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THE COMMERCIAL/94

COURIER THE OFFICIAL BUSINESS MAGAZINE OF THE MALTA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, ENTERPRISE AND INDUSTRY SINCE 1947

FEBRUARY/MARCH 2021

For the love of colour Jo Dounis’ artistic kaleidoscope

NEWSPAPER POST GOLD COLLABORATING PARTNERS

IN THIS ISSUE LOOKING AT THE POST-COVID SCENARIO: THE ROADMAP TO ECONOMIC AND BUSINESS RECOVERY / A CHAT WITH NEW ENERGY, ENTERPRISE & SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT MINISTER MIRIAM DALLI / A LOOK INTO THE DESIGN OF RECENTLY OPENED KUCCA BOUTIQUE TOWNHOUSE / MEET THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE YOUNG CHAMBER NETWORK / THE LATEST BUSINESS NEWS


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FOOD TRENDS 12 COVER STORY WHAT WILL ECONOMIC RECOVERY FOR MALTA LOOK LIKE IN 2021? Martina Said reaches out to business experts for their views on what to expect this year.

22 INTERVIEW CONVERTING TODAY’S CHALLENGES INTO TOMORROW’S OPPORTUNITIES Sarah Micallef talks to recently appointed Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Sustainable Development Miriam Dalli about her plans for a sustainable, green economy and the crucial enablers of transformation for a robust post-COVID future for local enterprise.

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26 IN FIGURES

70 BUSINESS

2020… IN NUMBERS

MEET THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE YOUNG CHAMBER NETWORK

A look into the figures related to 2020 in Malta.

34 DESIGN TRENDS A CONTEMPORARY SPACE WITH A TIMELESS CHARACTER Sarah Micallef discovers what went into the design of the recently opened KUCCA Boutique Townhouse in the heart of Zebbug with architects Anthea Huber and Daphne Bugeja.

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STYLE REVIEW

Sarah Micallef meets YCN members Edward Cachia, Founder of Machia and Sebastian Ripard, CEO at TXF Tech.

78 MEET THE ARTIST A KALEIDOSCOPE OF COLOUR Artist Jo Dounis chats with Martina Said about her love of colour, travel and doing things differently.

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 delivered to leading businesspeople across the Maltese islands.

The Exchange, Republic Street, Valletta VLT1117 Tel: +356 2123 3873 Fax: +356 2124 5223 info@maltachamber.org.mt www.maltachamber.org.mt

This issue covers the months of February and March 2021.

EDITOR

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

EDITORIAL COORDINATION

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

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.

Edward Bonello Sarah Micallef

DIRECTOR OF SALES & BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

Matthew Spiteri CORPORATE SALES & BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER

Bernard Schranz SALES COORDINATOR

Sue Ann Pisani Tel: +356 2132 0713

PUBLISHER

Content House Ltd Mallia Building, 3, Level 2, Triq in-Negozju, Central Business District, Birkirkara CBD3010

DESIGN

James Debono – Design Studio at Content House Ltd

Tel: +356 2132 0713 info@contenthouse.com.mt www.contenthouse.com.mt

ON THE COVER Artwork by Jo Dounis

MALTA CHAMBER’S BRONZE COLLABORATING PARTNERS FEBRUARY/MARCH 2021

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CHAMBER/94

EDITORIAL

Towards a business ecosystem that encourages transparency, ethical business and a thriving economy As the country was coming to terms with one of the most challenging periods of modern political history, in December of 2019, The Malta Chamber was proactively and genuinely concerned about the events which were consistently characterising the front pages of the day.

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n fact, as the country’s foremost business representative body, The Malta Chamber was vociferous, clear and expressive in its communicated positions. Its actions however did not stop there. Driven to be meaningfully proactive, it entrusted a group of experts from various sectors of our society with the task to draw up a document that delivers concrete proposals for genuine good governance in Malta. The document was presented to the new Prime Minister just two days after he took office. The Malta Chamber’s recommendations for good governance were extremely well recieved, as these covered a broad range of subjects which are considered crucial for a successful shift towards good governance in all its facets. One such topic related to public procurement, or how Government spends hard earned tax money on the public’s behalf. The Public Procurement Reform Report 2021 is a detailed development on this area for improvement, and proposes detailed recommendations to Government and its various procurement agencies in this regard. The report is testament to The Malta Chamber’s restless effort to promote good governance in its complete sense while also proactively proposing ways in which public procurement can transcend fairness and reassure best value for money in practice. As is customary for The Malta Chamber, the document did not fall short of calling a spade for what it is. One key proposal, in fact, suggests the blacklisting of operators who are found to be in breach of the law. The document suggests that such operators should be sanctioned and should not be allowed to participate in public procurement or allowed to enter into public contracts unless they seek resolve with the relevant national authorities. If contracting authorities do not sanction economic operators who have breached the law, then this is considered to project the wrong message to the ethical market and honest operators that everything goes. With regards to Direct Orders, the document clearly states how The Malta Chamber appreciates, understands and cannot disagree with this procurement option as long as this course of action is duly substantiated and justified in accordance with the law and to the satisfaction of the taxpayer. Such actions should be adequately publicised and subject to scrutiny and judicial

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challenge by interested parties if the need arises. The document also submits that the monitoring of the performance of public contracts should be shared with the private sector, with due respect to trade secrets and sensitive commercial information. The Malta Chamber believes that in implementing the necessary recommendations proposed in this document, the Maltese Government will improve the quality of the tendering process, ensure fairness to all economic operators and reassure the public of an equitable use of public funds. The document was developed after a consultation process with its members and through a working group of experienced individuals and professionals from across the economy. The document serves as valuable guidance for the necessary reforms that are needed. The Malta Chamber insists that such procurement exercises must be accessible to all eligible economic operators, free from impropriety and in compliance with the law.

While the complexity of the procurement process is well acknowledged, the work of the Malta Chamber targets the improvement of a well-established system within the Department of Contracts and other specialised procurement agencies. The Malta Chamber looks forward to continuing to play a vital role in supporting our country through the challenges of tomorrow, by contributing towards a business ecosystem that encourages transparency, ethical business and an economy serving a thriving community driven by the correct values. The Malta Chamber once again reiterates its endless sense of gratitude to the team behind this document, which was led by Vice President Liz Barbaro Sant, and included former President Anton Borg, Council member Marcel K. Mifsud, and members Maronna Filletti, Mary Gaerty and Roderick Abela. The group was assisted by Policy Executive Julia Aquilina, while Clement Mifsud Bonnici (Ganado Advocates) was the professional advisor on the process. cc The document presented was developed in collaboration with Ganado Advocates.

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What will economic recovery for Malta look like in 2021? The rollout of Malta’s COVID-19 vaccination programme has instilled hope in many. But when will its effectiveness be truly felt and seen across the country’s economic sectors, including the hardesthit? Martina Said reaches out to business experts for their views on what to expect this year.

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David Xuereb President, The Malta Chamber While locally the vaccine rollout is well underway, and the global medical effectiveness of widespread vaccination is now tangibly real, it is becoming increasingly evident that the pandemic and its overarching challenges will not disappear as quickly as some might have hoped, says David Xuereb. “The immediate months will not be easy, and recovery will probably be a slow and long-drawn out process, but a recovery nonetheless it will be, motivated by the objective of herd immunity.” The Chamber President asserts that it was common knowledge that 2021 would still be rough in terms of economic recovery. “Towards the third and fourth quarter of 2021, we expect to start seeing some improvement as we achieve national herd immunity, while awaiting similar objectives in other parts of the world in subsequent months/years. Resetting the economy will also imply that tough decisions need to

be taken, both from a macro and micro perspective, and I anticipate this year is crucial in this sense.” The Malta Chamber has been consistent and committed to the need of re-engineering efforts which should drive the recovery route, while at the same time calling for more governance and less government. “Our vision of a smart and sustainable island, launched in February 2020, is equally pertinent today given that the global economy is in serious reset mode and our country needs to focus on a national economic vision driven by robust and sustainable values,” says Perit Xuereb. “Moving the clock backwards to return to pre-COVID-19 times would be a great loss to our country in a time of disruption, without taking the opportunity to be intelligent, update, improve and grow stronger from this painful experience. This, incredibly, remains the greatest risk and opportunity of our lifetimes.” Sharing his projections for the recovery of Malta’s main economic pillars in 2021, Perit Xuereb reflects on the local economy’s

“The immediate months will not be easy, and recovery will probably be a slow and long-drawn process, but a recovery nonetheless it will be.” - David Xuereb, President, The Malta Chamber

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severe contraction last year, where limitations on air traffic, tourism and social activities were mainly to blame for an expected fall of around 9 per cent in real GDP, which came after a robust growth of 5.3 per cent in 2019. “According to the latest European Commission forecasts, in 2021, real GDP growth is expected to reach 4.5 per cent. Growth is set to be mainly driven by net exports and domestic consumption, as inbound tourism and global trade recover gradually,” says the Malta Chamber President. “In 2022, Malta’s economy is forecast to expand by 5.4 per cent as net exports return as the main contributor to GDP growth, while domestic demand makes a slower but steady contribution. By the end of 2022, the tourism sector is expected to recover close to prepandemic levels and international trade should be significantly restored.” In terms of response, Perit Xuereb says that Government has been receptive overall to the Malta Chamber’s suggestions in terms of wage supplements, fiscal incentives, and measures towards limiting the impact on liquidity shortages. “We are hopeful that the next steps in terms of Government policy should be geared towards skills development, attracting new or expanding existing economic niches in Malta, a renewed focus on digitalisation across all economic segments and the promulgation of measures towards a zero-carbon economy in key sectors such as transport, building and construction. Furthermore, 2021 will be a key year in terms of good governance.” Indeed, Perit Xuereb hopes that the momentum of thinking, discussion and resetting that started in 2020 is maintained in 2021. The Malta Chamber is playing its part in this process, supporting Malta Enterprise’s Business Re-Engineering and Transformation Scheme, which supports companies needing to recover, reinvent and re-invest. “The scheme, which was motivated by our members, was proposed to Government by the Chamber to help businesses by encouraging them to engage specialised technical expertise and entitles businesses up to €5,000 in return for costs incurred by such a journey,” says the President. “The Malta Chamber has served as the true voice of business for the past months and has tirelessly kept close to its members and lobbied with Government to represent their concerns, expectations and recommendations,” Perit Xuereb concludes. “We have now embarked on an exercise intended to tangibly measure the true outcome of our proposals during 2020, to calibrate our actions and priorities during the current year in an impactful manner in the interest of our business community and the well-being of our country.” FEBRUARY/MARCH 2021

Photo by Jason Borg

“I believe this disruption should be a wake-up call, rather than thinking it will be over in a few months.” – Kurt Farrugia, CEO, Malta Enterprise

Kurt Farrugia CEO, Malta Enterprise “If nothing else, the pandemic taught us that our businesses are resilient, and the majority have made it to a post-COVID-19 scenario,” says Kurt Farrugia. “The news of a vaccine and the roll-out programme did inspire confidence among industries and entrepreneurs, however, businesses are cautious of what’s next and how quick they can expect their recovery to be.” The Malta Enterprise CEO highlights Malta’s stable ratings and a strong economic recovery predicted by major credit rating agencies as well as the European Commission. However, he cautions that this is a time where every business should be looking at the strength of their model. “I believe this disruption should be a wake-up call, rather than thinking it will be over in a few months. Malta Enterprise is currently administering most schemes under Government’s recovery package, as well as other schemes through which companies can improve their processes, digitise, and become more sustainable for the long term.” Discussing his projections for Malta’s postpandemic recovery, Mr Farrugia says that, from a foreign direct investment point of

view, Malta continued to experience interest, confirming the attractiveness of the country. “During the pandemic, Malta proved itself a stable country, not only in its economic performance, but even across other spheres such as health care.” He adds that companies operating in the fields of medical technology and life sciences, the testing and training of drones, the maritime and logistics sectors, software including cybersecurity and identity solutions that operate in the sphere of AI and blockchain, and collaborations with training and education institutions, are the ones experiencing growth. The return to normality, however, will be staggered and depend on various factors, including Government’s recovery packages, rules and restrictions, and discussions at EU level. “We do identify a silver lining. The pandemic highlighted the entrepreneurial spirit of the Maltese, with many coming up with innovative ideas to pursue. Those with more time to spend at home due to reduced job hours or who have resigned voluntarily from their job are finding ways to survive, both mentally and financially,” says Mr Farrugia. Rather than speaking about the recovery of Malta’ main economic pillars, the CEO prefers to talk about their regeneration. 15


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“This quarter should provide a baseline trend to many businesses on what ‘normal’ levels of trading could look like for a large part of the year.” - Ronald Attard, Country Managing Partner, EY Malta

“Getting back on our feet exactly as we were in January 2020 is not an option. Emerging stronger is the way forward, as we embrace innovation and the regeneration of our business models. This ranges from flexible working arrangements to flexible customer experiences.” The tourism sector, he continues, will take the longest to recover, but this time could be used to adopt a tourism regeneration model, upgrade the Malta product and attract new segments, such as medical and cultural tourism. “Malta is currently undergoing consultation processes with regards to the strategy for 2021 to 2030, which is looking at recovering, rethinking, and revitalising the tourism industry. This means that the sector will aim to pick up and generate speed within the shortest time possible, while also striking a more sustainable balance, where quality overrides quantity.” As for Malta’s manufacturing industry, Mr Farrugia asserts that overall, it has absorbed the shock quite well – some used the time to invest in their staff, while others who were severely hit had to take tougher measures. “Malta Enterprise was present all the way and in constant communication with such companies, to make sure that any assistance necessary is provided. This also applied to sectors that are not traditional clients of Malta Enterprise, namely the tourism industry.” Mr Farrugia adds that Malta Enterprise serves as a platform through which feedback is processed constantly. “The last months have shown that our economy is diversified, to the extent that businesses operate with different models and can therefore be 16

impacted differently. This led to the new system used for the 2021 Wage Supplement Scheme where, to ensure maximisation of Government funds, the calculations of the supplement are based on the drop in sales experienced by the business, rather than pinning the amount of assistance according to the type of activity.”

Ronald Attard EY Malta Country Managing Partner, EY Strategy and Transactions Managing Partner for Central, Eastern, Southeastern Europe and Central Asia While a modest recovery is forecast in 2021 and 2022, considerable uncertainty still surrounds the evolution of the pandemic, as witnessed by the spike in cases across Europe and the resultant lockdowns imposed by many European governments, says EY’s Ronald Attard. And while the vaccine has created optimism, “heightened restrictions may remain in place for some time, and it is therefore early days to have any indication of when we are likely to get back to some form of normality.” Sharing his views on Malta’s post-COVID-19 recovery in 2021, Mr Attard explains that recovery timeframes will vary by industry, but there is undoubtedly still lots of uncertainty on the outlook for tourismrelated industries this year. “Government stimulus has been critical to keeping businesses afloat, people in work and a key driver behind consumption. Malta, like many Western countries, has extended

these Government measures into the spring and will need to continue to monitor developments both here and overseas as it plots its course to recovery,” he asserts. “This quarter should provide a baseline trend to many businesses on what ‘normal’ levels of trading could look like for a large part of the year, excluding the effects of seasonality.” Indeed, he continues that Malta has a welldiversified economy beyond tourism that has been resilient across the pandemic. “Many iGaming companies have seen revenue grow as consumers shift from land-based to online activities. Local businesses that previously had little online presence have developed new digital offerings, and many office-based businesses have maintained productivity by transitioning to a new way of working.” As for the tourism sector, Mr Attard says its recovery will depend on the speed of the vaccine roll-out programmes in Europe and across the world, and many of the companies operating in these sectors may require some restructuring as they rebuild their businesses over the years ahead. Meanwhile, the shift towards digitisation will last well beyond the pandemic and businesses will need to adapt quickly and transform if they are to thrive. Sharing his views on the opportunities the pandemic has presented for improving Malta’s economic model to a more long-term sustainable one, Mr Attard says this was the focal point of discussions at ‘Future Realised’, EY’s annual event, and a view shared by tens of thousands of people that tuned into the sessions. “Across the event, one message that resonated strongly is the need to move our measures of success away from purely financial metrics, such as GDP and profit, FEBRUARY/MARCH 2021


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to one which places long-term value for a broader set of stakeholders (employees, customers, society and the environment) at the centre of what we do. The second clear message was that we must address our reputational and governance deficiencies,” he explains. While tourism will remain a cornerstone, Malta’s economic reboot strategy should include a strong digital focus, he states – helping companies transform their business models; building new niches or clusters around Edtech, Healthtech, Regtech and video game development; and showcasing Malta as a testbed for new technologies through investments in electronic signature infrastructure and digital government portals. “We also need to spur innovation by providing proper funding for R&D, encouraging companies present on the island to move towards more value-generating activities to the country – research, product design and development, among others – and create a stronger ecosystem for start-ups,” says Mr Attard. “Malta’s strong professional base presents an opportunity for further near-shoring of back- and middle-office functions in financial services. Blue economy related opportunities brought about by our strategic location and seas should also not be overlooked. Proper planning is critical to getting the next few decades right and our strategy needs to be cohesive with sustainable practices a common theme across everything we do.”

