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Of art and life The work of celebrated artist Paul Scerri







Former Vice-President of the pharmaceutical multinational Teva Industries Ltd Sergio Vella looks back at his 42-year career with Rebecca Anastasi.






Prime Minister Robert Abela and members who contributed to the Malta Chamber’s Good Governance manifesto weigh in on the way forward following the political upheaval of the last few months with Martina Said.

Caroline Curmi meets Paula Agius Vadala and Katja Cassar, Founding Partners of Atelier Maison, as well as Engel & Völkers Sara Grech Malta CEO Benjamin Grech, to discuss their involvement with the YCN.




37 IN FIGURES A look into recent statistics related to the economy of Malta.





Recently appointed Malta Chamber Management Board member Chris Vassallo Cesareo tells Jo Caruana how he hopes his experience will help to implement change across the organisation.

Sarah Micallef meets with Christopher Micallef, Partner at Forward Architects, to discover what went into the design of the sophisticated Swieqi offices of online casino Dunder.



Sarah Micallef catches up with David Xuereb as he approaches one year in office as President of the Malta Chamber.



CERAMICS, HUMANITY AND THE SELF Caroline Curmi visits celebrated local artist Paul Scerri at his studio to discuss art’s subtle commentary about life and its exposition of the soul behind it.

Rebecca Anastasi speaks to Director General Kevin J. Borg and consultant Sergio Vella about what’s in store at the Malta Chamber’s upcoming Annual General Meeting on 25th March.




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 businesspeople on the island.

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

This issue covers the month of February/March 2020.

Kevin J. Borg

Articles appearing in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry.

Editorial Coordinators

All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission of the publishers is strictly prohibited.


Sarah Micallef Edward Bonello Publisher

Content House Ltd Mallia Building, 3, Level 2, Triq in-Negozju, Central Business District, Birkirkara CBD3010 We care about the environment Because we care about the environment, The Commercial Courier is printed on FSC-certified paper, a certification which provides assurance that the paper is from sustainable and well-managed sources, thereby minimising its environmental impacts.

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Jean Mark Meli Matthew Sciriha sales coordinator

Sue Ann Pisani Tel: +356 2132 0713 Design

Antoinette Micallef

ON THE COVER Photo by Paul Scerri, own work

Malta chamber’s bronze collaborating partners FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020




Looking forward The past months at the Malta Chamber have been an unparalleled and unprecedented process of soulsearching, fierce planning and implementation. Driven by the organisation’s undying goal to be relevant and to make a difference for the better in its members’ everyday operations, the Chamber is veritably going through a renaissance, possibly only at par with the process that had brought about the merger in 2009.


he Chamber prides itself on being the one institution in the country yielding enough experience and moral authority that it can actually publish an Economic Vision for the country, knowing full well that it will be taken seriously, and the recommendations within it taken on board. This has already happened in the past, with our first Economic Vision for Malta 20142020, and is expected to take place again, as by the time this magazine will be in the hands of our readers, we would have just launched our second Economic Vision, this time for the upcoming five-year period. However, in this editorial, I do not wish to stop at this ground-breaking document, which is set to mould the country’s socioeconomic journey for the coming years. We shall have ample time for that. With our Annual General Meeting around the corner, I


wish to shed some light on the highlights of our Chamber’s work in the past months. Starting at the top, The Chamber has made it a point to have its mission, vision and values laid out clearly in order to be able to reach its goals quarter after quarter, in an ever-changing scenario. In order for our organisation to remain young despite its 172 years of honourable existence, we are looking into a thorough revision of our statute. Naturally, this is not the first revision we are making, as our organisation has managed to remain relevant throughout the decades, precisely through its members’ courageous drive to change and remain ahead of the game. Today, through this revision, we are looking at how to make our Chamber more and more accessible to our members, as well as prospective new ones. Are the methods

we are used to still relevant? Are there new principles we can adopt to make our work more relevant and useful to Malta’s business community? Are we receptive enough to our members’ needs? Do we have our ears to the ground enough to know and be the first to understand the upcoming sectors and business trends? We want to make sure that nothing holds us back from achieving this. In order to reflect all this, the Chamber Council saw fit to revise the visual identity of the Chamber and undergo a complete rebranding exercise. With the help of our branding partners BPC, we went on a journey of discovery to fully understand who the Chamber is and who we want it to represent. The visual identity of any organisation is the first encounter with that organisation and has to be fine-tuned perfectly to reflect FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020


EDITORIAL the capital’s most prestigious street, our beloved La Borsa was purposely built to house the Malta Chamber a few years after the establishment of the latter – an honour few organisations can boast. Housing a Commodity Exchange in the 19th century, welcoming royalty and all the country’s leaders, and surviving two World Wars, our building has a riveting story to tell. This is yet another exciting chapter in its life. With complete and unwavering respect to the glorious edifice it is, we are undergoing a large-scale project to bring this beautiful building better in tune with the needs of business today. While keeping the spectacular elements that make our building the landmark that it is, we want to make it more welcoming to the generations of tomorrow’s businesspeople and better equipped to house more events that tackle the issues of the future. However, it is not only the outward that is going through some serious changing. In order to be in a better position to cater for businesses’ needs, we are also making dramatic changes to our committees’ structure, that better reflects the issues being faced by our members today. In fact, in addition to our long-standing committees dedicated to specific sectors of the economy, we are planning to add new policy-oriented fora for discussion, that will tackle subjects such as economy and finance, good governance, the digital economy, human capital, research and

innovation, brand Malta, Chamber’s think tank, mobility, industry waste, aviation and more. In closing, we cannot round up these few thoughts without mentioning a project which has taken off with great energy in the past months – the Young Chamber Network (YCN). In no way do we want to create a twolane Chamber, or to segment our members by age, but we thought that we needed to give some extra attention to our younger members and make sure to attract new ones. The YCN is exactly that – a project that aims to bring together a high-powered pool of individuals who can support each other within the context of the Chamber. In turn, these young businesspeople are encouraged to take on roles and give an active contribution within the structures of the Chamber, thereby becoming influential in the very life and soul of the organisation. We feel that by injecting this fresh blood into our system, we are guaranteeing relevance for our Chamber for a very long time. There are many more initiatives taking place, but these highlights give a good idea of the impatient drive to change that characterises our Chamber. We want to make sure that nothing holds us back from achieving this – not even the stellar successes we registered in the past. We like our glorious past framed in beautiful photos – the Chamber’s place is in the vision and ambitions of our members’ tomorrows. cc

Photos by David Pisani

the values and vision of the same. The Chamber has always stood for stability, reliability and a fierce will to bring about change. This was all taken into consideration, and the new brand identity we will be revealing at our Annual General Meeting will no doubt scream these values clearly. Still keeping our beloved Hermes’ wing, albeit modernised to better reflect the agility with which we aim to operate today, the new logo focuses on the core of who we are. The name of our organisation is simplified, stripped to its soul – ‘The Malta Chamber’ – the one that’s been around for 172 years – and the one that no doubt will be here for another 172, and many more. This exciting visual update is also taking place in our historic Exchange Buildings. No one is prouder of, and more blessed with their offices than us. Sitting proudly in FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020



On the issue of integrity Following the upheaval caused by the political revelations of the past few months, the desire for widespread change in the country has never been stronger, and the Malta Chamber’s Good Governance manifesto seeks to lay out a framework to do just that. Prime Minister Robert Abela and Chamber members who contributed to the manifesto weigh in with their thoughts on the way forward from here with Martina Said.


he troubling political revelations of the last few months that uncovered corruption at the highest echelons of Maltese Government left a nation paralysed, angry and unsure of what lies ahead across all aspects of Maltese society – including the real consequences such revelations have had and will have on citizens’ well-being, business and the economy at large. In the context of such a sensitive climate, the issue of good governance has never been more pertinent and pressing. With this in mind, the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry published a policy document in January 2020 on good governance, ethical standards and practices for the country. Titled Ethical Business Calls for Change – A manifesto for Good Governance by the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, the document aims to offer valuable guidance to incoming Prime Minister Robert Abela, “in his efforts to tackle, at the earliest, the need to implement the necessary reforms.” The manifesto’s framework and recommendations tackle three main orders


of governance, ranging from the day-to-day management of Government, the design and maintenance of institutions, and the principles and values that guide them. It proposes, among others, that enforcement agencies are free from political interference and adequately resourced; to reform the role of the President of Malta – who should be given more executive powers – which calls for Constitutional reforms; and reassigning the appointment of key roles, namely the Attorney General, members of the judiciary, the Police Commissioner and Electoral Commissioner, from the Prime Minister to a two-thirds majority in Parliament. The manifesto, compiled with the input of Chamber members including its President, David Xuereb, also recommends that companies and their Ultimate Beneficial Owners (UBOs) that are found guilty of abusing the system are blacklisted. At grassroots level, it also suggests starting a national discussion, spearheaded by Malta’s President and involving stakeholders from all sections of society, on “the values that

make us Maltese”. Prime Minister Robert Abela, members of the Chamber and contributors of the manifesto share their views on the policy, as well as the status of Malta today and tomorrow.

Robert Abela Prime Minister “Stability and serenity are key to sustain and strengthen Malta’s living success. My priorities since taking office have focused on enhancing national unity and rejecting political divisions,” says Prime Minister Robert Abela, who also asserts that, “with the strongest ever electoral mandate, Government is duty bound to keep instilling optimism by striving for further improvement in areas of prosperity and delivering change wherever needed.” Dr Abela draws on the results of the European Commission’s January survey on business and consumer confidence in member states, which “shows that, in FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020

CC COVER STORY acts of corruption,” he asserts. “Political parties are regulated with a financing law, and we have also appointed for the first time a Commissioner of Standards in Public Life. Prime Ministers can no longer appoint judges and magistrates at their own discretion but can only choose off a list compiled by an independent committee, which includes the Ombudsman, the Auditor General, the Attorney General and the President of the Chamber of Advocates.” He adds, “yet, I know that much more can be, and will be, done. The Chamber’s manifesto, among other documents and proposals, provides the basis of a healthy debate about the best practices for our country.” A proposed change to the way the Police Commissioner is appointed has already been put in motion. “Instead of a direct choice by the Prime Minister as has been for many years, there will now be a selection based on a public call, an evaluation by the Public Service Commission and a scrutiny process by Parliament’s Public Appointments Committee,” says Dr Abela. “We have also announced a thorough analysis of the hospitals agreements to consider the best way forward, and Government has already started working with the Chamber and other stakeholders to strengthen the Individual Investor Programme.”

As for maintaining economic momentum, Dr Abela says that businesses, particularly foreign investors, want economic policy continuity. “This is why I stressed the message of continuity in my leadership campaign. Continuity does not mean that nothing will change. On the contrary, the movement I lead is characterised by dynamism with the aim of optimising the welfare of our society.” A major change he is implementing is broadening Malta’s economic philosophy from being pro-business to pro-market, a move he believes is a natural evolution from the policies adopted in the first part of Government’s economic transformation project. “After creating an environment where firms managed to more than double their profits and the number of jobs grew at an unprecedented rate, we will now focus more on ensuring that wages rise commensurately and businesses invest more in enhancing the quality of life in our society, for instance by helping them adopt greener technologies and helping us create more green spaces. This approach will create new opportunities for investors – in boosting the green economy, in investing more in our human capital and in enhancing services for our families.”

“Continuity does not mean that nothing will change. On the contrary, the movement I lead is characterised by dynamism.” – Robert Abela, Prime Minister

just one month, the economic sentiment indicator for Malta improved by 10 per cent, the largest rise seen in more than 10 years.” “Undoubtedly, I acknowledge that some of last year’s events did worry retailers and operators, especially in the catering and hospitality industry. I have made it clear that I am open to dialogue and ready to listen and address justified concerns. I am here to govern in the interest of all.” On the topic of good governance, the Prime Minister says both Government and the Chamber “speak the same language and share the same values. We might not agree on every point, but we both stand for good governance, integrity and ethics. The Chamber’s Good Governance manifesto rightly emphasises the rule of law, which this administration cherishes,” he asserts. “In seven years, we introduced and put into practice an unprecedented set of measures which bolster accountability and transparency. The protection of prescription on politicians who commit acts of corruption has been removed, and we have given protection to whistleblowers who reveal FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020



On competence, people should be appointed as directors, chairmen, or ambassadors if they have demonstrable competency for their role. As for rebuilding Malta’s reputation, there is general consensus that Malta’s diminished reputation impacts all stakeholders, and steps must be taken to reverse the slide. It will be a struggle, and some strong messages need to be sent.” He adds that the events of the last few months have made people wary when it comes to future growth, triggering a “wait and see” attitude. “This is why the signals sent by Government, backed up by the appropriate concrete actions, are so important to bring a level of confidence to those investing in Malta. While we saw some encouraging moves in the first week of the current Prime Minister’s term, the second week was far less positive, and the lack of certain other decisions has been worrying.”

“Effectively, all must see that nobody remains above the law and we see an end to impunity.” – John de Giorgio, Chairman, Shireburn Software Ltd

Marisa Xuereb Managing Director, Raesch Quarz (Malta) John de Giorgio Chairman, Shireburn Software Ltd John de Giorgio, who contributed to the compilation of the manifesto, says that, at this junction, sending the right message to both the local and international communities is vital. “There is a narrow window of opportunity to achieve this. Effectively, all must see that nobody remains above the law and we see an end to impunity. Concrete and effective action must be taken to thoroughly investigate contracts and people involved in both proven and suspicious activities. Heads must roll. Any magisterial investigations already underway must be concluded without further delay and in a manner that gives confidence regarding the outcome. A credible Opposition also needs to rise out of the turmoil. Only following this can the slow process of reputation rebuilding commence.” Singling out key areas proposed in the manifesto, Mr de Giorgio highlights the importance of transparency, equality and enforcement, competence, and rebuilding Malta’s reputation, which call for serious constitutional reforms to be undertaken. “Government needs to be supportive of business and enterprise while maintaining transparency. This calls for greater

transparency in procurement, logging and publication of meetings and travel of Government leaders and senior members of the Civil Service and authorities, both while on official business as well as personal. All Government contracts need to be published in full and Government should be prevented from entering into contracts which bar publication, except in respect of issues related to national security,” he says. “On equality and enforcement, everyone needs to be equal under the law and laws need to be enforced rigorously and fairly.

Marisa Xuereb, also Vice-President of the Malta Chamber, asserts that the smaller the country, the more pertinent and challenging it is to ensure good governance is practiced across the board. “What happened in Malta lately is a consequence of years of disregard of issues of good governance that permeated all levels of Government, business and society, particularly at a time when the economy was booming, and everyone – not just businesspeople – was too busy with making the most of the prevalent favourable tide to bother about much else.”

“The biggest adverse impact is in terms of international reputation, and restoring this must be the top priority.” – Marisa Xuereb, Managing Director, Raesch Quarz (Malta) FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020


CC COVER STORY “The events that unfolded shook us to the core, but following the installation of a new Prime Minister, the political response has been encouraging, save for a couple of instances of poor judgement that were quickly retracted. The current scenario is one of extreme caution on both the political as well as the business sides, to make sure we don’t fall into the same embarrassing pitfalls,” she states. Ms Xuereb adds that we need to be careful when talking about business confidence, as in the medium to long term, overconfidence can be just as damaging as lack of business confidence, “and it is apparent that some sectors had become rather bullish.” “The biggest adverse impact is in terms of international reputation, and restoring this must be the top priority. If we manage to get this right, business confidence will gradually be restored,” she asserts. “The impact of reputational damage on foreign investment flow is likely to be a little more prolonged, as investment decisions are made over time and reputation is easily lost but painfully regained.” The Chamber Vice-President concludes “we have been enjoying years of apparent stability, peace of mind and prosperity. But as we have realised, we had become comfortably numb. So, what we should seek to restore is integrity, accountability and fair competition. Long-term stability, peace of mind and prosperity will follow.”

Stefano Mallia Partner, EMCS, and incoming President, Employers’ Group, European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) “There is no doubt that Malta’s reputation as a serious jurisdiction has been tarnished. This did not happen overnight,” states Stefano Mallia. The former Chamber President asserts that the events that unfolded at the end of 2019 “brought everything to a head. The damage done to the country’s reputation was unprecedented.” “As a Chamber, we have been unequivocal with the new Prime Minister as to what we believe needs to be done. We put together a strong document listing no less than 60 measures which we believe need to be implemented with urgency,” he says with reference to the manifesto. “We have also offered our full support to assist the authorities in restoring Malta’s reputation.” Mr Mallia believes that the time-window for the country to give clear signals that there is now a firm departure from the misdemeanours of the past is short. “These clear signals must be given first and foremost by the Prime Minister himself. Serious issues concerning the lack of independence of our key institutions such as the Police, the Law Courts, the FIAU and 18

“Officials or former officials found to have acted illegally must be made to answer for their actions.” – Stefano Mallia, Partner, EMCS, and incoming President, Employers’ Group, European Economic and Social Committee (EESC)

others must be addressed immediately,” he states. “Key contracts such as the power supply contract and the hospitals contract over which serious doubts have been cast need to be investigated and all findings must be made public. Officials or former officials found to have acted illegally must be made to answer for their actions.” Mr Mallia adds that the Chamber also asked Government to suspend the Individual Investor Programme (IIP), “which has caused a lot of damage to the image of our country.” Singling out the financial services sector, Mr Mallia states that operators are in agreement over the serious challenges brought about by the reputational damage Malta has suffered. “This sector is heavily regulated and is serviced by top notch professionals, however it is also very vulnerable because it depends on the soundness (perceived and real) of our institutions. We are all aware of how important this sector is to our economy, not only in terms of revenues generated but also in terms of jobs. In the past this sector thrived on a sound reputation. We need to work to bring that back.”

Andre Fenech Head – Policy Development, Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry The Malta Chamber has been vocal over the last two months about the urgent need for “the country to deal with all forms of allegations of political corruption, since every hour of inaction is considered damaging to the country,” says Andre Fenech. Crucially, he argues that changes cannot be superficial. “There are a number of local and international reports which state

what is wrong with our broader governance structures, such as the Moneyval, Greco and Venice Commission reports.” “The country now needs to, where and when possible, implement these measures without further delay. We need to send out the message that the country is listening to calls for change and the Chamber is willing to offer its support and expertise to Government to redirect the ship to calmer seas. If we remain inactive, our international reputation remains at stake, which could have serious repercussions moving forward.” Turning towards the impact of recent events on the economy, Mr Fenech says it is still early to tell whether Malta will experience a slowdown in economic activity or revert to previous levels of growth in the first quarters of 2020. “Nevertheless, a look at the latest published figures shows that in terms of growth, the retail segment was severely hit in December, a time when Christmas shopping followed by the January sales usually brings with it a bonanza in terms of sales and revenue,” says Mr Fenech. “Anecdotal evidence is showing that the real estate and construction segments have also been affected. The banking and other highly regulated sectors in the market are also being impacted by new regulations in relation to anti-money laundering.” Mr Fenech continues that the Chamber’s Good Governance manifesto reflects the core principles of the organisation and its members, and is hopeful that it can act as a catalyst to increase debate and actions on a national level to bring about extensive changes. “The private sector has a lot to offer in terms of expertise, but it also has a role to play in the discussions. The manifesto clearly states that the business sector needs to take FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020


“The private sector has a lot to offer in terms of expertise but it also has a role to play in the discussions [on good governance].” – Andre Fenech, Head – Policy Development, Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry

responsibility and, for instance, increase penalties regarding money laundering and corruption, blacklist companies and Ultimate Beneficial Owners who are found guilty of abusing the system, establish codes of conduct for corporate governance, create a transparency register and strengthen ethics in, for example, warranted professions. These are just some examples of actions which could be taken by the private sector to show that good governance is not only Government’s role.” In its efforts to help restore Malta’s reputation at an international level, the Chamber will be spearheading its own reforms. “We will be constituting an internal Brand Malta committee, whose main aim will be to come up with solutions from the private sector,” says Mr Fenech. “We need to send the right signals to the international business and political communities that the country means business, and that we’re on the right trajectory to achieve this aim.”

