INSIDE THIS ISSUE
New Chamber President means business
Commercial THE OFFICIAL BUSINESS MAGAZINE OF
GOLD COLLABORATING PARTNERS
with Air Malta’s Executive Chairman
A hair-cut and tasty brew ISSUE 95
i n v e st i n g i n yo u r h e a lt h a n d b e au t y i s o u r f i r st p r i o r i t y
C o m m i t t e d to E xc e l l e n c e Brown’s is Malta’s largest retail pharmacy chain, operating twenty-one outlets across Malta and employing over 160 individuals. Since our inception, Brown’s has achieved sustainable and consistent growth by engaging highly motivated people, using cutting-edge technology and business processes to meet and, whenever possible, exceed customer expectations. At Brown’s we believe, that the secret behind the company’s 23-year long success story, has been the result of always striving for improvement, whilst ensuring that our employees feel engaged and motivated.
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New Chamber President means business: A word from Marisa Xuereb.
Capitalising on shutdown Duncan Barry on businesses that sought ways to revisit their structure.
All over the news
Zooming in on
Chamber’s new communications strategist is veteran journalist Keith Demicoli.
The national carrier, driven by its Executive Chairman.
10 Local tourist Duncan Barry on the staycations dominating the market.
11 Tourism Alan Arrigo, a newly appointed Chamber Council member, on seeking a more sustainable approach to tourism.
14 Meet the new Chamber Board New board members have their say. page
A modern advocate’s deep insight in Blockchain and crypto.
Years in Business
Business owner Mary Gaerty interviewed virtually.
30 It’s all an APP Away Michael Mercieca speaks about Gigify.
34 Pensions Reform Working towards Gender Equalisation.
36 A wave of support Julianne Grima, chairperson of Victim Support Malta, on how the entity navigated through the pandemic.
Former Chamber President David Xuereb on how the Chamber chose to see the opportunity in these challenging times.
68 Mission Malta Economist and lecturer Stephanie Fabri on building a vision for our islands.
74 Worth her salt Maria Bartolo Zahra, entrepreneur and mother, on making dreams come true.
Breaking the glass ceiling
Women in Business
The barber shop business concept will not fade away fast.
Businesswoman of the year Deborah Schembri on the need for women to take up leadership roles.
Business owner and President of MAWB Charlotte Gregory on Gender Equality.
President of the Foundation for Human Resources Development Matthew Naudi shares tips on how best to manage a virtual organisation.
Rose Marie Azzopardi, President of Women Directors in Malta speaks about diversity on boards.
80 Business Coaching Mikela Fenech Pace on a business that tests positive to employee satisfaction .
THE MALTA CHAMBER The Malta Chamber News, Events, and Initiatives.
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From the ground up A designer, illustrator and content writer shares her experience on what it took to start off her own thing.
business innovators It’s not just about selling, Alex Falzon on seeking client’s needs.
104 European fitness Champion Leanne Bartolo’s steps on how to move out of stagnancy while working from home.
You’re hired! A headhunting firm that has poached workers in big gun countries.
Keith Demicoli EDITORIAL COORDINATOR
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The rise of the staycation trend.
SALES & BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT
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The publisher, authors and contributors reserve their rights with regards to copyright. No part of this magazine may be reproduced or copied by any means without the written consent of the publisher. Editorial features and opinions expressed in Commercial Courier do not necessarily reflect the views of The Malta Chamber, the publisher, or the editorial team. Both The Malta Chamber and the Publisher do not accept responsibility for commercial and advertising content. Although the authors and publisher have made every effort to ensure that the information in this magazine was correct before going to print, the author and publisher do not assume and hereby disclaim any liability to any party for any loss, damage, or disruption caused by errors or omissions, whether such errors or omissions result from negligence, accident, or any other cause. Special thanks to The Mala Chamber, partners, contibutors and Adobe Stock for the provision of photographic material. Printed in Malta by Gutenberg Press Ltd. All magazine rights are reserved by The Malta Chamber and TBWA\ANG.
IN THIS ISSUE
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COVID: Crisis or opportunity?
Capitalising on the shutdown to implement upgrades I am honoured to have been given the opportunity in unprecedented times to put together, along with veteran and fellow journalist Keith Demicoli, the Commercial Courier magazine as from this month. As for my background, I had the privilege to work for the Times of Malta as a feature writer and also handled the Features Department, and also worked as an assistant to the Managing Editor at MaltaToday and as a journalist at The Malta Independent.
We are going through an uncertain phase whereby businesses are reinventing the way they work, and many employees are working remotely – a new challenge which is being adopted by many businesses and entities, not least the public sector which was at the forefront of introducing work from home measures. During the shutdown, once again, businesses had to seek ways on how to reinvigorate their structure in order to continue to give a service, according to the measures imposed by the authorities, however a number of businesses were locked down. In this edition and the ones to follow, Commercial Courier will continue to have the privilege of featuring many fascinating business leaders who are eager to share their knowledge and expertise in the various business sectors, with the intention of
Photo: Krysta Maria Micallef
leading the magazine to new heights. In this issue, we have included a colourful lineup comprising of business coaches, HR experts, economists, tech and marketing experts, successful entrepreneurs and articles on innovative incentives that will surely keep you glued; and we have included many different topics to cover the interests of the majority of our readers: from crypto to aviation and headhunting, remote work and how to keep fit, to new emerging trends, incentives and business-related advice, we have you covered. As Editorial Coordinator I also intend giving this magazine, which is a business read with a touch of lifestyle, a journalistic angle in some of the stories for a more interesting read in a bid to help bring about a healthy debate on various aspects and national priorities, most especially those affecting businesses – good or bad. As the Chamber members appointed a new President and new board members during an election held recently, we have dedicated an interview featuring the newly elected President, Marisa Xuereb, who no doubt has what it takes to continue to strengthen the Chamber, building on the good work of her predecessor David Xuereb. We also get to meet the new board members in this issue. I’m not giving away more, so feel free to sift through an array of articles I have compiled together with the help of our contributors. Enjoy your read!
Duncan Barry Editorial Coordinator - Commercial Courier
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WORDS Keith demicoli
Good News For Malta’s Business From a career spanning close to 20 years in broadcasting and journalism to Head of Communications and Business Development at the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, KEITH DEMICOLI is a household name. The veteran journalist speaks about the leap in his career and on his new role. Stay tuned... A lot of changes have taken place since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. We had more time to reflect, adapt and transform our lives and businesses. I used this newfound time to realise it was the right time to turn my life upside down and make a career change! Quitting a very rewarding longterm career in broadcasting and journalism was a heart-wrenching decision and some could hardly understand why I’m moving on after becoming a household name. Like many considering a career change, I had to deal with the fear
of failure and the negative opinions of acquaintances trying to stop me from taking what they considered as too big a risk. The only way to know for sure was to take a chance. So why have I decided to quit what seemed like a steady and glamorous good job, to take up the new role of Head of Communications and Business Development at the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry? From the very first interview/meeting with the newly appointed President of the Malta Chamber, Marisa Xuereb, and former President David Xuereb, I immediately recognised that this is where I belong. They spoke with ‘we’ rather than ‘I’, spoke very highly of the staff, set clear ‘short to long-term’ objectives and talked very passionately about ‘the Chamber’ as if it was their
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Photography Clint Gerald Attard
The Malta Chamber has been an outstanding source of strength and solutions during an incredibly challenging time in our history...