forecast is impossible,” he asserts. “From my observations, it seems that overall, we are riding the wave decently – some sectors are doing well, others ok and others very badly. In totality, I think we should see some growth over 2020, but nowhere near 2019 levels.” Zooming in on specific sectors, Mr Gregory reiterates that “with luck, we will be out of this by mid-summer, which is far too late for the tourism sector to recover entirely. However, ‘pandemic fatigue’ will surely create a bit of upturn which, coupled with a strategic focus, means we can start to see some sort of recovery towards the last half of the year.” Also in serious distress is the aviation sector, which he asserts can have serious repercussions for Malta as well as the worldwide economy. “This sector carries high capital costs as well as high running costs and, if we experience significant failures, we can experience a very slow recovery.” Sharing his views on whether Malta’s economic model may be adjusted following

the effects of the pandemic, for a more sustainable approach towards growth and prosperity, Mr Gregory asserts that whereas some of Malta’s staple sectors have managed to turn the pandemic into an opportunity, there are more opportunities to pursue. “There is much more operational and market innovation that could be instigated within the current strongholds of the Maltese economy – whether that is importation, distribution and retail, construction or professional service delivery.” “One area I think we are able to and should focus on is the development of the Digital Nomad concept. Malta has so much to offer to this audience – the country, the lifestyle, the infrastructure and finally the taxation system,” he explains. “If we are successful in this area, and for this we need to create an entire ecosystem, so many sectors in Malta could stand to gain that our recovery will be short and successful.” cc

“In my opinion, we are still getting to grips with what is happening around us and, therefore, any forecast is impossible.” - George Gregory, Managing Partner, RSM Malta

George Gregory Managing Partner, RSM Malta Despite hiccups in the production and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine that will likely extend inoculation plans locally and Europe-wide well into summer, some economic activity which was dormant in the last months has been re-activated, says George Gregory. “Obviously, some key sectors continue to suffer, mainly tourism and entertainment, which have been key drivers for our economy since the ‘70s, as well as retail,” says RSM Malta’s Managing Partner. “But it seems the ‘resilient’ Maltese economy is coping decently well. I believe we have yet to see negativity and failures arise, but knowing how we have always reacted, we will come out of this respectably – bruised, but not bleeding to death.” Asked what he believes Malta’s postpandemic recovery will look like, Mr Gregory says “this is a million-dollar question, not only for Malta or for Europe, but for the worldwide economy. In my opinion, we are still getting to grips with what is happening around us and, therefore, any 18

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A resilient economic weave

Photo by Inigo Taylor

From its onset, the COVID-19 pandemic has tested world economies, as global leaders have struggled to maintain the integrity of their countries’ financial fabric. Yet Malta’s Minister for the Economy, Investment and Small Businesses Silvio Schembri looks ahead to 2021 with optimism. Here, he speaks to Rebecca Anastasi about Government’s intention to continue its assistance, and its commitment to creating economic opportunities.

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ver the course of the past 12 months, domestic economies worldwide have taken a substantial hit as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had an impact on even the most powerful and richest countries. No jurisdiction has been immune to the virus’ dire financial consequences, though some have – and will continue to – weathered the storm better than others. And it seems that Malta may, ultimately, prove to be in a privileged position, with the European Commission’s latest winter interim report predicting the island’s economy to grow by 4.5 per cent this year – the fifth-fastest across the bloc. Economic data published by Moody’s seems to corroborate this stance. Indeed, this latter forecast estimated growth to bounce back to 5.1 per cent of GDP in 2021, contingent on an increase in tourism arrivals in the second half of the year.

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“Last March, we were doing very well from an economic standpoint. But all of a sudden, a substantial part of our economy ground to a standstill, and we needed to do something to help local businesses,” says Minister for the Economy, Investment and Small Businesses, Silvio Schembri, looking back at a challenging year. “If we had done nothing, our figures predicted job losses hovering around 50,000 unemployed – that’s 25 per cent of the working population. A quarter of all families without any income,” he outlines. Cognisant of Malta’s limitations – “an island with no natural resources” – the authorities formulated a plan to protect the country’s human capital. “We needed to do something to safeguard jobs; and we needed to preserve businesses, so that, once this was all over, we’d still have the necessary structures in place. We couldn’t risk having a number of businesses failing since, if you fail, it’s not quick to restart a business. We

needed to preserve the economic fabric of our society,” he underlines. This commitment led to the wage supplement being instituted, and then refined as the months progressed, as VAT charges were postponed and a Budget presented in October, which raised the taxfree threshold for VAT-exempt businesses from €20,000 to €30,000; and the reintroduction of vouchers designed to stimulate consumption. These initiatives seem to have done the job – as far as can be so far determined – for unemployment has not soared, as it has in

“We have got one of the lowest rates of unemployment across the zone, and job creation has also increased for those sectors which weren’t impacted as much by the pandemic.” FEBRUARY/MARCH 2021


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other parts of the world, and Government’s ‘business-as-usual’ approach seems to be bearing some fruit. Indeed, according to recent figures released by the National Statistics Office, the seasonally adjusted monthly unemployment rate for December 2020 remained at a steady 4.5 per cent, at par with the previous month, all the while Eurostat registered an unemployment rate of 8.3 per for the entire Euro area, as of December 2020. “We have got one of the lowest rates of unemployment across the zone, and job creation has also increased for those sectors which weren’t impacted as much by the pandemic. This shows our economic resilience. Of course, tourism was hit hard, but other industries such as manufacturing – particularly in healthcare and pharmaceuticals – as well as construction, are weathering the storm. Of course, this doesn’t mean that everything is fine. There are still people absorbing the hit from their savings and from the profits accrued over the past few years. But there is also an understanding that Malta’s economic future is a hopeful one. We are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel,” he explains, also pointing to the vaccination programme, which he describes as one which is “bearing fruit.” He credits this sense of optimism to the island’s ability to diversify its offering, and to be nimble in the face of challenges. “New opportunities have been created, despite the pandemic,” he says. “And the fact that we have healthy labour mobility on the market has seen people shift from tourism into other areas where there was an increase in

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“When a private investor sees the amounts we are putting into Malta’s economy, despite the issues, that sends out a very strong message to also invest in the jurisdiction.” demand, such as in manufacturing, or the IT sectors, and this shift has been reflected in Malta’s low unemployment figures,” he continued. Despite this, the authorities are not going to rest on their laurels, and Government is committed to bolstering the health of Malta’s business community, the Minister insists. “We still recognise the situation is difficult and we have all the intention of continuing to assist,” he says, looking ahead, adding that, in the case of the upcoming VAT payments – due by local companies after having been postponed from last year – “it’s not the intention of Government to force businesses into difficult situations. And it’s not the aim of Government to go there with a heavy hand to ask them to make these payments with immediate effect.” This communitarian perspective has also informed the timing for the issuing of the COVID-19 vouchers, the Minister underlines. Indeed, these will not be distributed until bars are allowed to reopen. “When that will happen will depend on how our health professionals are coping with the virus numbers,” he states. Moreover, part of this commitment to the local business community is the intent on creating new jobs in innovative sectors, the Minister points out, underlining that previous forays in so-called disruptive industries, such as blockchain, have been productive, albeit to a limited extent. “When we talk about blockchain, we need to keep in mind that we were one of the first countries to see this as an area of opportunity. The technology two years ago was still in its infancy, and if you take other successful niches of the economy, such as iGaming, into consideration, you will see that they, too, took some time to bear fruit.” Indeed, the Minister credits Government’s continued work in improving the regulatory and societal environment for the success of an industry like iGaming. “The remote gaming industry today is completely different to what it was 10 years ago, and the fact we are still a success story is because we upgraded and changed the way we operate. We instituted new regulations four years ago, pushing our industry to another level and making us a leader in Europe. If we had done nothing, we would not have a sector which, today, makes up more than 13.3 per cent of Malta’s economic activity,” he explains. This impetus to push Malta to the forefront of digital technologies also extends to

promoting an Artificial Intelligence strategy for the island, thus positioning “Malta as a tech savvy and efficient economy. In Malta we have limited resources, so, to compete on an international level, we need to incorporate all the available technological tools to attract investment into the country,” he continues. Encouraging companies to digitally transform their systems is also key, the Minister adds. “Even on a European level, the focus and direction are on activity turning digital, and this is what we’re aiming to do, even locally. This is difficult since it involves a culture change in the way we do business in Malta. However, we’re telling businesses that re-engineering their operations, and becoming more digital, will serve them in the long-term and buffer them from further disruptions,” he says. Looking ahead to the rest of 2021, Minister Schembri admits that there might be casualties in the long-term. “We have managed to keep casualties as low as possible but, here, we’re speaking of an unprecedented situation.” However, he remains hopeful that the creation of jobs in some sectors can make up for the shortfall in others. “The most important thing, in terms of creating a resilient economy, is having other sectors creating more opportunities for those people who have lost employment in hard-hit industries,” he explains. Will the Moneyval assessment disrupt this well-laid plan? “As a Government, we did all that we could. We dedicated all our resources and ticked all the boxes. But this is still a test. And, when you make all the necessary effort and study hard for such a test, you expect positive results, and that’s what we’re expecting from Monveyval,” he insists. Indeed, the Minister is convinced that Malta’s ability to navigate the challenges of the pandemic will be the focus as the year progresses and will see further foreign direct investment (FDI) injected into the economy over the coming months. “We have managed to overcome huge difficulties in a successful way, with business activity continuing in a pretty normal environment. That’s a big selling point in attracting business to Malta. Even as a Government, we have not halted our investment: we did not curb capital expenditure. Quite the opposite! And when a private investor sees the amounts we are putting into Malta’s economy, despite the issues, that sends out a very strong message to also invest in the jurisdiction.” cc

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Converting today’s challenges into tomorrow’s opportunities Sarah Micallef talks to recently appointed Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Sustainable Development Miriam Dalli about her plans for a sustainable, green economy and the crucial enablers of transformation for a robust post-COVID future for local enterprise.

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“D

uring my six-year tenure at the European Parliament, I worked hard on a number of issues, particularly matters related to energy, climate change, the European Green Deal, the green economy, innovation, sustainability and emissions,” begins Miriam Dalli, addressing her recent appointment as Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Sustainable Development following a successful stint within the EP. “When Prime Minister Robert Abela asked me to join his Cabinet of Ministers, he laid out his vision for a greener Malta, and the target to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. I felt it was the right time to return to the island and implement what I had learnt and worked so hard for at EU level,” she continues, adding that she is working hard to see that Government delivers economic growth “based on sustainability and the reduction of emissions to ensure social protection and environmental integrity.” As Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Sustainable Development, several entities fall within her Ministry, and with the impact of COVID-19 continuing to be the subject

on everyone’s lips, Minister Dalli recently announced details of Malta’s 2021 wage supplement scheme alongside Malta Enterprise CEO Kurt Farrugia. “We sat down with stakeholders to ensure that we are supporting businesses in the manner they actually require at this point in time,” she says, highlighting the primary ways the scheme differs from the system adopted last year. “Different businesses have different needs: some require immediate support like the wage supplement, others need support to help re-engineer, regenerate or diversify their operations,” Minister Dalli asserts, explaining that the scheme was amended in a way that assists hardest hit businesses, as it is worked out according to their comparative turnover between April and October of 2019 and 2020. Using this methodology, businesses that registered a minimal drop in sales of less than nine per cent, or those that registered an increase in sales, do not form part of the wage supplement scheme. “The revised scheme also allows employers to include essential employees who were replaced,” Minister Dalli adds, and this applies from

“Our aspiration is for a modern, stronger and greener Maltese enterprise.” June 2020. “The system here recognises that we have businesses that can’t operate without certain employees, and we want to continue supporting these companies as well.” Acknowledging the need for continued measures that can incentivise businesses – not only to protect jobs but also to create them – the Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Sustainable Development admits that “the pandemic has evidently accelerated the pace of industrial transformation on a global scale and in an irreversible manner. Leveraging on our nimbleness and the entrepreneurial attitude of our business community is pivotal for the evolution of our enterprise in the years to come. My intention is to ensure that Government policy remains supportive of this entrepreneurial mindset, particularly during these challenging times for our SMEs.” Sharing her thoughts on the future of local enterprise in a post-COVID world, Minister

Photo by Kevin Abela

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“I felt it was the right time to return to the island and implement what I had learnt and worked so hard for at EU level.”

Dalli believes that successful businesses will include those enterprises that are truly committed to digitalisation and sustainable investment. “This is also the reason why I truly believe that we can convert today’s challenges into tomorrow’s opportunities,” she notes, highlighting the European Green Deal and Malta’s commitment to its sustainability objectives as crucial enablers of this transformation. “Our aspiration is for a modern, stronger and greener Maltese enterprise,” the Minister affirms. Indeed, it comes as no surprise that the woman described as Europe’s ‘Eco-Warrior’ following her stint within the European Parliament holds the environment and climate change close to heart, and plans to utilise her role to bring about tangible change on a local level. “Through the European Parliament I had the opportunity to actively bring about change through a number of legislations, including those tackling pesticides, single use plastic and reducing CO2 emissions from cars and vans. Now, I want to do the same in Malta and Gozo. I want to help attract new firms and sectors that can help drive innovation and sustainability; I want to see our own local companies tap into the new possibilities which the Green Deal and digitisation bring about,” she attests, adding that for decades, the island’s firms have been the drivers of the transformation of Malta’s economy. “I encourage them to champion the adoption of new technology and innovative practices – a successful economy is one that is quick to adopt new technologies and I believe our firms can do that.” Despite praising the last Budget’s initiative for green bonds, Minister Dalli also calls for more investment in the green economy, stating that greening business models will only happen if we ease the flow of investments from green-conscious investors to companies that want to pursue sustainable projects. “Green bonds are very effective investment tools that do just that and which we are currently working on,” she notes, maintaining that other European countries are making use of these investments to finance both public spending and private investment in green projects. “Bonds are the most popular investment vehicle in Malta, and indeed, were pivotal for the financing 24

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“A successful economy is one that is quick to adopt new technologies and I believe our firms can do that.”

of our companies in the last two decades. I believe that with a strong green bond framework, we can replicate this success by financing green and sustainable projects, particularly at this important juncture of the economic cycle,” the Minister says. Asserting that the investors’ appetite is there, and that new regulatory developments in the financial industry are also directing institutional capital towards green projects, Minister Dalli expounds, “our job as policymakers is to allow for this capital to flow towards eco-entrepreneurs and green projects. Ensuring proper access to green capital is a win-win; it would unleash a strong, eco-friendly growth potential for Maltese companies, whilst truly enabling the country to achieve its sustainability objectives.” At EU level, Minister Dalli recently called on the Energy Council of Ministers to support a carbon neutrality strategy that addresses the different realities of the European member states, noting that “we still do not have a level playing field”, particularly when calculating emission reductions. “There are countries with vast amounts of land that can easily be turned into renewable FEBRUARY/MARCH 2021

energy farms, as opposed to our reality in Malta. Then, there are those that still use coal, and so the moment they switch to cleaner fuel, their drop in emission rates will be striking,” she posits, yet still wants Malta to be ambitious in seeking innovative technology, both when it comes to electricity generation and the efficiency with which we ensure our journey towards carbon neutrality. “The European Commission cannot just present a one-size-fits-all plan. Take Malta and Gozo for example, with their limited connection to the continental grid. The European Commission must take into account the realities that the Southern member states face when policies and programmes are planned and formulated,” Minister Dalli quips. Moving forward, the Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Sustainable Development shares her primary objectives for the island, viewing Malta as a centre of excellence for testing new products. “Take the testing of solar-powered vehicles for example. Prototypes are already being manufactured but they need the right climate to test

them out. Our islands provide 3,000 hours of sunshine a year, with a topography that maximises battery usage,” she maintains. Apart from this, Minister Dalli would like to see Malta open up its manufacturing sector, enhancing its role in the supply chain and positioning itself as a resilient trading network. Unsurprisingly, she is also keen on helping to change mentalities on environmental protection. “Unfortunately, there are still a number of enterprises that consider a greener economy a limitation to economic growth. We are working on a plan that will help diversify our energy mix further, providing companies and households with the necessary support to invest in renewable energy whilst helping make our buildings more energy efficient,” she notes, adding that while there’s a long way to go, she feels that Malta is prepared to walk this path. “The younger generations yearn for more green projects; entrepreneurs and certain industries have the potential to tap into new high-quality jobs. I intend to make my Ministry the driving force to help us get there.” cc 25


COVID-19… 2020 IN FIGURES & Business

CC IN FIGURES

0.18 %

€336.7 €1,334 0.8% MILLION

MILLION Government deficit in the

Deficit of Government’s first quarter of 2020. Consolidated Fund by the end of November 2020. This increased exponentially due to the COVID-19 crisis, compared to the €8 million surplus registered during the same period in 2019.

€5.9

€5,066.1 BILLION

Government debt at the end of March.

MILLION

Total Government expenditure by the end of November 2020, 15.6 per cent higher than 2019.

The annual rate of inflation in December 2020, as measured by the Retail Price Index (RPI).

the harmonised index of consumer prices inflation forecast for this year by the European Commission.

56.3% 13,189

the Government debt in relation to GDP forecast by Theat number of companies Fitch the end of 2020 struck off in 2020, of which 11,289 were struck off as defunct.

