features and benefits • Unequalled wash fastness, no redisposition or colour loss • Incredible stain resistance (no cross staining) • Easy to clean These mats are used in heavy-traffic buildings including airports, banks, offices, financial centres, gaming companies, hospitals, hotels, schools, spas, restaurants and showrooms. The Karaat mat: superior colour and wash fastness • 100 per cent Nitrile EXS Rubber backing prevents curling and cracking • LUTRADUR primary substrate will not fray, reduces linting and provides a strong bond between the rubber and the carpet • High Twist heat set nylon fibres are resistant against crushing and allow dirt to filter into the mat rather than remain on top of the carpeted surface • Bleach/UV resistant The Microluxx mat: highly absorbent indoor mat • Absorbs more than 2.5 more moisture than standard carpeted mats • Traditional Nylon fibres blended with very fine MicroLuxx fibres absorb high levels of

dirt and moisture • Plush 1112 gr/m2 surface is perfect for stopping damaging dirt and moisture from entering facilities The Anti-fatigue mat: • Used behind bars, on factory floors and for many other solutions. Complete Comfort mat: a top choice within the range • 100 per cent closed cell Nitrile Rubber cushion with anti-microbial properties • Bevelled edges for safety • Slip-resistant surface is oil and grease-proof • Chemical resistant and welding safe • Lightweight and easy to clean • Perfect for both wet and dry applications. cc For further information on these products contact JMP on T: 2141 3154.

Get that professional edge with extensive features like call forwarding, hunting groups, auto attendant and free internal calls between colleagues. You can easily get a cost-effective, personalised vPBX Solution, which is especially handy if you’re an organisation looking to scale up operations or even just starting out. vPBX packages The Standard plan will get most companies started, while the Infinity and Pro options offer the best value with unlimited local fixed and mobile calls. Moreover, when you choose Pro, you will also get the GO Communicator Mobile App included in the package. This way, you’re always reachable and never have to miss a beat. How? You will receive all customer calls wherever you are and can reply immediately. Even when you’re abroad, as long as you have an internet connection, you can call at no additional charges. Best of all, your personal number remains private since Go Communicator customers can reach you everywhere on your business number, protecting your privacy and that of your family. cc

Interested? Get in touch with us today for more information about GO’s vPBX solutions! Email us on info@gobusiness. or visit business/vpbx


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All-Electric Jaguar I-PACE: Future perfect Jaguar I-Pace is a pure battery electric vehicle (BEV) built from the ground up. Its radical design conceals an exquisite interior with SUV levels of practicality. A sophisticated, all-electric powertrain provides high performance with zero tailpipe emissions, while its cutting-edge technology works seamlessly with the car.

of a full-length panoramic glass roof, which as a result of its tint and infrared absorbing laminate construction, prevents strong sunlight, UV light and heat from entering the cabin. The panoramic glass roof maintains The Jaguar I-Pace interior features the cabcomfortable cabin temperatures in hot forward design, meaning the front seats are sunny conditions and keeps the cabin warm placed further forward due to the absence of an in cold climates. At night, Ambient Interior internal combustion engine. This creates more Lighting accentuates the exquisite details. For space between the front and rear seats, giving the outstanding refinement, motor encapsulation rear seat passengers added legroom. The driver dampens sound while the sharp exterior and front passenger feel an immediate sense of design minimises wind noise. engagement with the car thanks to form-fitting From the pronounced front-wheel arches optional sports seats. The instrument panel is to the rear diffuser, every supercar-inspired low, with minimalist lines wrapped in soft leather. styling element allows I-PACE to slice cleanly Throughout the spacious interior, beautiful through the air for maximum range and handcrafted touches reaffirm the cabin’s luxury stability. The bold grille curves inwards – atmosphere. Fine contrast twin-needle stitching reducing drag. The roof is available in body adds tailored sophistication. colour, black contrast paint or panoramic glass. To complete the interior, there’s the option Integrated deployable door handles sit flush

with the car's sides. I-PACE's slim futuristic LED headlights feature our optional signature double 'J' blade graphic. The Adaptive Matrix LED headlights system maintains continuous use of the high beam but automatically adjusts the shape of the beam to avoid dazzling oncoming vehicles. Instant torque and All Wheel Drive traction gives I-PACE the acceleration of a sports car. It reaches 100km/h in 4.8 seconds. I-PACE’s 90kWh battery is made up of high energy density lithium-ion pouch cells. The I-PACE can achieve up to 470km of range from 100 per cent electric charge. cc Thrilling to look at, easy to live with, and connected like never before – I-Pace is the world’s smartest five-seater sports car. Visit Muscats Motors for more information or contact on or 2326 4589.