Malta’s institutional quality following the developments of the previous months. It was also proactive in suggesting initiatives to ensure Malta starts rebuilding its reputation. “The working group that was constituted with this task was focused on identifying gaps in our governance and institutional

structure, and with suggesting initiatives to strengthen our institutional and governance set-up,” says Mr Fabri. “The priority was to tackle governance from a broad and holistic perspective, and to ensure that Malta starts a much-needed reform path which has a number of short-term and immediate goals.” The economist adds that the manifesto is both focused and broad in its approach, as it looks at governance as the result of three main layers: the foundation being values, the layer above being the institutional design and framework, and the third layer looks at the capacity to fulfil the day-to-day operations of Government. “As a result, the assessment and analysis were wide ranging, but the working group proposed 65 recommendations to shore-up good governance standards. I believe that the interplay of all levels are needed for a sustainable and long-term approach to good governance,” asserts Mr Fabri. “I believe that, going forward, a national discussion needs to be started on the future of politics in Malta and it is clear that we need to change the way things are done, including the size of the legislature, the pay packages and other institutions and constitutional roles which serve as checks-and-balances within the whole political system. This comes out clearly in the document and I am confident that the Chamber will play a key role in the ensuing national debate.” cc

“I believe that, going forward, a national discussion needs to be started on the future of politics in Malta.” – JP Fabri, Economist

JP Fabri Economist “As a social partner representing the interests of the business community, the Chamber is very much focused on ensuring that Malta remains an attractive jurisdiction and location for investment, both by firms currently present in Malta as well as new companies,” says JP Fabri, who adds that, for the Chamber, the reputation of the country together with Malta’s investment attractiveness and the soundness of its institutions are central to its mission. Mr Fabri states that the Chamber took a central position on addressing the issue of FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020


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Envisioning the next steps for Malta’s businesses For 172 years, the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry has represented business leaders working across a gamut of sectors, while also spearheading innovation and developing initiatives to ensure the continuation of a buoyant economy. And this year, the entity’s Annual General Meeting on 25th March is set to outline its continued push for growth. Rebecca Anastasi speaks to Director General Kevin J. Borg, as well as consultant Sergio Vella, about what’s in store for the session. Photo by Alan Carville


ince 1848, the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry has been the island’s preeminent private business sector representative, spurring actions to foster a competitive environment for its members – small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as larger firms – to thrive in. And, from advisory services to internationalisation initiatives, the Malta Chamber has, from its inception, prioritised the interests of corporate stakeholders working in a spate of sectors, such as tourism, shipping, yachting, logistics, ICT and financial services, among others, in order to drive growth. Today, this push remains at the heart of the Malta Chamber’s mission, with the entity’s Annual General Meeting (AGM), taking place on 25th March, set to reiterate, yet refine and recalibrate, the core mission, vision and values of the organisation. “The Malta Chamber is currently going through a thorough process of growth,” Director General Kevin J. Borg says. “And this drive has been the characterising element that has flavoured the Chamber’s every move and initiatives over the past months, as it has gone through a process of FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020

soul-searching, fierce planning and, now, implementation.” To this end, in recent months, the Malta Chamber has focused efforts on two central documents aiming at ensuring constancy and economic success, particularly in light of the political upheavals of the past few months: Ethical Business Calls for Change – a manifesto for Good Governance, delineating over 60 recommendations aimed at cleaning up Malta’s reputation; and Economic Vision 2020-2025, which has just been published on 19th February. This work will be showcased at the entity’s AGM, an opportunity, according to the Director General, to come together and look ahead. To this end, the programme will include an update on the revisions to the Malta Chamber’s statute, effected to ensure the organisation remains young, relevant and ahead of the game. Indeed, “it is only natural in this day and age that a complex operation like that of the Chamber needs to revitalise its mission, vision and values, as well as its machinery that will drive it to reach its new objectives,” Mr Borg says. Tied in to the adjustments being launched, the event will introduce

initiatives aimed at promoting CSR engagement; as well as the organisation’s business plan, spanning 2020 to 2022, and planned to be the body’s “guiding beacon for the coming two years”, Mr Borg asserts. These changes – as well as others – aim to make the Chamber more accessible, he underlines, both to new members and to older ones, and have been encouraged by a questioning approach to the central foundations on which the entity was built. “‘Are the methods we are used to still relevant? Are there new principles and tools we can adopt to make our work more relevant and useful to Malta’s business community? Are we receptive enough to our members’ needs? Do we have our ears to the ground enough to know, and be the first to understand, the upcoming sectors and business trends?’ These issues have been central to the Malta Chamber’s period of soul-searching,” Mr Borg asserts. As a result of this process, “dramatic” changes to the organisation’s membership structure are set to be announced, Mr Borg reveals, and these will help the entity be “in a better position to cater for the businesses of today and tomorrow. 23

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“The Malta Chamber is currently going through a thorough process of growth. And this drive has been the characterising element that has flavoured the Chamber’s every move and initiatives over the past months, as it has gone through a process of soul-searching, fierce planning and, now, implementation.” – Kevin J. Borg, Director General

We want to make sure that nothing holds us back from achieving this,” he explains. The Director General highlights the Young Chamber Network (YCN), a project which “has taken off with great energy in the past months”, aiming at “bringing together a high-powered pool of individuals who can support each other within the context of the Chamber”, as an example of the Chamber’s forward-looking focus. “In no way do we want to create a twolane Chamber, or to segment our members by age, but we thought that we needed to give some extra attention to our younger members and make sure to attract new ones,” he explains. In turn, these young businesspeople have been encouraged to contribute actively to the Malta Chamber, “thereby becoming influential in the very life and soul of the organisation,” Mr Borg says. “We feel that by injecting this fresh blood into our system, we are guaranteeing relevance for our Chamber, for a very long time.” The AGM will also outline the renovations planned for the Malta Chamber’s headquarters, the historic Exchange

Photo by Alan Carville


Buildings. “Our building has a riveting story to tell. It has housed a Commodity Exchange in the 19th century; welcomed royalty and all the country’s leaders; and survived two World Wars. No one is prouder and more blessed with their offices than us. Our beloved La Borsa was purposely built to house the Malta Chamber a few years after the establishment of the latter – an honour few organisations can boast,” Mr Borg remarks. And the planned upgrades are “yet another exciting chapter in its life,” he continues. “With complete and unwavering respect to the glorious edifice, we are undergoing a large-scale project to bring this beautiful building more in tune with the needs of business today,” Mr Borg says. Indeed, the new design will “make it more welcoming to the generations of tomorrow’s businesspeople”, as well as “better equipped to house more events that tackle the issues of tomorrow.” FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020

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Concluding, and looking ahead, Mr Borg also confirms that the business representative body is devising more actions which, he says, are evidence of “the impatient drive towards change that characterises our Chamber.” Sergio Vella, a pharmaceutical industry veteran who consulted on the Malta Chamber’s new business plan, concurs with these sentiments, and states that the changes being announced during the upcoming entity’s AGM reflect Malta’s vibrant and agile business environment – and economic – performance, in which change is perennial.

“This intense and very exciting period necessitated that the Chamber takes another deep look at its vision, mission, values and structures to make sure that we can still present our service as an energetic and enticing opportunity, both for current business members, but even more so for the number of ever-growing young executives who are operating in Malta,” he says. Indeed, the Malta Chamber’s relationship with prospective members, and newer business minds, was a “key driver” pushing the entity to “regenerate”, making sure it “still presents an opportunity for different and potential business members to come

Photo by Alan Carville FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020

together,” he explains. The creation of the new business plan required a very systematic process, says Mr Vella, who has been involved with the organisation for many years, and whose commitment to the entity saw him offer his help – an offer which was taken up by the Chamber President. “We took stock of the current business environment, and what that business environment will look like over the next years,” he explains. “And, we tried to capture the opinion of different stakeholders, to determine how relevant the entity still is to past, current and younger members of the business community. The aim was to understand their needs so that the Chamber can align itself to what the business community expects.” Recent political events have also had a bearing on the final strategy being announced in March, the consultant states. “There is no doubt that, as we have embarked on our new business plan, we have had to take stock of the current situation. To my mind, it is clear that our number one priority – as a country – needs to be to restore Malta’s image, and its projection of itself as a credible business partner on a global basis, where good governance is practised,” he continues. As a result, through the business plan “we are stressing, to a significant degree, the value and importance of ethical behaviour and good governance,” he underlines. 27

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Photo by Alan Carville

Photo by Inigo Taylor

“This intense and very exciting period necessitated that the Chamber takes another deep look at its vision, mission, values and structures to make sure that we can still present our service as an energetic and enticing opportunity.” – Sergio Vella, Consultant 28

And there are multiple expected developments arising from the new Chamber three-year business plan which was devised “to attract younger members and executives who will one day become the future presidents of the Malta Chamber,” as well as “to give the younger members the opportunity to benefit from the expertise of more experienced members.” Among these, attracting more female entrepreneurs to the Chamber is essential, with energy being devoted to presenting the entity as a stimulating opportunity for further prospective female members to join and add value.” Newer, emerging sectors will also be serviced, thus opening the entity up to “the reality of the Maltese islands where there is a strong drive to attract research, development and technology.” In this way, the consultant says, the Malta Chamber’s services will be “perceived to be valuable – by both existing members and new prospective ones – allowing them to network and to internationalise.” For this is at the very heart of the entity’s drive towards growth and change. “The service to our members comes first,” Mr Vella underlines, stating that the Malta Chamber’s “desire to increase our membership; to modernise and digitalise”, as well as “the need to prioritise ethics and to push for sustainable development on the island,” are foundational to its very mission. cc FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020

CC interview

“I have had discussions and conversations that I previously thought were impossible and discovered that if we are honest in the way we project ourselves, we can make changes and influence matters more than we could ever have expected.� 30


CC interview

Of change and growth: Creating a modern Chamber As Perit David Xuereb approaches one year in office as President of the Malta Chamber, Sarah Micallef catches up with him about the experience so far, the work being done, and his ambitions for the organisation representing the business sector on the Maltese islands.


Photos by Inigo Taylor FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020

ooking back on his experience as President of the Malta Chamber thus far, Perit David Xuereb describes it as “personally enriching”, revealing an energetic drive and determination to achieve the organisation’s goals. “I’ve learnt a lot and worked with fantastic people, not only at the Chamber but also within the Board of Management and the Council. I have had discussions and conversations that I previously thought were impossible and discovered that if we are honest in the way we project ourselves, we can make changes and influence matters more than we could ever have expected.” I refer to The Commercial Courier’s initial interview with Perit Xuereb, at the beginning of his tenure, in which it was clear that one of his top priorities included a regeneration strategy for current business needs and increasing the Chamber’s appeal to younger generations. Tireless in his quest to drive change for the betterment of the organisation and the country at large, the President maintains that a lot has been done, and while there is always more that can be achieved, he believes that there have been the necessary movements in the areas of adaptation that he wished to see. “I discovered that it wasn’t just my dream, but also the ambition of the vast majority of Council and Chamber members.” And the feedback, he says, has been encouraging. “Today, we have a Chamber that you want to be a part of, one in which you feel more enriched and one where you can share your own experiences to make others’ better. It is what energizes me every day to come here and do what I do.” An integral part of this is what he refers to as the courage to speak the truth. Referring to the unprecedented political turmoil within the final months of 2019, Perit Xuereb asserts, “we have had the opportunity to stand up and be counted. Rather than shy back, we decided to take the front seat to express our opinions, and hopefully influence change in a positive way.” Speaking of the way in which the rocky

situation within Malta’s political landscape has affected local business, the Chamber President maintains that a sense of postponement of important decisions was felt, and in some cases, “postponements have yet to be clarified and decisions to be taken, hopefully in favour of Malta as a jurisdiction to do business.” Affirming that some of the decisions taken in the last few weeks have encouraged the Chamber that this could be the case, there’s still a lot more to be done and enforcement to be put in place. “Throughout all this, the Chamber did not shy away from speaking the truth, whether it was positive or critical, with the sole intention of the country coming out stronger.” “Our members have complimented us on this approach, and it also forms part of our own process of change. Before any of this happened, we had already begun a process of looking at what we need to do to make ourselves better as a Chamber,” Perit Xuereb explains, speaking of the organisation’s new business plan, which includes ensuring that resources are well spent in the interest of members and lowering the average age of membership. After engaging an independent third party to carry out a survey to find out what members and non-members expect of the Chamber, a few things came to the fore, Perit Xuereb explains. “One is that, in terms of its operation, the Chamber should be as good as or better than the operations of our members’ institutions, so we are going through a process of regeneration which will, in time, crystallise our position as a role model for our membership.” “In the past, while a lot of work was being done, it was not necessarily calibrated with members’ expectations or needs. We are now carrying out dramatic changes to ensure that our time and resources are spent in the areas in which they are truly appreciated. Apart from being at the forefront of lobbying, we are also focused on networking,” he maintains, adding, with a hint of pride, that there have been events for which they’ve had to turn people down due to a full house. 31

CC interview

“We cannot have a topranking tourism industry and a low-ranking construction industry living side by side.”

Moreover, the President affirms, “we are also directing our attention to horizontal focus groups that cut across our traditional Economic Groups, dealing with issues like transport, air quality, climate change, sustainability, HR and good governance, among others, which add value to the Chamber network across the board.” Meanwhile, he continues, “we will be having our AGM in March, in which we will be approving our new statute,” adding that FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020

this will continue to attract more involvement of the Chamber’s younger members. “It is where the value in our membership really lies. And we want to have more of that by populating it with people who have value to add.” Turning his attention to another area of focus – internationalisation – the Chamber President maintains, “not only do we have our public-private partnership with Trade Malta, but we are also focusing on hubbing

business in Malta by using the Chamber’s structure.” This is being championed by a dedicated Council, presided over by Perit Xuereb himself, which also features representatives from the five continents. “We are regulating the ethics of how we conduct our business internationally, but also hubbing that business at the Chamber. This is value which is intrinsic to any company which truly wants to grow beyond what this country is able to give,” he explains. 33

CC interview He also refers to the Chamber’s new Economic Vision document, released in February, a blueprint for the country to utilise over the next five years. “The Chamber is not only focusing on numbers, but it also talks of ethics and values, and all of that which is fundamental to sustainable growth.” Indeed, the Chamber also recently issued its Good Governance manifesto, which contains over 60 recommendations for the country to take on. Speaking of the process behind putting it together, the Chamber President explains, “we engaged with several ministries and even with the Archbishop on this matter, because we truly feel that this is the sustainable manner in which we can become a country where rule of law is sine qua non.” “It is not just for Government, or indeed just the Chamber, the Opposition or the Church, it is for all of us to resolve. We all need to sing out of the same hymn sheet. The actions that we implement now are important to show our international peers that we are a country that has recognised its failures and has done something about them in a no-nonsense manner,” he asserts, adding that the Chamber is supporting Government not only by criticising and recommending but by getting involved. “The Malta Chamber has consistently been looked at as the home of ethical business – it is the only employer institution that has a Board of Ethics as part of its structure – and we want to be involved in the resolution of the situation which, as a country, we have found ourselves in.” And while the situation is certainly a difficult one, the President maintains, with every problem lies an opportunity. “We are not out of the woods yet, but if we work together, we can come out stronger in the long term,” he says, pointing to internationalisation as a subject and an opportunity which needs to be better considered. “We need to invest in good governance procedures within business, firstly as a consequence of a lesson learned from previous experience, but also looking forward, to become stronger than our peers internationally, making it easier to do business abroad.” Another shortcoming which the country needs to address, according to Perit Xuereb, is speculative building growth. “The Planning Authority has a major role to play in identifying the policies which will direct what it is that needs to be built and not built. We need to raise our bar in terms of quality, cleanliness and the environment, because that is what our qualitative partners do in their own countries and it is what they expect to see in ours. We cannot have a topranking tourism industry and a low-ranking construction industry living side by side. We have an opportunity to improve, so we can have a construction industry that truly supports Malta’s economic growth,” he says. 34

“Malta’s economic growth has been unprecedented, and while projections remain good, it can only plateau or correct. If we want to grow and add value to our country, we need to look beyond our shores.” On a Chamber level, the President’s primary goal remains ever stronger engagement of Chamber members in the Chamber business. “The Chamber can only become stronger if there is wider participation and engagement among members,” he says, adding that while the organisation has already seen a dramatic change in recent months, “we want to see more.” Moving forward, Perit Xuereb looks toward the successful execution of the Chamber’s business plan, including the modernisation of the statute; more participation of younger members; as well as more

members appreciating the importance of internationalisation. “I think we still need to carry out more work to show our members the importance of reaching out to other jurisdictions. Malta’s economic growth has been unprecedented, and while projections remain good, it can only plateau or correct. If we want to grow and add value to our country, we need to look beyond our shores.” He also asserts the importance of “continuing to take the front seat, engaging with the country’s leaders to see out the dramatic circumstances we found ourselves in last year, and come out even stronger. This is our dream for Malta.” cc FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020



The economy of Malta


The growth in the Gross Domestic Product last year over 2018. (European Commission estimates)


€2.2 Billion

Money spent by tourists between January and December last year.


The trade deficit in 2019 compared to 2018.


The annual inflation in December 2019 over a year earlier as measured by the Retail Price Index.


€1.5 Billion

The total value of consumer goods imported last year.


The total value of imports from the European Union last year.


The drop in registered unemployment last December compared to the same month in 2018.



The fiscal surplus at end 2019. (Central Bank of Malta estimates)


The number of incoming visitors in 2019.


Debt-to-GDP ratio at the end of last year. (Central Bank of Malta estimates) Source: Malta International Airport, Central Bank of Malta, National Statistics Office, DBRS Ratings GmbH (DBRS Morningstar)


Source: All figures were sourced from the 2020 Budget document.

The increase in the index of industrial production in December compared to a year earlier, taking into consideration the working days in a month.