4.5 %

Unemployment rate in December 2020, at par with the previous month.

€857 11,423 76.1 % MILLION

the drop in the value of imports in the first five months of this year, compared to the same period in 2019.

€2,003.6

Decreaseofinofficially total inbound the number tourist trips in 2020 unemployed people in compared May, the previous year, amounting uptofrom 9,278 in March to 658,567 visitors. when COVID-19 struck.

MILLION

Trade deficit registered during the first 11 months of 2020.

€138.1 €816.6 €110.2 MILLION

MILLION the drop in Government

revenue from current taxesbyon Government’s capital spending income wealth in2020. the first the endand of November three months of this year.

€6,756.4 6% MILLION

the contraction ofatthe Government debt theMaltese end of November economy in 20202020. forecast by the European Commission.

€2,559.9 MILLION

the decrease in the value of exports between January and May 2020 over the same period last year. MILLION

€455.1 62% MILLION

the number ofexpenditure people who Total tourism in 2020, a ofjob 79.5was per cent from 2019. felt decrease that their affected by the pandemic as of April.

Value of imports from the European Union until November 2020, amounting to 52.7 per cent of total imports.

9.2% 3,211

The number of new companies the Government deficit in (publicto and private limited relation GDP forecast companies) registered in 2020. by Fitch for this year.

92.3 %

24%

Decrease in total cruise passengers for 2020, amounting to just 59,018 visitors.

the decline in the volume of retail trade in April when compared to the same month in 2019.

Sources: National Statistics Office; Sources: National Statistics Office, Malta Business Registry Eurostat; European Commission; Fitch

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CC BUSINESS

Photos by Inigo Taylor

Embracing the future of contactless cash payments Contactless and cash payments used in the same breath might seem contradictory, but through its extensive portfolio of products and services, Joseph Cachia & Son caters for a business’s cash-handling needs with the very latest equipment and machinery. Martina Said catches up with General Manager – Technical Division, Clayton Meli, to find out about the company’s cash handling systems and more.

I

n the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when reports swirled about the different ways one could contract the virus, the handling of cash was claimed to be among the many culprits for transmitting infection. At the time, however, it might be safe to say that the handling of anything was enough to scare us into submission – after all, the pandemic was, and continues to be, a new experience for everyone. Fast forward one year, and the attitude 28

towards handling cash has somewhat changed – in various ways. While contactless payments via cards and mobile apps have increased in popularity, and the option to pay this way has become far more widespread than before, handling cash has become less frightening than it was in March 2020 – a recent study by the Bank of England, which produces British banknotes, found that the risk of transmission via banknotes is in fact low – and, due to generally lower spending

trends by consumers, people are increasingly hanging onto their cash for better days ahead. How have these new paying and spending trends panned out in Malta? Clayton Meli, General Manager – Technical Division at Joseph Cachia & Son (JCS) Ltd, says that the global pandemic has spurred lots of conspiracy theories about how one must handle cash. “Malta is still one of many countries around Europe and the world

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CC BUSINESS

that uses a high volume of cash, making it impossible for local retailers to not accept it,” he asserts. “Instead of opting for alternative payment solutions, small businesses contacted us during the pandemic last year to provide a solution whereby they could accept cash as a contactless payment, therefore providing their clientele with all the options available for them to pay without problems.” It’s widely agreed that Maltese consumers have an affinity for paying with cash, but could the pandemic change such standard practices? Mr Meli agrees with this assessment, saying “Maltese culture is based on the fact that we must ‘interact with a human’ at a store or at any other point of service, while we’re less accepting of interacting with a machine,” he explains. “Although today we are living in a more digital and technological world, and some outlets are in the process of introducing this kind of automated technology to the Maltese market, I believe that Malta is still trying to find its feet and trying to adapt to this new technological world. The pandemic brought out needs that we never dreamt of – or that we scarcely used – but I think this worldwide event served as an eye-opening opportunity for everyone to turn a threat into an opportunity, so that businesses could continue running and ultimately turning a profit.” Indeed, the widespread use of cash in an economy should not be undervalued. Mr Meli asserts that, just like other world economies, Malta’s economy needs to bounce back following the devastating effects of COVID-19, and the re-circulation of cash is important for maintaining a resilient economy. A middle-ground solution to using cash safely is contactless cash payments, a cash handling product within the vast portfolio of Joseph Cachia & Son Ltd which could prove to be a valuable tool for companies to be more secure, efficient, and free from human error in their handling of cash, mitigating risks while also keeping operating costs low. To this end, Joseph Cachia & Son Ltd works with the international market leader to provide this service, a company wholly dedicated to freeing clients from the burden of manual cash processing, allowing them to focus on delivering the best experience to their customers. “Our contactless cash payment solution from Glory Global Solutions is innovative and

ahead of any other competitor. Our strategy is to push this contactless cash payment solution further across many sectors so that everyone can see and experience its benefits.” The solution is called CASHINFINITYTM, a note and coin recycling machine that can handle cash in an accurate, efficient, and safe manner. Front-office solutions within the product range can be deployed to help staff and customers keep their distance at the point of payment, transforming cash into a contactless payment method. “There are various sectors and businesses that can make use of and benefit from contactless cash payment solutions. From retail stores, super/minimarkets, hotels and restaurants to pharmacies and cash exchange bureaux, this solution is practically suitable for any business concern that accepts cash as a type of payment,” says Mr Meli. The urge to innovate and seek new ways of getting things done may be considered a positive side-effect of an otherwise devastating pandemic. Indeed, over the past year, new market and consumer behaviour trends have emerged, including in the health sector. “Besides the need for contactless cash payments, the pandemic also gave rise to new needs even within local hospitals. For instance, a private hospital in Malta needed to investigate how patients visiting the hospital could be managed in the safest way

possible. JCS proposed a solution to bridge an existing gap by successfully integrating a Customer Journey Management system from Qmatic, which is one of the leading companies in queueing systems in the world,” says Mr Meli. “The proposed solution was fully integrated with the main software used by the hospital, and it was also integrated with our system to be able to help in better managing the customer/patient visit.” The vast portfolio of products and services offered by JCS extends beyond its provision of cash handling systems. “At JCS, we have teams of technical personnel both in sales and services,” Mr Meli explains. “The main sectors in which JCS supplies equipment and services are cash handling solutions, intelligent queuing systems, high-voltage energy cables, and water meters to name a few. In all our endeavours, we at JCS strive to bridge a gap in the market by supplying equipment that falls in line with our area of expertise. I would describe both of our departments as dynamic in this way.” As a member of the M Demajo Group, Joseph Cachia & Son has been operating for over 100 years and prides itself on a reputable service with an eye for innovation and constant growth. “We are always on our toes to find an opportunity to grow and expand our portfolio. Although still in the negotiation stages, we are currently working hard to finalise a partnership with a leading brand that supplies equipment which we’re confident everyone will benefit from.” cc

“Malta is still one of many countries around Europe and the world that uses a high volume of cash, making it impossible for local retailers to not accept it.” FEBRUARY/MARCH 2021

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CC DESIGN

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The office space of the future COVID-19 has heralded in a new age as employers and staff grapple with the fallout from the pandemic, which has pushed them to seek safer ways to work. Here, Sean Cassar, the Founder and Managing Director of interior design and architecture firm Design Hub speaks to Rebecca Anastasi about how to bring employees back into an office which is risk-free and conducive to productivity – despite social distancing – through the effective use of Design Hub’s custom partitions.

“E

veryone has suffered during this pandemic,” says Sean Cassar, owner and Lead Designer of Design Hub, a firm which strives to offer practical interior design and architectural solutions to companies seeking functional spaces for their enterprises. Indeed, through his firm, Mr Cassar has seen how businesses, and their employees, have endured crippling circumstances as the country went into a soft lockdown last March, re-emerging in the summer with hope on the horizon – only for it to be dashed, together with many employees’ collective sense of safety, as infection numbers continued to climb and set new benchmarks for what is ‘normal’. This unstable situation, in Mr Cassar’s eyes, has led to high levels of insecurity within the workforce, with staff, understandably, pushing for teleworking solutions, and management needing to provide a safe office set-up, which complements the mitigation measures decreed by the authorities. “As the pandemic hit, some of the company clients we had at the time had invested a lot of money in expanding their office spaces and boosting their employee numbers. These clients were particularly vulnerable. I felt obliged to tackle solutions for them, because there was – and still is – so

FEBRUARY/MARCH 2021

much at stake,” he asserts, adding that these companies quickly realised they needed to adapt. “How long can everyone work from home? Despite the pandemic, people want to go back to work and socialise – it’s only human nature, so we need to find ways to adapt,” Mr Cassar continues. This, for the Managing Director, has meant readjusting the designs for these clients, to comply with social distancing measures. “We altered the office interiors according to what we were learning about this virus’ transmission patterns and opening our minds up to the implications inherent in social distancing and germ privacy.” Central to this readjustment has been the use of partitions in-between and at the end of desks, separating employees, and giving each their own safe space. “We use the existing desk structure in the office, and we design, build and install custom-designed partitions depending on the team structure briefing of the offices.” Opting for these bespoke partitions “comes with a strong aesthetic value – there can be a play of colours and materials. Furthermore, partitions enhance privacy, social distancing, acoustics and brand identity. Existing desk layouts can now enjoy increased social distancing measures, but this is also a solution which is highly

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customisable to the business’ needs,” he continues. Indeed, this, in Mr Cassar’s view, is one of the strengths of offering such a highly bespoke solution. “We work closely with managers and staff to determine the new seating positions for teams and staff. With this information we survey existing offices and propose partitions’ locations, finishes and dimensions. Moreover, the only expense is the partitions themselves, which come in many different finishes and materials, and can be adapted according to a company’s brand identity,” he explains, adding that, ultimately, “this is not about a full design overhaul to offices but a quick fix that will last post-COVID. The whole point is to make employees feel safe and respected.” And, according to the Managing Director, this goal is imperative in a consistently competitive labour market. “Before COVID-19, many businesses were complaining about the lack of human resources, saying they needed to attract more quality employees. Then, everyone had to retreat home for a while, but, now, and in the future – particularly when everyone is vaccinated – there will be calls issued for further recruitment. However, half of your employees and prospective staff will still be asking themselves: is it safe enough to head back into the office?” Indeed, in sectors with high employee turnover such as iGaming, Mr Cassar sees the use of a partitioned set-up as one weapon in a post-COVID business armoury. “Some industries are very competitive and volatile. So, I feel that management needs to equip themselves to be able to compete in the future rush for demand, and to urge valuable members of staff back to the open plan office we all know so well,” he continues.

“Opting for these bespoke partitions comes with a strong aesthetic value – there can be a play of colours and materials.”

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“We use the existing desk structure in the office, and we design, build and install customdesigned partitions depending on the team structure briefing of the offices.”

Over the past year, Mr Cassar has seen more companies seek out such solutions. “We were doing these sorts of designs before the pandemic, but, over the past few months, we’ve enhanced them further since there’s been more of a call for them. These solutions are needed,” he asserts. The firm is, indeed, nimble, and no stranger to bigger challenges. Mr Cassar – who describes himself as “an interior/exterior spatial designer” – launched the company in 2013 and, since then, it has grown to service larger-scale projects, amounting to over 5,000 square metre open-plan office spaces over the last two years. These included one for iGaming company Gamesys, which won the European Property Awards’ ‘Best Office Interior’ Award London. “Design Hub is growing and is moving into a direction of design and build, rather than design only. The aim is to use the correct materials for the job at hand, while also ensuring the quality of the construction and installation to make sure that everyone is satisfied,” the Founder outlines, explaining the rationale behind the firm’s push towards higher standards. This attitude necessitates a high degree of communication with the client, Mr Cassar adds. “When we’re first approached, we would ask to see an existing desk plan – or, in the absence of one, we send our in-house surveyor to take the measurements. We would also discuss what the client has in mind, and we’ll come back with a plan, according to that brief, outlining the items which would be needed, together with the cost and timeline.” Part of this process is also determining which materials and finishes to use for the

FEBRUARY/MARCH 2021

partitions produced and installed by Design Hub. “There are various options – different natural timbers and spray finishes using the RAL colour matching system. And clients can opt for a variety of inserts, such as padding – which has a high acoustic value – or green walls, such as moss or other shrubbery, or even natural stone materials. Of course, they can opt for all of these, combined within a very tasteful composition. And, since the partitions are custom-made through a carpenter we work closely with, we conform to the client’s and office’s specific needs.” The time from order to installation is approximately eight weeks, depending on the size of the order, but Mr Cassar underscores that this is a long-term investment. “Of course, opting for these bespoke partitions

means you can create a space which is a home away-from-home. Besides that, clutter can easily be out of eyesight. But, above all, employees will have their privacy and they will feel safe,” he reiterates. Indeed, looking ahead, the Managing Director is opening a new showroom in Birkirkara to showcase Design Hub’s designs, materials and services, and he also hopes to get one clear message across: that there are ways of feeling more comfortable working from the office, despite the global pandemic. “It will take years for the world to recover fully from COVID-19 and the health concerns it has brought with it. So, I would like employees to be more aware of these solutions so that they, and the management, understand what can be done at an affordable price.” cc

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CC DESIGN TRENDS

A contemporary space with a timeless character

Photos by Brian Grech

The recently opened KUCCA Boutique Townhouse in the heart of Zebbug has a unique character all of its own. Starting out as a quaint house of character that had sadly fallen into disrepair, it was brought into the 21st century by a young couple with a vision to transform it into boutique rental units. To do this, they enlisted the help of Archi+, and the results speak for themselves. Sarah Micallef discovers what went into it with architects Anthea Huber and Daphne Bugeja.

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CC DESIGN TRENDS

“K

UCCA is a small guesthouse, with two bedrooms each with an ensuite bathroom, a common living area and kitchen area, and a roof terrace which overlooks a fantastic skyline of Zebbug,” explains Daphne Bugeja, lead designer on the project, affirming that through the design process, the team was adamant on maintaining the inherent character of the property and providing a raw luxury worthy of the ‘boutique’ stamp. The idea behind it was for the guesthouse to have a strong sense of place, so that anyone who visits can get a feel for being part of a village community. This was also translated in the use of the roof terrace as an entertainment space rather than simply for services, which Daphne describes as a challenge, owing to the compact space.

FEBRUARY/MARCH 2021

“The clients were a real pleasure to work with. They trusted the design process and followed our design to the minutest detail,” says Anthea Huber, Partner and Design Director at Archi+, maintaining that because the building is so compact, “there wasn’t much flexibility in terms of layout, but the fabric of the space itself was beautiful, so it was more about making it functional and redefining the finish.” Indeed, the context for the interior was characterised by the existing fabric of the house, the architects explain, with elements like natural stone walls and ceilings, timber beams and traditional timber apertures all being retained. This played a central role in the language developed for the project, Daphne says, adding that the team avoided major internal alterations. “We wanted to

“We wanted to respect the existing fabric as much as we could, and also try to maximise storage space throughout.”

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CC DESIGN TRENDS

“When we were doing civil works, we unearthed a bench that hinted at the area’s use as a kitchen in the past.” respect the existing fabric as much as we could, and also try to maximise storage space throughout. On the ground floor, for example, we designed a custom-made TV unit that incorporates space for shelving. We tried to create more space for storage through custom furniture.” Speaking of the brief in relation to the design of the space, Daphne reveals that the clients were after a fresh, contemporary look. “The colour palette as well as the combination of materials like steel and oak were selected to complement the stone texture of the building and the surroundings,” she says, noting that the design team also experimented with a mixture of micro cement and hydraulic lime plaster on the walls, to marry old and new. “Hydraulic lime is a breathable plaster, and the wall’s moisture causes a patchy effect to come up within it, meaning that the finish is not a single colour. Meanwhile, micro cement brings in a contemporary feel.” When it came to the floors, the designers were able to retain the existing tiles in one of the rooms, but lament that the rest were in too bad a state to be used. “Instead, we had new cement tiles made which incorporated the chosen colour scheme,” says Daphne, highlighting the use of hexagonal tiles in the bathrooms, mimicking the traditional variety. Owing to the size of the space they were working with, one of the main challenges the team ran into was the kitchen. “While the site is limited, the clients understandably wanted to maximise the space, being a commercial project,” says Anthea, explaining that “generally, the basement is a secondary space, but in this case, the basement was made into one of the primary spaces – the kitchen – allowing us to include more bedroom units. In order to do this, the clients were ready to invest heavily in systems to combat humidity but had the foresight to see the value in that.” This brought about another challenge – drawing light into the kitchen from the upper levels. “Since the kitchen is located at basement level, which had no windows, we wanted to gain as much light as possible from the floor above, so we created a glass core within the ground slab in order for light to penetrate through,” explains Daphne, adding that their vision for the room was further justified by a special discovery.