Issue 95 own company. Furthermore, they shared the so-called ‘revolutionary approach’ to elevate The Malta Chamber to an unprecedented level. It was precisely this openness and honesty that got me intrigued and triggered an incredible feeling which is somehow hard to put into words. In short order, I soon discovered that this feeling reflected the drive that the Malta Chamber had embarked on a few months earlier and which I happened to ironically report and communicate as a news reporter and presenter! Until then, as an outside observer, I was observing the relentless work of the new leadership and the revitalised team to renew a sense of purpose and create a new identity for the Malta Chamber to ensure ongoing relevance for the future in a rapidly-changing reality. This drive, enthusiasm, transformation, and longterm vision, matched perfectly my personal and professional ambitions. The following meetings including with some of my new colleagues supported this view and helped me better understand and appreciate the real value of the Malta Chamber and why it was indeed the most effective and respected apolitical voice of Maltese businesses in Malta, Europe, and beyond. During my journey of selfdiscovery, I discovered what mattered most in life. Those values are honesty, loyalty, respect, and commitment. Incidentally, I discovered that these are also the underpinning values shaping the journey of self-discovery of the Malta Chamber. Sharing the same
vision and purpose is pivotal but having a clear and effective communications plan to communicate it is equally important. The Malta Chamber has been an outstanding source of strength and solutions during an incredibly challenging time in our history. Like entrepreneurs, the Malta Chamber never stood shy. Instead, it is more proactive, dynamic, and forward-looking. It is becoming the undisputed thought-leader in all matters impacting business and our wellbeing. The 59 tangible recommendations put forward in the ‘Economic Vision for Malta 2020-2025’, the recommendations for good governance, public procurement, Brexit, the need for business re-engineering, and the COVID-19 assistance to businesses, are some of the most remarkable achievements over the past few months. As we seek to build on these achievements and on the Malta Chamber's reputation as the most effective organisation, I’m very excited to start using my experience, skills and resources to ensure that our key messages are communicated effectively. Our ultimate aim is to transform and modernise the communications arm of the Malta Chamber to develop integrated strategies and data-driven campaigns that influence the public debate, promote and elevate issues pertinent to the business community and drive value to all our members. More specifically, as Malta is slowly restarting its economy after a rather lengthy partial shutdown, the Chamber will execute a fast-moving and farreaching communications strategy to better articulate the challenges of the business community, reach out to businesses and chart a path forward to help businesses in Malta return to work safely and sustainably. The pandemic made us go digital or otherwise go dark! The Malta Chamber is embracing this digital transformation and aims to build a more effective, agile, and well-articulated digital strategy. Our social media platforms are critical to helping us have immediate feedback from our members and all stakeholders. In this regard, our digital marketing strategy will be more structured and one combining creativity. I will reserve more details on our communication plan and innovative initiatives for another article. Together with the formidable team at the Malta Chamber, we will aim to reinforce the long-standing reputation, credibility and trust of our organisation for the benefit of our members. As hope is surging, I take on this creative and demanding role with a profound sense of service while hoping that my creativity, digital know-how, and the ability to communicate and connect people will help the Chamber thrive on and exceed the expectations of our business community.
Keith Demicoli is a multi-award winning broadcaster and communicator. Until recently he was well known for his regular hosting of TVM News. He regularly moderates and presents high-profile events. He’s a locally based contributor for BBC, France24, and Euronews. He trained at the BBC Academy, London, and is an alumni of the 'US International Programme for Journalists'. He holds a Masters Degree in European Law, Economics, and Politics from the University of Malta.
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WORDS DUNCAN BARRY
A Temporary lull in inbound tourism as staycations dominate The pandemic has brought about many changes and the tourism and travel sectors have not been spared. Since March last year, several restrictions saw locals opt for domestic weekend getaways across our islands. DUNCAN BARRY on the staycation trend dominating the market.
It is no secret that businesses in Malta depend a lot on the tourism sector. Having registered record tourism numbers in 2019 jars significantly with the number of tourists we are receiving due to the pandemic that has brought the world to its knees.
On a brighter note, locals had more time on their hands to engage in nature walks and discover our shores, yearning for the charm of the countryside, limited as it may be.
However, Prime Minister Robert Abela recently vowed that Malta will welcome back tourists in June.
This year, some households f locked to hotels during the Easter break, but to a certain extent. Hoteliers who spoke to the Commercial Courier but preferred to remain anonymous said that the injection is not significant, and hotels had to lower their rates as a matter of fact. A number of rooms were occupied mainly during weekends, but not a significant number of visitors were actually opting to stay at hotels. While tourists spend a whole week or more in a hotel, locals stay for much less. Shorter booking windows, at times even same-day bookings, brought about by the uncertainty, has led to dramatic shifts in booking trends.
With locals spending less on travelling abroad, most opted to spend their travel money on weekend breaks across the islands, bringing about a staycation trend. Besides, camping holidays have also surged during the pandemic. As for Gozo, the most recent restrictions barred patrons from crossing to Gozo unless they own a property in Gozo or need to travel on work. This led to a decrease in local tourism on our sister island. page
SHORTER BREAKS AND BOOKING WINDOWS Although not significant, a number of locals helped aid hotels and restaurants in a time of crises, although restaurants were asked to close for a while.
Unfortunately, not all businesses could capitalise on the shutdown. For instance, those offering tourist-related services such as diving schools, private attractions, English language schools, cruise operators, tourist guides, car rental agents, and tourist agencies, among others, are facing a very rough ride due to the pandemic.
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Alan Arrigo sits on the council of The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry 2021-2023.
CHAMBER OPINION: TOURISM Tourism: a holistic collection of experiences Malta has been lucky enough to experience record-breaking years when it comes to inbound tourism. This has inspired governments to focus on quantity and encouraged overdevelopment, instead of promoting a quality touristic experience. In recent years, construction has been an issue; residents have echoed their concern; however, anecdotal evidence suggests that visitors are also becoming more sensitive to disturbances caused by the industry.
Mr Alan Arrigo, a newly appointed Council member within The Malta Chamber, expressed that “Tourism is not a single hotel or restaurant, or spending the afternoon at the museum. Tourism is by its very nature, a holistic collection of experiences that starts from the moment one is deciding to travel to a particular destination until long after the moment they leave. "If construction is diminishing one of these factors, in this case the spatial environment a tourist would be in, it automatically devalues the product, effecting the experience and this is what tourism operators do not want". Mr Arrigo believes that the Authorities need to focus their efforts on improving the establishments that already exist, in order to improve their quality and re-classify existing hotels into a more accurate manner, at par with European counterparts. This approach is by far more sustainable than opting to build more hotels, and more establishments to match the quantity of the estimated incoming tourists. Authorities also need to incentivise economic operators to upgrade their premises to be inline with more sustainable practices and offer training to promote up-skilling, whilst remaining competitive with other high-quality touristic destinations. Mr Arrigo concluded that: “Malta has a wealth of culture, nature and history that are definitely worth seeing. However, we must ensure that we remain worth visiting.”
Somewhere between Malta and Gozo
"...And in a mask we'll go on and on"
"Once more you open the door and you're here in a mask..."
In the spotlight
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WORDS MARISA XUEREB
A NEW CHAMBER PRESIDENT IN UNPRECEDENTED TIMES A WORD FROM The Malta Chamber President MARISA XUEREB – the second female president in a span of 12 years - on the lessons learnt during the pandemic, how the business community reinvented itself to deal with the pandemic’s repercussions, and how she intends to drive the Chamber forward amid all this turbulence. The Covid pandemic has been an eye-opener on many levels. It has helped us take note of things we never had time to observe before; understand who and what matters; rethink our strategies; and learn that we can be very resilient if we have the right people and systems on board. It has accelerated the pace of progress in adopting technology, prioritising the environment, and redefining work-life balance. With the profusion of remote working and the emergence of new forms of works such as platform work and gig jobs, trust and reasonableness have become even more central to the employer-employee relationship. It is no longer about what time people punch in and what time they leave the office, but it is about how much they feel they own their job and the value they bring to the organisation. And while notions of the right to disconnect are being discussed in policy fora, many employees have discovered that the flexibility afforded by remote work arrangements has made it possible for them to work through extended periods of having their children at home. And while people were initially very eager to work from home, there is now broad consensus that employees need to feel part of an organisation and going to work is socially enriching. Hence, the future is likely to be hybrid, affording plenty of flexibility for employees and necessitating a shift in mindset for both employers and employee representatives. Organisations that have been quick to adapt have benefited significantly. Retailers who already had or were quick to set up an online platform increased their share of the market. Service providers who embraced
the challenges and adopted remote working quickly and efficiently went through a steep learning curve but will emerge out of this pandemic stronger and better positioned in the market. As an organisation, the Malta Chamber was among the foremost to adopt new technologies to increase its efficiency and effectiveness in the pandemic's challenging conditions. As a result, both employee and member engagement increased steadily and allowed the Chamber to do a lot more and to have a more inclusive perspective. It is a fact that in times of crisis, people tend to come together. It is of paramount importance that business leaders, policymakers and regulators pull the same rope so that Malta emerges from the pandemic with the least possible collateral damage. The market size limitations and proximity of operators to buyers often result in very aggressive business practices that do not benefit the development of our industries long-term. Businesses that want to grow need to look beyond our shores, and success beyond our shores requires close cooperation
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between operators in the same industries to pool resources and be competitive in international markets where competitors are typically better equipped for large scale projects.
considerations, and an unwavering commitment to putting the interests of the country before our own.