Source: Gozo In Figures, National Statistics Office, Malta


CC case study

CRPD: Rendering an inclusive Maltese society The Commission for the Rights of Persons with Disability is committed to helping those with a disability to reach their full potential in all aspects of their life. Now, with the recent founding of the Malta Business Disability Forum, Jo Caruana catches up with Commissioner Oliver Scicluna, who looks forward to the innovative ideas it will present on how society can be made more inclusive in its approach. Photos by Tyler Calleja Jackson


he Commission for the Rights of Persons with Disability has long been a pillar of the community and a driver for positive change. Talking through its history, Commissioner Oliver Scicluna explains that it was officially set up in 1987, and was previously known as the Kummissjoni Nazzjonali Persuni


b’Diżabilità (KNPD). Its first Chairman was Lawrence Gonzi who, at the time, was also the Speaker of the House; following which it was chaired by Joseph M. Camilleri. “The Commission has played a very important role in the past 33 years,” Mr Scicluna says. “Through its advocacy, it has managed to strengthen the rights of persons

with disability and their families, both in Malta and Gozo.” Its role has evolved over the decades. For instance, up until 2016, the Commission offered a number of services to persons with disability and their families. But, upon the signing and ratification of the United Nations Convention for the Rights of Persons with FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020

CC case study Disability, the Maltese state was obliged to appoint a monitoring mechanism to perform the role of watchdog on the disability sector in Malta. “Thanks to the hard work carried out by the Commission, we have seen a number of policies and legislation come into place – all of which work to safeguard the rights of persons with disability,” Mr Scicluna continues. “One of the strongest laws passed through Parliament – the first legislation of the millennium – was the Equal Opportunities Act CAP413 (2000) (EOA). This law was created to safeguard the rights of disabled people when it comes to discrimination in employment, education, housing, accessibility, the provision of goods and services, and so on.” Changes have been ongoing since then. Among them, the EOA was last amended in 2016, to fine-tune the Commission and its structure, and enable its team to work as a regulatory institution. In fact, there was even a change of name to reflect the greater focus on the rights of persons with disability, and also the creation of the role of a Commissioner. Discussing other important milestones for the organisation, Mr Scicluna highlights when the Commission pushed forward two pieces of legislation – one which regularises the issuing and enforcement of the Blue Badge (used for parking), and the other to transpose the ‘Accessibility standards for all in the built-in environment’ into legislation. “The result means that, now, when the public and private sectors invest in public buildings, they have to make sure that their premises are accessible for all,” the Commissioner asserts. Shifting focus to his role, Mr Scicluna explains that the key responsibility is for him to follow the legislation in place and make sure that the rights of disabled people are being safeguarded. “When disabled people are discriminated against on the basis of their disability, I am expected to take all necessary measures to stop discrimination from happening,” he says. “Of course I am extremely passionate about the work I do and about the disability sector at large – not least because I am a disabled person myself. In the past, I was also an activist, and I worked voluntarily in a nonprofit organisation led by disabled people.” One of his main aims in his current role is to promote a rights model perspective rather than a charity model. This would further underline the importance of having an inclusive society, where all its members are given the opportunity to participate fully. “My goal is to empower more disabled people in Malta and Gozo, by making them aware of their rights and obligations, so that they will be in a better position to lead a dignified life,” he continues. “It is of utmost importance that disabled people’s potential is tapped. As FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020

“My goal is to empower more disabled people in Malta and Gozo, by making them aware of their rights and obligations, so that they will be in a better position to lead a dignified life.” I have stated in the past, I would like to see more disabled people active in politics and policy-making, as well as filling leadership positions.” One of the ways he hopes to achieve this is through the Malta Business Disability Forum (MBDF), which was founded in 2019 with the intention of bringing together important stakeholders such as the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, the Malta Employers’ Association, the Malta Chamber of SMEs, the Gozo Business Chamber, the Faculty for Social Wellbeing within the University of Malta, the Local Councils Association, the Office of the Commissioner for Mental Health, and the Malta Federation of Organisations for Persons with Disability. “As the CRPD, we felt the need to build a bridge between the business and social sectors, as there exists a lacuna of understanding between both areas,” he stresses. “The MBDF is now expected to serve as a forum that comes up with innovative new ideas on how, together, we can render society more inclusive in its approach.” Looking forward to the future of the forum,

Mr Scicluna says that all of the stakeholders signed a Memorandum of Understanding on 18th December 2019, in which they agreed to attend four annual meetings where arising topics will be discussed. “Beyond that, we have also commissioned a research project about the current state of employment of disabled people and employers, and will be issuing findings and suggestions later on this year. In fact, these topics will be among the items on the agenda that will be discussed in the coming forum meetings.” As for the progress that he hopes the MBDF will bring, he says this will be tackled through Government initiatives and therefore, the forum will draw up Budget proposals to be considered. “There is no doubt that the MBDF fits in perfectly with the work carried out by the CRPD. In both cases, all the advancements we strive for in today’s society will be contributed to through the private sector and the Government sector, and that is an extremely positive step forward,” he concludes. cc


CC interview

Embracing his place at the boardroom table Domestica Managing Director Chris Vassallo Cesareo was recently co-opted on the Malta Chamber Management Board. Here he tells Jo Caruana how he hopes his own experience at the helm of a medium-sized family business will help to implement change across the organisation.

Photos by Justin Mamo


ood business sense is in Chris Vassallo Cesareo’s blood. His father was a pioneer in the ‘60s, and set up his furniture-making company under the name of Abbott and Dominic in 1969 to cater for family properties. As it turned out, the business didn’t focus on that sector in the end, but instead became a popular choice for much wider portions of the market. Chris, though, actually had no intention of joining the family business. He graduated from Boston University and planned to stay in the States, working in the fields of marketing or psychology. “I had a very good job lined up,” he recalls with a smile.


But life had another path in mind for him, and he returned to Malta temporarily because of heath concerns within his family, and ended up staying. “Fast forward to now and I don’t regret it for a moment. I think it was one of the better decisions I have made in my life,” he says. Today, in fact, he is Domestica Managing Director – spearheading a team of 30plus workers between the Attard-based factory and the Msida showroom. His role encompasses time at both locations, where he touches base on every project that comes into the company. “I believe that personal connection to everything we do

is what has set us apart since day one,” he says. “Being a family business enables us to add that certain something that today’s consumers appreciate.” Considering he never foresaw his future in industry, Chris has also been very successful in the wider business sphere, and the Malta Chamber has always fascinated him. He was curious about the role it played and – rather than question it from the outside – wanted to get involved. “So I started to attend more meetings and events, and eventually was invited to join my economic group for retailers, distributors and importers,” he says. 41

CC INterview

“We have work to do, and that’s why I want to tackle it now – positively, while pushing for constant improvement.”

He found that he really enjoyed it and could contribute to it, and eventually ended up on the Board of that sector. Then, when an opportunity to join the Chamber’s Board arose earlier this year, Chris was invited to sit on it. He gladly accepted – largely because he felt he could make a change by being involved. “I believe that’s the best way to encourage change in life,” he continues, “by committing 42

myself to being part of the change. I don’t agree with saying ‘this is being done wrongly’ and walking out. That would be too easy. I prefer to say ‘I am here, I want to get my hands dirty, and I am ready to help take the hard decisions’.” Chris explains that the Board is now implementing all of the things that have been discussed over the last few years, and that knowledge is what inspired and motivated

him to be part of this important next phase. “I can honestly say that we are seeing change. Plus, I feel very lucky to be sitting on a Board with six very like-minded members who believe in driving positive change too.” Chris finds having the opportunity to talk to other business leaders very beneficial, as he can share any challenges safe in the knowledge that the others will understand him and offer genuine advice. FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020

CC interview

“I foresee a future where we have to make some uncomfortable decisions but, if we are committed and know it will be for the good of the Chamber long-term, then it is our role to press ahead.”

“Even though we all come from different sectors, there is a lot to learn from one another, with different solutions and suggestions for how to tackle things most effectively. It hasn’t always been easy to pick up the phone and talk to another CEO in this manner, but the Chamber has given me this.” When he looks to the future of the organisation, Chris says he is most excited about bringing the sort of change that members have asked for. “I can already feel the results of the consultation we have had with them over the past few months. We are very focused on the market, we are expressing our views, and we are setting out to portray ourselves as fair contributors to the economy. A case in point was the recent document on ethics and good governance that our President put forward. We have committed ourselves to putting those rules FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020

out there, and it is something I am proud to be part of.” That said, he knows that it will not all be plain sailing when it comes to the changes to be made. “The buck stops with us,” he asserts. “So I do foresee a future where we have to make some uncomfortable decisions but, if we are committed and know it will be for the good of the Chamber long-term, then it is our role to press ahead. If we don’t, we risk falling short of the members who voted for us. After all, they have faith in us, just like the shareholders of a business do, and we have to honour that.” Meanwhile, from a national economy perspective, he admits there is a ‘wait and see’ phase following the challenges faced at the end of 2019. “So far the market has picked up again,” he explains. “So I

am positive that we will overcome this and rally together. I believe that we, as Maltese, have a lot to offer – we are resilient despite our complete lack of resources, and have a leading economy and attractive island lifestyle. But we have work to do, and that’s why I want to tackle it now – positively, while pushing for constant improvement.” At the same time, Chris stresses that he knows he is the ‘new kid on the block’ on the Board, but that he is embracing the pleasant challenge of taking this commitment on and is excited about what is to come. “I never leave a meeting at the Chamber without having learnt something, simply because of the wealth of knowledge around that table.” “So, for the year to come at least, I will be giving my all to the Chamber and this new position, and will not let the people that have had faith in me down.” cc 45

CC interview

A journey of lifelong learning As a former Senior Vice-President of the pharmaceutical multinational Teva Industries Ltd, Sergio Vella – a veteran of the manufacturing and medicines industries, both in Malta and abroad – was responsible for 5,200 staff members spread over 26 sites across the US, Canada and Latin America. Now back on the island, he looks back at his 42-year career with Rebecca Anastasi.

Photos by Inigo Taylor

Photos by Inigo Taylor


t has been an immensely exciting and rewarding journey,” smiles retired business pharmaceutical executive Sergio Vella, whose long career – stretching over 42 years, 30 of which in the life sciences sector – has seen him work in Malta and across the globe, in positions where his decisions FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020

could make a difference to thousands of lives. After graduating in chemistry and biology from the University of Malta in the ‘70s, Mr Vella started his career working in manufacturing, before moving to Baxter Malta – a producer of medical disposable devices – in 1990, where he spent 16 years,

working his way up the ranks to Director of Manufacturing for Malta, Italy, Tunisia and France. In 2006, he moved to Actavis Ltd, where he occupied the role of Managing Director, and, later, the Vice-President of Manufacturing Operations, responsible for western Europe. 47

CC interview

“The first thing which attracted me to the pharmaceutical and life sciences industry is the feeling of being able to help patients live a better life.”


“The first thing which attracted me to the pharmaceutical and life sciences industry is the feeling of being able to help patients live a better life,” he says. “And the fact that the sector is continuously focused on new services, new products, and new technologies has made it extremely interesting. It’s never static,” he describes. Indeed, this dedication to the field has stood him in good stead for, when Actavis Generics was bought by pharmaceutical giant Teva Industries Ltd, an Israeli firm with head offices in Petah Tikva and New Jersey, Mr Vella, during the last three years of his distinguished career, became their Senior Vice-President for Manufacturing. In this role, he was responsible for 5,200 workers in 26 sites across Canada, the US, Puerto Rico and Latin America, with a total value of production reaching over the billion dollar mark. “Of course, it was a high-pressured job since you have to stay on top of your game, taking all factors, such as speed, delivery, service and financial performance into consideration without sacrificing the quality of the product,” he explains. “Additionally, the need to develop and launch new products which can address different medical conditions made it very rewarding.” And the achievements garnered during this period are testament to the gratification which continuously motivated the senior executive. “The sites were located across a very diverse geographical spread so that was an incredible challenge. So, I rebuilt a completely new team of directors and vice-presidents to assist me in this role. These were 30 very talented people who helped drive the changes necessary. We spoke about the importance of launching new products, and, indeed, over three years, we introduced 30 to the market,” he recalls. Mr Vella also oversaw the opening of a new manufacturing site in Mexico and invested time and energy in increasing employee engagement, he explains. “This was through a very simple methodology based on transparent, open and meaningful communication. To this end, I spent most of my time travelling from one site to another, spending time with people at different levels of the organisation, engaging with them and explaining what we did, what the challenges were, and where we were or were not performing well. That brought about some meaningful two-way dialogue which was beneficial for everyone,” he underlines. A new system aiming to improve manufacturing efficiency at each of the sites – code named Operation Excellence – was also rolled out at the various locations, Mr Vella states. “This was well received and well implemented. We considered the way in which each site was set up, and strove to understand the changes needed to simplify processes, whilst also making them more effective and guaranteeing better quality, for, in pharmaceuticals, you cannot separate cost and efficiency from quality,” he emphasises. FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020

CC interview

“We talk about it a lot but AI will actually help the industry improve its efficiency in development, laboratory testing and diagnostics.”


Of particular pride to Mr Vella is the award he was granted by Teva Industries Ltd for his consistent use of ethical principles and good governance in the execution of his duties and achievements. “This is one of my biggest satisfactions. I firmly believe that good governance is one of the key building principles of a successful organisation,” he stresses. In this regard, the veteran business executive is also at pains to emphasise that this should also hold true on a macro level in Malta. Indeed, the Malta Government needs to prioritise good governance and transparency in its approaches and structures, he stresses, stating that this has become more essential in the light of recent events, since Malta must restore its reputation “as an ethical and credible business partner”. He also underscores the need to focus on sustainable development on the island. “This is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” he notes. And, this goes beyond environmental concerns, including considerations of “poverty, hunger, good health, education, gender equality, clean

water, affordable and clean energy, climate change.” A broader social conscience is also central to the current – and future – stability of the pharmaceutical sector, he notes. Indeed, in response to questions on the Valletta Declaration – which aims to increase transparency with regards to how much countries pay for pharmaceutical products – Mr Vella states that he has “always been a firm believer in the value of transparency.” Yet he urges dialogue with the stakeholders involved in the proposal, which is being spearheaded by Health Minister Chris Fearne and opposed by certain pharmaceutical firms. “It has to be a deep discussion where all stakeholders deeply analyse different aspects of the business. We need to understand these and really make sure that we instil that transparency to get win-win outcomes,” he stresses, though he remains non-committal when questioned on which side of the fence he would fall on. Moving on to further developments in the industry, he asserts that, on a global level, the sector has gone through some significant developments over the years and remains “very much alive and growing with tremendous opportunities.” 51

CC interview He notes the increased regulatory environment, which, he says, has become increasingly more stringent, as well as the shift to emerging markets like India, China, Poland, South Africa and Latin America, which are now becoming big players in the pharma world. But, I ask, what are the game-changers driving this growth across both emerging and established markets? “The emergence of biologics and biosimilars – products that are produced from living organisms – is one factor. It is predicted that over the next five years, these will account for over 30 per cent of all new products. Science has made huge leaps in this area and they are very effective ways of generating solutions to treat specific conditions,” he explains. The second driver is the rise of Artificial Intelligence, he says. “We talk about it a lot but AI will actually help the industry improve its efficiency in development, laboratory testing, and diagnostics,” he outlines. In Malta, he continues, the technology is “going to be crucial for us to remain on the crest of the wave,” emphasising that it’s vital to understand its practical uses – away from all the hype – to “develop the right understanding on how to use AI for the benefit of the industry.” Medical cannabis is another big development in the pharmaceutical sector. “The opportunity for players here is immense”, he notes, stressing that the value and relevance of cannabinoid products is expected to continue rising. Research and development underpin all of this, he attests, emphasising that, in Malta, it is vital to attract the right calibre of talents and competencies to ensure the area keeps on progressing. “My prediction is that the sector on the island will continue to be very vibrant, with the generic pharmaceutical companies based here starting to increasingly focus on more complex molecules. We will also see the emergence of pharma support services in lab testing and release of products, supply chain management and the provision of R&D. But for this, we need highly talented individuals at all levels, be they technical or on the shop floor.” This would require an increase in the number of postgraduate students – both of Master’s and Doctoral levels – in the area. “The undergraduate course at the University of Malta has been of immense value and the calibre of pharmaceutical and science graduates we get has been very high, with the university also having been very receptive to industry’s needs. However, as we evaluate the technical value chain of our sector, the importance of producing high calibre postgraduates – not only graduates – is going to be crucial. And, that’s where the university and industry can work closely together, so that the areas these students specialise in are also aligned with the needs of the sector,” he explains. 52

“I firmly believe that good governance is one of the key building principles of a successful organisation.”

Looking ahead on a personal level, Mr Vella is planning some down time. “Having worked for 42 years, I want to make sure I can dedicate more time to personal aspects of my life, so more quality time with my family, and my wife, who has been extremely patient and supportive throughout all these years of travel and engagements,” he smiles. He also intends to dedicate some time to social causes, to “give back to the needy sectors of Malta’s society.” And, the retired executive will also work on improving his Spanish and “take a bigger interest in my health”, he laughs. That being said, he will also be lending

his expertise to the local business sector. Part of this has been his recent consultancy work with the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry in the formulation of its business plan 20202022. “I would like to put my experience at the disposal of the country and wherever it can be useful,” he says. For his immense experience has enriched his perspective, allowing him to look at the world with fresh eyes. “It has really been a lifelong adventure, and the feeling of being able to help patients has been an immense source of satisfaction,” Mr Vella concludes. cc FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020

CC finance

Digital finance and AML: A technology power play The world over, the subject of money laundering (and how to stop it) is either climbing its way or already at the top of many a country’s agenda. And while technology helps trace illegalities, it has also encouraged them. Martina Said chats to investment firm FXDD about anti-money laundering measures, technology and the crucial role of compliance.


n the current local and global financial climate, the threats of money laundering and the repercussions the criminal activity brings with it have never been more pertinent and relevant. And, for operators in the financial services sector, new and illicit ways of executing financial transactions, aided by the stratospheric rise of digital finance, is keeping everyone on their toes. For FXDD – a Category 3 investment firm and predominantly foreign exchange broker that executes orders on behalf of clients and deals on its own account – identifying and mitigating the risks of money laundering is central to its operations. Compliance Analyst Roxana Bizgan says that because of the nature of FXDD’s work and the extent of its target markets, both local and international, “the risk of money laundering can be a serious threat to our reputation and therefore business. Moreover, due to the nature of the financial services sector and the rapid growth of digital finance, we have never seen easier and faster ways to execute financial transactions. Ultimately, it is our responsibility as a regulated entity to mitigate anti-money laundering (AML) risks and increase confidence in the financial system.” While far-reaching advancements in technology have facilitated the rise of digital

“Technology helps to improve public safety in several ways. However, the best prevention in our fight against money launderers can be carried out through simple steps.” – Rosanna Donato 54

“In the last 18 years, AML laws and regulations have become more stringent, more so within the European Union.” – Ilaria Aquilina finance and the complexities it brings with it, Junior Compliance Administrator Rosanna Donato says that technology also plays a crucial role in detecting money laundering activities, and to have an efficient execution of AML. “Anti-money laundering software is used in the finance and legal industries to meet the legal requirements for financial institutions and other regulated entities, to prevent or report money laundering activities,” she explains. “In general, technology helps to improve public safety in several ways. However, the best prevention in our fight against money launderers can be carried out through these simple steps: ask a lot of questions; learn about money laundering schemes; carry out due diligence; establish a formal Anti-Money Laundering policy; maintain your privacy; be watchful, and use common sense,” says Ms Donato. Taking a deeper look at the legal and technical aspects of AML, Legal and Compliance Administrator Ilaria Aquilina explains that AML legislation refers to a body of laws which are intended to prevent criminals from disguising illegally obtained funds as legitimate income. “Thus, the crux of anti-money laundering is to stop proceeds being obtained from criminal activity. Domestic and international laws, rules and regulations attempt to safeguard against illegal activity in general, however, it

is not always possible to do so. Therefore, the role of compliance is both investigative and custodian in terms of AML laws as well as of the respective firm.” Dr Aquilina adds that, in recent years, the firm has seen a rise in white collar crimes, most notably money laundering, with the former having redefined the image of criminality. “I believe that penalties and punishment should be a deterrent to criminal activity, however, one must also consider the reputational ramifications that stem from criminal convictions. Thus, the aforementioned should be considered holistically when interpreting the relevant AML laws.” Established in 2002, FXDD’s operations have changed since its early days, and so have the laws and rules that govern its industry. Dr Aquilina states that FXDD originally started its operations under an NFA licence in the United States, and today, it holds a Category 3 licence issued by the MFSA. “In the last 18 years, AML laws and regulations have become more stringent, more so within the European Union.” “Due to recent regulatory changes which were not AML related, the industry has seen a large number of customers closing their accounts with EU regulated brokers and opting to move offshore,” she asserts. “I believe that FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020