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CC DESIGN TRENDS

“When we were doing civil works, we unearthed a bench that hinted at the area’s use as a kitchen in the past, so this favoured our proposal as it also became about respecting the original use of the space.” The result is what the architects describe as “contemporary yet timeless”, and is, in no small part, owing to the excellent relationship fostered with their clients. Anthea reveals that overall, “the budget was quite tight, but the clients were great with procurement and sourcing, so we managed to pull it off within budget,” by striking the right balance between cheaper options when it came to standard architectural fittings and splashing out on the pieces that needed to stand out. “We had great communication with the clients throughout,” continues Daphne, “and even worked on the branding for the guesthouse, designing their logo – so from a design point of view, it was a full package.” And the best part? According to Anthea, it’s the terrace. “The terrace has a beautiful view of the Zebbug townscape, and the fact that we managed to utilise it as an entertainment space is definitely the cherry on the cake of this project.” cc

FEBRUARY/MARCH 2021

“The colour palette as well as the combination of materials like steel and oak were selected to complement the stone texture of the building and the surroundings.”

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CC MAKE THE HEADLINES

Growth through practice and experience In the first century BC, the Roman architect Vitruvius wrote extensively about the qualities of an architect: “…besides honesty, they must possess skills of drawing, science and geometry, knowledge of materials, history and the arts.”

A

rchitecture is one of the most challenging professions, requiring both creativity and technical knowledge. However, like most things, the honing of these skills comes about through experience, in all of its forms. The architectural practice DeMicoli and Associates was formed in 1985, by Ray DeMicoli. In all humility, 36 years of

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practice have taught us that there is always something new to learn, and the culmination of these experiences has brought us to where we are now. Throughout this journey, every new project meant the honing of our skills through experience. We grew with every project, and as a result, always raised the bar. We searched for opportunities to look

for the ‘magic’ that would set the project on a higher level than the client’s expectations. On several occasions we hit an idea deep into the job – which is how these things normally occur – where a lot of technical work had to be aborted. In all cases, the beauty and benefit far outweighed the prior work done; it is through study that these epiphanies occur. With time, the creativity, or FEBRUARY/MARCH 2021


CC MAKE THE HEADLINES

A timeline of major projects undertaken by DeMicoli and Associates 1985-1989 Major projects included the New Dolmen Hotel, timeshare at Halland and Ramla Bay Hotel, and the Preluna Hotel. 1990-1999 Major projects included the Mosta Technopark, Dolmen timeshare and conference hall, The Mall in Floriana, Middlesea offices, and residential abode Ghar Harruba, where every tree existing on site was retained. As the practice started to blossom, we started to explore the union of our two big passions: architecture and the sea. Out of this marriage, Portomaso complex was born. This was a massive breakthrough that required huge resolve and ability to solve problems in a short time.

the ‘magic’, came to us faster, building on our experiences. Academic experience is as crucial as practical experience. When Steve DeMicoli joined the firm following eight years of study and practice in London, he brought about new ideas, habits and applications. He opened up avenues introducing new software, model making, digital fabrication and a whole world of custom architecture building, from furniture to detailing. All these tools have significantly changed the workflow, but certain practice principles are chiselled in stone. Architectural practice involves the sound analysis of the context and situation. This analysis is complemented with intuition of what’s fitting, which comes through experience. What is fitting is surrounded by the form, the potential of the project and the national aspirations, which are both honest and fulfilling in its purpose. Such a balance contributes to the common good and the good of the community as a whole; reaching far beyond the client’s expectations. The architectural profession, in general, lacked punctuality. In this climate, the advice to merchants inscribed on the church of San Giacomo di Rialto in Venice rang true – “Keep your measures true and be faithful to your promises” – this became our office maxim and guiding principle. In every enterprise, the service provider tries hard to win the client’s trust. Once this is earned through delivering what is promised, this trust is precious and must FEBRUARY/MARCH 2021

be nurtured with care, like any relationship. Once again, it is the mutual shared experience which empowers this trust, and its trial is when these relationships withstand the test of time. There have been big changes since the first hand-crafted drawings. Building standards have become increasingly complex and sophisticated, now requiring several consultants and expertise in many disciplines. Software companies have responded to the huge development in different aspects with graphics, flythroughs, digital simulations, building information modelling and structural software showing real live loadings on structural members. There has also been a huge development in international building codes and specifications. The marriage of constantly learning, gaining experience and cultivating relationships is what propels us forward, all the while holding true to our promises. The future augurs well, and the world is slowly shedding its ignorance and has understood the importance of environmental impacts. The fact that environmental awareness and sustainability are emerging as cardinal pillars of all processes in industry and spaces around us is hugely beneficial and welcomed. It keeps us accountable to ourselves, our clients, the community and the future generations that we keep this promise and build off of our failures and experiences. cc

2000-2009 Block31 Portomaso, Malta Hilton Extension and Palm City in Janzour Libya. We won the international competition in Istanbul for a major mixed use commercial centre, and worked on spectacular projects in Libya, all involving the sea; such as Misurata, North Gheran and Palm Waterfront, as well as Corinthia Hotel Prague, and Konopiste Village, Czech Republic. 2010-2021 Restoration of Fort St Elmo, Wurth offices and Solar calendar, Vodafone Offices, Bank of Valletta Chairman’s office in Valletta, Spinola Park, Tipico Tower, Laguna Suites Portomaso, Quad Business Centre, and Wembley Ice Cream Factory.

www.danda.com.mt 39


Office Trends

The events of 2020 have had a profound effect on everything – including office design and décor. From dedicated video conferencing rooms to Pantone’s Colours of the Year, Martina Said rounds up the office trends to expect in 2021. 01. Colours of the year An anticipated fixture in office design is the announcement of Pantone’s Colour of the Year. The colour experts have chosen Ultimate Grey and a soft shade of yellow called Illuminating as their top shades for 2021, with the aim of instilling hope and a sense that “everything is going to get brighter”.

05. Video conferencing room With online meetings replacing almost all in-person meetings throughout 2020, offices are adapting spaces to work as dedicated video conferencing facilities, where equipment such as screens, cameras and other devices could be set up and work carried out without interruption.

TRENDS 01.

06. The work from home vibe After months on end spent working from home, employees have increasingly become adjusted to a more casual work setting. This is being reflected in new office designs, where fundamental elements associated with the home – like comfortable corners, sofas, armchairs and coffee tables – are integrated into the workspace. cc

02. Flexibility Adopting flexible design in office layouts has become a mainstay rather than a trend, but it’s never had more relevance than in 2021. With the rise and popularity of remote working, providing a variety of work set-ups within the office rather than a number of fixed desks will encourage employees to return to the office and help to attract new talent.

OFFICE

achievements, awards, symbols and history to tell a story of its journey in a subtle yet effective form of self-advertising.

reddit.com

02.

HMC Architects

03.

03. Fashionable interiors Designers are imbuing offices with designer décor, ranging from Chesterfield sofas and stylish chandeliers to high-quality textiles, rugs and furniture, with the aim of fostering special awareness among employees, while ushering a return to traditional office design.

04.

04. Individuality The days of offices without an identity are long gone, but high-spec offices aren’t enough to foster brand recognition. Designers are using the company’s Amy Kartheiser Design

06.

officesnapshots.com

05.

dgicommunications.com

offecct.com

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‘An exciting time to be part of FXDD’ Sarah Micallef catches up with Toni Storic, BackOffice Administrator at FXDD, to learn about the journey that brought him to the foreign exchange trading provider, his current role and the exciting times ahead.

Photos by Inigo Taylor

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ailing from a little Croatian island on the Adriatic Sea, living in the Mediterranean came naturally to Toni Storic, BackOffice Administrator at FXDD, who relocated to Malta in 2019. Delving into his academic background before making the move, Toni explains that

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he was heavily involved in water sports, particularly water polo, which he played professionally in Croatia before securing an academic and sports scholarship to study at Lindenwood University in the United States. “My undergraduate degree was actually in Sports Management focused on finance

“The company encourages everybody to build on their roles, to further our education, and improve our careers.”

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in sports, the business side of sports and its history,” he affirms, adding that after graduating and taking a few months off to decide on the next step, he decided to further his education, and read for a Master’s of Finance in Business Administration. Throughout his studies, Toni worked in a small wealth management company while continuing to play water polo – a factor which, he says, played a massive part in his decision to move to Malta. “My wife and I moved to Malta in July 2019 after spending nine years in the United States,” he recalls, noting that the decision was a relatively spontaneaous one. “During my last semester in college, a young Maltese student joined the team and would often joke about how I should move to Malta. He later introduced me to his father, and they had nothing but nice things to say about Malta. It started as a joke, but my wife and I decided to give it a shot, and we absolutely love it here.” Noting that he first became familiar with forex trading while completing his Master’s, it wasn’t until he joined FXDD that he really expanded on the initial learning. “FXDD has been my first and only stop in the forex trading industry,” he maintains, affirming that “completing two degrees and planting my feet firmly on the ground with a job in FXDD feel like my landmark career moments so far.” Starting out with the company in September 2019, the BackOffice Administrator describes the experience as “amazing” so far, noting that it feels like being a part of a family. “Everyone has been extremely helpful with adjusting to life in Malta and very friendly,” he says, adding that from a career standpoint, “the company encourages everybody to build on their roles, to further our education, and improve our careers. We all love to have a good time and it feels as if I could have not found a better fit.” Describing his role within the foreign exchange trading provider, Toni defines himself as a point of reference between different departments in the company. “It feels like my role has developed over time and has been moulded to best fit the company’s needs,” he asserts, noting that what started as a role responsible for administrating software that is used to set up clients’ accounts and for reporting has now seen him be entrusted with more complex reporting to the compliance department. He has also formed part of various internal projects to help streamline internal policies. “I absolutely love taking on projects and tackling issues that have been an obstacle for a long time. It can be quite challenging because it involves a lot of ‘head banging on FEBRUARY/MARCH 2021

the wall’ to cover all bases, but I truly relish the challenge and working with others to come up with the best possible solution,” he jokes. Turning his attention to Robinhood, the trading app that’s been on everyone’s lips in recent weeks, Toni states that while FXDD does not get directly involved with such platforms, it is interesting to keep track of, despite feeling that “it has probably been blown out of proportion and we can already see all kinds of conspiracy theories floating around.” Commenting on the situation, which saw Robinhood freeze trades for GameStop while Wall Street was in a frenzy for the video game retailer’s stock, Toni admits that the criticism such action drew could be down to bad PR, but for the moment, it remains unclear. “It is quite interesting to follow ‘meme stocks’ such as GameStop and AMC, etc, and the influence of social media on the

stock market. We have yet to see how long this trend will persist however, and if it will continue to have an impact on the industry,” he says. And while FXDD’s involvement is limited at present, Toni hints that “the company is currently undergoing somewhat of a shift into this market in the near future, and it will be very interesting to see the reaction of brokers as well as regulators.” Looking ahead, Toni says, “this is a very exciting time to be part of this team. The company is embarking on an interesting journey with the launch of new products and brands.” On a personal level, he continues, “this growth is also being reflected in the different responsibilities which I am being entrusted with, and this is proving to be quite significant in my professional growth. I am looking forward to being part of this journey.” cc

“FXDD is embarking on an interesting journey with the launch of new products and brands.”

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NEWS EVENTS & INITIATIVES

02. 02. Empowering manufacturing in Malta Addressing an online dialogue session organised by The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry at the end of November, Joe Pace, Chair of the Manufacturing and Other Industries Economic Group executive committee, said that the manufacturing sector was a crucial mainstay of the Maltese economy, and all parties needed to make sure to do all possible to guarantee its permanence. When addressing the Q&A session, Minister for the Economy and Industry Silvio Schembri remarked that besides labour, the biggest challenge for the industry was the lack of infrastructure and the scarcity of industrial facilities and space. Minister Miriam Dalli said “the setting up of the new Ministry for Energy, Enterprise and Sustainable Development is a clear indication of Government’s vision in taking our country forward. The Chamber has been a strong voice in advocating for smart thinking and ensuring sustainable solutions.”

03. Research and innovation are crucial for our country’s future and way forward

01. In the future, all of us will be increasingly required to step up our creative processes The Malta Chamber President David Xuereb said in November that it was The Chamber’s responsibility to look ahead and propose long-term policies for Malta’s economic future. “This means that the skills and talent of the human capital of the future are of central importance to The Chamber,” Perit Xuereb said. 44

The President noted how Artificial Intelligence was already present in many aspects of people’s lives, and was expected to continue characterising many decisionmaking processes which were typically of a mechanical or repetitive nature. HSBC Group’s first ever MySkills Festival was a week-long series of virtual events, interactive workshops and online resources, featuring insight from global business leaders and experts.

During a meeting between the President of The Malta Chamber David Xuereb and the Minister for Research, Innovation and the Coordination of Post COVID-19 Strategy Owen Bonnici, both parties agreed that innovation and research are crucial for a better economic future for Malta. During the meeting, Perit Xuereb spoke of the strategic importance this new Ministry will hold in drafting a holistic strategy for the country post-COVID. Minister Bonnici thanked The Malta Chamber for the positive and fruitful meeting where the importance of research and innovation was highlighted, also in the context of the strategy for Malta after COVID-19. Both parties agreed on further work between the respective entities in the relevant sectors that were discussed during the meeting.

04. Empowering our young generation for a brighter future “The COVID pandemic was a blessing in disguise as it allowed us to pause and reflect on the true priorities that we may have disregarded in the past, on both a personal and business level,” said The Malta Chamber President David Xuereb in December. He was

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03. National Awards 2020 for its service to its members. The Worker of the Year National Awards celebrate Malta’s businesses which showcase best practice and, as of this year, improve the personal and professional development of the worker on the workplace and in the community in general. During the event, which revolved around the theme of ‘Celebrating the success of our workers’, Minister Carmelo Abela noted the importance of such an event as it provides a platform to recognise and acknowledge those who not only contribute to the success of our country but also the organisations they form part of. The ceremony took place under the distinguished patronage of H.E. the President of Malta.

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07. Electromobility; charging Malta’s future

addressing HR Gig 5, an event on the subject of human resources organised by StreetHR. “As a Chamber of Commerce, we have always believed in having a vibrant and innovative education system, that is the main prerequisite of a sustainable economy,” said Perit Xuereb, as he mentioned the everincreasing gap between the skills taught in educational facilities and the skills required on the job.

05. A snapshot of current retail realities “Due to the effects of the pandemic, retail trends have shifted in the past months. Similar to the rest of the world, Maltese consumers have shown a preference to online solutions for their consumer needs,” said The Malta Chamber President David Xuereb in a comment to Malta Today in December. He also noted how this pandemic has impacted each and every sector differently, especially in terms of traditional retail. The President however stressed that more needed to be done to revitalise the capital,

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as “Valletta remains sluggish across the board, when compared to other shopping destinations, even though the start of the festive season did provide a much-needed impetus.”

06. The Malta Chamber wins Employers Representative Body Award The Malta Chamber executive team has been awarded the Employers Representative Body Award during the Worker of the Year

The Malta Chamber’s newly established Sustainable Mobility Committee held a highlevel meeting with representatives from the Authority for Transport in Malta, Enemalta Corporation, Enemed, and the Ministry for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects in December to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the country over the next few years when it comes to electromobility. Chairman of the committee, Konrad Pulé, explained that the electrification of the vehicle fleet is a unifying factor for different stakeholders in transport, and it can be very effective in working towards the goals set out by the European Commission. The Committee put forward a proposal to set up a working group between the Malta Chamber and the various stakeholders in order to discuss and agree on realistic and feasible actions that can be taken to achieve the desired results.

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09. 08. “More than ever, the country needs a holistic strategy for sustainable tourism for Malta” Welcoming the new Minister for Tourism Clayton Bartolo at The Malta Chamber in December, David Xuereb said that the importance of Malta’s largest economic sector was never more evident than in the past months. Perit Xuereb said that more than ever, the country needed a “national holistic strategy for a sustainable tourism industry that promotes the values of our country driven by a qualitative experience for our visitors and a responsible use of our resources while lending itself to an improved quality of life for our nation.” In his comments, Minister for Tourism and Consumer Protection Clayton Bartolo remarked that in the past months, the Chamber of Commerce has been a sterling stakeholder to Government. “I believe in a stakeholder approach that is across the board. The Chamber will continue to play an important role in Government’s postpandemic strategy,” continued Minister Clayton Bartolo.

09. Care Home Operators meet Minister In December, the committee within The Malta Chamber representing the Care Home Operators had a positive meeting with Minister Michael Farrugia, together with the President of The Malta Chamber to discuss the vital work care home operators have been engaged in, throughout the past months. During the meeting, the Minister praised the operators, as he said that care homes were regarded as a key stakeholder in the well-being of our elderly. The Minister said that he would be encouraging the values of active ageing, as he noted that the COVID experience would teach us how to better tackle the influenza season.

10. ‘Business as usual’ may take longer despite vaccine rollout During the television programme TVAM aired in January, The Malta Chamber President David Xuereb warned the country that although the rollout of vaccines is now well underway, achieving a pre-COVID economic situation will likely take longer than one might assume. The Chamber President explained that the country should not build up false hopes just because the vaccine is now available. “While the vaccine is a very positive development FEBRUARY/MARCH 2021

towards ‘business as usual’, it will take a while to return to a semblance of where we were in 2019. As a country, we still need to understand the true impact the pandemic had on profits, trade, customer spending behaviour and other vital commercial and economic elements,” said Perit Xuereb.