Equally important is that we learn our lessons on the cost of lack of good governance, tolerance of malpractices that are expeditious for business, and lack of transparency and accountability in public administration. The Chamber was among the first organisations to come out strong on the importance of good governance at all levels of the economy and society, including business, and continues to pursue initiatives to promote better government, transparency and accountability. The recent publication of the Public Procurement Report and the pursuit of the implementation of its recommendations with all relevant authorities will be supported by training programs for members to ensure that they can operate efficiently and effectively in public procurement frameworks that are more rigorous.
In this spirit, I take on the responsibility that I have been entrusted with as President of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry for the next two years. As an economist, I am fully cognisant of the huge, long-term economic and social repercussions of the Covid pandemic, and the challenges they present for our businesses and society at large. Having led a foreign-owned manufacturing company for over 20 years, I am well attuned to the importance of innovation, productivity and competitiveness that will determine the extent to which we are able to survive and thrive. Being only the second female President of the Chamber after Helga Ellul who was elected 12 years ago, I realise that the business community is embracing the challenges ahead with openness to change, the pace of which was set by my very capable predecessor Architect David Xuereb, with whom I had the great pleasure of working very closely in my role as Deputy President in the last two years.
While we progress in unchartered territory, there is no roadmap to rely on. What we need to have is a good compass on which to base our decisions. The Chamber is committed to be that compass, pointing businesses and policymakers in directions that will ensure sustainable prosperity for the country going forward. The quality of that compass is evidenced by the standards of people that are being drawn towards the Chamber and the values we uphold: a refined business acumen, professional integrity, clarity of thought that is unshackled by patronage and partisan
I look forward to more effective cooperation between business leaders, policymakers, regulators and educators; wider engagement of the business community through intelligent use of technology and more networking opportunities; and more efficiency in service delivery through a more empowered staff complement. The challenges are real, but equally real is our resolve to do things right and set ourselves on the path of a robust recovery that will allow us to rebuild our brand and reposition ourselves well in the international sphere.
WHO'S ON BOARD
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ALL ABOARD ! THE MALTA CHAMBER ANNOUNCES ITS NEW BOARD MEMBERS. Christopher Vassallo Cesareo, Deputy President The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry In the next couple of years, we are going to need to ‘push’ businesses forward after we emerge from this pandemic, which has wreaked havoc on so many sectors. However, we may also do well to dwell upon the few positive aspects that have arisen from these dark times, such as on the decreased usage of our vehicles and better use of our time – how much simpler and better for the environment is it to hold short meetings online, rather than spend what seems like an age in traffic, for instance? Covid-19 made us think outside the box, to be more versatile - yes. But it also proved that if you remain true to your core, to your ideas and to your ethics, people will reward you with their loyalty. We need to take what we have learned from this period and build on it. And I do not doubt that the Malta Chamber team is up for the challenge. I look forward to working with President Marisa Xuereb and everyone involved in The Malta Chamber for a better tomorrow, developing the ground-breaking work that was done over the past years and retaining the Chamber’s leading role of representing local businesses.
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LIZ BARBARO SANT, VICE PRESIDENT The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry The Malta Chamber is the voice of business: a business can only be truly and genuinely successful if it is ethical. Ethical, Professional, Fair and Efficient Public Procurement is a pillar of good governance. This was why we embarked on an ambitious mission to improve Malta’s public procurement system. The Report on Public Procurement Reform 2021 includes 36 recommendations covering all stages of the process that promotes the importance of having an effective, efficient, transparent, and competitive
public procurement system. Since its publication, The Malta Chamber has presented the Report to Prime Minister Robert Abela and key individuals within his cabinet and the secretariat, including the Department of Contracts and other Contracting Authorities. We are thrilled to note that the Authorities have so far welcomed our report, and we are in discussions to promote the implementation of our recommendations. Contrary to expectations, we do not intend to stop pushing for the change that
is needed. We intend to keep pushing not to revolutionise the system but to bring it at par with the quality and standards that are a norm in other economies. We are very vocal about integrity and transparency, and in the coming months, we will continue to fiercely advocate for the implementation of reforms to ensure this pillar of corporate governance functions with integrity, that appropriate controls supporting the system exist, and that appropriate anti-corruption measures are in place to avoid any improprieties in public procurement.
Nicholas Xuereb, VICE PRESIDENT The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry The Malta Chamber of Commerce has become the leading voice of business in Malta. The challenge is to maintain this reputation and build further. I see the Chamber as the platform for the Maltese business community, whereby businesses work together and suggest solutions that create the business environment that gives investors the ideal playing field to invest in our country. Malta has a number of challenges ahead as we come out of this pandemic, and in addition, a general election looming on the horizon. With this in mind, I see the following key areas as critical; ensuring good governance and hence Malta’s jurisdictional reputation kept high on the agenda, working with all stakeholders to rebound post-COVID faster than other countries, and providing support to businesses impacted by the pandemic, especially (but not only) in tourism, to return back to some form of normality. At the same time, looking further ahead by continuing to nurture our young entrepreneurs, be the point of reference on policy in Malta on business-related laws and issues, creating the right environment for businesses to invest in R&D and innovation, and create the basis of new niche areas, and creating the talent in line with the needs of our businesses. I believe the Chamber has the right organisational structure and people to take the lead in these areas. page
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IAN CASOLANI, OFFICER The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry I believe that immense achievements have been attained by the Chamber of Commerce over the last two years, which in turn has also brought about a renewed energy and momentum, not to mention the credible and valued voice it is now synonymous with. The ‘think tank ’ and ‘thematic groups’ are just some of the successful initiatives that the Chamber has embarked upon. These would not be possible without the consistent work and input from the various business sections and working groups. Besides being a constant support system and a strong voice for the different economic groups and business sections, in my view, the next two years should predominantly be about
focusing on the fundamentals of these reports and ensuring they are followed up and implemented across the board at a national level. Talk is easy, and although government and many key business sectors have endorsed and/or fully subscribed to the Chamber proposals and vision, the challenge from now on is to ensure that these key initiatives are now implemented, monitored, and followed up. The uncertain times we are living through can be taken as a unique opportunity to recalibrate and reposition ourselves as a country, possibly giving us one last chance to get it right. If, as a Chamber, we can be a vital force in helping achieve this, it might be one of the best things we can do!
MARK BAJADA, OFFICER The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry Being elected in the Board of Management is not a personal achievement, but more of a choice; to take on a responsibility and commitment to ensure that the ideas and concerns of the economic group represented are voiced and are discussed where it matters. The Chamber for many years has been instrumental in the contribution of shaping the Maltese economy and was always an effective means of getting this message clear to the stakeholders, decision-makers and policy makers; ensuring that measures and policies are there to facilitate and grow our economy and to ensure the security of our employment. My duty as an Officer in these difficult situations, is to ensure that I contribute in attaining an agile, resilient, innovative and proactive business infrastructure that facilitate the growth of the country’s economic growth by creating trust and assurances for the business community, to invest and to be innovative and adapt to the dynamics that this sudden change has brought on the entire world.