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Photos by Inigo Taylor

this can have serious AML repercussions globally in the foreseeable future due to the fact that most offshore jurisdictions do not have solid AML regulation as in the EU.” Dealing with clients from around the globe also brings with it another set of challenges: navigating through the various regimes and regulations of many different countries and jurisdictions. Dr Aquilina deals with jurisdictional and legal matters, while the compliance team conducts the relevant and necessary research when faced with issues stemming from international jurisdictions. One of the main challenges they face, she explains, relates to the expiry of documents collected for the purposes of Know Your Customer (KYC), and often stem from language and cultural barriers. Compliance Analyst Roxana Bizgan expands on the responsibilities of the compliance team, where “it plays a crucial role in identifying and reporting suspicious activity, thereby enhancing the company’s controls to manage AML risk, among other regulatory obligations,” she asserts. “At FXDD, technology and innovation are core components applied not only online to our products and services, but also to our internal processes. Therefore, we have FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020

various systems, tools and specialised, skilled human capital to detect complex cases at an early stage.” Looking ahead towards developments in domestic and global AML environments, Ms Bizgan says that a significant event in the legislative landscape of AML is the transposition of the Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (5AMLD) and the Sixth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (6AMLD) into local legislation. “Among various changes, the Fifth AntiMoney Laundering Directive will increase transparency and enhance reporting requirements. Therefore, an opportunity derives from a global trend of increased international cooperation. As the volume of money laundering continues to increase globally, a clear threat is the impact of further technological development applied to financial services,” she asserts. “The Sixth Anti-Money Laundering Directive will come into force at the end of the year. Its aim is to standardise the approach of EU member states to the offence of money laundering, as well as expanding the scope for potential liability for money laundering and the range of sanctions that EU member states are required to impose under local law.” cc

“At FXDD, technology and innovation are core components applied not only online to our products and services, but also to our internal processes.” – Roxana Bizgan



Environmental well-being brings about growth For the first time after several years, Malta, has a minister responsible for both planning and the environment. We asked the new minister, Dr Aaron Farrugia – an economist himself – for his thoughts on the perceived conflict between economic growth and environmental well-being, and his plan for the way forward.


he field of economics revolves around scarce resources and how we can make use of them in the most efficient and effective way whilst ensuring sustainability, that is, long-term gain and well-being,”says Minister Aaron Farrugia. Minister Aaron Farrugia adds that a crucial economic resource that is scarce is of course land, and in the case of Malta and Gozo, the issue of scarcity is more significant given the islands’ small size. “Based on this issue, in order to make sure that we make the best use of our land, planning and the environment have to be considered under one umbrella. This argument is verified through research which has consistently shown that country-level threats on environmental sustainability are usually a result of lack of communication and cooperation among the main stakeholders. Planning and the environment are two intertwined sectors that are extremely complex and devising strategies separately would be extremely dangerous. The meetings I have had over the past weeks with the different stakeholders can clearly confirm this,” Dr Farrugia explains. He says that based on this feedback, it is clear that we need to seek a better balance between growth and environmental concerns, with a focus on sustainability. “Most people believe that economic growth and environmental well-being are two mutually exclusive areas. This is especially so after we have experienced significant economic growth at the expense, in some cases, of environmental costs. This has brought about some tensions between stakeholders that fall under these two areas. The time has come to end these misconceptions.” While explaining that growth is needed to enhance social mobility, Minister Farrugia says that it is high time for it to be properly combined with environmental well-being, and to act on the idea that growth and environmental well-being need not be 56

mutually exclusive: policies that promote environmental well-being can bring growth. “I am a firm believer in this, but this would mean that we may need to shift our recipe for growth to meet environmental standards. Planning can take place within the remit of green-infrastructure and better waste management. This awareness of environmental well-being will generate green industries that promote new jobs such as green architects, environmental engineers, environmental scientists and environmental lawyers. This change in how we attain growth will definitely ensure social mobility, but also social well-being.” Minister Farrugia had said that he will be taking note and publishing the names of people he has had meetings with as a step towards full transparency. When asked what his motivations are, the Minister says that his values and beliefs as a social democrat hinge on equality of opportunity, whether it’s an opportunity for a job, a business, or a startup idea. “I took this action after reflecting a lot on how I can ensure a level playing field among the stakeholders that fall under my Ministry. The fact that all stakeholders have access to information will provide reassurance. Industry growth is mainly based on both good relationships and good governance.” On waste, the Minister says that this is an issue which affects all countries across the world but impacts densely populated societies the most. “Population growth, consumption growth and growth of the construction industry have put increased pressure on the local waste problem. I am working to ensure that Malta has a shortterm and long-term waste management solution,” he says. “In the short run, a number of bold decisions have been taken. I intend to actively implement such decisions, which include curbing single-use plastics, the Beverage Container Refund Scheme, and household waste separation schemes.

Long-term measures which we intend to uptake include investment in the incinerator, a waste-to-energy plant which is planned to process around 40 per cent of Malta’s waste. The remaining waste shall be recycled. This recycling process is only possible if we start investing in the concept of what we call the Circular Economy. This is an economic system that is targeted across all sectors and which is aimed at eliminating waste completely through the continuous use of resources,” he affirms. The Minister also speaks of investments currently underway in other infrastructural projects, such as the Multi-Material Recovery Facility in Hal Far which will target particular streams, the Skip Loading Facility which will enable better sorting of skips, the new Material Recovery Facility in Maghtab which FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020


“Population growth, consumption growth and growth of the construction industry have put increased pressure on the local waste problem. I am working to ensure that Malta has a short-term and long-term waste management solution.”

will treat all the recyclables, the upgrade at the Sant’ Antnin Facility to treat organic waste and eventually, the building of a new Organic Processing Facility in Maghtab when Sant’ Antnin closes down, complete with a pasteurization facility to enable the production of compost. On climate change, the Minister says that despite our smallness, Malta can contribute to this wave of change. “To date, we are part of the Kyoto Protocol, which operationalised the United Nations Convention to Climate Change, and which aims at reducing greenhouse gas emissions which are the main determinant of climate change. However, I believe more needs to be done. As a matter of fact, Malta intends to adhere to the policies outlined under the European Green Deal which are aimed at making FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020

Europe a climate-neutral continent by 2050. This, however, requires the implementation of bold decisions, and the support of different stakeholders.” The issue of spatial planning also arises. “The significant economic growth that we have experienced over the past few years has generated a substantial increase in demand for accommodation. This led to the need of a review of our spatial planning strategies which is being conducted by the Planning Authority through the Strategic Plan of the Environment and Development,” the Minister says, explaining that the plan aims to highlight and address short- and long-term issues related to spatial planning in Malta and Gozo. “Through this plan, we will have a better understanding of how to ensure sustainable management of

land and sea resources, whilst taking into account environmental and socio-economic considerations. It will provide guidelines with respect to the use of land and sea space,” he says. Minister Farrugia concludes that he wants the country to have a clear direction of the action that needs to be taken in the short-term to address imminent issues such as waste – by the end of this legislature. “In parallel to this exercise, I will also make sure that we have a clear direction of what we need to do to ensure long-term sustainability with respect to planning and environmental well-being. I am confident that if we have the right policies in place, we can achieve longterm economic growth without imposing any burdens on environmental and social well-being.” cc 57


After the storm expect improved economic revival Political turmoil at home and global trade disputes raised many concerns in 2019, but PKF Malta Senior Partner George Mangion tells Ray Bugeja there could be a silver lining this year.


ith over 30 years’ experience in accounting, taxation, financial and consultancy services under his belt, George Mangion is the right man to ask which main areas he expects business to experience significant changes – for better or for worse – this year, and what advice he would give. He goes straight to the point, starting from the home front. “The recent political turmoil has left a negative mark on our reputation as a financial domicile, so we need to double up on our international efforts to rebuild bridges and seek out new friendships. The worst hit was the financial services sector, with question marks over anti-money laundering and terrorist financing issues that resulted in a not so positive Moneyval report and demands by the Venice Commission to upgrade our institutions with regard to the rule of law and good governance.” “All local stakeholders are invited to launch a concerted drive to invest in new initiatives to promote the island in all sectors so that we can quickly regain our spotless reputation


as one of the best onshore domiciles that is fully compliant with EU laws and regulations,” he says. Last year, Mr Mangion points out, sprung a number of surprises in relation to the political scenario in Malta, noting, in particular, the closure of three private banks and the unilateral resignation of a Prime Minister and three top Cabinet ministers. In his opinion, the election of a new Prime Minister and the appointment of a number of younger ministers in a compact Cabinet lineup provide hope of a better administration that will usher in stricter observance of the rule of law and good governance. Moreover, both the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit and the Malta Financial Services Authority invested heavily in staff and new software to raise the bar when processing both present and future applications, he continues. Furthermore, he says, the advent of stricter rules by banks in line with the Fourth and, later, Fifth AntiMoney Laundering and Financial Services Directives go a long way to ensure effective observance of all EU laws and guidelines.

On the international scene, Mr Mangion notes that one cannot omit the various trade disputes the US embarked upon in relation to China, the European Union, Iran and France. Such trade disputes, he points out, were accompanied by the imposition of high import tariffs, which slowed down the global trade index. More recently, he recalls, another calamity emerged: the spread of the deadly coronavirus which originated in Wuhan, China. In reaction, many countries had no option but to impose quarantine restrictions on travellers from Asia to Europe and the rest of the world. This mishap, Mr Mangion says, also left a deleterious effect on global trade. Indeed, the World Economic Outlook issued by the International Monetary Fund in January and the findings of the Annual Global CEO Survey by PWC do not paint a very rosy picture of the prospects for this year. What does Mr Mangion see in his crystal ball? Global growth for 2020, he replies, is expected to rise, though slower than was originally forecast, the reason being FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020

CC FINANCE the globe, are obvious, and PKF Malta’s clients benefit from this state of affairs. “The 150 countries around the world where PKF is represented facilitate our efforts to make friendly introductions in competing jurisdictions, and Malta’s fiscal and logistical advantages can be a unique advantage for us to build lasting bridges to a number of continents. The fruit hangs from the tree but it just needs to be harvested and, at PKF, we take every occasion to pick all the available fruit to fill our basket,” the firm’s Senior Partner asserts. Aviation is a sector PKF Malta is laying a lot of stress on, as the Malta Aviation Register experiences the same kind of success the island enjoys in its international sector. PKF Malta supports the aviation industry through a comprehensive range of specialised consultancy services and is actively involved in assisting its clientele in the fast-growing sector. Mr Mangion is asked how he gauges the prevailing situation and what lessons, if any, should one learn from the Malta flag experience in the shipping and yachting industry. Malta’s strategic geographic position and its natural harbours, he notes, firmly put the island on the international map. Besides the natural assets the country possesses, he continues, the enactment by the Maltese Government of suitable legislative instruments has proven to be the linchpin in making Malta become a hub of maritime services and ship/aircraft registration. This is coupled with the Government’s policy to adhere to all major international conventions.

“Market sentiment is expected to improve compared to last year.” unpleasant surprises to the economic activity, particularly from emerging markets. He notes that market sentiment has improved compared to last year, also in view of the desired developments in the US-China trade negotiations and with regard to Brexit. “An improved economic stability for Malta could be experienced throughout this year, supported by steady consumer and business spending,” Mr Mangion predicts. But, he hastens to add that national economies would be well-advised to ensure stronger multilateral cooperation in order to reduce downside risks. Therefore, he insists, enhanced cross-border cooperation between countries on several counts, including efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and operating a non-evasive international tax architecture, needs to be encouraged. Mr Mangion certainly has a finger on the economic pulse, because PKF Malta is active in many areas and, forming part of a worldwide network of independent firms of FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020

accountants and business advisors, its reach extends beyond Malta’s shores. PKF Malta offers a wide range of services. Among them are statutory audits, including insurance and captives, accountancy, VAT, payroll, work permits, migration applications for both the Malta Individual Investor Programme and the Malta Residence and Visa Programme, aviation permits, medical cannabis, blockchain, cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings, oil and gas, company formations, tax structures, yacht registrations, cost benefit analysis, feasibility studies, fiduciary services and internal training for staff. As a licensed corporate service provider, the firm also offers a vast portfolio of services to clients. “We pride ourselves in being able to maintain a high level of professional prowess thanks to our dedicated and well-trained staff,” Mr Mangion remarks. Indeed, the advantages of forming part of a larger organisation like PKF, spread across

George Mangion


CC FINANCE Meanwhile, the Aircraft Registration Malta Act came into force on 1st October 2010 and, so far, Malta has succeeded in attracting a number of notable registrations, Mr Mangion points out. The main aim of the law is to regulate the registration of aircraft, the registration and enforcement of aircraft mortgages and the implementation of the Cape Town Convention and the Aircraft Protocol and its interface with Maltese law. The primary aim of the convention and the protocol is to resolve the problem of obtaining certain rights to high-value aviation assets, namely airframes, aircraft engines and helicopters which, by their nature, have no fixed lex situs. Such a problem arises mainly from the fact that legal systems have different approaches to documentation concerning securities, title retention agreements and lease agreements, leading to uncertainty for lending institutions regarding the efficacy of their rights. This hampers the provision of financing for such aviation assets and increases the borrowing cost. Mr Mangion acknowledges that this is a highly competitive sector and stresses that, in order to move forward, there needs to be a sustained effort by all stakeholders to promote its growth. He lists some of the main advantages of registering an aircraft in the Maltese jurisdiction: an attractive corporate tax system; fractional ownership so that title may be divided between co-owners; broad

registration possibilities for an aircraft not used in commercial air transport; an extensive network of double taxation treaties; transparency of rights and interests; the encouragement of the development of finance and operating leases and no withholding tax on lease payments where the lessor is not a tax resident of Malta. Also, the private use of an aircraft by an individual who is not resident in Malta and is an employee of a firm whose business activities include the ownership/leasing/ operation of aircraft used for international transport does not constitute a taxable fringe benefit. Other advantages are competitive minimum depreciation periods; the possibility of recording various details pertaining to the aircraft; the availability in Malta of a wide range of airline services; and high standards of safety and security. However, prospective clients in the aviation sector may not only be interested in registering their aircraft here, because other services Malta offers are also in demand. Mr Mangion indicates that this is indeed the case. The availability of a wide range of airline services – aircraft and engine maintenance, repair and overhaul, aircraft management, aircraft maintenance training and other ancillary support services – means that there is a demand by potential clients for other professional services, he says.

Complex implications of laws, taxation, licensing, and regulatory issues are, no doubt, experienced first-hand during the registration process, and Mr Mangion is asked whether, judging by his own experience and that of his team, and bearing in mind the feedback he gets from clients, there are any changes or improvements he would recommend to the regulator. “Appropriate training of security specialists is needed by the industry and regulators alike, while the move from onesize-fits-all to risk-based procedures needs to be accelerated. Another milestone would be the attraction of larger banking facilities –

“An improved economic stability for Malta could be experienced throughout this year, supported by steady consumer and business spending.”



CC FINANCE like those in Dublin and Luxembourg – willing and able to co-finance syndicates that wish to invest in a fleet of commercial aircraft for international leasing,” Mr Mangion answers. PKF Malta prides itself on being a fastgrowing, progressive firm that will meet the technical standards its clients expect. Still, it makes it a point to adopt business practices that are socially and environmentally responsible with the aim of making a positive

difference. But what does that mean in practice? The firm has a calendar of socially responsible events that it holds throughout the year. Its main event is the annual Client Reception and Art Exhibition in aid of ALS Malta. Other activities include participation in the Good Friday night walk in aid of Puttinu, various blood donation drives, taking part in awareness campaigns such as Pink October

PKF Malta supports the aviation industry through a comprehensive range of specialised consultancy services.


and Movember, and food bank donation initiatives. The carbon footprint is another issue that PKF Malta is very conscious of. In fact, when possible, staff members practise car-pooling both on their commute to and from work, and also when attending events. In conclusion, the annual Client Reception and Art Exhibition is now in its third year and Mr Mangion reports that PKF Malta raised over €5,000 during the event held in January. The total amount collected over three years has surpassed the €20,000 mark. All proceeds from the sale of 18 paintings donated by local and international artists went to the ALS Malta Foundation. Corporate social responsibility at its best. cc



NEWS Events & Initiatives

05. Chamber holds seminar on future of pensions

02. 01. The Malta Chamber stands with the Chamber Of Engineers on the Engineering Profession Act In a press release issued in November, the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry stated that it “fully supports the Chamber of Engineers’ (CoE) recent position on the proposed amendments to the Engineering Profession Act.” The Malta Chamber highlighted the importance of the Act retaining the definition of ‘Engineer’, and all that it entails, instead of substituting it with the term ‘Engineering services’. “Replacing the ‘Engineer’ with ‘Engineering services’ is like replacing the definition of a lawyer with ‘legal services’ or the definition of a doctor with ‘medical services’”, it said. This was discussed during a focus group made up of engineer members of the Malta Chamber.

02. Young Chamber Network members try their hand at golf In November, Young Chamber Network (YCN) members were offered a completely different kind of networking event. The Malta Chamber organised ‘An Afternoon at the Golf Course’, during which members of the YCN tried their hand at golfing. The event took off with lunch at the Putter’s Inn at the Royal Malta Golf Club. This was followed by a golfing session, which was held under the guidance of professional coach Henning Schulze Doering from the Royal Malta Golf Club. The event took place soon after the Malta Chamber held an exclusive preview of the Chamber’s Economic Vision 2020-2025 for members of the YCN earlier that month.

“In the past days, Malta’s reputation has been severely compromised. It is now time to act responsibly and ensure that justice is served. Only in this way will the country be able to calm down, heal and move forward,” the Chamber concluded.

04. Ethical business calls for justice to be done, and be seen to be done… soon In a press release issued in November, the Malta Chamber remarked that “on election to government in 2013, the Labour Party delivered on its promise of a businessfriendly environment that was conducive to economic growth and a creativity of investment.” The statement added that “the Malta Chamber has played a major role in this process which brought about our country’s most affluent time to date.” The Malta Chamber stated that “this Government’s track record however, has been tarnished by a long and heavy shadow it cannot shake or shrug off. The events that took place brought to the fore more doubts rather than certainties, more questions rather than answers.” The Malta Chamber expressed its fear that the situation proved detrimental to business confidence and the general stability of the country in the long run. On behalf of all well-spirited and ethical businesses in Malta, the Chamber called on the Prime Minister to do the right thing and ensure that justice is delivered as soon as possible.