Seeing the world in colour Martina Said meets prolific abstract artist Luciano Micallef to learn about his decades-long career, his approach to his art, and how his distinctive and inimitable style came to be.

Photos by Alan Carville


“Art is primarily an intellectual activity, not the gesture of the hand.” 118

never had any doubts about what I wanted to be doing, and I’m still doing what I started many years ago. Art has always had a prominent place in my life,” says Luciano Micallef, one of Malta’s most prolific abstract painters and artists, whose astonishing career spans 40 years and various continents. “I was privileged to have a father who was very interested in art – he was what we used to call a Sunday painter, so the idea of painting was introduced to me from an early age.” I meet Luciano at his personal art gallery, adjacent to his home, in San Pawl Tat-Targa. He launched Gallery 5 in 1996, and with its plain white walls, wooden flooring and an abundance of natural light, has served as the perfect space for the artist to work and display his enthralling work. Delving into his introduction to this world, Luciano says that, as the only one from his eight siblings to pursue a career in art, being exposed to it from a young age wasn’t enough – “there has to be something within the individual that sparks that interest.” At the age of 10, Luciano’s father sent him for private tuition to renowned Maltese painter Joseph Briffa, who the artist describes as “one of the very best classical artists known for his church paintings, who was phenomenal.” Later, Luciano was awarded a scholarship to study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, which set him on the path he’s been on ever since. Before we even begin discussing his work, Luciano makes a bold statement that sets the SEPTEMBER 2019


“Before understanding colour, I had to understand the two shades that constitute day and night – without light we cannot see objects, but without darkness we cannot see the light.”

tone for the rest of the interview: “there’s this idea that anybody who draws is basically creating art – it’s completely wrong to believe that art simply has to do with making pictures. Art is primarily an intellectual activity, not the gesture of the hand, and sometimes, that is delivered through the making of a painting, a sculpture, through dance,” he explains. “The hand only captures a small part of that mental activity. It took me many years to come to this sort of understanding, but I find it very frustrating hearing art being defined as making pictures.” Further still, the artist asserts that a painting must initiate some form of conversation, a dialogue between the artist and audience – this is the most important legacy of a painting, “and if a work of art doesn’t generate any of this, then I think it fails.” Luciano’s style is distinctive and recognisable – his colourful canvases and abstract style have made him synonymous with this art movement, although he tells me that his work has evolved from the early days. “My earliest paintings were not at all colourful – they were almost monochrome, black and white, which showed me that I was immediately searching for a basis, the beginning of something,” he says. “Before understanding colour, I had to understand the two shades that constitute day and night – without light we cannot see objects, but without darkness we cannot see the light.” SEPTEMBER 2019


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“The early paintings were also black and white because I was not cheerful enough to understand the beauty of colour,” he continues. “As a young person, and like most young people, one struggles to understand one’s own sense of being, and all those questions often don’t encourage you to see the world in colour. Eventually, I came out of this black and white mood, and embarked on a journey where colour is the point of reference. But this took many years.” At the start of his artistic career, Luciano’s paintings were also different in style – they were realistic and figurative, composed within a context that often started as abstract, but with realistic, almost classical references, especially during his years at the academy in Florence. “I was, and still am, very interested in classical paintings, but I was drawn to the philosophical approach used for abstract painting for various reasons,” he asserts. “First, I was against the idea of reproducing what I already know, whether people, architecture or objects. I wanted to shift myself away from the physical world of objects to a world where objects do not exist, a space where nothing is defined.” Luciano says he also found abstract painting to be more challenging. “An abstract painting has this extraordinary process that, within itself, has no boundaries and evolves and changes according to the day, the moment, the time when you work on it. Even your own perception of it SEPTEMBER 2019

“I was, and still am, very interested in classical paintings, but I was drawn to the philosophical approach used for abstract painting.”

changes – things you thought were exciting about it one day might not remain so the next day, or you might discover something you hadn’t noticed before.” Complementing the artist’s abstract approach is his use of colour, which has also become an intrinsic part of his work. “In my opinion, colour has to do with energy, light and life. But it’s also an attitude – having a negative attitude is like living without light. Everyone, at some point or other, reaches difficult stages

in life, and while how one deals with them is relative to the individual, I feel that once you become used to taking a positive attitude, life becomes more bearable.” Does he have a defined artistic process? “I can’t say there is a clear process – at least not a logical one,” he says. “Life does not evolve logically, I believe it has to be lived spontaneously, but spontaneity alone wouldn’t work either, there has to be a small element of logic and reason.