11. A positive indication for Moneyval Although it is too early to share predictions regarding the outcome of the Moneyval assessment, The Malta Chamber President David Xuereb was positive about the indications so far. “We expect the measures Government has been implementing to provide positive results,” said Perit Xuereb in January. However, the Chamber President noted how success could not be achieved unless a unified effort was made. The Malta Chamber, as Malta’s foremost guardian of the country’s competitiveness, has taken it upon itself to lead this concerted effort, and shall endeavour, with all its resources at its disposal, to help obtain a favourable outcome for Malta, the President noted. “It is crucial that once this assessment is behind us, all efforts are kept in place to maintain the highest of standards. We must appreciate the lessons learnt through this ordeal, and through constant proactive action and keeping transparency a priority,” concluded The Chamber President.

12. A shift in mentality is needed towards healthier lifestyles “The pandemic provided us with the right opportunity to truly appreciate and prioritise what is most important in our day-to-day lives. COVID-19 allowed us to become more sensitive towards mental and physical well-being. This, in turn, encouraged us to consume more local and fresh goods, paving a move towards a healthier lifestyle,” said

David Xuereb during an interview on local television programme Popolin on TVM in January. Commenting on the concept of a tax on food items which include excessive amounts of sugar, Perit Xuereb said that such methods would have little to no impact on diminishing obesity levels in Malta. “The focus should be on educating and informing people of the risks associated with eating unhealthy foods in order to help control obesity levels. Introducing a tax without any sort of incentive will only put more pressure on the most vulnerable, as has been shown in studies abroad,” continued Perit Xuereb.

13. Education is a national priority and schools should be the last to close In January, The Malta Chamber followed with interest the developments related to the reopening of schools after the Christmas recess. The Chamber had stated in August and September that it was crucial for schools to remain open during this scholastic year. The experience of the first term has proved that schools are well equipped to implement social distancing, and the educational experience was a success. The Chamber, therefore, calls on teachers and all state, church and independent schools to keep on adhering to the strict health protocols introduced at the beginning of this scholastic year and allow the health authorities to give guidance in accordance with medical evidence.

14. Preparing for the challenges of 2021 During the programme Dritt għall-Punt, presented by Roderick Agius on NET TV, The Malta Chamber President David Xuereb weighed in on the possible political, environmental and economic challenges Malta will face in 2021. 47


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Perit Xuereb noted that until herd immunity is achieved, the COVID-19 risk will remain very much present and real. “We simply cannot stress the importance to follow the guidelines that the health authorities are providing enough, now more than ever, as the vaccine rollout is well underway. Only by acting in a disciplined manner can we hope to see the economy recuperate,” said Perit Xuereb.

15. A ‘fairer’ system in aiding COVID-19 hit businesses Commenting on the new COVID wage supplement scheme, which was announced in January, David Xuereb expressed The Malta Chamber’s satisfaction for a fairer system. Details were provided during a press conference addressed by Energy, Enterprise and Sustainable Development Minister Miriam Dalli. “As Malta’s foremost business representative body, The Malta Chamber is proud to have collaborated closely with the concerned Ministry and Malta Enterprise throughout the past months, to help support our businesses and Malta’s economy at large,” noted Perit Xuereb.

16. Prime Minister acknowledges forward-thinking approach of The Malta Chamber “Looking back at the notion of ‘Business Reengineering’ that was proposed by The Malta Chamber a few months back, I can 48

now fully appreciate the vision that the organisation had for a brighter economic future,” said Prime Minister Robert Abela in January. Malta’s Prime Minister was addressing a political activity on the challenges faced during the pandemic and the need to learn in order to enhance the overall quality of life through factors such as good governance, digitalisation and the green economy. As he was thanking the major stakeholders that are driving and leading Malta towards a sustainable future during such a troublesome period, Prime Minister Abela acknowledged the forward-thinking approach that The Malta Chamber, and more specifically the President of The Malta Chamber David Xuereb, undertook to truly achieve its goal of being the true voice of business.

17. Be wise, immunise! Care home operators have not stopped with their measures to protect the residents in their care. An initiative taken by the homes is to build on a campaign to better educate the residents, their relatives, staff and the general public on why we should ‘be wise and immunise’, the slogan chosen for the campaign. Experts in the field have been engaged by home operators to explain the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, which was the first to arrive in our country. They explained the tests that were done to finally come out with this vaccine, the myths and the facts of the vaccine and gave many different reasons

why one should definitely consider getting immunised.

18. Malta Chamber commends postponement of vouchers The Malta Chamber commended the Government’s decision to postpone the issue of the second round of vouchers, in the interest of public health. As it has said all throughout the pandemic, The Malta Chamber reiterates its position that any initiatives taken must, at all times reflect, the highest public health interest. Government’s decision, as announced by the Minister of the Economy in January, is hence commended. While the issue of vouchers is eagerly anticipated by many business operators as it is expected to once again inject a muchneeded impetus into the economy, priorities of public safety must take precedence.

19. ‘Business as usual’ can take up to three years to attain In an interview with The Malta Independent’s Kevin Schembri Orland, The Malta Chamber President David Xuereb spoke about what this year holds in terms of economic opportunities and challenges, and Malta returning to ‘business as usual’. When asked about his predictions for 2021, The Chamber President said “what will determine the success in which we achieve ‘business as usual’ is the manner in which public funds are spent.” FEBRUARY/MARCH 2021


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The Chamber President concluded by saying that although The Malta Chamber wishes to heighten business activity across the country, it would be highly irresponsible to act too quickly. “We should therefore act responsibly if we are to drive for a truly improved national quality of life based on honesty and intelligence,” said Perit Xuereb.

20. Getting accustomed to Brexit – A technical webinar Numerous members, predominantly operating in importation but not only, attended an information session organised by The Malta Chamber, titled ‘Getting accustomed to Brexit’ in January. The online event was addressed by Customs officials who provided crucial information about the new reality of importation of goods to Malta from the UK, post-Brexit. Andre Fenech, Head of Policy at the Malta Chamber, said that Brexit had affected the operation of several businesses, as the UK remains one of the main partner countries to Malta, while he welcomed guests to the event. Britain leaving the European Union meant that it officially became a third country, triggering a new regime under which the importation and exportation of goods needed to be operated.

21. Transparency, good governance, ethical business In January, The Malta Chamber launched a document titled The Public Procurement Reform Report, which contains 36 recommendations on the entire procurement process. The key recommendations in this document relate to the Blacklisting of operators, the implementation and management of Direct Orders and the Performance of Public Contracts post-award. The document is the result of a consultation process The Malta Chamber undertook by setting up a working group formed by individuals representing economic operators that have different levels of experience submitting tenders across different industry sectors. The document serves as valuable guidance for the necessary reforms that are needed in order to ensure that economic operators are on a level playing field when tendering for Government purchasing opportunities. These reforms also serve to ensure that public funds are deployed to their best potential. The working group was composed of Liz Barbaro Sant, Anton Borg, Marcel K. Mifsud, Maronna Filletti, Mary Gaerty, Roderick Abela and Julia Aquilina. Clement Mifsud Bonnici (Ganado Advocates) was the technical advisor on the process. FEBRUARY/MARCH 2021

22. The Malta Chamber; an advocate of transparency and ethical standards “Public procurement concerns affect us all regardless of who we are, where we live, and what we do,” said Liz Barbaro Sant, The Malta Chamber Vice President, as she addressed attendees during the official launch of The Public Procurement Reform 2021 Report in January. The Vice President explained that “economic, social and environmental benefits of public programmes and projects to a country and its citizens, depend very much on how public procurement is managed, conducted and controlled. Furthermore, public procurement is critical for the accountability of public expenditure, and it supports good governance, while assisting with economic and social development and public trust in Government.” “We need to allow a level playing field for suppliers and contractors alike without stifling the growth of newcomers or eliminating track records to favour contractors,” concluded Liz Barbaro Sant.

23. A proactive approach towards good governance practices “This report is testament to The Malta Chamber’s restless effort, to not only promote good governance but also proactively propose ways how this important value can be improved in practice,” said The Malta Chamber President during the launch of The Public Procurement Reform 2021 Report in January. Welcoming members of the media, David Xuereb noted that The Malta Chamber

had continuously championed the cause of good governance. “During the early months of 2020, we launched a document titled ‘Ethical Business calls for change – A Manifesto for Good Governance’ which included 60 concrete recommendations. The same document included a number of recommendations which addressed public procurement and the importance of ensuring best value to the public, fairness to economic operators and transparency,” said Perit Xuereb. The ‘Report on Public Procurement Reform 2021’ is a further development of The Chamber’s advocacy of best practice in this area. It offers a detailed analysis of the matters surrounding the crucial process with which Government spends its public funds.

24. COVID challenges witnessed by the manufacturing sector Marisa Xuereb, The Malta Chamber Deputy President and Managing Director of Raesch Quarz (Malta) Ltd weighed in on the obstacles that COVID-19 introduced within the manufacturing sector during a webinar organised by the Malta Business Network in January. Ms Xuereb noted that proactivity was crucial. “As soon as the pandemic struck, manufacturing companies needed all hands on deck, and new measures were introduced immediately to ensure that the supply chain was not impacted,” she said. She continued by noting that it was clear from the beginning that Government needed to treat manufacturing as an essential sector which could not afford major operational disruptions.

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25. said that Government may need to equip itself with further expertise when designing and publishing public tenders. “Sometimes the process does not inspire the trust it deserves, and this is not beneficial to any part of it. Government attracts criticism, the business community who would otherwise be interested in tendering loses faith in the process, and ultimately the customer, the taxpayer, is short-changed as they would not get the best service or product possible,” said Perit Xuereb.

28. The Malta Chamber’s vision towards a sustainable future

The Deputy President concluded by noting that as a result of COVID-19, the manufacturing industry was finally being recognised for its resilience. “The manufacturing sector remains a pillar of strength in all developed economies,” she said.

25. Malta-India Women’s Chamber (WICCI Malta) joins The Malta Chamber In January, The Malta Chamber, together with WICCI, the Women’s Malta Chamber of Commerce and Industry, an affiliate of WICCI India, agreed to co-operate actively to nurture a climate of economic diversification, development and cooperation between Malta and India, within a global network led by women. Presiding on the signature of the Cooperation Agreement between the two entities was David Xuereb, President of the Malta Chamber, Dame Jane Chircop, President of the WICCI Malta and Doreen Cutrona, Vice President of WICCI Malta. Dame Jane Chircop remarked: “today it is a milestone, and we wrote history for our country. Two Chambers with one goal. The empowerment of women in our country is long due and that is what we want to achieve.”

Think Tank Report which, among others, focused on Airline Route Regeneration and Development, Tourists’ Quality Experience, and a National and Holistic Tourism Strategy. The Malta Chamber is pleased to note that the Ministry has welcomed the recommendations by the Chamber through the launch, by the Ministry of Tourism and Consumer Protection and the Malta Tourism Authority, of the Malta Tourism Strategy 2021-2030 Recover, Rethink & Revitalise.

27. Transparency is key in public procurement process Speaking on TVAM in January, Malta Chamber President David Xuereb said that transparency is key to make sure that trust is strengthened and reinforced in the public procurement process, at all its stages. While acknowledging the complexity of the procurement process, Perit Xuereb

During the Malta Sustainability Forum, The Malta Chamber President David Xuereb said that economic development, well-being and quality of life were interconnected. “Since the release of its Economic Vision, The Malta Chamber has established committees tackling environmental and sustainability issues, notably the Circular Economy, Sustainable Mobility and Energy Efficiency and Conservation committees. Together, they continue to work on bridging the gap between theory and practice, to put private enterprise at the forefront of realising a sustainable and successful economic future for all,” Perit Xuereb said.

29. Chamber presents public procurement recommendations to Prime Minister A delegation from The Malta Chamber, led by President David Xuereb, presented a copy of its recently published report on a proposed Public Procurement Reform to Prime Minister Robert Abela in February. The document makes 36 tangible recommendations for improved public procurement processes, following a thorough consultation process with The Malta Chamber members.

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26. Malta Chamber Tourism Business Section welcomes Ministry’s long-term strategy During the last year, the Malta Chamber’s Tourism Business Section executive committee met with the Minister for Tourism and Consumer Protection and representatives within the Ministry and MTA, and presented the recommendations laid out in our Tourism 52

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Addressing the Prime Minister, Perit Xuereb said that the document was the result of The Malta Chamber’s restless and continued effort to promote good governance and also proactively propose ways how this important value could be improved in practice.

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30. Leader of the Opposition presented with public procurement recommendations The Malta Chamber presented the Leader of the Opposition with a copy of its report on a proposed Public Procurement Reform in February. Dr Grech was visiting the Exchange Buildings for the first time since his appointment as Leader of the Opposition. While acknowledging the complexity of the procurement process, Chamber President David Xuereb said that sometimes the process may not inspire the trust it deserves. “Our document proposes concrete and measurable ways of how to address the lacunae that exist in this process, including a contract register to ensure transparency of execution to the satisfaction of all.”

31. Tech.MT – An integral part of The Malta Chamber

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“Government and businesses must invest in technology that optimises efficiency in a seriously changing economic macroclimate,” said The Malta Chamber President David Xuereb in February, during the inauguration of new offices for Tech.MT. Tech.MT, which was established in 2019 as a Public-Private Partnership between The Malta Chamber and the Maltese Government, aims at promoting Malta as a hub for innovation and technology. Silvio Schembri, Minister for the Economy, Investment and Small Business, who also took part in the inauguration, thanked The Malta Chamber as it was instrumental in the setting up of Tech.MT.

32. Inclusivity, disability and youth, all priorities for The Malta Chamber

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“Inclusivity, youth and disability are among the Malta Chamber’s priorities as they are central to the development and sustainability of the economy,” said David Xuereb, President of the Malta Chamber, during a meeting with the Minister for Inclusion and Quality of Life Julia Farrugia Portelli. Minister Farrugia Portelli said a great part of achieving inclusion is creating a culture of awareness about the subject, also at the workplace. “We believe that the Malta Chamber is a central partner in this journey, as they share these same values.” cc FEBRUARY/MARCH 2021

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FinXP supporting businesses with market-leading payment solutions Sarah Micallef catches up with FinXP CEO Jens Podewski and CFO Stefan Haenel following the Malta-based fintech company’s extensive rebrand, discussing how the branding reflects the maturity of the organisation, and how its payment services help local companies grow across borders.

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ith the COVID-19 pandemic pushing more businesses online than ever before, the benefits of working with an experienced payment partner like the award-winning FinXP have never been clearer. Founded in 2014, the electronic money institution offers clients market-leading payment solutions, and with the recent and significant rise in e-commerce, CEO Jens Podewski explains how FinXP can maximise this opportunity for businesses and be an enabler for growth. “We can consult on what is available when it comes to alternative payment methods, not only in one particular market, but all over,” the CEO affirms, adding that FinXP can provide all the payment methods a company may require via one payment gateway. What is also important, he continues, is helping clients to digitise payments and providing the processes to do this. Ultimately, it all culminates in the fact that FinXP is a one-stop-shop. “We provide one single point

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of contact rather than having to deal with multiple payment providers. If a potential client has a high-street shop, for example, we can discuss new ideas and the options available to them when it comes to taking their business online, like a click-and-collect option using a cashless mobile app, for example,” Mr Podewski continues. Speaking of FinXP’s recent rebrand, which included a change of company name from Paymentworld Europe along with a new visual identity, Mr Podewski explains that from the outset, the founders were already clear on their niche and what they could offer the market, in Malta and Europe. “Five years later, we thought it would be a good time to rethink our story and consider whether the name Paymentworld still fits. This started an internal discussion, which led to our working with local marketing agency Growth Gurus to start a rebranding and renaming process,” he explains. Expanding on the choice of name, Mr Podewski breaks it down, explaining the

combination of the finance element or ‘Fin’, with ‘XP’, standing for experts, which is what the team is made up of. “We all have a strong background in the payment industry which goes back many years,” the CEO maintains. “We believe that the name FinXP reflects the innovation we bring to the market – the future concepts, the fintech orientation, as well as our support of the crypto and gaming industries,” continues CFO Stefan Haenel, adding that the feedback from the market so far has been incredibly positive. In line with the rebrand, Mr Podewski elaborates on FinXP’s ambitious growth strategy, explaining that the team aims to delve further into the cryptocurrency area, pointing to “great potential” there. Specialising in the B2B payments space, the team offers a premium, tailored service to their business customers, but their plans do not stop at processing payments. FinXP’s approach is one that sees them involved in the whole cycle, forming a strong relationship with their clients in the

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“We guide clients through the proper KYC procedures on their side, and best practice in mitigating risk.” - Stefan Haenel, CFO, FinXP

process. “Our strategy is not only to see and understand a small piece of the cake, but the whole cake. We are looking for strategic partners who can be of benefit to us and to whom we can benefit,” he says. This is what differentiates FinXP from similar service providers, the CEO explains. “We join the client’s journey, and do our utmost to understand their needs so as to guide them as to what is best for them.” And, as compliance-related demands continue to increase, Mr Haenel explains that working with an established and experienced firm like FinXP can also prove beneficial in this respect. “Our experience and high standards benefit our clients. We guide them with what they need and what they may need in the future, as well as help them to build the proper procedures and policies as needed,” he maintains. Taking the crypto business as an example, the CFO continues, “we guide clients through the proper KYC procedures on their side, and best practice in mitigating risk. You might not get an instant account opening with us as we may request

more from you than others, but this will help you in the long run with the regulator.” Indeed, Mr Podewski adds, “it is important to understand the business and the market, so just ticking the boxes is not enough. You have to know what you’re talking about.” For local businesses to survive and thrive, seeking opportunities beyond Malta’s shores is essential. Despite being based in Malta, FinXP boasts an international approach through its operations within the European payments sphere. “Being from Germany ourselves, we have excellent banking connections in first-tier banks in Germany, and also have good relations with Barclaycard,” explains Mr Haenel, affirming that many Malta-based players that FinXP deals with have a UK, German, French or Italian background, providing them with great networks in several countries. “Given Malta’s infrastructure, we need to look to Europe, and this brings a lot of international business into Malta. It is also easier for us as we already have the networks and the sales activities and partnerships in Europe,” he continues. Lamenting on the complicated banking situation on the island, Mr Podewski goes on to explain the importance of banking relationships with other countries. “Electronic money institutions like ours are not able to open a bank account with local banks. If we want to talk about bringing business to Malta, the banking sector needs to be more open – there is a strong financial services sector and a strong gaming sector, but if local banks do not support us, it makes things difficult.” Meanwhile, when it comes to attracting more international business to the islands and what FinXP can do to facilitate this, Mr Podewski maintains that first and foremost, it is always important to have a good relationship with the regulator. “When we discuss with MFSA, it is a very open and joint discussion to see how we can make things possible. The same goes for the Central Bank of Malta. It is important to communicate,” he says.