On Monday 25th November, the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry in collaboration with BOV organised an event entitled Occupational and Personal Pensions: A Sustainable Way Forward. This event was organised to provide businesses with information about the fiscal incentives introduced by Government in recent years, the Pension Framework and financial education for employees. The event was chaired and moderated by Malta Chamber Human Resources Committee Chair, Catherine Calleja. President of the Chamber, David Xuereb, delivered the opening speech, stating that, “the Chamber is concerned that entrants in the labour market today will receive a pension that is less adequate than that enjoyed by persons who retired between 2005 and 2010.” Perit Xuereb noted that the Chamber recognises the important work carried out by Government in introducing voluntary retirement and personal pension schemes. He urged Government to consult with providers of occupational and personal pensions schemes for their feedback and advice to increase their uptake in order to ensure that our future pension system remains sustainable.

06. Malta Chamber on behalf of ethical business urges Prime Minister to do the right thing In a statement issued in December, the Malta Chamber, on behalf of all upstanding and ethical businesses on the island, commented on the current situation

03. Malta Chamber, on behalf of ethical business calls for political maturity In a statement issued in November, the Malta Chamber, on behalf of all ethical businesses, called on political parties to exercise maximum caution and responsibility, and avoid taking to the streets, while the country was facing one of the most challenging times in recent history. “Political rallies will only foment the current insecurity, which in turn will reflect negatively on the international stage,” the Chamber said. The Malta Chamber therefore called on all politicians to do the right thing, and immediately start restoring Malta’s good name, in the national interest. DECEMBER 2019/JANUARY 2020

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unfolding, as it had done vociferously and repeatedly in the past months. “There are defining moments in history that determine the future trajectory of a country, and Malta is currently in one such moment. This is when the integrity of our leaders matters most, when so many people are genuinely upset and feel profoundly betrayed, when flattery is out of place and provocation is dangerous.” “It is the humility to bow out promptly, modestly and responsibly without any shadow of a doubt that distinguishes the statesman from the self-serving politician. This applies to all politicians irrespective of which political party they are from and whether in power or in opposition. The independence of the country’s institutions is another serious objective we have all come to appreciate more,” the statement said.

07. The Future of Europe: The Challenges Ahead “Discussing the Future of Europe is vital for the Chamber because it debates areas of employment, the economy, security, migration and climate change,” said Chamber President David Xuereb upon welcoming attendees to an event titled The Future of Europe: The Challenges Ahead, in December. In his address, Perit Xuereb discussed issues which were later delved into throughout the event, such as Brexit, the European Single Market, trade agreements and competition policies, social justice and the new European Commission. “The future of Europe is our future, as entrepreneurs and European citizens who believe that Europe can still be a global economic and political leader,” Perit Xuereb concluded. Perit Xuereb also participated in the panel discussion.

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07. The event was organised and held by the Malta Chamber of Commerce in collaboration with the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) Employers’ Group.

08. Yachting Services Business Section consultation meeting and information session at the Chamber The Executive Committee of the Yachting Services Business Section held a consultation meeting and information session for its members regarding procedures affecting the importation of yachts and transport contracts at the Malta Chamber in December. Alison Vassallo, Chairperson of the Yachting Services Business Section, provided members with an update on discussions held with the authorities regarding the application of importation procedures and invited members to share their experiences and provide any suggestions going forward. The session also covered discussions on particular customs procedures and chartering of yachts.

09. Malta Chamber calls on President George Vella to ‘step in’ In exclusive comments to The Malta Business Observer in December, the Malta Chamber of Commerce President David Xuereb called on President George Vella to step in and

be “a force that brings about balance and statesmanship during these troubled times.” Perit Xuereb acknowledged that while “his Excellency’s role is limited by the Constitution,” he can still affect positive change since “as a highly respected individual, the President is in the right position and possesses the right qualities to make the much-needed difference.” Perit Xuereb’s call followed that of constitutional law expert Kevin Aquilina’s recent statement urging President Vella to step up to the plate, reminding him of his constitutional, legal and moral duty to act without delay. The Chamber President said that advocating for higher standards across public life and beyond was a central theme of its Economic Vision for Malta. “We proposed an upward shift in mentality, towards a culture of ‘nothing but the best’. Never in our history has this goal been more important than now,” he said.

10. Malta Chamber heartened by President’s Republic Day address In a statement issued in December, the Chamber saluted the President of the Republic, H.E. George Vella on his powerful address to the nation on the occasion of Republic Day. “The Chamber holds strongly that it was crime not business that led the country to its present predicament. The business community and its employees will however bear the huge cost of abusive behaviour of some in the years to come,” the statement said. The Chamber expressed its disgust about how those in positions of power abused their authority to promote, facilitate and conspire in criminal activity, and do so under the guise of being pro-business. “The business community stands steadfast with the President when he said that Malta is far bigger than the ‘gang of people’ who have brought shame on the country.” The Chamber shared His Excellency’s hope that all those who had to shoulder the responsibility for their behaviours would do so and pay the consequences, whoever they may be, because the actions they committed “cannot ever be justified”. FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020

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14. Malta Chamber calls for a Minister for Good Governance

11. 11. How on point is your AI-Marketing game? Last December, the Marketing Committee within the Malta Chamber organised an event dedicated to the ever-growing phenomenon of Artificial Intelligence and how the technology is expected to affect the world of marketing. How on point is your AI-Marketing game? gave a broad background about the disruptive technology, as it attempted to answer the pertinent questions that businesses would have about it. The event featured input from academia, industry, Tech.MT, as well as legal sections. Chamber President David Xuereb explained how the Malta Chamber was taking a proactive role to help its members better understand how AI can be useful to them. He noted how in October the Chamber teamed up with Google Developers Group and hosted an AI readiness workshop which offered an opportunity to businesses to understand if their businesses were ready to take the full advantages of this new technology.

12. Malta Chamber signs MOU with Commission for the Rights of Persons with Disability On Wednesday 18th December, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Commission for the Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD), the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, and other stakeholders. The scope of this agreement is to bridge the gap between persons with disability, the


business community and other stakeholders. The Malta Chamber is excited to form part of the Malta Disability Forum and looks forward to providing new ideas to the community and in engineering policy for Government. Chamber President David Xuereb said that “the Malta Chamber will work hand-in-hand with its members to develop ideas that will then be brought forward to this forum.”

13. Chris Fearne addresses Malta Chamber members Addressing Malta Chamber members in January, Labour Party leadership hopeful Chris Fearne said that his main aim was to see the country in a better position across the board as he believed that Malta had the potential to move forward, for the benefit of present and future generations. Mr Fearne was being interviewed by Mario Xuereb during an event titled Let’s Talk Business, organised by the Malta Chamber. He was asked by attendants about several current prominent issues, including matters such as the electricity supply, whether he would adopt a pro-business or pro-labour approach, potential new business sectors, as well as Malta’s favourable tax regime. Robert Abela was also invited to the event, however, he informed the Chamber late in the previous day that he would not be participating. The Chamber offered to provide Dr Abela the opportunity to reply to the same questions via video, however such replies were not made available until the event had been concluded.

Whilst concluding an event organised by the Chamber with Labour Party leadership hopefuls in January, President David Xuereb said that over the preceding weeks, the Chamber had compiled a report that proposed 65 concrete recommendations aimed at solving the country’s problems with good governance. Among the proposals made by the Chamber in the document, the Chamber called for the appointment of a Minister for Good Governance in the new Cabinet who would ensure standards in public office, promote good governance and rule of law, and implement the major reforms the country requires. The document is the product of a multidisciplinary working group the Chamber established, following recent developments, which was composed of members with various areas of expertise. If implemented, these measures would help accelerate the process of restoring Malta’s reputation as a trusted and credible economic partner on the global scene. The document was approved and endorsed by the Malta Chamber’s Council.

15. Chamber congratulates Dr Abela on his election as Leader of Partit Laburista The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry congratulated Robert Abela on his election as Leader of Partit Laburista in January. The Chamber said that it speaks on behalf of all honest businesses and entrepreneurs when it says that it looks forward to the country turning over a fresh page as soon as possible. Malta’s new Prime Minister has a tall order ahead of him, as he is expected to launch a comprehensive process for

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a thorough clean up, and subsequent strengthening of the country’s structures. Only then will the country start rebuilding its international reputation as a worthy partner for business at a global scale. This reputation is currently in tatters as ethical business is paying the price of other people’s abuse.

16. Malta Chamber close to business In January, the Malta Chamber embarked on a series of company visits aimed at reaching out to the operators in several fields. Chamber President David Xuereb visited Dorkins Ltd, VJ Salomone Ltd and Joinwell. In the light of the current situation in the country, the Chamber saw fit the importance of taking stock of the business sentiment among its members. This initiative gives current and potential members the opportunity to voice their concerns firsthand with Chamber representatives. The Chamber looks forward to further visits taking place throughout the coming months. The President was accompanied by Deputy President Marisa Xuereb and Business Development Manager Stefan Bajada during these visits.

17. So far so good In a statement to the media in January, the Chamber cautiously welcomed the breath of fresh air that was apparently characterising the first week in office of new Prime Minister Robert Abela. The Chamber said that the decisions taken so far augured well for the future. The Malta Chamber was reacting to Government implementing proposals from the document it presented to the Prime Minister titled Ethical Business calls for Change – a manifesto for Good Governance. “The concrete actions of the past days reflect the Prime Minister’s statement that

14. his Government and the Chamber were on the same page on this very important current priority for the country,” the statement said. In the statement, the Chamber welcomed the subject of good governance being given its much deserved attention by the Prime Minister’s Cabinet, which was in turn supplemented by the establishment of a Committee focusing on this matter. “The Chamber expresses a degree of cautious optimism. There are several more recommendations that Government needs to consider, but certainly, so far so good,” the statement concluded.

18. Accountability, transparency, rule of law “In order to strengthen good governance, the country needs to focus its energies on accountability, transparency and the rule of law,” claimed the Malta Chamber in its document Ethical Business calls for Change – A manifesto for Good Governance. The Chamber’s views were very well received by Dr Abela who declared that he was very much on the same page as the Chamber on the subject. “Good governance, integrity and ethical business are among the core values of the Malta Chamber. For this reason, in recent years it has taken an active role in making relevant public and private representations. Clearly, recent political and social events have created a climate of undue uncertainty within the local business community, causing a negative impact on business confidence and on the country’s reputation in particularly sensitive sectors,” the Chamber said.

19. Businesses should take a greater leading role to strengthen good governance In an article on the front page of the Times of Malta in January, Chamber Director General Kevin J. Borg expressed ‘great concern’ with the country’s latest classification in the annual corruption perception index. In fact, the Malta Chamber called on the new Prime Minister to address ‘allegations’ concerning major contracts awarded by Government over the past seven years. In the article ‘Probe claims on all major contracts says business lobby’, Mr Borg explained how the Chamber had taken it upon itself to propose a tangible and concrete way forward to instil the values of integrity and ethical business as the core values for the country once again.

20. Close to our retailers Malta Chamber Director General Kevin J. Borg accompanied Prime Minister, Robert Abela, and Minister for the Economy, Investment, and Small Business, Silvio Schembri, on a visit to Republic Street’s retail outlets in January. During the visits, together with the Prime Minister, Mr Borg spoke with several retailers about the current economic situation, especially in the light of recent events. The walk-about was in line with the Chamber’s efforts to meet with business owners and learn first-hand what is effectively determining business and what their prospects are.

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20. 21. Stefano Mallia elected President of the European Employers Group (EESC) Stefano Mallia, who was President of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry in 2013, was elected President of the European Employers Group within the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). Mr Mallia, who was contested by the Romanian Laurentiu Plosceanu, won 87 per cent of the eligible votes. He will occupy the post for the next two-and-a-half years. The Malta Chamber proudly congratulates Mr Mallia on his successful election to one of the most important roles related to the promotion of entrepreneurship in the European Union. The Chamber is positive that Mr Mallia will make a glowing success of his new appointment, as he has done in the past in previous positions.

23. Malta Chamber presents Good Governance document to Leader of the Opposition

24. Businesses also have an important role to play in favour of good governance

“There are several points of convergence between the proposals of the Malta Chamber in favour of a climate of good governance and those of the Opposition on the same subject,” said David Xuereb, President of the Malta Chamber, during a meeting with Leader of Partit Nazzjonalista Adrian Delia, on 29th January. Perit Xuereb was leading a delegation from the Malta Chamber to meet with the Leader of the Opposition, to present him with Ethical Business calls for Change – a manifesto for Good Governance, a document containing more than 60 concrete recommendations aimed at cleaning Malta’s reputation. Perit Xuereb reiterated the Chamber’s call for a concerted effort by all involved to clean Malta’s good name. He added that this effort couldn’t only be done by Government and the institutions, but the Opposition and the private sector also had a crucial role to play.

The Malta Chamber was not limiting itself to pointing fingers at others, with regards to restoring good governance in Malta, but it was also taking a long hard look at the business community and proposing actions that needed to be taken by businesses themselves, said President David Xuereb during a meeting with the Archbishop of Malta, Mons. Charles J. Scicluna, in January. Perit Xuereb was leading a delegation from the Malta Chamber to the Archbishop’s Curia in Floriana and presented His Grace with a copy of Ethical Business calls for Change – a manifesto for Good Governance. Perit Xuereb was accompanied by the Deputy President of the Malta Chamber, Marisa Xuereb, Director General, Kevin J. Borg, Board of Management member, Chris Vassallo Cesareo, and Head of Policy, Andre’ Fenech.

22. Chamber demands clarification The Malta Chamber demanded clarification from Government regarding reports in the media of a role former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat may have held in a meeting between Steward Healthcare and the Government. It is the Chamber’s view that Government ought to focus on how to maximise efficiencies from this controversial deal, especially in the light of the great expense this has been so far to the public coffers. Furthermore, at a time when the country is struggling to clean its name and engage in procedures to improve good governance, such speculation does not help. This may risk prolonging the cleaning process which will certainly prove detrimental. Ethical businesses and the Maltese public require a clear clarification on this matter to pursue on the expected inspiration and hope to a determinate way forward towards the common good. FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020


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NEWS Internationalisation

01. 01. Malta International Business Awards 2019 celebrate the success of Malta-based companies in internationalisation The achievements of Maltese and Maltabased businesses in internationalising their products and services worldwide were celebrated at the second edition of the Malta International Business Awards organised by Trade Malta in November. It was a night where the stories of companies that started from Malta but travelled far in their zest for growth beyond local shores were recognised. Twelve companies that have distinguished themselves in their international endeavours were classified as finalists for the most inspiring stories. The overall company winner in internationalisation was AquaBiotech Group. Throughout the evening, several awards for internationalisation excellence were awarded as follows: Award Small Business Category: Pet Nutrition House Award Medium-Sized Business Category: AquaBioTech Group Award Emerging Markets Category: Mediterranean Ceramics Award Innovation Category: Thought 3D Award High Potential Category: Stargate Studios Malta Award Online Exporter Category: FreeHour

02. Malta Chamber signs MOU with Belarusian Chamber of Commerce The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry hosted a delegation from Belarus led by Dzmitry Yarashevic – Deputy Minister for Economy and Sergei Nabeshko – Deputy Chairman of the Belarusian Chamber of Commerce, accompanied by senior officials, to explore business opportunities with Malta and to sign a Memorandum of Understanding to promote trade and investment between both countries, last December. David Xuereb, President of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, who was

accompanied by Kevin J. Borg – Director General, Lino Mintoff – Head of Projects and Internationalisation, Francois Grech – Deputy Chairperson of Tech.MT, and a number of Maltese business representatives, stated that the visit is a first concrete step to nurture reciprocal commercial and economic collaboration given that Belarus trade with the European Union has been growing steadily over the past years. In his remarks Perit Xuereb strongly emphasised the important prerequisite of political stability to do business by safeguarding ethical business and the adoption of a no tolerance approach to impropriety. cc

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Do all jurisdiction clauses apply? It is prevalent for agreements of a commercial nature to contain a jurisdiction clause, particularly when the parties or entities concerned would be operating on an international level.


he term ‘jurisdiction’ refers to the authority given by law to a court to hear and decide legal disputes within a particular geographic area and/or over certain types of legal cases. A jurisdiction clause, also known as a dispute resolution clause, identifies how and where disputes arising from the agreement (if any) are to be determined. When parties decide to include a jurisdiction clause at the outset of an agreement, it is important to ensure that the way the jurisdiction clause is worded clearly outlines the intention of the parties and would not create difficulties of interpretation. Formulating a jurisdiction clause which poses difficulties of interpretation could result in the parties having to enter costly and lengthy legal proceedings purely based on determining whether the court has jurisdiction to hear the dispute. It is only after the jurisdictional issue is resolved that the parties would be able to institute proceedings for the court to determine the matter of contention between the parties.