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“I’ve had the opportunity to create some interesting portraits of wellknown faces throughout my career, such as Roberto Benigni, Luciano Benetton, and actress Ornella Muti.”

The compositions of many of my paintings are spontaneous, but the lines that run through the paintings are decided and defined, where the line starts and stops. So, in that composition, there is perhaps 10 per cent logic, and 90 per cent spontaneity.” This attitude to his work reflects his attitude to life, and the magic that he creates in his artworks is an unconscious but intuitive projection of his own thoughts and beliefs, which takes Luciano back to the importance of attitude. “I was never of the opinion of reproducing the dark moments in life; perpetuating something you dislike is contradictory to me, and I wouldn’t want people to hang my dark experiences on their walls. This is what sells more today, as unfortunately we seem to thrive on tragedy. All this is made with intention, it’s not as haphazard as one thinks, which is what people often suspect abstract painting is.” Complementing his vast range of abstract works is an impressive portfolio of portraits – which includes some well-known faces. Luciano says people fascinate him, and he still enjoys doing portraits because he likes to draw. “I wish to remain in contact with the ability to reproduce a face, which is challenging,” says Luciano. “Also, portraits are a way of understanding the psychology of the individual you’re depicting. If I had to examine the various portraits I’ve painted, the approach has changed drastically over the years, from realistic and figurative examples, to semi-abstract. Often, the approach corresponds with the individual being painted, and I’ve had the opportunity to create some interesting portraits of well122

known faces throughout my career, such as Roberto Benigni, Luciano Benetton, and actress Ornella Muti.” Throughout the years, Luciano has experimented with various media, including copper, wood and glass, and he considers this to be a crucial part of learning and growing. “In order to learn we must experiment and explore the unknown, and so the primary reason for me to renounce the method, medium and technique I know is to understand something unknown to me – this is fundamental.” A new medium also has philosophical references to the artist, such as the time he experimented with copper. “I spent two years producing a series of works which I eventually exhibited, because copper was a medium which, at that point in time, I found extremely important to explore and understand.” Rather than using paint to create colour, he exposed the metal to acids, and the processes used for this told their own story. “To make the work, using copper in this case, the medium goes through a process of corrosion, which relates to how time eats away at our own lives. As you get older, you become more aware of how we are the result of a process – time offers you knowledge and wisdom but it takes things away too – and the awareness that the work reveals becomes central.” Another medium that Luciano has become well-known for using is glass – and his foray into this world was quite coincidental. “I became interested in glass back when I was a student at the Academy, around 40 years ago or so. They had taken us to a glass workshop outside of Florence, and I was immediately fascinated, not by glass objects, but by the glass itself. I remember buying

lots of pieces of glass from there, but I never did anything with them,” he explains. Not too long ago, as an artist in residence at the Australian National University in Canberra, he got the chance to experiment with glass and learn some basics in glass-making, which was well timed for his first commission around five years later. “Around 10 years ago, I was commissioned to do the altar painting for the Church of the Divine Mercy in San Pawl Tat-Targa, and was only meant to work on the design of the glass for the church windows, but I couldn’t imagine having someone else execute my drawing instead of me – I don’t even allow the frame-maker to make my frames!” he jokes. “I felt I had to do them myself, so I made them and fixed them in place, which was a challenge because it was my first proper attempt at working with the medium. Perhaps I was overambitious – but if you believe in it, you do it.” Although there are long interludes between his glass projects, the artist explains that this medium best reflects his current state of life. “As you grow older, like I have, you realise how everything becomes tangible but fragile, and glass reflects this clearly. It looks so strong, but it breaks so easily.” Luciano plans to host an exhibition at his gallery soon, with works that explore something new to the artist. And since he won’t be sharing any details about that yet, I ask if he could share his most satisfying artistic accomplishment so far. “Nothing is separate from anything else, and everything is part of a process. I cannot define a moment more important than another, because before that moment, there was something else that led to it. My journey has been a chain of events, and I cannot separate them, with the good and the bad, of course.” cc


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The Commercial Courier September 2019  

The Commercial Courier September 2019