“We all have a strong background in the payment industry which goes back many years.” - Jens Podewski, CEO, FinXP FEBRUARY/MARCH 2021

“There are already a lot of international businesses in Malta,” continues Mr Haenel, pointing to the island’s main challenge as that of building the infrastructure required. “Attracting more crypto business, for example, is a good idea, but the regulators can’t come up with the new applications because they are already busy with what they have, and there aren’t many people coming to Malta at present. You lose your staff, and you have to fight to get qualified new staff – that is an issue. When it becomes overwhelmed by its success, it turns into the opposite,” he warns. Turning his attention to current trends within the payments industry, the CEO affirms that against the backdrop of COVID-19, they have seen a change in consumer behaviour. “There’s been a reduction in cash and introduction of new payment options. As for new trends in technology, I still believe that crypto will definitely be among the trends of the future. Even at the European Central Bank level, there is talk of the digital Euro, so this is bound to come about,” he maintains. Adding to this, Mr Haenel posits that Bitcoin is still in the area of speculation. “There are some use cases when it comes to payments, but this is still minor. So, some kind of stable coin that is supported by the central banks, larger economies or large companies like Facebook may be the next big thing – there lies a large opportunity.” cc

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Post-COVID: The quest for a business accelerator By George M. Mangion

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he appointment of new Finance Minister Clyde Caruana has rekindled theories that as an economist, he ushers ground-breaking ideas on how to foster innovation and growth – in the financial services, aviation, manufacturing and gaming industries. One hopes that Mr Caruana will not be hindered by bureaucracy when introducing effective innovation powered by incentive legislation to attract more investment. Perhaps Malta Enterprise will follow to inculcate a sense of ‘yes we can’ at a time when the global economy is set to face a slowdown. Needless to say, research and development has been so far the Cinderella in our industrial 58

kitchen. Few would be bold enough to suggest she be given a makeover to be well dressed, attending the next ball hosted by the developed countries. Really and truly, Malta can try to recover lost ground to become a Med hub for disruptive technology, such as blockchain, robotics and AI, forming part of the plan to host itself as a digital island. Ideally Government will capitalise on the advantage of our comprehensive legislative process so that once the global economy wakes up from the stupor of the pandemic, it will be a springboard for a new Renaissance. The good news is that both political parties profess to substantially increase investment in innovation, and consequently, PKF thinks

that its past efforts to attract a world class organisation in this field does not come a moment too soon. Alas, the dream of having an innovation and business accelerator centre of calibre will prove to be a true catalyst to enrich the existing manufacturing community and attract new talent. This roadmap is an ambitious one, as European governments are in competition to attract international companies and startups, particularly in fintech, AI and blockchain technologies. Which brings the next topic of the necessity of redrawing our ecosystem in innovation and start-up support to compete in the digital world. Quoting from The Economist, it reports that in the twilight of the COVID-19 slowdown, FEBRUARY/MARCH 2021


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there is every reason to bite the bullet and spend more on applied research and development (R&D). This is a safe bet. The same goes for the private sector, which in view of a decline in exports, has started tightening its purse strings. What matters to the economy are not scientific discoveries or the innovations at technology’s cutting edge, but the technology people and firms make widespread use of — not papers in peerreviewed journals or even cool lab creations, but things which pervasively improve the everyday and generate economic activity in doing so. The Economist refers to a study carried by Kenneth Arrow in the 1960s, which shows that the private sector would not fund innovation that economies need to maximise their growth on its own. EU countries currently spend, on average, a bit over two per cent of GDP on R&D. In 2018, though, the most recent year for which data is available, figures from 24 OECD countries showed government spending on R&D rising by a healthy three per cent in real terms following a particularly lean period after the 2007/8 financial crisis. Last year, the French government promised to increase its research budget by 30 per cent over 10 years as part of a new research strategy. PKF in Malta over the past three years had put its shoulder to the wheel by doing pioneering trips to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston, USA, to explore links on how to promote Malta as a haven for potential business accelerators and/or a Life Sciences hub for innovators, inventors and entrepreneurs. This challenge hitherto ignored by the state now looks us straight in the face. Simply put – we need to invest money where our mouth is. This means the new administration FEBRUARY/MARCH 2021

starts by enriching our applied research and development ecosystem to reach an annual sum of two per cent of GDP. It goes without saying that this is no mean task since in the past, we only invested 0.67 per cent annually. One may claim, when there are so many priorities in a post-COVID revival, it is difficult to give first preference to R&D – say to the tune of an extra €300 million. It takes nerves of steel to embark on such a pioneering journey, when the hospitality, domestic demand and manufacturing sectors have been surviving mostly thanks to a Government furlough scheme together with concessions of tax deferrals. Regardless of the challenges ahead, PKF thinks that extra Government funding will complement its continued efforts to attract a world-class organisation specialising in research. The trophy for international success goes to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – a private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, founded in 1861. This knowledge factory was built in response to the increasing industrialisation of the United States. The uniqueness of MIT is in its appetite for problem solving – especially those intractable technical problems whose solutions make a tangible difference. Needless to say, that with its supportive campus environment it houses an incredible number of talented students, and as part of its diversity and its intensely creative atmosphere, both the arts and science flourish in all their forms. It is no stranger to accolades – rated as the world’s best university in chemistry, economics, linguistics, materials sciences, nanotechnology and astronomy. It goes without saying that this impressive learning institution is the pride of the American intelligentsia, and other advanced countries (such as Singapore) have regularly invested in its development to partake of its overflowing chalice of innovation and cutting-edge research. Another interesting landmark is the Boston-based Cambridge Innovation Centre (CIC). This houses many companies in 50,000 square metres of premium office and co-working space across eight facilities, including its expansion in St Louis, Missouri, Miami, Rotterdam, Warsaw and Sydney. A number of high-profile companies know their baptism at CIC – including HubSpot, which now employs over 1,100 people, and raised $125 million through its IPO, and Greatpoint Energy, which several years ago announced a

$1.25 billion deal to build reactors in China. Additionally, Android co-founder Rich Miner built his unique Google Android software. Rich established Google’s New England headquarters there. CIC also has a non-profit sister, the Venture Cafe Foundation (this provides a forum for venture capitalists to scout and help fund new talent). What is so special about CIC? The answer is that as an innovation hub, it succeeded to attract world class start-ups which proved very supportive for the US economy through the generation of premium jobs and its high value-added inventions. Malta, now shouldering the high cost of a COVID stimulus, stands at a crossroads as it pledges to go the digital route. To achieve this, it needs to jump-start the ‘post-COVID’ economy. In conclusion, I quote a study by two MIT economists – Jonathan Gruber and Simon Johnson – suggesting research in new approaches to everything from petrochemicals and agriculture to medicine and computer strategies. Malta deserves nothing less, and PKF augurs that Government bite the bullet and concurrently the Finance Ministry pick up the courage to attract international business accelerators to help start-ups and the private sector to innovate their activities. This will strengthen the link between scientific research and technology-in-use assisted by researchers from Government and academia working alongside those from industry. cc www.pkfmalta.com The author is the Managing Partner of PKF Malta, an audit and advisory firm. PKF Malta is a fast-growing, progressive firm specialising in audit and assurance, tax, advisory services, and internal audit insurance. We provide services to a wide array of clients in a variety of sectors.

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The MCA facilitates growth in e-commerce

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he electronic communications industry has undergone a complete revolution over recent decades, with upcoming innovations on the horizon set to further redefine the industry. Yet, just as the industry has evolved, so has our reliance on connectivity as a society, which is now evident in every aspect of daily life. Now more than ever, businesses have had to acknowledge the indispensable role electronic communication services play when it comes to connecting with customers, generating business, and attracting new investment. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses had no choice but to evolve and adapt. Those that have been dynamic enough in the past year to find and seize new and innovative ways of reaching customers have been the success stories. Having an online presence in today’s business world is no longer optional, but a necessity. The shift towards online platforms brought about by COVID-19 was distinctly clear in the shopping habits of the Maltese, as in many other countries. In fact, in an analysis of the electronic communications and postal sectors by the Malta Communications Authority (MCA) for the third quarter of 2020, we observed that parcel mail volumes went up by 57.6 per cent compared to the same period in 2019. This is a direct result of the surge in e-commerce driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. Without a doubt, the pandemic served to accelerate both the trends as well as the challenges in the telecommunications industry, which have long been in motion. The EU Commission’s Digital Single Market Strategy emphasises the importance of faster and more accessible networks, and calls for a modernised framework to support the move towards a digital society where full equal access to all is the ultimate goal. The MCA has been fostering this ambition by, amongst other things, offering a free, comprehensive e-commerce training FEBRUARY/MARCH 2021

programme known as eBiznify. This practical programme which in 2020 started being organised in partnership with the eSkills Foundation Malta, is specifically designed to give individuals and businesses the correct knowledge and tools to deal with current local market realities, with a focus on longterm success rather than resorting to hasty temporary solutions. The programme is especially relevant in today’s reality, where digital skills need to be sharpened so as to ensure opportunities of e-commerce are exploited by local businesses. By giving participants a holistic view of the e-commerce ecosystem, the programme ensures they are able to unlock their full digital business potential, while being able to overcome realworld challenges. Among its other initiatives to support businesses in their digital journey over the years, the MCA also organised the informative FastTrak programme in 2017, established the Malta Cloud Forum, and published the National eCommerce Strategy for 2014-2020, which is currently being revised and will be published towards mid-2021. Moreover, the MCA is the designated supervisory body for the Regulation (EU) N°910/2014 on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market (eIDAS Regulation), tasked with the supervision of qualified trust service providers with the aim of facilitating any type of electronic transaction between European citizens, companies and public administrations. The e-commerce objective of the MCA has always been to facilitate its growth in Malta. Ongoing developments and recently added responsibilities assigned to the MCA, including the monitoring of activities relative to crossborder portability of online content and geoblocking, also need to be addressed. Going forward, the MCA’s regulatory role will keep becoming more crucial in ensuring reliability and security in the telecommunications sector. The MCA achieves

this through building a dynamic and effective regulatory framework fit for today’s digital age. Telecommunications will be the mainstay upon which businesses will rely on to recover and thrive, even when this pandemic is behind us. Businesses which are redefining their online presence are not likely to stop taking advantage of this wider marketplace. As part of the Authority’s strategy to continue facilitating the development of e-commerce, a defining point will be the European Commission’s overhaul of the current e-Commerce Directive dating back to the year 2000 as part of the Digital Services Act (DSA) package. Together with the Digital Markets Act, these proposed legislative initiatives will address changes and challenges in the digital space, and among other goals, they will help ensure a level playing field for businesses while fostering innovation, growth and competitiveness within a harmonised single market. The EU e-commerce VAT package, which is set to come into effect on 1st July 2021, will also usher in some fundamental changes in Europe’s e-commerce market. Namely, this will see the establishment of the Import-OneStop-Shop model (IOSS) (extension of the OSS) to manage all local import VAT, whereby sellers will account for VAT at the point of sale for imports not exceeding the value of €150. In preparation for these changes, businesses need to have a clear understanding of their VAT obligations, so they are able to get the most out of these new measures. The electronic communications industry is guaranteed to continue shaping the way business operates, uncovering new avenues for innovation and setting the tone for future developments. Therefore, coordinating and laying out the necessary policy and regulatory foundations is invaluable to ensure that the market continues to evolve and remains unfazed in the face of future challenges. cc www.mca.org.mt 61


Style Review

Our outings may still be restricted, but that only makes it more fun to put our best fashion foot forward when we do leave the house. Sarah Micallef takes a look at the top trends for spring. 01. The re-imagined trench The trench coat may be a classic item that never truly goes out of style, and this season offers a twist on the typical silhouette. Take inspiration from designers like Loewe, Louis Vuitton, and Prada, and dress up your trench with dramatic lapels, bold sleeves or an interesting slit this season.

02. Oversize shirts Why borrow your partner’s shirt when you can have your own? The oversized shirt will be a winner this season, with billowing silhouettes in bright colours and extra-long shapes scoring top style points. Look to Valentino, Balenciaga and Coach for how to pull it off.

03. Floral motifs Florals for spring aren’t new, and this year is no different, but the type of prints that top designers are going for will certainly get you

noticed. There’s no time for muted tones this season, as bold, bright florals promise to bring some much-needed sunshine into our lives. Runway versions of this look appeared in collections by Tom Ford, Valentino and Marni, and we can’t get enough!

REVIEW 01.

04. Chic windbreakers Parkas have never looked so stylish, thanks to the fresh sportswear-inspired designs of top trend-setters like Burberry, Salvatore Ferragamo and Miu Miu. Athletic wear has well and truly infiltrated our wardrobes in recent years, and this is further proof that it’s here to stay.

05. Cinched waist A classic silhouette that always hits all the right notes is the cinched-in waist, and this spring, it’ll be everywhere. Take a leaf out of collections by Chanel, Fendi and Chloe for a take on a strong silhouette that’s always a winner.

06. Bold shoulders They may be reminiscent of the ‘80s for those of us who are old enough to remember, but strong shoulders are back in full force this season. Comme des Garçons, Carolina Herrera, Moschino, and Givenchy are just some of the designers to champion the trend this spring, and we’re all for it. cc

05. Salvato re Ferr agamo

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Loewe

Chanel

02. Balenciaga

04. 06. Givenchy

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03. Tom Ford

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CC INTERVIEW

On the front line: combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism As anticipation of the much talked about Moneyval report reaches fever pitch and Malta continues to work towards improving its reputation in international financial circles, Sarah Micallef sits down with Kenneth Farrugia, Director of the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit, to discover the major strides taken by the FIAU in recent years, and its valuable work in combatting money laundering and terrorist financing on the island.

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oncealed within the shadows of myriad legitimate businesses around the world, a dark underbelly operates unseen, laundering large amounts of money generated by criminal activity – such as drug trafficking, human trafficking and corruption 64

– and making it appear to have come from a legitimate source. To put a stop to it, various entities, from the Police to Malta Government institutions, cooperate and rely on the support of the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU).