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NORMAN AQUILINA, OFFICER The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry The Malta Chamber is the leading force in safeguarding and promoting private enterprise. As we advance, we need to continue this long embarked on journey. A journey aimed at keeping our economy moving in the right direction, ensuring a level playing field for all. One that, more than ever before, ensures that both competitiveness and sustainability are given national focus. A journey which better cultivates the mutual interest and promotes consultative collaboration among all stakeholders. One that elevates discussions above the political debate. We need to relentlessly promote more responsive economic policies, along with maintaining our contributing role in shaping such policies. Policies which give substance along with the strategic direction. We also need to continue to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation, whilst driving regulatory and administrative simplification, reducing bureaucracy along with red tape. Our journey must continue to champion good governance at all levels. One that fosters further transparency, integrity, and accountability in both the public and private sectors. Sooner rather than later, one that will lead us all to recognising our country’s reputational value and no longer that of containing the reputational damage. Due to these unprecedented times, we need to continue to guide and support businesses deal with the pressures that Covid-19 has brought about, along with its transforming changes. Ultimately, we need to drive our ambitions beyond our shores by being influential at a European level through our active participation as Eurochambres and Business Europe. The Malta Chamber continues to inspire, offer direction, and portray a vision, yet we need to ensure this translates into real and tangible benefits. Despite our achievements, this always remains a work in progress. I look forward to working in this direction along with all the newly elected Council and Chamber secretariat.
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WORDS DUNCAN BARRY
ZOOMING IN ON AIR MALTA In a virtual interview, DUNCAN BARRY speaks to the national airline’s Executive Chairman DAVID G CURMI on how the airline is handling COVID-related repercussions, how it is turning the negative side of the pandemic into an opportunity, the airline’s future post-COVID and the airline’s revenue following thousands of refund requests by customers for booked flights and itineraries. Air Malta’s Executive Chairman David G Curmi did not mince his words when asked about the current situation of our national airline, stating that travel restrictions across the globe landed the airline in unchartered waters, with the COVID pandemic causing significant financial damage to the airline.
However, he does highlight that the pandemic drove the entire aviation industry into a deep crisis. The industry will, at some stage, no doubt recover, but it will no longer respect tradition – it will only respect change and innovation. On a positive note, he is optimistic that Air Malta will eventually fly high once again, but it will have to change. From now on, the airlines that will survive are those that will adapt to the new realities of the market. Coming from the private sector and with a career that spans over 40 years, Mr Curmi also served
as President of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry between 2013 and 2104. He is a financial services professional and a corporate executive, having served on the boards of various listed entities. He said that the private sector has a lot to contribute to the management of state entities, be it in executive or non-executive roles. “I am committed to bringing the experience that I have gained in the private sector to the management of this public entity to bring Air Malta’s wings back, despite the constraints that a the Government-owned entity brings with it. My mandate from the shareholder is very clear. I am expected to increase revenues, reduce costs, and increase efficiency to make the airline more sustainable. Mr Curmi said that Air Malta would be engaging with Government in a second attempt to apply to the European Commission for funding to help the airline’s recovery. Public companies such as Air Malta do not have free access to capital, and before it can provide funding, the shareholder needs to seek approval from the European Commission. The process is complicated, and the level of detail that needs to be presented is very granular. The government has engaged a team of top international consultants to help it, and Air Malta, with its submission.
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Mr Curmi was interviewed virtually by The Commercial Courier.
Issue 95 He said that the airline had its fair share of issues before the pandemic but COVID worsened its financial position dramatically. He is optimistic of a favourable outcome.
People will be travelling for shorter but more frequent trips and Europeans will initially be travelling closer to home. Air Malta is very well-positioned to benefit from the expected shift in travel patterns.
On whether the travel industry will pick up, he said that the airline industry is expecting leisure tourism to rebound strongly whilst demand for business travel will be slower.
In fact, quoting a recent IATA poll, Mr Curmi said that 54% of Europeans aim to take a trip before end July 2021, revealing the strong pent-up demand for mobility. Among this group, 41% wish to travel to another European country, underlining the benefit of a common European framework.
FACTS ANd FIGURES
01 Travel restrictions ‘killed’ the airline industry, and Air Malta was no exception, Executive Chairman says. 02 Curmi optimistic airline will tackle turbulence. 03 Airline cancels over 8,500 flights and 175,000 booked itineraries. 04 €22m in refunds paid to carrier’s customers. 05 Aircraft movements down by 65%, passenger movements own by 75%. 06 Carrier operating limited schedule with only 25 weekly flights to 10 destinations. 07 Load Factor down to under 50%, lower than the EU average also due to the absence of internal flights. 08 Strategy in place to see airline take-off once again.
He believes that passenger movements and flights will pick up gradually but will peak around October, even though the IATA poll indicated that, in Europe, many trips will be taken before the end of July in Europe. To back up this claim, Mr Curmi said that 84% of the IATA survey respondents said that they would not travel if they are requested to quarantine in the country they wish to visit. Many countries have imposed quarantine as part of their measures to reduce the COVID spread. While on the subject of the IATA poll and customer confidence, he said that the inconsistencies between national measures created uncertainty among travellers. “In order to restore customer confidence, we need to use digital technology to manage travel credentials. From the perspective of preparing for an industry restart, this is a critical element. We, therefore, welcome the European Commission’s proposal for a common, interoperable, and mutually recognised digital green certificate to facilitate safe free movement inside the EU. We, like virtually all industry associations, view these certificates as a key tool to facilitate a safe and efficient resumption of travel and tourism in Europe.”
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The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that Malta cannot entirely rely on private, commercial airlines for its connectivity.
The IATA survey also claimed that 89% of respondents said that national Governments must standardise vaccination and testing certificates.
Airmalta is a Gold Collaborating Partner of The Malta Chamber of Commerce
He explained that Air Malta continued to give other services such as cargo transportation, diplomatic mail, medical equipment and vaccines, repatriated patients and citizens who wanted to come back to Malta and transported incoming and outgoing mail during these unprecedented times. “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that Malta cannot entirely rely on private, commercial airlines for its connectivity. During the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic (between March 2020 and June 2020), almost all airlines stopped operations to and from Malta. A similar situation was experienced during the second wave of the pandemic when several airlines either ceased operations completely, reduced seat capacity or cancelled f lights at very short notice, leaving thousands of passengers stranded and cargo undelivered. For example, in November 2020 alone, there was a reduction of 84% in the total seat capacity vs the same period of 2019 and on several days in November and December, Air Malta was the only airline that still operated. The situation continued to deteriorate further in early 2021. Throughout the COVD-19 pandemic, Air Malta continued to operate a Lifeline Schedule that ensured the minimum connectivity with the major European airports and cargo hubs.” “The pandemic has shown us that clearly we should no longer debate whether Malta should continue to have its own national airline. The outcome is very clear. We, however, need to ensure that we turn around our airline to make it more sustainable. To do this, we need to make some tough decisions and make fundamental
changes to what we have been doing in the past as this could very well be our last chance to save our airline.” Mr Curmi said that, during the past 12 months, Air Malta paid over €22m in refunds to its customers due to cancelled flights and travel itineraries. The airline had to cancel over 8,500 flights and 175,000 booked itineraries while it received over 150,000 claims for refunds and issued over 70,000 travel vouchers. “Our revenue for 2020/21 was not much higher than the total amount of refunds that we paid, and this has created significant pressures on our cash-f lows.” On the airline’s future, he said that Air Malta would continue to be a point-to-point carrier. It will f ly to major European cities, major airports and cargo hubs. We will attach to more prominent airlines through key interline partnerships and code-sharing agreements, and we will connect with the significant and smaller passenger hubs. We will focus on our key markets and the more affluent European catchments. Air Malta will be an airline with a greater focus on the customer. Recovery, he said, will only come if we do things differently and not traditionally; this is the message Mr Curmi is conveying internally, instilling a sense of change in a bid for employees to pull the same rope when it comes to operational changes. In the airline industry, the game will no longer be about winning or losing but about changing in what will be a very competitive environment. “I urge all our employees to be more flexible in this regard and to stick together to survive and to grasp the opportunities that will no doubt follow the effects of the pandemic.”
YEARS IN BUSINESS
THE ROAD TO FULFILMENT YLENIA ATTARD speaks to MARY GAERTY of Green Skip Services Ltd. Mary Gaerty never thought life would start accelerating at 40. In 1992, along with her sister, she founded Green Skip and has since accomplished so much for herself and other women.
Mary Gaerty is a member of The Malta Chamber representing Green Skip Services Ltd.