A delay in these circumstances could result in the aggrieved party suffering additional losses. Jurisdictional conflicts are regulated by both national and international legal instruments. When a commercial and civil matter arises in a European context, it is the Recast Brussels Regulation (No. 1215/2012) on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgements in civil and commercial matters that applies. This regulation has direct effect in all European Union member states except for Denmark. Its purpose is to lay down rules of jurisdiction which are highly predictable and facilitate the sound administration of justice. Excluded from this are matters relating to status or legal capacity of natural persons, bankruptcy or the winding-up of insolvent companies, social security issues, arbitration, maintenance obligations or wills and succession. The regulation provides that jurisdiction is generally based on the defendant’s domicile. The domicile of an individual, in layman

terms, is the country a person treats as their permanent home, or in the commercial context, the place where a company or other body is registered. Apart from the defendant’s domicile, the regulation allows for alternative grounds of jurisdiction, such as the constitution of a jurisdiction clause. Article 25 of the regulation states that parties to a contract can agree that a court or courts of a member state have jurisdiction to settle any disputes which may arise in connection with a particular legal relationship. The choice of the court can be one where neither of the parties are domiciled in. When an agreement is reached in this sense, the court agreed upon would have jurisdiction if a dispute between the parties arises. The article further provides that the agreed clause conferring jurisdiction must either be in writing, or in a form which is in line with practices that the parties have established between themselves. In the event of international trade or commerce, it may be in a form which accords with a usage of such FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020

CC business Another instance is found in Article 26 which provides that if a defendant enters an appearance in the court of a member state which is not the court agreed to by the parties, then the said appearance is regarded as a submission to the jurisdiction of that court. Lastly, the regulation contains special rules relating to employment, consumer and insurance contracts aimed at protecting the weaker party. In these cases the regulation allows for exceptions to the general rules, with rules of jurisdiction which are more favourable to the weaker party of the contracts. In cases which fall outside the scope of the Recast Brussels Regulation (No. 1215/2012) Maltese law applies. Article 742 of Chapter 12 of the Laws of Malta, (the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure) regulates the persons who are subjected to the jurisdiction of the civil courts of Malta. This article is only applicable when any other law or any regulation of the European Union does not apply. It provides that the civil courts of Malta have jurisdiction to try and determine all actions concerning Maltese citizens, persons who are domiciled, resident or present in Malta, any person where the matter relates to property situated in Malta, any person who is present in Malta and has contracted any obligation in Malta, any person who having contracted an obligation in another country, agreed to carry out this obligation in Malta, any person who contracted any obligation in favour of a Maltese citizen, resident or body operating in Malta if the judgement can be enforced in Malta and lastly, any person who voluntarily submits to the jurisdiction of the Maltese civil courts. A practical example of how the Maltese

courts have dealt with matters concerning jurisdiction clauses can be found in the First Hall Civil Court judgement in the names Peter Arrigo noe v. Dr Chris Cilia et noe dated 11th December 2003. The court explained that, “Maltese courts have taken note of jurisdiction clauses mostly due to the principles of ‘freedom of contract’ and ‘pacta sunt servanda’ meaning that if a party binds itself that in the event of a dispute, the party would be trialed in front of a particular court or tribunal, that agreement cannot be forgotten or discarded unless the parties agree otherwise. Although there were instances where the existence of such a clause led to the Court relinquishing its jurisdiction, the majority of the decisions are in the sense that the Maltese courts have every right to exercise their discretion as to whether to relinquish their jurisdiction on the basis of the existence of a jurisdiction clause. The most accepted idea is that a jurisdiction clause cannot be understood as completely unauthorising from beforehand the jurisdiction of the court to at least investigate the matter and where, considering the circumstances, it would be evident that the parties truly agreed to the clause.” The above conveys that based on the particulars of any given case, a Court of Law should not simply rely on the jurisdiction clause as outlined in a contract concluded between parties. However it ought to examine the facts of the case, including any other applicable laws which might override the jurisdiction clause included in that particular contract. cc Dr Maria Camilleri – Associate, Mifsud and Mifsud Advocates. T: 2723 7172; E:

trade or commerce which the parties are or ought to be aware of. The clause as agreed between the parties will be exclusive unless the parties agree otherwise and is to be treated independently from the other terms of the contract. Article 25 even applies when companies that are not registered in the European Union agree that the chosen court is a court of an EU member state. The rules relating to jurisdiction agreements take precedence over other rules in the Recast Brussels Regulation except for Article 24, which lays down instances where courts of a member state, regardless of the domicile of the parties, have exclusive jurisdiction (for example in the event that the subject-matter of the proceedings relates to immovable property or the constitution of a company, it is the courts of the member state where the property is situated or where the company is registered that have jurisdiction). FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020


CC case study

The changing face of cash management While some countries are trying to shift towards a cashless society, statistics show that consumers still choose to pay in cash for many of their transactions. Thus, money handling systems are becoming increasingly important for businesses, as Joseph Cachia & Son Ltd Executive Director Maronna Filletti explains to Jo Caruana.



CC case study


believe it was Liza Minelli who said that ‘money makes the world go round’ – but what about cash? These days, we’re certainly using cash less, but are we moving towards a society where it could be phased out completely? “When it comes to trends around the use of currency in Malta, we can see that – while a number of alternative payment methods such as cards and mobile apps are popular – consumers still choose to pay in cash for many of their transactions,” says Joseph Cachia & Son Ltd Executive Director Maronna Filletti. “We have actually seen an increase in cash in circulation across the EU as a whole, including Malta. Germany, for example, has been slower to adopt new payment methods.” In an effort to curb this, some countries, like Sweden, have driven a policy towards achieving a ‘cashless’ society. “But there are problems with this,” she asserts. “Without cash, the state is no longer managing monetary policy.” “The link between our own identities as citizens of a state and state currency is powerful. Sweden is exploring the idea of a state digital currency. You may have read that, in the USA, certain states are now looking to make it illegal for retailers to refuse cash as a payment method. The idea of a cashless society may appeal to some businesses, however, in our consumer-led societies, if customers choose to keep using cash, then businesses have to provide for this. As a result, we at Joseph Cachia & Son Ltd believe that, in the medium term at least, we won’t make the complete shift toward cashless societies.” Thus, money handling systems remain an important tool for companies that want to be more secure, efficient and error-free when handling cash, so they can mitigate the risks associated with it and keep operating costs as low as possible. “Our job is to take our clients’ requirements and advise them on a solution that will improve and future-proof their businesses,” enthuses Ms Filletti. “That is exactly where our money-handling machines – a very special product within our portfolio – comes in.” Going into detail about what money handling machines do, Ms Filletti explains that they can be used by a vast breadth of companies. This obviously includes banks and Cash in Transit (CIT) companies, but extends to every business that handles cash – from transport businesses to retail stores, supermarkets, hotels, restaurants, pharmacies and currency exchanges. “They can all benefit from handling cash more effectively,” Ms Filletti continues. Asked about how companies could get started on integrating a money handling system in place, the Executive Director says this should start with an assessment of FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020

“Money handling systems remain an important tool for companies that want to be more secure, efficient and error-free when handling cash.”

the processes already in place. “Could the company make their cash processes more secure?” she questions. “Could they be more reliable and accurate?” “Beyond that, would they like to reduce the time and resources it takes to manage cash? And do they want their staff to be released from cash handling to concentrate on customer service? If so, then it would certainly be worth exploring and understanding the benefits of employing cash automation technology.” As with every sector that Joseph Cachia & Son Ltd is operational in, it chooses to work with the international marketing leader when it comes to the purveyor of its products. In this case, that brand is Glory Global Solutions, which is wholly dedicated to releasing customers from the burden of manual cash processing so they can focus on the experience they deliver to their customers. This includes the popular range Acrelec, which specialises in self-service solutions for the quick service restaurant and retail industries. “Glory only recently announced its plan to significantly invest in Acrelec,” Ms Filletti continues. “And it looks like an exciting progression and synergy of technologies will take place to meet the growing trends for people-centred solutions for the retail sector. This is still a work-in-progress by Glory, and our indications show that it will be finalised by the end of the second quarter this year, so we encourage readers to stay tuned for more in the near future as there are going to be some very interesting developments.” Meanwhile, Ms Filletti expands on the reasons why a company may choose to invest in one of these systems. “They may just want to count cash quickly and accurately, or sort cash,” she says. “Or they may want a deposit technology solution, or a solution that can recycle cash. There is no ‘one size fits all’ product in this sector… If only it was that simple!” Fortunately enough, Glory offers a wide range of solutions to match customer requirements. “For instance, the financial sector has invested in automation technology for many decades. A significant change occurred around 10 years ago, when hardware suppliers like Glory – that had previously focused on automating cash processes in bank branches and cash centres – recognised the opportunity for improvement in on-site retail systems. Then, even more recently, they have added

a recycling capability for retail outlets and have automated tasks such as preparing tills and reconciling bank deposits. The developments have been ongoing.” As for the most important change in this area, the Executive Director cites this as the potential to re-use cash that was previously idle in safes. “This includes the provision of cashback at the point of sale,” she continues. “Glory has developed the CashInfinity solution set so that large hypermarkets, small convenience stores and everything in between can select the solution that meets their cash management needs, both in store and in their back offices.” “Locally we have seen a lot of success for the products already, and have been very active – for instance – at selling recycling cash machines to supermarkets, cab companies and at other retailers across Malta and Gozo. Shortly, we will announce a new range of recycling machines in one of Malta’s largest supermarket chains using exclusively Glory products, which will be another important milestone.” Of course, money handling is only part of Joseph Cachia & Son Ltd’s portfolio, with the company’s wider range encompassing complementary products such as customer journey queuing solutions and meteorological systems. “As a member of the M. Demajo Group, we have been operating for over 100 years and we really do pride ourselves on our reputation of having 24-hour-a-day support and an excellent level of maintenance and service for our esteemed clients. This will always remain our focus, as we continue to serve more and more clients across Malta and Gozo in 2020, both when it comes to money handling and everything else that we offer,” Ms Filletti concludes. cc


CC make the headlines

The year for digital transformation Here’s why 2020 is the year to make the jump from legacy systems to a digitally transformed workplace.

2020 marks the beginning of a new decade, one which belongs to a world that has already been exposed to over 10 years of growth within digital transformation, with very little hints of slowing down. Despite this boom, however, only around 20 per cent of companies have successfully completed their digital transformation journey. Due to this, various businesses not “born in the cloud”, that have not yet embraced digital transformation, are finding themselves at risk of emerging competitors disrupting the marketplace. Recent years have indicated that the size of a company is no longer the defining factor in its success, with several SMEs managing to dominate their respective markets through flexible, scalable business processes that are easily digitally trackable. One such component of digital transformation, cloud computing, has become essential in reducing dependency on physical hardware, as well as providing for optimised business processes. This, in turn, allows for a more profitable cost-per-transaction, as well as the increase of overall sales.


“Social media for businesses, paired with the ease-of-use of mobilised technologies have proven to make interacting with customers a more effortless task.”

Similarly, digital transformation now aids all sizes of businesses in better making the right decisions at the right time. Through utilising the full capabilities of big data, businesses of all sizes are able to generate insightful, intelligence-driven actions that have better facilitated the analysis of current market trends. As AI grows more and more intelligent, the possibility of automated complex business processes is becoming far more possible in the foreseeable future. Most importantly, digital transformation has streamlined transactions for customers. An easier user experience ensures a positive experience with a business’ brand whenever, wherever or however they choose to interact. Social media for businesses, paired with the ease-of-use of mobilised technologies have proven to make interacting with customers a more effortless task.

While these benefits are regularly noted, around 40 per cent of executives still feel that their company is not well equipped to handle digital transformation within their business. Key factors often include a general lack of expertise, experience or planning to be able to achieve this. Therefore, it is pivotal for businesses considering digital transformation to look out for these factors when looking to seek external consultation. Exigy has a proven track record of successful digital transformations across a multi-industry customer base over the past 17 years. cc To get in touch with one of our experts and learn how we can help your business unlock its full potential, get in touch at or by visiting our website at



Style Review


04. Pocket detailing

01. Men’s floral shirts Not usually the purview of menswear, floral patterns were, traditionally, more likely to be seen on women’s catwalks than straddling male shoulders. But this season sees brightly toned blooms underneath camel coats and sharp suits, or more subtle black and white cotton button-ups worn on jeans.

02. 1940s tea dresses It doesn’t get much more sophisticated than a silk little number, which can be dressed down with white plimsoles, or up, with a pair of heels. Vintage tea dresses – in patterns featuring poppies, block or ribbon bow prints – are the perfect mix of high fashion and street cred.

03. Gender-neutral understated pendants For years, statement necklaces on women were du jour, whether worn for the office, formal occasions or even on dress-down days. But with more awareness on the wasteful nature of the fashion industry, more subtle, solidly-made designs – in yellow and rose gold, as well as silver – are now featuring on the necklines of all genders.

Plain shirts have been given some extra flare this season with sunny pockets in a wide range of colourful tones. From red and bright yellow on blue, or black on beige, contrasting shades give a bit of extra verve to your daily basics.


05. Recycled materials Sustainability is high on today’s fashionistas’ list of priorities, and more and more designers – as well as retailers – are focusing on creating ready-towear items in recycled or planet-friendly materials. And with the recent Baftas also encouraging the stars of the screen to don eco-wear, it looks like we’re going to see many more styles emerging soon!

06. All white You know you can smell summer in the air when your whites come out to play. And this spring they need to be whipped out of your wardrobe a little bit earlier. Smart tailoring and sophisticated pieces carry the tone well, as do more casual wear, though be sure to wear white from head to toe if you want to update your look. cc

Ted Baker

With the weather warming up, it’s time to shed those layers and inject some colour into your wardrobe. And this spring, vibrant fashion will take you from the office to the restaurant bang on trend. Rebecca Anastasi runs you through the latest threads.

Alex Orso



LK Bennett


Rag and Bone FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020



Monsoon UK



New year, new tech

04. Tile

As we delve deeper into the fourth industrial revolution, the promise of new technology strengthens and fuels our curiosity and consumption. Caroline Curmi lists the top tech innovations that are set to take 2020 by the horns.

How many times have you left the house in a rush after misplacing your keys or wallet? Losing precious items can literally be a thing of the past thanks to Tile’s technology. Available in various forms such as stickers and key chains, the device connects to an app which allows you to hunt down your lost objects in the shortest time possible. Its best feature? You won’t know the device is there until you need it.

01. 12.9” iPad Pro

05. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold

Following the 2019 updates to the iPad, iPad Air and iPad Mini, it is now the iPad Pro’s turn for a long-awaited makeover. Despite industry expectations suggesting an early 2020 release, its launch date has not yet been issued and as such, information about it is limited, but word on the street hints at the introduction of miniLED screens to the model. Only one thing is certain: whichever the updates, it will undoubtedly become the high-end gadget of the season.

02. Mercedes-Benz VISION AVTR Granted, this is still in its conceptual stages, but it has all the makings of a car enthusiast’s ultimate dream. Not only is it visually futuristic, its all-wheel drive system means every wheel can be manoeuvred separately and enables the facility to be driven at a 30-degree angle, creating a reptile-like movement. Built in conjunction with the AVATAR team, the car is powered independent of fossil fuels but retains incredibly high power, with a combined engine power of 350kW.

03. Zendure Supertank USB-C Portable Charger As its name implies, this portable charger is quite the tank: weighing a hefty half a kilo, it’s not the lightest or most compact option out there, but its pros far outweigh its cons. With an astounding 27,000mAh capacity, the Zendure Supertank has the power to charge a 15-inch Macbook at full speed, or an iPhone XS seven times before needing recharging. Furthermore, unlike other power banks, it can also charge low-power gadgets such as smart watches or Bluetooth headphones without switching off.

Dubbed the world’s first foldable PC, its concept was first introduced last year but the product is now set for a 2020 launch. With a 13.3-inch display, the Lenovo ThinkPad runs Windows 10 and can fold down to a size of a notebook or a small laptop. Depending on the preferred method of usage, it may require a separate Bluetooth keyboard for efficient use. Purchasing this model is expected to cost in excess of €2,000, which is a hefty price for a regular laptop, but its flexibility is irresistible. cc





tile-pro-lifestyle FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020





Meet the people behind the Young Chamber Network Last year, the Malta Chamber launched the Young Chamber Network (YCN), aimed at inducting young businesspeople into its folds. In the coming months, The Commercial Courier will be introducing its readers to YCN members, and for the introduction to this series, Caroline Curmi meets Paula Agius Vadala and Katja Cassar, Founding Partners of Atelier Maison, as well as Engel & Völkers Sara Grech Malta CEO Benjamin Grech, to discuss their respective involvements with the YCN.

A foreword by Marisa Xuereb – Deputy President of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry

The Chamber is currently going through a process of regeneration that is bringing to light the drive, talent and ambitions of its younger members more than ever before. The Young Chamber Network (YCN) is the process through which young entrepreneurs are being introduced to the Chamber and becoming gradually more engaged in the work of the Chamber, while networking with fellow young entrepreneurs as well as established business leaders through the events that are organised by YCN and the Chamber every couple of months. Our economy is going through a process of transformation, and among those leading this transformation are young entrepreneurs with innovative ideas. YCN is bringing together such entrepreneurs and providing them with a platform where they can showcase their capabilities, inspire each other, help shape the Chamber’s agenda and fuel their own ambitions. There is a clear shift towards new technologies, higher quality niches and green economy activities. Younger entrepreneurs FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020

are more acutely aware of the need to balance economic growth with environmental sustainability to ensure a better quality of life now and in the future. They are also very eager to expand their business beyond our shores, fully cognisant of the limitations of a small local market as well as the challenges of internationalisation. The Chamber is providing these flourishing entrepreneurs with networking opportunities and advisory support to focus their efforts on sustainable growth opportunities and distinguish themselves in the markets in which they operate by being innovative and sophisticated in their approach, even when operating in well-established industries where competition is fierce and the economic boom of the last few years promoted quantity over quality. As incomes rise, customers will become more sensitive to quality and more appreciative of the value of professional expertise. These YCN members are gearing themselves up for the challenges of the future.

“YCN is bringing together entrepreneurs with innovative ideas and providing them with a platform where they can showcase their capabilities, inspire each other, help shape the Chamber’s agenda and fuel their own ambitions.” – Marisa Xuereb, Deputy President of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise & Industry



“We’ve always felt like the Chamber has time for us and getting one-onone advice from its members is something that we are truly grateful for.” – Paula Agius Vadala and Katja Cassar, Atelier Maison Founding Partners

Paula Agius Vadala & Katja Cassar – Atelier Maison Founding Partners

As the two Founding Partners of Atelier Maison, and also as practising architects, Paula and Katya are firm believers in collaborative approaches: “we understand that in no way is our work a one man (or woman) show, but it is the result of a team of people pulling the same rope,” they say. Their work is constantly driven by a deeprooted passion for beauty, but such focus and attention has its drawbacks: “sometimes, when you get busy with your own work and business, you tend to lose touch with other industries,” they say, adding that as a practice, they are constantly scouring for new methods and technologies to help them bring their designs to fruition. Indeed, the YCN has facilitated this situation through its vast network of young professionals originating from various fields. Frequent social events link networking to a fun environment, rendering it a pleasant experience to those prone to breaking a sweat at the thought of new social situations. “The way these events are organised really helps everyone to relax and feel comfortable, while at the same time getting to know new and interesting people – it’s a win-winsituation,” they say. The YCN has also created a space which FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020

encourages cross-industry dialogue, a factor Paula and Katja believe has reverberated with the Chamber at large. “People can share ideas but at the same time the Chamber can also benefit from the YCN by consulting with its younger members who have a much different business outlook,” they explain. Several business-oriented events have also been organised, with strategies brought to the agenda and discussions shared with the Executive Committee. One of these involved the Chamber’s long-term Economic Vision for the Maltese islands, which Paula and Katja believe is of vital strategic importance, irrespective of the country’s current economic boom. Both architects express their hope for more environment-related strategies to be implemented in Malta. “We feel that highquality developments in Malta are few and far between,” they say. As part of the larger industry, they are not against the concept of development, but condemn practices which disrespect their surroundings on an aesthetic and logistical level. “When development is done with only money in mind, that is where we fall short,” they say. Looping back to their earlier statement, Paula and Katja insist that a collaborative

future is a sure way of reaching the highquality standards Malta deserves. “It is high time that people are less opportunistic and more ready to work together and collaborate, where different areas of expertise come together within the same profession,” they say. The YCN does not shy away from such challenges, rather, it has opened up and given its members a chance to voice their thoughts, visions and ambitions. “The Chamber’s approach is very professional, which in turn acts as an example and encourages members of all ages to be more professional,” Paula and Katja say, adding that despite it being a busy entity, the Chamber continues to be readily available in offering advice or assistance. Such interaction is invaluable, especially when pooling the years and years of experience of the Chamber’s most senior members. “We’ve always felt like the Chamber has time for us and getting one-on-one advice from its members is something that we are truly grateful for,” they say. Ultimately, both women believe that the establishment of the YCN has not only been a fantastic strategy to gather young professionals together but also a promising one for future business endeavours. “From our brief experience as members of the Chamber and of the YCN, it is evident that the Chamber really makes you feel like there are no limits to what can be done when it comes to business, which really pushes you to reach for the stars,” they conclude. 89


“I would like to be part of putting together a working group that better lobbies for businesses that work within the built environment.” – Benjamin Tabone Grech, Engel & Völkers Sara Grech Malta CEO

Benjamin Grech – Engel & Völkers Sara Grech Malta CEO

Benjamin Grech reveals that his induction into the business sphere happened at a very young age, having grown up in the real estate industry. But, through his studies in the architecture field, Benjamin has secured his own stand in the business: “my passion is space, buildings, and understanding more and more how beautiful spaces can positively improve our lives,” he explains. As the current CEO of one of Malta’s largest real estate businesses, Benjamin is no stranger to the work of the Chamber. “I have been an active member of the Chamber for a while now,” he says. Now also involved with the YCN, Benjamin believes the Chamber’s efforts to expand and include young professionals are a step in the right direction for the island’s business sector to head towards a more sustainable future. “I believe the YCN is a great stepping stone to assist young professionals seeking the 90

right advice,” he says. Indeed, Benjamin confirms that a lot of interest has been expressed regarding this new venture, which is not surprising considering the careful and forward-thinking structure the YCN has implemented. The YCN offers members the option to seek advice from peers and senior members of the Chamber, an action which is not only beneficial to businesspeople on multiple levels but has also filled a long-standing gap in the scene: “mentors are so much needed in our small country,” Benjamin insists. Moreover, the CEO believes that the YCN’s potential is endless. “I believe that putting together great minds with an honest, selfless approach can help us mould our business environment to something that is more sustainable, encouraging fair play and quality,” he says. He is hopeful that this will come into effect soon and firmly believes in

this as the direction Malta needs to grow into over the next few years. Reflecting on the local built environment business, Benjamin shares one of the challenges the industry is currently facing. “Property prices have increased at a much higher rate than salaries. As business owners, we have been pushed and pressurised to try to keep up with this increase without having the same increase in our revenues as compared to property prices and the likes of igaming companies,” he explains, adding that this leads to the unfair tax gap between local Maltese business and others that benefit from a preferential final withholding tax. As such, he’d like to bring this to light with the YCN for a universally beneficial outcome. “I would like to be part of putting together a working group that better lobbies for businesses that work within the built environment,” he says. cc FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020

Photo by Paul Scerri


Ceramics, humanity and the self Life is made up of small experiences which, when fused together, create an intricate and highly profound narrative. Such is the motivation behind the works of one of Malta’s most celebrated artists and ceramists. Caroline Curmi visits Paul Scerri at his studio to discuss art’s subtle commentary about life and its exposition of the soul behind it.


estled deep in the little alleyways behind Zurrieq’s parish church lies a little paradise of Paul Scerri’s creation. Walking through Maltese limestone corridors decorated with beautiful examples of Maltese art, we reach a magical space where the artist spends most of his time, in a little hut perched in the corner. Fitted with a kiln, a thermally insulated chamber, and housing various tools, the structure serves as Paul’s workspace to bring his stunning creations to life. Despite his naturally bashful demeanour, Paul’s soulful narration indicates a passionate, sensitive and grounded interior.