In Malta, the FIAU was established by statute through amendments to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act almost 20 years ago. As an autonomous and operationally independent Government agency, it is not subject to any interference FEBRUARY/MARCH 2021


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or influence by other authorities, and has multiple functions, a critical fact which was also recognised and acknowledged in the Moneyval report. Among these, Director Kenneth Farrugia explains, are the collection, analysis and dissemination of intelligence; the risk-based monitoring and supervision of compliance by ‘subject persons’ (financial services providers, gaming operators and Designated Non-Financial Business and Professions) with Anti-Money Laundering/Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) obligations; and enforcement, through the imposition of administrative measures including financial penalties. Operating within its capacity not only as a financial intelligence Unit but also an AML/ CFT regulatory and supervisory authority, the FIAU has grown exponentially since its humble beginnings, going from 39 staff a mere three years ago to a capable team of 103 – and they’re not stopping there. In accordance with the FIAU’s development plan, the Director reveals that staff numbers are expected to reach 154 by the end of 2021, with the Unit soon to be moving to new 3,000 square-metre offices. This increase in human resources was recommended by various international supervisory bodies, such as Moneyval, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Banking Authority (EBA). Delving into the FIAU’s Intelligence function, the Director explains that the Intelligence Analysis Section receives Suspicious Transaction Reports (STRs) from subject persons who have AML/CFT obligations. “Once the STR is received, the ball is set in motion to evaluate the report, based on whether it is a valid STR which points in the direction of suspicious behaviours or transactions,” says Mr Farrugia. Next, the FIAU begins its analysis by making requests for information from local stakeholders like banks, financial institutions, registry of companies and tax authorities and the Police, foreign entities if necessary and other sources including web searches, databases and other publicly available information. The information gleaned, he continues, is often shared and exchanged with other FIUs in a total of 160 jurisdictions as necessary, in order to ascertain whether any of it points to a reasonable suspicion of money laundering or financing of terrorism. This being the case, the Unit will hand over a comprehensive report to the Police, triggering a criminal investigation. Information is also shared with other Authorities if necessary. Elaborating on the Unit’s remit, the Director maintains that the FIAU does not criminally investigate, FEBRUARY/MARCH 2021

“Collaboration between authorities has proven to be crucial and the results are being seen. If we work in silos, we can’t achieve the ultimate objective.” arrest or prosecute. It is immediately apparent that the processes involved are painstaking, detailed and require high levels of cooperation with numerous entities. “Our functions require the use of a number of tools to source intelligence, information and data,” Mr Farrugia reveals, noting that it all needs to be done with the utmost discretion and often in secrecy. Because of this, the processes can be lengthy depending on the depth, severity and breadth of the case, meaning that on average, it can take weeks, and sometimes even months, to finalise. However, as the Director goes on to point out, the FIAU has another crucial role which helps protect Malta from financial crime – it is the island’s single AML/CFT supervisory authority. In other words, “it is our role to make sure that our gatekeepers are following their AML/CFT obligations to safeguard themselves and Malta.” Supervision takes place in cycles, and the method, depth and regularity of this is based on the risks which the subject persons are exposed to, he says, noting,

“the higher the risk, the more regular and in depth the supervision exercise.” Here too, the FIAU relies on collaboration, roping in external experts if required, as well as other authorities like the Malta Gaming Authority and the Malta Financial Services Authority. Once again, the supervision process may take anything from weeks to months, and once a review is finalised, which also takes into consideration the representations made by the subject person; a report highlighting areas of concern is presented, with a Compliance Monitoring Committee going on to decide on the appropriate course of action. Within both the FIAU’s functions, Mr Farrugia says, “collaboration between authorities has proven to be crucial and the results are being seen. If we work in silos, we can’t achieve the ultimate objective.” The team is tasked with the supervision of some 2,400 subject persons, and benefits from an AML/CFT administrative enforcement function, which enables them to issue remedial actions and pecuniary fines. However, Mr Farrugia says, “it’s not 65


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just about issuing a fine, which according to international standards, has to be effective, proportionate and dissuasive, it’s also about ensuring that the subject person has implemented the necessary courses of action to tackle their shortcomings. It’s useless paying fines if you maintain the same practices.” In this regard, the Unit has invested heavily in follow-up actions, he continues, “so rather than simply issuing a report and a fine, the FIAU issues directives whereby clear timelines by when such actions should be implemented are requested and are followed up.” The FIAU has also recently launched the Centralised Bank Account Register (CBAR), in order to oversee the collection and retrieval of data on bank and payment accounts identifiable by IBAN, safe custody services and safe deposit boxes provided by credit and financial institutions within the Maltese territory. Discussing this new function entrusted to the FIAU, Mr Farrugia affirms, “this information is highly useful because it makes us efficient in undertaking our intelligence search, and the system is also used by other entities including the Police and other competent authorities. This data system has enabled the FIAU to reduce searches for information from five days to mere minutes. It is one of the major projects we undertook in 2020.” But the work doesn’t stop there. Another important function of the Unit comprises legal and international relations, whereby the FIAU is entrusted with the drafting of amendments or new laws according to developments arising from EU Directives or otherwise. One such example of a law being drafted by the FIAU, is the Use of Cash (Restriction) Regulation, which was recently presented to Government. Finally, the FIAU’s role is not just to sanction subject persons, he maintains, but also to provide guidance – and in this area, a recently dedicated Guidance and Outreach section is a “standard setter”, playing a critical role in ensuring that all are well informed and updated on their AML/ CFT obligations. “This is done via various publications which aim to educate and clarify, and also via training sessions and informative webinars,” he says. On a personal level, Mr Farrugia was appointed Director of the FIAU in 2017, and with so many large strides having been

“More awareness is needed – even across the general public – but especially subject persons – on the fact that behind money laundering, there are often serious and horrendous crimes.” 66

made since then, finds it difficult to pinpoint landmark moments. Hard pressed to do so, he highlights the implementation of the European Banking Authority and Moneyval action plan and building a good relationship with the European Banking Authority (EBA) and the European Commission. “We had 138 action points from the EBA to implement, and we did so within a six-month period. It was the result of a combined team effort, and many staff members within the FIAU dedicated long hours to pull this off. We now have the EBA coming to us to discuss certain initiatives and recommendations, and we collaborate with them closely and give them our feedback,” he says. Another feather in the Director’s cap is related to capacity building within the FIAU itself, thus significantly improving its governance structure and resources. “The FIAU is not comparable to what it was just a few years ago. In 2016 we had four teams, for example, and we now have 19 distinct teams, allowing our people to build expertise and specialisation.” Among the Unit’s most notable achievements since its inception, the Director highlights increasing general awareness of AML/CFT obligations; improving AML/ CFT compliance in Malta; and a complete overhaul of its policies and systems, both in its intelligence function as well as in

supervision. He highlights going live with the FIAU’s Compliance and Supervision Platform for Assessing Risk (CASPAR), the goAML antimoney laundering system and CBAR, all in the space of a couple of years. “These are three mega systems that enable the FIAU to do so much more, increase efficiency and effectiveness, and also ensure that we are adopting a well-functioning risk-based approach,” he says, adding that the Unit is also seeing acknowledgment from Government through a marked push to ensure that sectors are compliant, alongside a huge investment in the Unit itself, both from a technical perspective and a financial one. “When I joined the FIAU, we had an allocated budget of approximately €900,000, and today Government invests nearly €9 million a year,” he explains. Turning his attention to Malta’s upcoming Moneyval evaluation, Mr Farrugia asserts that, although the Unit certainly plays a central role, it doesn’t all depend on the FIAU. “The Moneyval assessment was a peer-to-peer assessment that looks into the whole system of a country in combatting money laundering and terrorist financing,” he explains, noting that ensuring a positive outcome depends on the input of all authorities and ministries that have a role to play in combatting crime. In this respect, much has been done by the FIAU and other national authorities

Photos by Inigo Taylor

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“In 2016 we had four teams, and we now have 19 distinct teams, allowing our people to build expertise and specialisation.”

and agencies, he states. Among these, he once again highlights the introduction of CASPAR – “an efficient, user-friendly and automated system implemented to support the Supervision Section in the monitoring of subject persons.” Meanwhile, on the side of intelligence, “STRs shot up, goAML is live, the FIAU has gained access to more external databases, and is disseminating more intelligence nationally and internationally,” making him confident that “we have a lot to show to FATF and Moneyval. And from our point of view – we’re very pleased with what the FIAU, thanks to our dedicated people here, has accomplished.” Beyond the report, I ask about the FIAU’s primary recommendations for the country, so as to ensure a continued positive standing in terms of good governance and financial crime. To do this, the Director says, “more awareness is needed – even across the general public – but especially subject persons – on the fact that behind money laundering, there are often serious and horrendous crimes – drug trafficking, human trafficking, organised crime, extortion, embezzlement and fraud, for example, and there are real victims – often unseen in a professionally-executed money laundering operation.” FEBRUARY/MARCH 2021

Aside from this, Mr Farrugia feels that more work needs to be done to improve Malta’s reputation. “Over the past three years, much work and positive developments have taken place in the local sphere, which is also in line with the trends and shifts in AML/CFT visible in other European jurisdictions. As a country we can work together – private sector, including representative bodies and the public sector – to show that Malta’s ability to prevent, detect and combat money laundering and terrorist financing has improved significantly,” he says. Elucidating on the importance of the FIAU’s work for the country, the Director is steadfast in his insistence that Malta should fight crime at all costs. “It does not bode well for Malta if it is used by criminals to launder proceeds of crime, or fund terrorism,” he maintains, and the work done by the FIAU, along with other entities, goes towards keeping the economy safe from misuse and ensuring that as far as possible, the money being invested and going through our financial system and economy is clean. Apart from this, he continues, “fighting money laundering is key to stem the flow of serious crimes. Whilst money laundering is a crime in itself, the biggest concern is where

the money being laundered derives from – the predicate crime.” Looking ahead, the Director has a few targets he would like to see Malta achieve by the end of the year – the first being a strengthened reputation. “With so many improvements that have taken place, Malta deserves more. All authorities have stepped up their game. Operators who weren’t up to scratch had to improve a lot, and some even left for other countries with more lax supervision and regulation,” he shares. Another improvement on Mr Farrugia’s radar is better AML/CFT compliance and a shift in culture by subject persons to view compliance as a means to protect them, their business, and their reputation; as well as greater use of intelligence and collaboration. “We’ve been working very closely with the Police and other authorities – and their work naturally takes time to come to fruition – but we’re already seeing a lot of developments. We hope to continue to see close collaboration between the authorities, representative bodies and subject persons, because they are part of the system that is there to prevent and detect whether something illicit is taking place. We need to be one team, working together to achieve this common goal,” he says. cc 67


CC INNOVATION

Leading the innovation game for medical and scientific solutions With a portfolio of local and international clients ranging from major pharmaceutical companies and hospitals to universities and laboratories, Evolve is in the industry of innovation that helps to save lives. Martina Said chats with Ritianne Schembri, Division Manager of Technical Service and Projects Department, to learn about her role within the company, leading her team of specialised engineers through tough times, and the company’s plans for the year ahead.

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n Evolve’s line of work, the level of quality and accuracy of service could literally mean life or death for a patient using their scientific and medical equipment. In turn, the aftersales service they provide to customers is particularly crucial – and an aspect of the company’s portfolio that Ritianne Schembri, Technical Service and Projects Department Manager at Evolve, is especially proud of. Ms Schembri’s journey with Evolve – which provides custom-made medical and scientific solutions ranging from new lab supplies to specialist equipment – began in 2013, when she came in contact with the company’s Director, Chris Busuttil, with whom she had achieved the same Bachelor’s Degree at University years prior. “We discussed an offer for consultation related to ISO 9001 certification. I was then briefed about the different processes this relatively small enterprise is involved in and became curious about how it operates.”

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Fast forward to 2016, and Ms Schembri joined the company as Division Manager of Technical Service, leading a team of technicians who are specifically trained and employed to offer the aftersales service. In 2019, she was promoted to Division Manager of Technical Service and Projects Department, which included the additional role of managing turnkey projects related to the scientific field, such as medical cannabis. Sharing what attracted her to make the move to Evolve five years ago, Ms Schembri says the fact that the company not only offers a variety of professional services and equipment in the two major fields of medicine and science, but also provides the required aftersales service for its vast portfolio, was one winning factor. “This entails having field service engineers who are knowledgeable about various pieces of equipment and techniques in both the medical and scientific fields, assisting

“I know that the company has very ambitious targets, both locally and internationally, and being a part of that will be a dream come true for me.” demanding customers. Indeed, our personnel consistently rank very well among their foreign peers when attending training.” Evolve’s family-friendly work measures and its customer-driven approach were also attractive to her. “The company is fully committed towards the customer and to addressing a problem by putting ourselves in their shoes and putting them first, even if it hurts our bottom line financially. I have personally witnessed many such decisions being made, even recently.” The fast-paced nature of Evolve’s industry means that staying ahead of new developments in the sector is crucial to

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CC INNOVATION

its success. Ms Schembri explains that their customers and suppliers demand the highest standards of service, knowledge and care. “In order to keep abreast of the latest developments in the field, all staff regularly attends training organised by suppliers, local and foreign professionals and competent bodies.” “Before COVID-19, most of these courses would be carried out at our suppliers’ premises overseas in order to get hands-on experience and also meet other scientists and engineers in the field, where we used to exchange work experiences and practices,” she asserts. “Nowadays, these are mostly done online, with some brave suppliers travelling to Malta to assist and train us. It is far from ideal, but for now it will have to do. We cannot afford to stop our training, which also means we have to do much more reading and research ourselves.” Adding to the company’s vast portfolio is its latest endeavour: the medical cannabis sector. Evolve is leading several high-profile projects in this area and, last year, completed the project for the first approved medical cannabis facility in Malta. “Currently, there are a few more projects that we are working on in this novel area – mostly in Malta, but also elsewhere in Europe. We have signed a tripartite agreement with companies that complement our areas of expertise to really offer a 360-degree service to our customers in this emerging field.” Ms Schembri adds that Evolve’s Director also went ahead and organised the setting up of the Medical Cannabis Operators Business Section within The Malta Chamber to assist the local sector. “He also chairs this committee, which addresses challenges that are common to all members and aims to resolve them, while creating a thriving ecosystem by working alongside all the relevant competent authorities and policy makers.” Sharing her experience of leading her team through the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year, Ms Schembri explains that it was indeed challenging – and still is, especially for the service department. “Our job is to visit and service equipment at the customer site. So unfortunately, remote working wasn’t really an option for us. Our customers did not stop, and thus we had to be there for them and give them our full support.” Singling out a specific challenge, Ms Schembri explains that technicians had to adapt to a new shift pattern overnight in order to meet the requirements of one customer. “As a leader, I ensured that all

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“The company is fully committed towards the customer and to addressing a problem by putting ourselves in their shoes and putting them first, even if it hurts our bottom line financially.”

the team is well aware of the protective measures they needed to take in their everyday job – and also what measures are to be expected from the customer.” “Some of the technicians are also frontliners – providing 24/7 support to the hospital on various medical equipment. Regular internal and external communication, including with leading virologists, helped to keep us going and informed,” she adds. “My constant support, including being there with them in the field and good teamwork kept us strong, and we all did what was necessary in order to ensure that our mission of contributing to improving the well-being of humanity is maintained even during this difficult period.” A positive development for the company as a result of the pandemic is its investment in an Augmented Reality system, “which we are very excited to be launching soon onto the market. This will mostly help our engineers get direct real-time feedback from our peers and, in turn, for our experts to help our partners in remote parts of the world for our international projects.” Speaking of her personal ambitions within the company, Ms Schembri asserts that her aim is to continue to grow, learn and experience whatever new challenges lie ahead. “I know that the company has

very ambitious targets, both locally and internationally, and being a part of that will be a dream come true for me,” she states. “I definitely see myself as a major contributor in this sense, and I have lots to offer across the board. Being involved in the overseeing of the whole operation of Evolve and the implementation of our business strategy would surely play to my strengths.” As for the company’s plans and projections for the year ahead, Ms Schembri explains that Evolve’s top management has identified the need to transform into the next phase of the business’s life cycle. “In the current growth phase, we added more of the same products on the market, but now, we need to proceed to the next growth phase of being an international, award-winning leader in the scientific and healthcare markets offering professional services.” “So yes,” she continues, “there are plans to make the necessary changes in order for Evolve to grow further, and we’ve implemented a process that is rarely used locally, called zero-base budgeting. Moreover, we have for some years now embarked on a continuous digital transformation of the company and assistive robotic process automation is a big part of our future. We are solidly focused on adding value to whoever we serve. That is our purpose.” cc

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CC BUSINESS

Meet the people behind the Young Chamber Network The Malta Chamber’s Young Chamber Network (YCN) is a subsidiary of the organisation aimed at inducting young businesspeople into its folds. In this series of interviews, The Commercial Courier introduces its readers to YCN members. In this issue, Sarah Micallef meets Edward Cachia, Founder of Machia and Sebastian Ripard, CEO at TXF Tech.

Edward Cachia Founder, Machia “Machia is a management consulting firm that specialises in political strategy and risk management of governmental politics. The company analyses political decision-making situations that take place around the world and limits their negative impact towards companies,” explains Founder Edward Cachia. “Geopolitics is an underrated risk in Malta and the company was set up in order to expose this risk to potential clients and diminish its impact, both locally and abroad,” he continues, affirming that in short, “world politics is Machia’s commodity and Machia tells company directors, board members and C-level executives how to deal with it.” Having studied political studies and strategic management, and establishing his career within the field of investment and private wealth management, Edward says that the idea behind Machia came about during his studies, noting that the two correlate more than just financially. “I saw the opportunity and I had the motive and competence to establish such a company in the Maltese market,” he explains. Speaking of his reasons for joining the Young Chamber Network, Edward highlights a tendency in Malta for young entrepreneurs to mainly open companies within the technological industry, affirming that in reality, not all young entrepreneurs are starting companies within that sphere. “Some, like Machia, deal with philosophical issues that, to this day, no tech can give a definitive answer to, and the YCN within The Chamber is the only organisation in Malta that can cater for such companies, especially those operating within emerging non-tech markets such as mine,” he maintains. The entrepreneur feels that above all, the YCN can be beneficial to young businesspeople by offering a new perspective. “The YCN presents new perspectives to members that one wouldn’t get from other similar organisations. Furthermore, from an organisation such as this, one can understand how to adapt their product accordingly, through networking

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events and meetings. This is applicable to almost all competitive industries that are present, or shall emerge, in Malta,” Edward says. Turning his attention to how the YCN can be beneficial to members given the changing face of the local economy in the wake of COVID-19, he notes, “I think that a push for mental help and mentorship can help young businesspeople, especially if this is their first year as business owners, facing such a daunting burden.” Apart from this, he emphasises the importance of adaptability, “not just from a technological perspective but also from a market risk perspective.”