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WORDS YLENIA ATTARD
Growing up in a business environment as a child, Mary had always lent a helping hand, writing letters for her father or doing foreign exchange sums. She recalls when, at age 12, a banker wouldn’t believe that this young girl successfully worked a complex sum, but his condescension was quickly proved wrong. Confidently supported by her father, she now firmly maintains that girls must be made to believe in themselves, especially by a strong male figure in their lives. Green Skip started by coincidence, Mary tells us, when she asked a friend of the family, who had a skip business in the UK, to set up the Malta company. Initially, the company consisted of her sister, herself and two British nationals, but they later stepped out, and Mary and her sister continued to develop Green Skip by themselves. "It was something new, a challenge, and I love challenges," Mary admits.
From the beginning, ‘the intention of Green Skip was a one-stop shop’, for clients to not have to worry about any of their waste problems. By giving clients the traceability and reporting needed, Green Skip moved according to EU directives even before Malta joined the EU. The business started with just one truck and 7 skips, then slowly introduced the wheely bins in Malta, and now boasts an 8000 square meter facility in Magħtab. With a ‘no waste’ mentality ever since they were little, Mary and her sister ensure their products are durable – "this kind of upbringing influenced me, definitely, in the way I look at materials: to use materials as much as possible". She thus preaches how important it is that one introduces a product that will create no issues down the line. With their service considered essential during the ongoing pandemic, the company has had to adapt; the drivers were trained to deal with hospital waste, wear a specialised kit, and office workers have had to shift between onsite working and working from home. While necessary, this process is not ideal since Mary shares how much she enjoys chatting to the workers and setting up social events for them.
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Starting as the only woman (besides her sister) in the Waste Management sector, Mary remembers being in meetings at the very beginning and men commenting about being unable to swear in front of women, or how precariously she had to deal with bankers who would ask for her husband rather than listen to her.
pity, because they could be role models for other women."
ago, and this point still stands today.
‘I said, “You’re not going to meet him”’, Mary recalls: "He asked me why. I said, “because the business belongs to me, my husband has nothing to do with it!” The banker was perplexed at the thought of her starting the company by herself, to which she retaliated that ‘Yes, the good God gave me a brain to think!" Unfortunately, these misogynistic comments are still made today, but thankfully less frequently, according to Mary.
A bit of a role model herself, Mary is now the President of the National Council of Women. She had wanted to belong to this organisation for years, to see what other women were thinking and saying. She emphasises how important it is that we celebrate the women of the past who have worked for what we have now, the struggles they went through for what we have gained. The Women’s Council helped sensitise her to all this, and she brought to it her own experiences and plans, as do all the women on the board. This network is vital to building a robust female support system, especially when a woman is in need of money or space and does not want to use family money, but rather her own funds, to help herself.
Mary understands that there will always be some women who will not or cannot work for a reason or another. But others aren’t happy this way. To increase the female participation rate in the labour market, the Women’s Council offers training to women who wish to start working at a later stage in their life. In this ambit, Mary says that Malta is progressing, yet in areas of parliament, more space needs to be made for women for them to go out for elections and for change to be made.
"There are many of women who do a lot of work, but we do not know about them, and it is a real
‘A woman must have money and a room of her own' to succeed wrote Virginia Woolf around a century
Advising women to seek support and always believe in themselves, Mary smiles over how perhaps someday she will eventually retire. Having achieved all she set out for, Mary is quite content. "The Lord has been good to me. I have 4 kids, and I’m a granny of 7, so I feel fulfilled." page
THE ARCHITECTURE OF SOCIAL INTERACTION Contrary to the current buzzword of ‘social distancing’, Keith Pillow, Founder and Creative Director of the interior design and architecture group, DAAA Haus, explains the importance of social interaction at the workplace. During times when everyone is living online in isolation locked in a room, with hours of virtual meetings, Keith shares some important facts about office design encouraging social interaction. The best office design layouts create a sense of collaboration and creativity. Research shows that by designing good open-plan spaces, productivity increases. This kind of space encourages cross-functional collaborations, enhances exposure to different kinds of expertise, and accelerates creativity and innovation; whilst retaining talent. Advances in technology in lighting, ventilation and clean, safe innovative surface materials, make office design smoother.
Keith Pillow is a member of The Malta Chamber representing DAAA Haus Ltd.
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What type of office design is best for productivity and engagement?
In an open-plan office, you are likely to see rows/clusters of desks with little or nothing dividing them. They also tend to have spaces where employees can congregate or change their environments, such as couch lounges, or open kitchen areas with plenty of seating. Organisations such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft devoted millions of dollars in researching this. Replacing cubicles and traditional private offices with large open spaces, and a mix of smaller team spaces for collaborative work, and pods for private conversations is
today’s norm. Furniture tends to also be adjustable so that it can be moved and modified to meet an employee’s needs and adapt to rapidly changing work demands. This does not mean that space planning is neither easy nor simple. When an open office design is not adequate it results in being counter-productive and can create chaos. Therefore, if you are planning to move office or redesigning your existing one, the following are the steps to consider assisting you to build the best solution for your company and encourage safe social team interaction. SHARE THE VISION WITH THE TEAM BEFOREHAND While one might assume that the soul and identity of a company office begin after workers move into the space, we discovered that communicating the vision and purpose of the new office space before moving in, is key for employees to connect to the space, feeling comfortable and embrace it.
WORDS KEith PILLOW
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Taking the tech and creative start-ups as an example, they advocate for open office plans that emphasise chance encounters. Google’s campus is designed to maximize this, and Facebook’s headquarters features the largest open office in the world. Samsung is also exploring the use of more outdoor space to encourage employee conversation. As their vice president said:“The most creative ideas aren’t going to come while sitting in frontof your monitor. ” Their new building is “designed to spark not just collaboration but that innovation you see when people collide.”
i-Gaming offices in Paceville Malta by Daaa Haus.
WOMEN IN SUNIESS
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In contrast, when workers are not prepared with a clear vision of the space beforehand, they are more likely to perceive it as potentially a way of cutting costs and therefore express more resistance and dissatisfaction. BE ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT THE NEW SPACE The leader/management’s attitude towards the surroundings provides a critical source of information about how the new space aligns with the business and its modus operandi. Over the years we have noticed that when leaders convey positive messages about the space, expressing enthusiasm, workers felt better about it. On the other hand, when leaders exhibit frustration or resistance to the change, the frustration trickles down to the employees and reduces their sense of pride in the new environment. EMPLOYING A PROFESSIONAL TO DESIGN YOUR WORKSPACE Studies show that while the physical attributes of a space are imperative, the place identity plays an equally important role. The office design you opt for should factor in what you do and the personalities of the people working there. Do not underestimate the influence that the design of your office can have, not only on how your staff will work but also how the public will react to your business. Let your office space stand as a representation of your business brand and what you offer to your customers. Each space will have a unique
purpose and the best designers take that into account. ENCOUR AGE EMPLOYEES TO PERSONALISE THEIR SPACE TO THEIR NEEDS When workers can personalize their space, they feel closer to it building a stronger place identity. In the end, the spaces tend to be more colourful and human. When leaders encourage adaptation, workers feel comfortable claiming the space as their own, reporting more place identity and generally feel better about the company office policies such as privacy, noise, cooling and lighting.
In the coming issues we will be featuring detailed information on specific subjects that are key to excellent office design such as lighting, acoustics, heating/cooling, ergonomic seating, and storage. For any more information email firstname.lastname@example.org
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WORDS DAYNA CAMILLERI CLARKE
CREATING THE BUSINESS LEADERS OF TOMORROW CEO of Business Leaders Malta, Morgan Parnis, is no stranger to the world of education. Dayna Camilleri Clarke finds out more about a seminal change from the business leaders academy to a fully-fledged international Further and Higher Education Institution - The Mediterranean Business School, and what’s driving Morgan, the powerhouse behind it all.