His description of his art is poetic in its simplicity: “similarly to mankind, ceramics requires four indispensable elements. You have earth in the form of clay, water to mould it, air to dry it and fire to bake it,” he explains. Admittedly, Paul picked up this manner of speech during his time studying at the State Institute of Ceramic Arts Gaetano Ballardini in Faenza, Italy, and it is one example of many tokens gathered during his time there which he carries with him to this day. Paul’s time in Italy proved invaluable for his artistic development, and he shares a small anecdote: “one of my teachers there,

Malio Tassinari, once saw me punching the clay to spread it out – in Perugia that’s what I’d always done and no one had ever batted an eye,” he analogises. The artist recounts how his tutor had walked over to draw his attention and imparted an important lesson along the way: “they taught us that clay is not to be beaten but demands respect – to be smelt, heard, and even tasted. That’s how you define its attributes,” Paul continues, adding that this perspective injected him with the passion for ceramics. Paul’s experience as an art lecturer is immediately reflected through the instinctive way he warms up a chunk of clay in his FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020


Photos by Justin Mamo

“They taught us that clay is not to be beaten but demands respect – to be smelt, heard, and even tasted. That’s how you define its attributes.”

hands to demonstrate the first stage of the ceramic process. The figure in front of him is one of seven pieces to make their collective debut at a September exhibition in Italy entitled Darkness at Noon, curated by Joe-Phillipe Abela and Gabriel Zammit. He carefully adds a detail to the leg of a pre-existing figure while he fills me in with the details. “It’s important that the clay statue is hollow on the inside and that is has perforations so trapped air is released,” he says, before highlighting the consequence of skipping this crucial step: “if I mistakenly leave air trapped, it will definitely break during firing.” FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020

Each statue is subject to three firings. The first is a bisque firing at 1200°C. This is then followed up by a glost firing at 960°C and the final stage involves an injection of colour at approximately 800°C. It is surviving the initial cycle’s first 500°C that is critical for any statue, and Paul admits that the wait can be quite nerve-wracking. “Sometimes, I lock the door of my studio so I don’t listen in to the process in anticipation of the ‘poof’,” he grins, as he gesticulates with his hands to demonstrate a small explosion. There’s a momentary pause in our conversation as he leans over to adjust the ears of the clay figure in front of him. 93

Photos by Justin Mamo


I enquire about this latest change and he explains that his intention was to mimic the lowered ears of a reprimanded dog. Paul delves into a verbal mind map, gently explaining the piece’s intended message – isolation – and the details he aims to implement to visualise this sensation. Generally, Paul refrains from revealing the motif behind his artworks for two main reasons. “If I tell you what this is, I’d feel as if I’m humiliating you because you have all the capacity to reach your own conclusion. And then again, if I tell you, I would be giving it away,” he explains. Indeed, curiosity plays a big role when it


comes to experiencing art, and visitors at his exhibitions often have a lot of questions to ask, but he prefers to leave them unanswered. The artist quickly draws up an example to highlight his firm stance on the matter. “If you’re reading a book, you imagine your own version of the environment it depicts,” he explains, continuing, “now let’s say the book mentions a red vase, and you associate it with your grandmother’s transparent red vase. Once the film adaptation comes out and you realise that the vase shown there doesn’t match your vision, you will feel disappointed,” he says.

“I enjoy listening to the children, because they’re innocent and are not influenced by anything. They don’t wait for you to narrate a story, they start narrating themselves – and usually some truth rises from their words.”


CC MEET THE ARTIST Despite this, Paul admits to favouring observations from one age group. “I enjoy listening to the children, because they’re innocent and are not influenced by anything. They don’t wait for you to narrate a story, they start narrating themselves – and usually some truth rises from their words,” he explains. Emotions are Paul’s creative fuel. “My work is all the result of my own feelings,” he explains. “I’m not much of a talker, but I too have stories which I wish to share, and my work narrates them for me in a very delicate manner.” We delve into the topic of

“I’m not much of a talker, but I too have stories which I wish to share, and my work narrates them for me in a very delicate manner.”

Photo by Justin Mamo

Photo by Paul Scerri

Photo by Justin Mamo


past exhibitions and the intensity behind each starts to emerge. A lengthy illness, a silent political commentary, ostracization and other life experiences are but some of the stories that led to his creations, and I’m blown away by the powerful subtlety with which the artist communicates such profound narrations. As he flicks through a virtual album filled with exhibition images, one series catches my eye and I find myself quizzing Paul about it, who gracefully accepts and entertains each query and shares its history with me. As part of an exhibition curated by Joe-Philippe Abela entitled Human Matter, the artist had produced a series of 10 human hearts, all depicting the emotional consequences born from one’s manner of being and loving: “this is the qalb tad-deheb, a heart of gold… this is the kind heart, it’s gnawed… this is an open heart with a clockwork built inside it… the evil heart... it has a chunk bitten off but that has been spat back out, and there are the seven deadly sins written on it,” he explains. There is a certain simplicity behind these interpretations of such heavy topics, and I’m not at all surprised to hear about the series’ astounding success. Such was its popularity that he went on to produce nine copies of each, with each one numbered and certified. One copy even sold for more than double its asking price at a recent art auction. Despite the pride generated from such

public appreciation of his work, Paul’s focus is not financial. While he admits to the importance of money in life, he does not believe it is the source of happiness. “A lobster would no longer be pleasant to eat if you consume it every day,” he explains, adding that when greedy people reach the top, they find themselves stuck as they have nowhere else to go. “When you have everything, you’re not happy. In fact, when you see celebrities’ children, they are dripping with boredom, not like the kids in Africa with their genuine smiles – that is my personal theory,” he says. Paul chooses to focus on the imperfect and real, accentuating a person’s journey to reach their current state. “I delight in depicting imperfect noses and crooked feet – those are the elements I seek out because of the stories they tell,” he says. He slides a humorous jab at his own nose and links its similarity to the Roman noses he so often incorporates in his work, but his words are only meant as light-hearted commentary: “the self-portrait is in the spirit rather than the physical aspect.” Ultimately, aesthetic perfection is not Paul’s mission: “traditional beauty doesn’t interest me,” he concludes, a phrase which highlights his personal belief of the nonexistence of perfection and emphasises that real and true beauty in its rawest forms can easily be spotted, if one is patient enough to look out for it. cc FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020

Food Trends

03. Sandwiches with star power

Curious to see what foodies will be lusting after in 2020? Sarah Micallef dishes out the goods – from sparkling drinks to unexpected desserts. 01. Glitter wine The appeal of good-looking, Instagrammable food continues to grow, and the latest item on the list is glitter wine, or glitter-filled fizzers (like a bath bomb, but for your drink). It’s attractive and interesting to look at, but appears to be purely visual – suffice to say, we’re a little uncertain about this one!

02. Hummus for dessert Savoury ingredients getting a sweet makeover is nothing new – we love a good sweet-ricotta filled kannol – but the latest savoury item to make it to the dessert menu is somewhat unexpected: hummus. Flavoured with sweet treats including brownie batter, peanut butter and cookie dough, it looks promising! Pinterest

Stemming from the international recognition of beautiful katsu sandos inspired by Japanese cuisine, it seems that 2020 will be the year of the sandwich. But we’re not talking your regular ham and cheese. Think beautifully presented sandwiches using artisan bread, handmade and well-sourced ingredients – now that’s something we can get behind.


04. Coffee-based cocktails Espresso martini fans will be delighted at the rise of this one – coffee-based cocktails are on the rise, along with lower-alcohol spritzes! Variations we’ve come across are espresso tonic or nitro cold brew drinks – perfect for a caffeine kick with a little spice.


The Washingtonian


Radiant Rachels

05. Souffle pancakes We’ve all stopped to lust after a towering stack of thick, American-style pancakes at least once in our lives, and this Japanese culinary trend is just as easy on the eyes. Souffle pancakes are just what you’d expect them to be – a pleasing cross between a well-risen souffle and a fluffy pancake, and are a sure-fire trend for 2020.

06. Nashville hot chicken Move over Kentucky fried chicken, there’s a new spicy chicken darling in the house, and it hails from Nashville. It’s even made it onto KFC’s menus in the US, so you know we’re onto a winner. Food trend reports indicate its rise in popularity as an inevitability this year, and we can’t wait to see if it’ll reach our shores! cc

04. Rachael Ray




Cooking With Cocktail Rings



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Executive coaching: Leading in times of constant change and ambiguity By Malcolm Pace Debono, Director, People and Change Advisory Services and Claudine Borg Azzopardi, Associate Director, People and Change Advisory Services Executive Coaching for Leadership

In today’s environment of emerging technologies, constant disruption, globalisation and connectivity, organisations are altering dramatically, new businesses are emerging, and success relies on being able to adapt quickly. This places new demands on leaders across all industry sectors. The implications on finance leaders encompass a need to manage their teams more effectively, establish a new vision for the organisation, and consistently set a new course to refocus and realign the organisation to this vision. An executive coach can be a beneficial partner in this journey. Leading the way we did when environments and organisations were more stable, where we could distinguish between change and ‘business as usual’, simply won’t work anymore. This statement directly impacts the way finance leaders navigate their context, embrace change and make decisions. Finance leaders are constantly facing volatility and ambiguity. As they continually adapt strategies, pivot their product or service offerings, grow or shrink their workforces, adapt to new regulation and technology, or quickly react to shifts in customer demands – they need to adjust the way that they lead. Leaders need to think about their role as one of creating organisations that are adaptive, agile and can deal with emergent issues. Not surprisingly, leaders sometimes struggle to develop the psychological, cognitive and behavioural skills needed to deal with fast organisational change whilst remaining focused on reaching their workrelated goals. Indeed, the ability to build effective teams, promote high performing cultures and deliver on organisational goals during periods of disruptive change is rated as one of the most important attributes of FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020

effective leaders, although the requisite skills come naturally to only a few. Such changed behaviours and expectations are a business necessity for financial leaders. Executive coaching can enable the leader to explore changes in assumptions, expectations and perspectives, leading to deep behaviour change. Many finance leaders who do not have a coaching support system may feel discouraged when faced with the demands of addressing such complexity and business change. As a result, they may not be able to bring the best of themselves, to have the focus, flexibility and agility required to recover business profitability or change the organisation’s culture and reputation. Changing leadership approach We see that leaders within finance businesses we work with are becoming more open to new ways of leading, as well as becoming comfortable with the fact that complexity is now a constant state of play. We understand that complexity requires people to look at problems from multiple perspectives to come to an answer. Relying on hierarchy or believing we can achieve outcomes within organisational ‘silos’ no longer serves leaders well. Listening, engaging others and helping people to see meaning in their work helps achieve good outcomes. This requires self-awareness, strong people skills and the ability to analyse context and make choices about the right approach. This is what we call ‘conscious leadership’. Conscious leadership requires deeper questions about what leadership means and what is required in a given situation. Leaders need to be aware of when they are exercising positional authority versus leadership. Or

when they need to be the expert as against facilitating the input of others. Finance industry leaders who were interviewed for this article spoke about the heightened need to lead through others, a stronger requirement at inspiring, engaging and taking people with them and ‘becoming more agile and open to change’. These growing demands for finance leaders have brought with them heightened requirement for executive coaching to support both individual and leadership team development requirements. They described that today’s climate of consistent change has added a new level of complexity to the role of finance leader. They spoke about utilising coaching to understand and get their head around emerging themes and challenges, to ‘pause’ and to reflect on what ripples are out there and which of those ripples will impact their businesses. Support for a new approach Individual change in leadership style is an important part of ensuring that banks and financial institutions are focused on a growth agenda rather than just operating in survival mode. Cultivating a new leadership style takes courage and conscious effort on the part of the organisation as a whole, the leaders, and the people they are leading. Looking at company culture and employee engagement through diagnostic tools provides leaders with the foundation for identifying the main leadership strengths and development needs within organisations. Leaders can’t simply ‘keep up’ – rather, they can be supported on the how to steer their teams and the organisation into the unknown by preparing for today and equipping themselves for tomorrow. cc 101

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Corporate pensions – what’s in it for the employer? The trend is catching up. Pension responsibility is shifting from Government and moving to either individuals or corporate funded pensions. People are increasingly seeking reassurance that they can continue to live the same lifestyle they have grown accustomed to after retirement. Workplace pensions offer a number of benefits to both the employer and employee. Regular contributions towards the pension of employees increases their loyalty and is a means of placing value on them. Employees are then free to choose whether they will contribute towards their pension plan in addition to the employer’s contribution. Contributions may be from either the employer, employee or both. Pension plans in Malta start at affordable monthly payments. This, together with generous tax benefits for both parties

GO vPBX solution keeps your business connected, anywhere you are 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 any important calls and updates, so a smooth connection is

and increased efforts by Government and constituted bodies have made the adoption of pension plans more attractive than ever before. Saving money can hardly replace a pension for anyone. The advantage of corporate pensions is that an employer can make use of professional fund managers which can take on the complex task of investing the collected money in predevised investment strategies, taking into consideration the age group of the worker. An investment manager has the knowledge and capabilities, necessary tools and accessibility to markets which the employer may not have access to. Time is also not on anyone’s side and employers may not have the time to manage and follow through the investments. Advice is essential in choosing the right investment vehicles, especially when dealing with people’s future finances. Financial advisors can provide a variety of investment solutions for every stage of a person’s financial lifecycle. Planning investments for employees instil a sense of belonging, increase self-worth and loyalty. They can also serve to attract the best talent in the market. Companies should start looking at corporate pensions as another means of investing in employees. cc

essential, wherever you are. That’s where GO’s Virtual PBX comes in. With GO vPBX and an internet connection, you have full access to your office, anywhere you are. 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. Get that professional edge with extensive features like call forwarding, hunting

Issued by Bank of Valletta p.l.c., 58, Triq San Żakkarija, il-Belt Valletta VLT 1130. Bank of Valletta p.l.c. is a public limited company regulated by the MFSA, licensed to carry out the business of banking and investment services in terms of the Banking and Investment Services Acts (Cap.370, 371 of the Laws of Malta).

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 are 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 with GO Communicator, customers can reach you everywhere on your business number, thus 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 or visit



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Over 25 years of delivering distance learning programmes As a top 25 UK-based University, Leicester has always been home to the great minds; academics, researchers and students who aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo, advance new practices, and develop a fresh way of thinking. Through the ground-breaking research, distance learning students tackle the emerging social, corporate, economic, political and scientific issues head on and set the agenda where others simply follow. At Leicester, students aren’t confined by academic boundaries. Students are given the space and support in which to be creative and develop both personally and professionally. Programmes are contemporary in content and provide the specialist subject knowledge and international outlook demanded by employers around the world. With access to unparalleled academic resources and

Adore More management launches FINESSE A new concept store which brings home, beauty and giftware products under one roof Adore More needs no introduction. After 14 years in the local market, its name has become synonymous with good-quality brands in apertures, blinds, railing, internal doors and outdoor shading solutions. The company has gone from strength to strength


facilities, students gain the real-world transferable skills to remain competitive in the global job market and join the University of Leicester’s ranks of alumni who have made positive contributions to their industries and fields of expertise. Represented exclusively by FHRD, the University provides Diploma, Bachelors, Master’s and Doctorate programmes to a thriving base of candidates hailing from

since its launch over a decade ago, going from a small shop in Rabat to a major player within a very demanding sector. The company’s business model focuses on high-end yet affordable renowned brands such as Schuco and Elvial for their thermal break aluminium products, and Kommerling for their fully insulated and energy saving uPVC range. Their current location in Mosta incorporates a large showroom in which they display their vast range of products. 2019 was a game changer for Adore More, with the company deciding that it was time to launch a new department focusing entirely on the commercial and industrial segment: Adore More Projects. This new department focuses around the needs of commercial entities by still providing its popular apertures and other products, but also researching and introducing new products and brands geared specifically towards these entities. Office partitioning systems, fire and security doors are some of the new products that Adore More has started offering since the launch. However, the management of Adore More never stand still, and are always looking into how they can improve and bring new products to their customers. This is how their latest, exciting business venture concept came about. Adore More was all about bringing various products within the aperture and home development segments under one roof,

all walks of life. FHRD was one of the first providers in Malta to offer academic distance learning programmes, with the first intake of Maltese students in the year 2000. cc To learn more about the University of Leicester programmes and join the almost 2,000 Maltese alumni, call on T: 2131 3550; email, or visit

and, applying the same concept, their newest outlet, FINESSE – Home, Beauty and Giftware, was created and launched. FINESSE is about bringing three popular and established brands – Preciosa, Mathilde M. and Blanc D’Ivoire – under one roof, giving customers a varied choice of products for their home or to gift on any occasion. Most of the furniture and home décor products – such as diffusers, candles, crystal jewellery, baby shower and bathroom accessories, as well as fine ceramic objects – are inspired by French design. Whether it is Mother’s Day, a birthday or Christmas, one can find the right gift for the right occasion at FINESSE. cc To learn more about the range of products available at FINESSE, visit the shop at Msida Valley Road in Birkirkara, send an email on or visit the website 105

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HSBC Bank Malta launches Virtual Assistant for business customers

HSBC Bank Malta business customers and the broader business community can now use an online Virtual Assistant to have many of their enquiries dealt with more efficiently. Available at, the new Virtual Assistant provides intuitive online support to help business owners and managers access relevant information and make the most of the bank’s online services. The introduction of the Virtual Assistant will not only help users to access the information they need more quickly and accurately, it will also allow HSBC’s Business Contact Centre agents more time to handle more complex requests, further improving customer experience.