“The YCN presents new perspectives to members that one wouldn't get from other similar organisations.”

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CC BUSINESS

“The Chamber is where stakeholders can meet – it is the forum that can connect the private and public sectors in meaningful dialogue.”

Sebastian Ripard CEO, TXF Tech – partners for Bolt in Malta, Cyprus & Tunisia “Bolt is in the business of creating digital marketplaces,” begins TXF Tech CEO Sebastian Ripard, asserting that the aim of any marketplace is to connect supplier with consumer. “Bolt leverages its tech know-how to connect supplier with consumer through a digital ecosystem. The business of TXF Tech is to act as Bolt’s agent in Malta, Cyprus and Tunisia, supporting the creation and operation of these digital marketplaces.” Having started his career working for a fashion retailer in Malta and North Africa before joining a shipping company based in Malta, Sebastian says that he became frustrated with the lack of technology in both industries. “The importance of technology became extremely apparent as the platform economy rose out of the ashes of the 2008 global economic crash,” he explains, highlighting disrupters like Uber, AirBnB and Ryanair, which leveraged technology to match supplier and consumer in efficient and innovative ways, which quickly made them become existential threats to incumbent players within those industries.

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His first experience in a tech-based platform business came about through Fetchit, an on-demand delivery company that Sebastian co-founded. “Whilst this did not turn out to be a business success, it taught me a lot about how difficult and expensive (both in time and money!) it was to get the technology right,” he reveals, adding that this led him on to Bolt, which is a great fit. “Our Estonian partners provide us with fantastic technology (as well as the brand and other crucial ingredients) and our role is to operate and maintain the different marketplaces,” he explains. According to Sebastian, his involvement with the Young Chamber Network came about as a consequence of the nature of the business he is in. “As with any other technological change and disruption, the platform economy forces us to re-evaluate laws and regulations,” he says, calling for regulatory catch-up which acknowledges that it is here to stay and will continue to exist. “We believe that we should start a national discussion on finding an equitable way forward to ensure that the platform economy can truly deliver value to all of its stakeholders.” “As a company, we intend to initiate a round table initiative with a number of

stakeholders to first explain the platform economy and its fundamentals, but more importantly, to ensure that Malta can be a model country in this regard,” Sebastian continues, adding that The Chamber is the best place for such a discussion to take place. “The Chamber is where stakeholders can meet – it is the forum that can connect the private and public sectors in meaningful dialogue.” Addressing the changing face of the local economy as a result of COVID-19, the CEO believes that the economy is in constant change, and as the rate of technological development increases, so too will the rate of economic change increase. “I see The Chamber continuing to be the forum that it currently is, providing the space where all stakeholders, private and public, can come together and have meaningful discussions. Whilst this is currently the role that The Chamber plays, I believe it needs to work hard at continuing to have relevant discussions. As the rate of change increases, so too will the need for these discussions to happen and be concluded. The time for never-ending discussion is over, the need to be agile and reactive is becoming increasingly apparent.” cc

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GADGETS

Tech Trends

Looking for a new, hightech toaster or a nifty little gadget for your office’s video conference room? Martina Said rounds up some of the latest, and trendiest, gadgets to kickstart 2021. 01. Harman Kardon Aura Studio 3 A revered producer of iconic designs, Harman Kardon is following its trendsetting Soundstick speaker with the new Aura Studio 3 Bluetooth speaker. Within the superb glass dome is a 360-degree speaker system that connects to your device via Bluetooth, delivering stunning sound around your home.

02. Philips 4K HDR display For those who use their TV for gaming more than watching actual TV, the latest release from Philips boasts lots of tempting features, including sound by audio experts Bowers & Wilkins, a beautiful large display for optimal visuals, and a super-fast response time at ultra-HD resolution.

01. 05. Meeting Owl Pro As remote meetings won’t be going anywhere fast, this nifty gadget is a must-have for video conferences. The camera autofocuses on whoever’s speaking with exceptional video and sound quality, making it a great office device for video conferencing rooms, created by Owl Labs.

06. EZVIZ C3N This neat and discreet outdoor smart Wi-Fi camera by EZVIZ boasts AIpowered person detection capability and three night-vision modes, which can render sharp colour images even in pitch darkness. It’s also highly durable, capable of withstanding all the elements thrown its way. cc

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03. Balmuda The Toaster After an elegantly-designed kettle comes a super cool toaster. Japanese company Balmuda, known for its forward-thinking designs, has released The Toaster, a (pricey) little oven that turns water into steam and passes it over bread in controlled temperature phases, that ensures it maintains its quality while toasting.

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04. Apple Watch 6 The latest series of Apple Watches unveils a host of new features that revolutionise wearable health technology. It can measure your blood oxygen level with a new sensor and app, and carry out an ECG at any time, alongside its fitness tracking settings and enhanced Retina display.

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FOOD&WINE 01.

Food Trends

From emerging new flavours to a hankering for the classics, Sarah Micallef discovers what is trending in the food world in the months to come. 01. Childhood favourites

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It’s been a trying year, so it’s no surprise that people are continuing to seek comfort in food. This has given rise to a certain nostalgia for foods associated with childhood, particularly if they’re ones that require a little more time and patience to make. Depending on country and region, this could be anything from pumpkin pie to traditional local favourites like kusksu and timpana.

02. Hemp The growing wave of people who want to incorporate more plant-based meals into their diet is still going strong, and the next big thing in plant protein is hemp. It works as an alternative for soy, and is vegan to boot, making it a super healthy option for anyone following a Keto, Paleo or vegan diet.

03. Regional foods Foods associated with specific regions are gaining popularity, and this year, we’re set to see more regional specific foods on restaurant menus. Look out for

Szechuan, Cantonese, or Hunan style versus traditional Chinese dishes for a new, authentic flavour experience.

04. Healthy snacking A trend that’s been growing for a few years, health snack food will continue to enjoy the spotlight. The rise of working from home initiatives across the globe has led many of us to indulge in more snacking than we’re used to, making snacking on healthy foods like almonds all the more important.

05. Mezcal If you’re constantly on the hunt for the next big thing when it comes to food and drink, you need to give Mezcal a try. A distilled spirit made from the agave plant, which is also how we get tequila, it’s being dubbed as the next new trending spirit, and owing to its smoky flavour, works beautifully when incorporated into a number of specialty cocktails.

06. Tacos Another trend that owes its rise in popularity to more home cooking, the taco is a natural development of wanting to experiment with all we can wrap in a tortilla. The world is your oyster when it comes to fillings, from the traditional ground beef, cheddar cheese, and lettuce to cauliflower, mushrooms, and chicken. cc

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CC MAKE THE HEADLINES

The power tool of scientific analysis and research, Chromatography, supported in Malta through Evolve Ltd Chromatography is the wide term for laboratory techniques designed for the separation or analysis of complex mixtures. These techniques are used in many research, analytical, forensic and clinical labs in applications such as pesticide residue analysis, toxicology and testing for impurities and active ingredients in pharmaceuticals. Evolve has been the pioneer in supporting and maintaining large network-based chromatographic systems in Malta. With well over 100 Waters Inc. High and Ultra Performance Liquid Chromatography instruments including bespoke solutions, Evolve is the undisputed authority on anything to do with chromatography in the country. The experience acquired over the years is second to none. Our many highly

From resilience to reinvention

When the pandemic emerged early last year, leading insurers GasanMamo Insurance responded by taking immediate steps to ensure business continuity and help customers and their communities cope. Technology was vital in helping the company shift to remote work environments, and in ensuring employees had the tools to safely conduct business while remaining connected with distributors and clients. 76

trained, fully qualified and experienced analytical service engineers, including a Chromatography Specialist, as well as our ample stock of spares and consumables, offer the utmost peace of mind to any customer that his Chromatography investment will be well looked after. To complete our service, we also provide training and expert advice in new techniques to our customers. At Evolve, we champion potential to help the people, businesses and institutions we serve. We support our customers at every stage of their journey, we’re easy to deal with and we’re powered by a love of science, innovation and building long-lasting partnerships with our suppliers and clients alike. cc T: 2248 9900; E: info@evolveltd.eu; www.evolveltd.eu

The level of change that had to take place to ensure business retention and maintaining the same high level of client servicing included a digital transformation, data-driven processes and understanding, and being empathic about what this has meant for employees and customers alike. By its very nature, insurance operates within the risk business, making it very challenging. But the organisation’s track record has proven that GasanMamo Insurance is always there for people, no matter what. The hallmarks of its success include the core essentials of skills, scale and productivity, as well as the ability to create innovative solutions for the challenges facing modern society. Building on the foundations of transformation, GasanMamo Insurance Managing Director Julian Mamo says the company remains open to new ideas. He believes that the need for financial protection is likely to increase, and offering easy, reliable accessibility to the right products and services will be key. Commoditisation of products and services will also drive the need to differentiate on customer experience, based on the significant influence of digital in daily life and the current pandemic. A strong CSR strategy and a renewed commitment towards sustainability will also play an important part, and the company will continue to

support both through its own endeavours, introducing recycling initiatives, supporting environmental NGOs and continued investment in technology. Mr Mamo also believes that the coming year and beyond will hopefully see a greater emphasis placed on preparing for such an event to ensure that issues that arose during the pandemic, such as the business interruptions and uncertainties, to say nothing of the financial strain on businesses and individuals, do not happen again. cc www.gasanmamo.com

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CC MAKE THE HEADLINES

Implementing enterprise resource planning in 2021 As 2020 now lies behind us, many business owners are left wondering what the new year has in store. In addition to the optimism and energy often experienced at the beginning of each year, 2021 looks to be one filled with ample opportunity for impactful change and the adaptation of innovative new ways of thinking. The vast majority of organisations are eager to take on new digital transformation initiatives: including the revamping of already existing processes, improving on last year’s workflows, and ensuring the well-being and productivity of their employees. Most notably, 2021 has provided businesses with the perfect opportunity to

consider an Enterprise Resource Planning solution or to upgrade an existing legacy ERP system. Here are some considerations for business owners looking to gain a competitive edge by implementing an ERP system. Solution scalability: The right ERP solution should be one that effectively supports your business’ growth. By choosing a truly scalable solution, you are ensuring that your ERP can easily adapt to the trajectory of your business, allowing you to seamlessly take on new markets, as well as keeping up with the increases in transactions, workloads and data. Hosting type: Another key point for any business looking towards implementing an ERP solution would be the debate between opting for Cloud or On-Premise hosting. While both are viable options for most companies, the final decision is dependent on the size and resources available to your company. Your organisation needs to take note of these factors during the decisionmaking process. Support: Lastly, it is also vital for your vendor to provide reliable customer support, with ERP experts who are there to assist

with any issues that your organisation may encounter with this new system. Ensuring this support is available is pivotal in the smooth sailing of your new ERP project. Exigy has a proven track record of successful digital transformations across a multi-industry customer base over the past 18 years. 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 info@exigy.com or by visiting our website at www.exigy.com. cc


CC MEET THE ARTIST

A kaleidoscope of colour Artist Jo Dounis has an innate sense of adventure, evident in stories of her life and in her artistic accomplishments, which include pursuing a career in art and interior design. She chats with Martina Said about her love of colour, travel and doing things differently.

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he journey of artist Jo Dounis is one of perseverance, and never losing sight of something that brings joy and satisfaction. An abstract artist with a deep love for colour, her road to becoming a working artist wasn’t a straight one, but after dedicating most of her free time to painting later on in life, there was no turning back.

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Born in Malta, Jo is the daughter of an architect and admits that, as a child, she loved watching her father work, back when computers didn’t exist and he did everything by hand. “I especially loved it when he did a watercolour and pen painting of a building he was working on, which he would then present to whoever had commissioned him. I started

drawing and colouring as soon as I could hold a pencil.” Jo explains that her father was a great influence on her love for art and architecture. While she studied art at school, she left Malta at the age of 18 to work in Greece and Italy, and a few years later, she met and married her Greek husband, making Greece her home

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CC MEET THE ARTIST

for 13 years, followed by five years living in Naples. “I have two children, one born in Naples and one in Athens, and during that period of my life, I continued drawing and painting for my own pleasure as well as designing children’s clothing.” Jo returned to Malta with her two thenyoung children after 18 years away. “Being a single mother was very difficult and the responsibility of raising two young children on my own forced me to get a full-time job. I had no time to paint but my creativity and love for colour, light and form was expressed through interior and furniture design, which I studied as soon as my children were older and continued by pursuing it professionally.” Some years ago, Jo purchased a seafront home with a glass façade that showed off the best open sea and sky views. “I decided to keep my furniture as neutral as possible, opting to fill my walls with art which would

reflect my passion for colour, light and organic form,” she explains. “When I didn’t find what I was looking for in the local art community, I decided to experiment myself and express physically what I was seeing in my mind’s eye. After spending most of my free time covered in paint, my desire to express myself through art was rekindled and there was no stopping me. My art started to attract attention and interest, and my paintings started to sell.” Describing her present work and style, Jo says it is “ethereal, fluid and organic, with colour and light being the primary essences. I also love to use negative space in some of my paintings. Even though I can appreciate all art genres, I have to admit that I was always drawn to abstract or semi-abstract art which focused more on the clever use of colour.” Indeed, Jo sums up her passion for colour in a lovely way, saying “if I could, I would paint over everything which is ugly in our world with beautiful colour. I would love to bring colour into the lives of as many people

as possible. For me, it is the most therapeutic thing in the world.” Surrounded by colour, the artist finds inspiration from what she sees at home or, as an avid traveller, on her trips to near and distant corners of the world, “and which have had some form of impact on me by inciting strong emotions or feelings, whether they come from nature or human fabrication.” Nature is a central source of inspiration for Jo – one day it could be a lovely garden or a landscape, and on another, it could be a beautiful sky, constellations, or a beach. “But it’s not only nature – even things that are man-made and still beautiful can be inspiring. Anything where the colours almost take my breath away. I don’t try and reproduce the scene which I see. I use the colours or similar colours and turn them into something which speaks to me. Sometimes, I’ll take photos and note the colours, and then use them in my next piece.” Her fascination with the way different colours blend, flow and interact together, creating organic forms and designs, led her

“After spending most of my free time covered in paint, my desire to express myself through art was rekindled and there was no stopping me.”

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CC MEET THE ARTIST

“If I could, I would paint over everything which is ugly in our world with beautiful colour.”

to use a fluid art technique as a base to create abstract, semi-abstract or figurative art on canvas or various non-porous surfaces, such as glass, plexiglass or board. Given the sheer fluidity of her work, is there any planning involved with the creation of a new piece? “There is always ‘planning’ involved, even though the finished piece may not turn out to be what I first envisioned. First, I decide on the background, then I choose the colours which I want to work with. I will also plan the form which I want to project in the painting.” She begins by pouring the paint onto the chosen surface and pushing it around with various tools. “Sometimes it takes many additional layers and brushwork to get to something that I’m happy with. For instance, in the chromatic series, as the name implies, it was about showcasing groups of colours inspired by different things. In fact, the name of each piece is indicative of what inspired me.” Jo achieves her stunning paintings using predominantly acrylic paints, “because they are more forgiving than other media. If I’m not happy with the way a piece is progressing, I can add more layers to get it to where I want to.” Being an interior designer and an artist, I ask Jo whether her two professions ever collide. In fact, she shares, they happen to be a perfect marriage. “Since colour and light are both an integral part of interior design, I would say that each one complements the other. When I do an interior, I often think of a painting which would look amazing in that particular space, and sometimes in my

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CC MEET THE ARTIST

“I believe that abstract art gives you the freedom to interpret it as you wish. It allows your emotions to rule, rather than your head.”

art, I’m inspired by an element in an interior design project which I am doing or have done in the past.” As an abstract artist, Jo hails from a genre of art that is not as widely valued or understood as those genres closer in style to realism. Asked whether she thinks there is an appreciation for abstract art in Malta, she says “this is purely my opinion, but I don’t think abstract art is as prolific in Malta as it is overseas and maybe, this is an indication of what the majority of local collectors are after.” “Not everyone appreciates abstract art,” she continues. “Many people feel that they don’t understand it because it doesn’t depict something familiar, so they play it safe and opt for something which they can relate to. I believe that abstract art gives you the freedom to interpret it as you wish. It allows your emotions to rule, rather than your head.” Sharing her most recent highlights, Jo is particularly pleased by her solo exhibition

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held at the end of last year. “Despite COVID-19 restrictions and bad weather, it went very well and opened up new opportunities for me,” she explains. “My greatest challenge has been to make a name for myself in a relatively short space of time but, on the other hand, the greatest reward is when someone wishes to buy one of my existing paintings or commissions me to paint something especially for them. Even more so if the sale or commission comes from an overseas buyer.” This year, the artist plans to start working on a new collection, which she says will be different to the work she’s done so far, but she is nonetheless eager to see where it takes her. And while she may hold another solo exhibition at the end of 2021, there are no definite plans for it just yet. Whatever she does, Jo will be pushing the boat out and creating something new with her captivating art. In her own words, “by nature, I am not a traditionalist. I love to be different and prefer to set a trend rather than to follow one.” cc

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