Dayna Camilleri Clarke
Sitting in a modern campus within the limits of ĦaŻ-Żebbuġ, Malta, the Central Mediterranean Business School looks every part the forward-thinking educational institute that it is. Tech savvy environment, ambient lighting, clean spaces and country views. You’d be hard-pressed thinking this was, in fact, a college and not a retreat. This encompassing project has evolved as the result of years of hard work from Parnis and his team in bringing the educational institution to fruition. “Of course, the road wasn’t easy. We are going down a path where nobody has tread locally before, opening up new avenues of learning and creating opportunities.” Parnis certainly has the skillset and drive to make this endeavour work. Aside from being the CEO of Central Mediterranean Business School (formerly Academy of Business Leaders) and Esprimi, a market research company of
Business Leaders Malta. Morgan Parnis is also the chairperson of LobesLab, a company that focuses on business intelligence and software development solutions. Furthermore, he is a partner in Mdina International, where he is actively involved in business incubation projects. And as of recently, he cofounded Community Centred Care (3C Malta) which offers quality care at home. The school prides itself on a more practical workbased learning approach. You’ll find no lecturer student hierarchy here or a “students are just a number” mentality. Every single person matters, and that’s very clear. “Students, mentors and lecturers. It’s a three-way learning process,” adds Parnis. Originally known as the Academy of Business Leaders, it was launched in late 2013 to provide professionals with opportunities to increase their awareness of the industry. When it comes to staffing the school, Parnis explains, “All of our students are taught by exceptional industry experts who are not only subject experts but also great teachers. All of our tutors are fully vetted. We have a very rigorous selection process set in place to ensure that we hire only the most driven and dedicated tutors to teach and guide our students. The students’ feedback is an integral process throughout. We listen continuously.”
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And who are their students? Parnis explains, “Our students are predominantly those who have started working and wish to upskill. We have a real mix of ages and nationalities”. But aren’t there enough educational settings around? Parnis is quick to reply. “I strongly believe the way we need to shape leaders of tomorrow is by adapting learning; not everyone fits the classic University academia model. It doesn’t mean these students are any less capable. It’s humbling to have seen students come in at diploma level, who have stayed on until master’s level- and are now running some big shows themselves!” Parnis navigated the way through obtaining licencing as a recognised further/higher educational setting with the Malta Further and Higher Education Authority. “We are an accredited centre of world-renowned educational institutions and professional bodies such as DCU, ILM, City & Guilds, ACCA,TQUK, BPP and OTHM”, explains Parnis. Courses are fully certified with qualifications carrying weight within their respective sectors.
“When we shifted towards CMBS we had a clear goal in mind, to tackle the setting up of Work-Based Learning MBAs with independent curriculum boards. Locally this is an industry first. We have now achieved gold-standard master’s degrees, which many recruiters understand the value of possessing. To get this off the ground, we met key industry players. For each specialisation, we have an external curriculum board made up of leaders engaged in providing feedback on the curriculum design (therefore getting the seal of approval from the industry itself) and will also be involved in the ongoing quality cycle of this master’s programme. This gives local access to such a prestigious qualification in a completely redimensioned format. Essentially it’s a homegrown and cultivated product, with a far international reach.” This is just one sector in which the Central Mediterranean Business School has made a resounding difference to both students and society. Courses vary from construction to management, HR and coaching. To date, the Academy boasts over 1000 registered students who successfully completed accredited courses since its inception, it’s now offering 10 prestigious MBA’s. You can find out more at www.cmbs.edu.mt
NEW TO THE CREW
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WORDS DUNCAN BARRY
A platform that APPeals to both worker and customer Remember life before a few taps on an app would deliver a taxi in 5 minutes? Or what ordering food was like before apps would deliver virtually any cuisine to your door in 45 minutes? These on-demand services are powered by the gig economy - a rapidly growing free market that is shaping the future for consumers, businesses, and service providers alike. DUNCAN BARRY speaks to MICHAEL MERCIECA, co-founder of GIGIFY - a home-grown gig work platform which seeks to bring a new level of customer service and worker freedom within Malta’s at-home service arena.
Download the App
WHAT IS GIGIFY, AND WHAT CAN IT OFFER ITS USERS? It’s our mission to bring the benefits of the gig economy to more people in Malta; more work opportunity and flexibility to the worker and greater convenience to the consumer. We all know how frustrating and time consuming it can be to hire help for small jobs around the home, and many times the smaller the job, the harder it gets to find help. So we set out to build the ondemand customer experience that we’d all love to have for at-home services in Malta.
Gigify is a holistic gig work platform that connects customers who need help around the home with freelancers, which we call ‘GigWorkers’ in our brand language. Customers get a far more convenient and on-demand way of booking and managing at-home services, while GigWorkers benefit from more clients with next-level control over their time and work preferences. We’re making it easier to begin freelancing while also offering freelancers next-level control over their time and work preferences. GigWorkers can set their precise availability, hourly rate and the types of skills they would like to monetise. They can even choose where in Malta they would like to work; reducing longer commutes, air pollution and traffic build-up. We’ve also included several smart tech tools to offer more options and ensure that gigs run as smoothly as possible.
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THIS IS A NEW TYPE OF VENTURE FOR YOU AND YOUR BUSINESS PARTNERS. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO ENTER INTO THE GIG ECONOMY SPACE? The global rise of the gig economy has long been there for all to see. Freelancing is the future of work, and we believe that technology used properly can radically improve our lives and wellbeing. The flexibility that gig work offers is also well aligned with our outlook on productivity and work-life balance. We’ve long felt that traditional employment contracts can be too restrictive and limiting. From this point of view, we’re embracing the gig economy’s massive potential for improving lives as well as providing better customer experiences. As we began looking more deeply into gig economy developments abroad, we became increasingly motivated
to bring these opportunities to more people in Malta. Gig work driven by digital platforms have so much potential here. HOW DO YOU SEE THE GIG ECONOMY ADAPTING TO THE FINANCIAL SETBACKS BROUGHT ON BY COVID? The gig economy was conceived in financially hard times as a way of surviving economic crisis. So, it is perfectly adapted to these socio-economic challenges. With its use of technology to empower individuals and drive direct business transactions, gig economy platforms are very well adapted to our, unfortunately, ‘new normal’. The gig economy is relatively young and constantly evolving. We want to be a part of ensuring that it will continue to develop and improve in a way that preserves its key superpower - more flexible alternatives for earning a living and offering value in the community. So many of us have skills and talents that could be put to better use. Our society and economy deserve more options, and technology is here to make that happen. The added flexibility and accessibility for
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freelancers has massive potential for generating new work opportunities within our community. WHAT HAVE BEEN THE MOST SIGNIFICANT CHALLENGES SO FAR? Well, to start off, there is the challenge of building the Gigify app and website; which, together with our team, is the driving force of the business. We’re building the Gigify system bottom-up and considering all important aspects of the Customer and GigWorker journey to ensure a smoother, more efficient user journey. Educating the market is another challenge; there’s the need for extensive and effective
communications aimed to educate the market. We are asking freelancers to adapt the way they work after all, which is no small ask even if the benefits are there for all to see. This takes a strategic effort to achieve. WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS FOR GIGIFY? We’re currently running a recruitment drive to educate the market about Gigify and engage as much talent as possible before launching Gigify into homes across Malta. We’ve had a really good response and gaining some extremely valuable insights and feedback from prospective gig workers. In the coming weeks, we’ll be launching Gigify to customers across the island, so watch this space for a new and improved way of getting things done. For more information visit www.gigify.mt
Chamber Opinion: start-ups
Start in Malta Sparking new Start-up Success Stories Malta’s Start-up ecosystem is coming of age. At this important crossroad, the Ministry for Energy, Enterprise and Sustainable Development together with Malta Enterprise, has just launched a new interactive platform for Malta’s Start-up ecosystem: www.startinmalta.com This initiative aims to deliver a coherent and coordinated front, where key information about Malta’s startup journey is available and accessible. This platform will also elevate our start-up ecosystem’s local and international visibility with updates
on events, success stories, and other developments happening in Malta. As the Government’s Economic Development Agency and the single main point of contact for start-ups, Malta Enterprise is taking the lead with this initiative alongside an everincreasing list of partners that will help shape the future of the Maltese start-up ecosystem. “Malta is open for start-ups…” said Minister Miriam Dalli at the launch event, “our country offers a competitive advantage, such as the use of the English language, connectivity, and strong regulatory frameworks. A recognized strong advantage is that we believe in open dialogue with stakeholders. This has led us to launch
the new BStart 2021 scheme, which offers both financial assistance and mentorship and advisory services”. The Chief Executive Officer of Malta Enterprise, Kurt Farrugia, said that due to the available incentives and the quality of life that our country offers, Malta could be among the most attractive countries for start-ups. As a follow up to the launch of the portal, Malta Enterprise also signed an MOU with the University of Malta (UoM) providing for the ongoing mentoring and support of start-ups through the University’s TAKE-OFF Business Incubation programme, headed by the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Business Incubation (CEBI).