Joyce Grech, Head of Commercial Banking at HSBC Malta, says “HSBC is focused on delivering an unrivalled customer experience and is investing in the latest technology to deliver on this ambition. The new Virtual Assistant will answer questions ranging from basic questions such as ‘how to register for telephone banking’ to more complex ones such as how to open a business account. Over time, the Virtual Assistant will also

What is AML transaction monitoring?

their individual profile to identify any transaction that does not meet their historical behavioural patterns. Compute running values and statistics to define complex scenarios that need to consider past activity.

There’s a pretty good chance that you’ve at least heard – or read – about Anti-Money Laundering (AML). It refers to a set of laws, regulations and procedures intended to prevent criminals from disguising illegally obtained funds as legitimate income. Even though AML laws cover a relatively limited range of transactions and criminal behaviours, their implications are farreaching and nearly impossible to detect without the right AML transaction monitoring software. AML transaction monitoring software helps businesses automatically monitor their customers’ financial transactions so that suspicious activity can be identified in real time. A proper automated system will achieve the following: Minimise false positives by applying a riskbased approach and adapting scenarios to customer and/or transaction risk levels. Spot patterns and outliers by monitoring behaviours alongside historical transaction data and other contextual profile data. Check each customer transaction against

How AML transaction monitoring software works AML transaction monitoring software looks at everything from deposits and withdrawals to international wire transfers, currency exchanges, credit extensions, or any kind of payments in or out of accounts. By identifying patterns over time, the system learns to predict your customer’s actions, detect any unusual (potentially suspicious) behaviour, and send out immediate alerts to your compliance team for further investigation. Companies big and small use this technology to fight against all kinds of fraud and money laundering including structuring, double invoicing and round-tripping – but that’s not all it does. A sophisticated transaction monitoring solution also plays a central role in sniffing out terrorism financing and any customers who might be trying to avoid international sanctions. The main benefits of AML transaction monitoring software are as follows: • Comply with global regulations • Protect your reputation


learn from the questions being asked by customers and become more intelligent, further improving the service.” The new Virtual Assistant is HSBC’s latest investment in digital technologies as the bank continues to increase the range of services available to customers 24/7 in order to help them better manage their banking needs. cc

• Instil a positive customer experience • Minimise risk exposure • Avoid potential fines. ComplyRadar – It pays to comply ComplyRadar utilises a full risk-based approach to eliminate disruption to genuine customers, detect potential criminal behaviour and demonstrate full ongoing compliance. It sends you notifications on the transactions that matter and enables you to automatically apply a full-pattern analysis to instantly see suspicious transactions in real time. You can then manage flagged transactions through a comprehensive investigation process leading to the filing of a SAR when required. cc For more information on how ComplyRadar can help you avoid reputational risk and potential fines, email info@computimesoftware. com or visit FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020

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Glory: a pioneer in cash technology solutions Across the financial, retail, gaming and CIT industries, Glory helps businesses automate their cash processes to increase efficiency, enhance security and release staff to focus on the experience they deliver. Understanding each customer’s specific challenges allows them to design custom solutions that deliver real improvements in business performance. Operating for over 100 years, Glory has built and maintained its reputation as a world leader in cash automation, investing seven per cent of its annual $2Billion+ revenue in research and development. Glory aims to extend its global leadership position in cash technology and to extend its capabilities to track and manage cash through its complete life cycle. Looking to the future, Glory aims to extend its solution portfolio beyond cash technologies for the processing and settlement of electronic payments and digital currencies. Through ongoing programs in research and development, Glory is working to apply and develop its accumulated technological resources in the core fields of

The MAPFRE MSV Life WorkSave Pension Scheme: Offering value and support to employers and employees alike


REDUCE START AND END OF DAY CASH RECONCILIATION TIME Stores no longer need to prepare Savings of 30 mins and count cashier floats per manager per day — — Savings of 15 to 25 mins Minimise errors / discrepancies, per cashier per day reduce recounts


INCREASE STAFF PRODUCTIVITY ENHANCE IN-STORE SECURITY Cash stored securely as soon as payment made — Reduced risk of robbery / burglary — Create a safer work environment for your staff


Faster payment transactions, reduced queues — Faster, easier staff training reducing on-boarding time by up to





Eliminate errors in change provision — Reduce risk of cash shrinkage by up to

Eliminate counterfeit acceptance by up to



security, focusing closely on biometrics. Joseph Cachia & Son Ltd is proud to present Glory solutions to the Maltese Islands, having worked with Glory for many years, principally to supply the financial sector with technology solutions. More recently, Glory has developed specific solutions for the retail sector, understanding that the retail cash cycle was insecure, errorprone and time-consuming for businesses. Joseph Cachia & Son Ltd is working in

Do you intend on maintaining a comfortable lifestyle in your eventual retirement? Whether you are an employer or an employee, perhaps it is still safe to assume that your answer to that question would be ‘yes’. However, despite your aspiration to retire comfortably, you still feel unsure as to how much you should be saving, and more importantly, when to start saving. We hit the nail right on the head there, didn’t we? Nevertheless, the inevitable reality is that the challenges faced by governments in order to ensure that people have adequate savings for their retirement are continuously increasing. Because of this, it is becoming more and more important for future pensioners to consider multi-pillar pension systems in order to make sure that their retirement provisions are both sustainable and adequate. This is precisely why when it comes to retirement planning, it is always best to start early! So, without further ado, let us delve into the various benefits that both employers and employees can enjoy with the MAPFRE MSV Life WorkSave Pension Scheme – the first, insurance based, voluntary occupational pension scheme available in Malta.

local businesses to integrate this worldleading technology to boost retailers’ business performance. It is a significant step forward for this sector, giving businesses the ability to secure its cash revenue and drive down costs in a competitive marketplace. cc Joseph Cachia & Son Limited, 103, ‘Demajo House’, Archbishop Street, Valletta, VLT1446. T: 2552 9000; E:;

For employers: • Enhance your reputation by becoming the employer of choice • Increase employee satisfaction • Recruit and retain quality employees • Benefit from tax savings. For employees: • Enjoy a better quality of life in retirement • Receive attractive tax credits on the contributions paid • Have full control over savings at all times • Retirement savings can move with the employee from one employment to another • Contributions are automatically deducted through the payroll • Paying income tax on investment gains is not required • Entitled to a tax-free cash lump sum of up to 30 per cent • Grow your savings faster through compounding. cc Ready to get started? Find out more by contacting us at Tax treatment depends on the individual circumstances. Tax legislation and the amount of rebate may change in the future. The MAPFRE MSV Life WorkSave Pension Scheme is underwritten by MAPFRE MSV Life p.l.c., Company Registration No: C15722 authorised by the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) to carry on long-term business under the Insurance Business Act Cap. 403. MAPFRE MSV Life p.l.c. is regulated by the MFSA.


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247Pay launches myPOS GO in Malta 247Pay has just launched myPOS GO – a small, light, affordable and surprisingly functional POS device. myPOS GO is a handheld POS device that lets mobile businesses accept payments on the go. 247Pay is confident that such a device can facilitate the collection of payments for companies with a mobile workforce such as delivery men, salesmen and technicians. myPOS GO fits in any person’s palm, is handy and can be carried like a small mobile phone. myPOS GO is the cheapest standalone card reader on the market. With the unlimited SIM data included, one can accept cards anywhere in Europe at cheap rates. 247Pay are the local agents and distributors for myPOS payment terminals and are offering fantastic deals for businesses that want to start accepting card payments either at their outlet or on the go. With over 1,000 satisfied customers in Malta, 247Pay is committed to making a difference by focusing on customers’ needs

Is the customer always right? Francis Micallef, Managing Director of Arete Ltd, suppliers to the laboratory industry, challenges this age-old dictum, and discusses the “rights” that customers deserve. Whoever is in business will have come across numerous situations where a client’s demands have tested their patience, resilience and good manners. Clients are demanding and getting increasingly so, and service providers cannot afford to let them down. In today’s business environment, clients shop around, and with client mobility on the increase, meeting client expectations is paramount. We can argue the notion that a client is always right and can cite many situations where clients have the wrong technical information or have impossible expectations. However, whilst challenging the statement, I strongly believe that a client has a number of “rights” that any service provider worth their salt would do well to remember.


at all times. Customers using myPOS enjoy instant settlement, exceptionally good rates, free 3G connectivity and unrivalled 24/7 customer support. myPOS also offers a great smartphone app for total control over your account. cc For more information call 9988 0502, or send an email to One can also book an appointment and try out the myPOS range of products.

A client has the right to: • good quality, exceptional value for money and timely deliveries; • competent service providers offering sound technical support; • an adequate flow of information on orders and timeframes; • a fair evaluation of, and right of recourse to, every situation where the client’s expectations are not met; • a high value added that goes beyond the business transaction. These are alienable rights that our customers are entitled to. And if one builds the service offered around them, even a situation where the customer is patently wrong or misguided can be sorted out to their satisfaction. Our company has built its reputation around a high level of empathy with our customers. They live in a demanding world, with deadlines, quality expectations and tight budgets. We have learnt to align ourselves to their business expectations and deliver within those constraints. So, whether we are discussing basic glassware or the design of a laboratory, the empathy and the focus remain the same – giving our customers what is rightfully theirs! cc

Arete Ltd – suppliers to the laboratory world. T: 2144 7577;


CC make the headlines

TOPALIT range and table bases New in stock! The four star twisted bright stainless steel base has adjustable feet to adjust it to the right height. But the best feature of the base is that it folds, making it a great space saver. The folding mechanism is easy to operate; simply open and close using a lever. It is handy to carry and easy to store away. Approximate size of base: diameter 65 x 71cm. Pair this base with any TOPALIT table top available in various designs and colours. Other stainless steel three or four star bases are available for bistro tables and high bar tables with a fixed pedestal suitable for tops starting from 60cm. Tops are available in various shapes; round, square, rectangular or oval up to 155cm in length. TOPALIT table tops are made from highly compacted composite material creating a long-lasting table top. Proven heat resistant and rugged, they defy the weather, are breakproof and shock-resistant. Prices start at just €45, VAT included. cc

Why engage a commercial property consultant? “Good realtors know that they need to be constantly plugged into the market and continuously switched on.” – Rita Schembri, Head of the Commercial Property Division at Frank Salt Real Estate. Malta’s commercial property sector is booming from all fronts. Both supply and demand are as healthy as ever, and the variety of properties available on the market keeps growing. Besides fitting the bill in terms of size, location, value and style, a commercial property also needs to fit the investor’s business model, aspirations and economic projections. With more than 50 years’ experience, Frank Salt Real Estate boasts a core team of specialists who focus exclusively on servicing commercial clients from Malta and Gozo, as well as from overseas. “When developers and investors engage our commercial consultants, they benefit FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020

from a top-notch advisory service that gives them invaluable insight. With their knowledge, experience and training, our commercial property consultants are best placed to advise on what makes sense in the current market, and also what the market will be ripe for by the time the project is finalised, which sometimes can be years later,” says Ms Schembri. “We make sure that our clients get a good property at the right price, saving them both time and money, whilst allowing them to devote their valuable time to their core business needs,” Ms Schembri adds. When investing in a commercial property, a professional consultant not only provides invaluable guidance but can also act as a shield of discretion to provide the muchneeded privacy in sensitive commercial transactions. This discretion and integrity are what set Frank Salt Real Estate a notch above the rest. Frank Salt Real Estate’s Commercial Consultants are housed at the agency’s Portomaso Commercial Division office and they provide an array of services – from consultations and property valuations to advice on projects and recommendations on different options, all while also ensuring the viability and feasibility of the project at hand. This division’s client base is always growing, some of whom represent large blue-chip corporations, banks and embassies, as well as

TOPALIT range and table bases are available at PM HOBBY, Mriehel Bypass. T: 2299 8800; E:

Frank Salt Real Estate owns the rights of this photo and is not to be used for other intent or purposes.

international companies and investors. For this reason, Frank Salt Real Estate is always on the lookout for ambitious commercial consultants to join its team. Whether buying, selling or leasing, Frank Salt Real Estate’s Commercial Division offers a full advisory service which focuses on each client’s specific business challenges. Frank Salt Real Estate’s Commercial Division has also just been awarded Malta’s Best Commercial Real Estate Agency for 2019 International Property Award. cc For more information, call on 2540 9000 or send an email on 113


Office Trends

04. Mindfulness matters

Beyond the crucial move towards sustainable office design, 2020 trends for the workplace also promise boldness, creativity and wellbeing. Martina Said highlights some exciting developments.

With an ever-present struggle for work-life balance, office design is factoring in the importance of mindfulness at work. Far from being a modern practice – it is rooted in ancient Buddhist and Hindu cultures – progressive companies are embracing staff-centric initiatives such as well-being programmes and reflection spaces.

01. Retro revival

05. Cubicles are back

A global design trend we’re all here for is the revival of old buildings as modern office spaces. The best part? Their aged charm and retro character are part of the design, and the nostalgic quality of the building is wholly embraced. Furniture and décor, such as antique tables and vinyl players, also complement the origins of the space, chosen either for functional or purely enjoyable purposes.

02. A new kind of boardroom In some industries, particularly those that have pioneered modern and open office layouts, the need for a traditional boardroom is being questioned. As it requires a significant amount of space, creative industries are favouring collaborative areas or a multi-purpose room rather than a dedicated boardroom, or, at the very least, one that offers a greater degree of flexibility.


The thought of working in a cubicle brings isolation and mundane design to mind, however, open-plan offices offer zero privacy, so this year, cubicles are being reimagined in the form of privacy pods, where employees can take calls or get work done in cut-off or soundproof spaces, free from distraction.

06. Bold design As in recent years, 2020 will see office furniture and décor as more than just functional and practical equipment. Good design that intrigues and surprises is known to enhance that feel-good feeling at the office, and daring design in furniture that embraces colours, patters and unusual shapes will reflect this. cc



03. Art at work Considering the sheer number of hours spent at the office, it’s no wonder that new generations of employees, or millennials, are pushing for creativity to be a central part of the workplace. Beyond the use of cool furniture and vibrant colours, art is being used to inspire people at work, and encourage imaginative and innovative ways of thinking.


05. 02.






Kelly Wearstler






Photos by Darren Agius

Stylish, timeless and adaptable: A workspace for all seasons Sarah Micallef meets with Christopher Micallef, Partner at Forward Architects, to discover what went into the design of the sophisticated Swieqi offices of online casino Dunder.


hen it comes to a company’s offices, not all are created equal. Tasked with housing a unique team of individuals in a way that reflects the business’ approach, it stands to reason that a workspace will have its own personality, and the recently completed offices of online casino Dunder project an upmarket, sophisticated vibe within a space which the young company can grow and flourish. “This particular workspace showcases the execution of the design philosophy we approach such briefs with – that workspaces need to be adaptable for different workforces, activities and trends, while embodying the particular brand’s promise, language and mission,” says Christopher Micallef, Partner at Forward Architects, the local architecture firm entrusted with the design of Dunder’s offices in Swieqi. What this meant, he attests, was that the office needed to respond to the needs of the company now, whilst ensuring longevity for the team to grow within. “Absorbing


the brand’s values, priorities and mission allows us to inform our design decisions, creating spaces that adapt to the nature of the particular company. With Dunder, the priority was to provide an executive space that balances the quiet working open-plan area, the closed meeting rooms and the leisurely break-out space.” Speaking of the initial brief, Christopher maintains that it called for the architects to make bold decisions that respected brand guidelines whilst allowing a fresh, motivational environment in which employees could prosper. “We enjoy working with brands that prioritise their employees’ satisfaction in the workplace, understanding that the majority of their day is spent here and therefore their output is directly affected by the context in which they are asked to be productive,” he maintains, adding that for this reason, the workspace needed to feel smart and spacious, and the lighting and materials needed to feel as natural as possible. 117


And, as is ever the case within a working environment, the issue of balancing aesthetic appeal and practical usage of space was not lost on the architects. “Workspaces need to prioritise the ease of their use for staff,” says Christopher, affirming that practicality and functionality are key ingredients within the design


process to ensure that the space and its design can be adapted throughout the lifetime of the workspace. In order to achieve this, the architect divulges that the design concept was closely developed with Group CEO Thomas Rosander from the outset, who remained involved throughout the entire process.

“Rather than opting for a playful environment, the brand was after a more executive, smooth aesthetic – one which projects an image of a serious, efficient company with attention to detail.”


CC DESIGN TRENDS “Rather than opting for a playful environment, the brand was after a more executive, smooth aesthetic – one which projects an image of a serious, efficient company with attention to detail. This is reflected in the choice of natural materials and the neon logo visible as soon as you step foot into the offices,” he maintains. Looking back on the start of the project, Christopher reveals that the team took the building on when it was still in shell form, “literally just bricks and concrete”, which enabled them to design it from scratch. “From the air ventilation and lighting partitions to ensuring acoustic isolation between meeting rooms, to the flooring system,” he attests, adding that they opted for a raised floor, which gave them the flexibility of passing all services underneath. Speaking of the process, and what it took to bring the project to fruition, the architect maintains that the first step was creating the concept design, which included initial sketches to get a feel for the place whilst also enabling the team at Forward Architects to build a relationship with the client.


“The visible branding cues of the Dunder sign contribute to the iconic quality of the space.”



“We like to think of it as a timeless workspace that will allow for adapting trends in the workforce to evolve and transform the space.”

“This first stage is crucial to align the design with what the client wants the final project to look and feel like,” says Christopher, adding that once this was done, they could move on to the detailing phase, which took about two months, to ensure that every little detail was mapped out with precision. Meanwhile, the final stage of the project involved moving onto the site, “and all the coordination with suppliers and final snags!” Looking back on the challenges the team faced, he adds, “one main challenge was ensuring a high level of quality delivered from all the suppliers. We also needed to ensure that the works happened in a smooth sequence within the agreed deadlines.” Turning his attention to the choice of materials and finishes, Christopher explains that the team introduced a darker, bold palette with a mix of concrete finishes, warm woods and leather. “They contrast with the harder, bolder finishes, borrowing from a contemporary architectural style,” he says. Speaking of style, I ask, how would the architect describe the design style achieved? “We like to think of it as a timeless workspace that will allow for adapting trends in the workforce to evolve and transform the space,” Christopher maintains, adding that the finishes borrow from the contemporary aesthetic whilst empowering the brand language, which is unique. “The visible branding cues of the Dunder sign contribute to the iconic quality of the space.” And iconic it certainly is. cc 122


Profile for Content House Group

The Commercial Courier February/March 2020  

The Commercial Courier February/March 2020