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WORDS David Spiteri Gingell
Working towards gender equalisation Malta’s contributory pension system is an earnings-based system – that is, you pay a contribution on your wage (if employed) or income (if self-employed). The contributory pension is one component, albeit the largest one of social security insurance coverage.
David Spiteri Gingell
The pension system is architectured as a Pay-As-You-Go system. In its design, the PAYG pension system is intrinsically gender discriminate. An underpinning cornerstone of the PAYG pension system is that a person must meet a certain number of accumulated contributions paid over one’s working life – pre-2007, this stood at 30 years of accumulated contributions, and post the 2007 reforms, this increased between 35 to 41 years depending on a person’s age. The underlying premise in the PAYG’s design is the traditional economic household model – it is the male who is the breadwinner and who has an uninterrupted work career. The context within which the PAYG system was introduced in 1979 was contrary to females being in employment. This demonstrated itself in several ways: from a female spouse having to terminate
her employment with Government on marriage – so that she does not prevent a male breadwinner from holding a job - to a rooted Catholic culture that saw a woman’s role solely that of bringing up a family. Indeed, the pension system itself ref lected the state and religious frowning on a woman taking up employment: the statutory retirement age for women was set at 60 years compared to the 61 years for men. This is the primary reason why the active participation of women aged 45 years and over is low compared to the other Member States: the result of the relatively low number of females who remained in employment following marriage or the birth of a child. The PAYG systems saw little reform between 1979 and 2003. Reform was in some way pressed on the Gonzi administration, following failed attempts by the Sant administration (abruptly terminated when the Government fell) and the Fenech Adami administration (abruptly halted when the Galdes Commission came in conf lict with the Ministry of Finance). A 2004 World Bank report commissioned by the Government projected that in the absence of fundamental reform, the system will be unable to offer future generations an adequate pension whilst still generating a hefty deficit in terms of a GDP percentage.
The 2007 reforms introduced two measures that specifically were directed towards addressing the in-built gender discrimination of the PAYG pension stem. First – it eliminated the discriminatory difference between the male and female respective statutory retirement ages: establishing it at 61 years of age and after that to increase equally to 65 years of age. Second – it recognised that in Malta’s society, unlike other countries, it is the female who takes time out of her career to take care of a child following his/her birth. The arising gaps discriminate against a female given that if she wanted to raise a family, she was placed in a position where she has no choice but to receive a lower pension income, as it was unlikely that she would accumulate the necessary number of contributions required to qualify for a full pension. To counter this discriminatory element, a child-rearing credit was introduced in the pension system. This mechanism, although gender-neutral, was primarily directed to address a woman’s gap in her contribution history as a result of raising a family. However, the credit was conditional – that the credits would only apply if the person, mainly the female, would return into employment for the same number of years accredited to her. The reformers sought to avoid a repeat of the no reform situation that occurred between 1979 and 2004 when its demographic fundamentals changed radically – increase in longevity and decrease in fertility – bringing the system to the brink of collapse. To ensure that incremental scrutiny on the health of the pension system is carried out, the Government adopted the recommendation that a mechanism
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The reform was holistic – seeking to address an ‘adequacy’ footprint in retirement generated through the (i) first (social security contributory) pension, (ii) second (mandatory occupational) pension, and (iii) third pillar instruments (home equity release, voluntary pension instruments, etc.) The reform also addressed flanking policies required to increase active employment in Malta – focusing primarily on women – active employment standing at 30% - and retirees of whom less than a thousand were officially employed.
is introduced in the Social Security Act that mandates any administration to carry out such a review every five years. The first review was carried out in 2010. The review proposed recommendations to refine further the child-rearing credit system introduced in 2007 and leverage this as a pro-natal policy instrument. Recommendations were also made with regard to the status of informal care workers – primarily women – and gaps in their pension history. The administration at the time did not follow up on the recommendations presented to it. Following the change of administration in 2013, a new Pension Strategy Group presented three important reforms directed to neutralise further the discriminatory gender bias of the PAYG system – which reforms the Government implemented. First, the child-rearing credit mechanism was improved. It was also designed as a pro-natal instrument. A parent now qualifies for 4 year of credits for every child up to 3 children (maximum of 12 years). The credit also extends to a fourth or more children for a further 2 years for every child – subject, however, that the parent works for the same period as the credits used. Second. Student credits were introduced up to a maximum of 5 years. This policy instrument is gender-neutral. Nevertheless, it is female gender-biased, given that there are more females than males in higher and further education. Third. A pension belongs to the person who pays the contribution. A pension, therefore, does not form part of a household’s community of acquests. The pension system provides limited vested rights to a female spouse: a widow’s
pension (received when the spouse who passed away is below retirement age) and a survivor’s pension (received when the spouse who passed away is in retirement) that are 5/6th of the pension income that was received by deceased male spouse. To counter this mechanism as well as to incentivise women to enter and remain in the labour force, this vested right was increased to an entitlement to the spouse’s full pension (6/6ths) if a woman is entitled to a pension in her own right or to retain her pension, whichever is the highest. Moving forward, several gender discrimination issues still require consideration and debate. One of them mentioned in the Strategic Review document relates to the treatment of a pension in the event of divorce or separation. This particularly affects women who are 45 and over who, due to state policy and / or religious influenced cultural pressures, were unable to have a career, hence a right to their own pension. Such women, on divorce or separation, may be unable to accumulate enough contributions to qualify for a full pension – hence being placed in a situation of being at risk of poverty. About the author The author held senior positions in Government, the private sector, and overseas. David was the Chair of various pension reform groups between 2004 and 2012, and a member of the Pension Strategy Group since 2013. One of David’s current assignments is that of leading the Government’s financial capability education platform. (www.gemma.gov.mt).
2020 Strategic Review document: https://gemma.gov.mt/launch-by-thepensionsstrategy-group-of-the-2020-strategic-review-on-theadequacysustainability-and-solidarity/. The Pension Strategy Group looks forward to your feedback and recommendations.
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WORDS Dayna camilleri clarke
Dayna Camilleri Clarke
When the pandemic hit, we knew stopping services wasn't an option. page
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A WAVE OF SUPPORT DAYNA CAMILLERI CLARKE speaks to JULIANNE GRIMA, CHAIRPERSON of VICTIM SUPPORT MALTA, about how the entity has navigated its way through the pandemic. “It probably will come as no surprise; we experienced a shift in the demand for our services, a flooding on the domestic abuse front and a slight decrease on the sexual assault,” says Julianne. For those not in the know, Victim Support Malta is a registered NonGovernmental Organisation that provides support and assistance to victims of crime, such as sexual assault, rape, stalking, cybercrime, murder, domestic violence or abuse, theft and burglary to mention a few. The entity bears a 17-year track record of providing emotional support and legal advice to all victims of all crime. With a change in management over the past five years, the NGO has focused much of its attention on developing clear structures and growing its resources to provide more specialised and broader forms of emotional support to the victim community. The services offered are both diverse and encompassing. Julianne explains, “Our services provide emotional support to assist victims in overcoming trauma following a crime. Our goal is to transition people from victim to survivor. We support with psychotherapy, counselling, family therapy and psychiatry aside from providing a specialised service to victims of sexual assault where we also offer free legal representation. The approach is holistic in nature and our clients are supported on practical matters like court accompaniment or visits to the lawyer. Trauma has a way of stunning individuals and therefore we step in on practical, psychological and emotional levels to ensure that every client is treated as one would a family member, with the utmost care and respect."
approach towards care for our clients. We work with both the government and private sector to ensure that our clients receive a coordinated and consistent service across the different entities they are supported by. The core team ensures that we are at the forefront of international and European laws regarding the care for victims of crime as well as being connected with other Victim Support services both internationally and especially within the European Union”. VSM is part of Victim Support Europe, a European network of victim support entities. Through their partnership with VSE, they are both able to advocate for adequate measures to ensure victims’ rights and participate in a variety of transnational projects in line with their objective to support victims of crime.
She adds: “When the pandemic hit, we knew right away that stopping services wasn’t an option. We needed to regroup and work digitally to offer therapies and continue our care.”
“Locally, we offer various branches of support, aside from our Core services. These we have differentiated with service naming such as CVSA (Care for Victims of Sexual Assault) and SPOT (Suicide Prevention, Outreach, and Therapeutic Services), both currently part-sponsored by the Ministry for the Family and Social Solidarity.”
When it comes to how the entity works, Julianne explains, “We believe in a multi-disciplinary
SPOT services provides care for individuals bereaved by suicide
and those who have attempted suicide at least six months before making an appointment. Research between 2007-2017 indicates that 289 local suicides occurred in that time (Bonnici, 2017). This means that an average of 25 families per year has lost a loved one in Malta. “Through the SPOT programme, we are looking to support those individuals who have been impacted by offering a bespoke and holistic arm of support. Unfortunately, throughout COVID, this service has seen an increase in numbers. It’s important to note we offer support to anyone affected, even first responders such as paramedics, neighbours, friends. This is not just a service for people who are bereaved but also those who have felt affected.” “We have a growing number of fully qualified Psychotherapists and Counsellors and many vital Interns (Masters’ students of Psychotherapy, Counselling and Family Therapy) who are integral to our services. Regardless of the pandemic, we will keep striving to offer more services and be the go-to one stop shop for these victims.” “It bears mentioning, with the recent introduction of VSA by the Ministry of Home Affairs, this is a new, separate and very different service to the one provided by VSM which is a non-governmental organisation that specialises in the long-term emotional and psychological support of victims of crime. It is our understanding that VSA will serve more as an assessment and referral hub, an extension of the Police Victim Support Unit, an excellent governmental service provided by a small but hugely dedicated, well informed and caring team.”
Julianne Grima has been Executive Chairperson of VSM since 2017 and is also a fully practising Psychotherapist. page
CONSULTANCY & MARKETING
How brand and marketing can help build resilience RICHARD MUSCAT AZZOPARDI on building brand resilience using good practice decisions in the marketing department.
Richard Muscat Azzopardi
Switch Ltd is a member of The Malta Chamber.
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WORDS RICHARD MUSCAT AZZOPARDI
I have around 30 business and personal coaches on my LinkedIn feed. From local ones who are just starting up to giants who have consulted for Fortune 500 companies over the past three decades. One of the things that coaches have in common is that they put a lot of time and effort into their personal brand. It’s really refreshing to see that there is an industry that really puts their reputation in the forefront, possibly because the only way they can get more work is by maintaining an excellent reputation. No one would want to hire a coach that can’t prove their worth to the world. The other thing that all the coaches have in common is that they have been writing (and talking) about
resilience quite heavily over the past few years, a topic that was becoming quite fashionable at one point, but one that became absolutely critical when the world was struck by a pandemic, a once in a lifetime occasion that tests the resilience of anyone and anything that it hits. The funny thing about resilience is that, even though it is a characteristic that relies heavily on the character and composition of an organisation, it can be defined and influenced very heavily by marketing choices, by brand and by long term communication efforts. You can’t build resilience by talking about it, but you can build a company that is resilient thanks to a set of good practice decisions you make in the marketing department. Over the course of this article I’m going to take a look at a few of the areas in which we do the most work (and therefore have the most experience) and cover how you can look at resilience from a brand and marketing perspective.
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In this period of on-again, off-again lockdowns, the case for eCommerce is one that is too obvious to even suggest, but in the long term, having a well-set up eCommerce store is the key to a resilient business, no matter whether you’re in retail or B2B. The resilience you’re building is a brand of survival that helps protect you from changing habits. As people deal with shopping in a completely different way to what they were used to, then you have to be sure to be there to give them what they need, when they need it, in a way that’s convenient for them. We saw this from our clients who invested heavily in eCommerce over the first lockdown in March 2020. For the rest of 2020, shops were open, but they kept selling through their online stores because people expected that service from them in the long term. Every sale they made through their online store would have been a sale they lost to the competition if they weren’t online. BRAND Brand builds inherent resilience into a business because it is a store of long-term value, both internally and externally. We do a lot of work with clients on both marketing and brand work. Marketing work is usually measured in immediate ROI, so we can calculate the value of every Euro spent in relation to the value of what we got in return. The major issue here is that, no matter how effective our marketing it is, the ROI is directly tied to the amount of money we are putting in at the moment. On the other hand, the work we put into brand is work that leaves a long-lasting legacy. Every ounce of good will that you build for your brand makes it easier for you to survive, building in a certain element of inherent value that contributes to your resilience.
CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS This might seem like something that only big corporations should think of, but this is the kind of work that everyone working on a brand should be thinking of, no matter how small (it could just be a oneperson brand). Putting time and effort behind your corporate communications makes it much easier for you to tackle issues that are out of your control, because, very much like brand work, corporate communications means building an element of trust that is much harder to erode than a simple advert that’s trying to sell me something. We see this time and time again, in times of crisis, if a company needs to work to fix an image that it has never cultivated, it starts from a great position of disadvantage. If, on the other hand, it’s starting from a position of strength, then it can find it much easier to ask for forgiveness. SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMISATION When worked on correctly, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a great store of value for brands. The work that you put into being found well on search engines is work that takes a lot of effort. Effort that is usually beneficial in the long term. The advantage of this work is that it yields results in the long term, too, so you can rely on it to give you a steady stream of traffic that will provide you with business with very little maintenance or spend. TO CONCLUDE Business resilience depends heavily on how resilient your teams are, and that’s not something we’re about to dispute. But you should also work hard to build resilience into the core of your brand through consistent communications and marketing, because it’s just as important for your brand’s survival.
About the author Richard is the CEO of Switch, a Digital & Brand consultancy. He's excited to be working in an industry that faces the challenges of an ever-changing media landscape in a world where basic human wants and needs remain essentially the same. The team at Switch bridges consumer behaviour, brand thinking, and creativity to constantly stay ahead of the curve, no matter what the medium is.
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eCOMMERCE It might seem obvious when you look at how the pandemic has affected businesses all around us, but eCommerce is key in delivering resilience because it can flatten the patterns that emerge from geographical, societal, and behavioural shifts.
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WORDS Patrick Psaila
HOW SKILLED LEADERS BUILD GREAT TEAMS The ability of early humans to work together to achieve otherwise unattainable goals may be one important cause for our exponential success as a species when compared to other mammals.
As our brains grew bigger, we understood that the only way to compensate for our inferior size and strength was through teamwork. All human activity centres around hunting, foraging, child-rearing, migrating and community development. The pursuit of shared goals showed that we had much to gain from collective collaboration.
skills, expertise, and personalities to achieve otherwise unattainable outcomes. The following are some important practices that effective leaders adopt in building such teams.
Cooperating humans made it possible to achieve higher rates of survival, greater reproduction, and even colonisation. Many evolutionary theorists believe that humans’ ability to cooperate, work together and form communities is what gave us the ultimate competitive advantage over other humanoids. This collaboration-based advantage was made further possible and accelerated with the development of language and allowed us to emerge as the dominant species on planet earth.
Strong leaders give equal importance to these three fundamental aspects of their teams and know that a deficit in one can stall the team's progress. They invest energy on maintaining good relationships amongst team members; they make sure that the team has a clear direction and strategy as well as the necessary structures and processes to make it work efficiently. These three pillars form the foundation upon which all other team decisions, actions and behaviours are built.
In today’s modern world, our entire lives are organised around social and organisational structures. Our workplaces are mostly organised around groups of interconnected and interdependent people working towards common objectives. Just like our ancestors, strong leaders realise that the success of their organisation depends on cohesive and high functioning teams that bring together multiple sources of knowledge, page
BALANCING THE RELATIONAL, STRATEGIC, AND OPERATIONAL ASPECTS OF THE TEAM.
ALIGNING THE PURPOSE, VALUES, GOALS, AND STRATEGY OF THE TEAM. Strong teams are purpose-driven and effective leaders ensure that their teams never lose sight of the core purpose of their function. They also establish a sound set of shared values for the team that serve as guideposts for all actions and behaviours. They constantly work at aligning the team’s goals and strategies with the values and the core
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purpose of the team as well as of the organisation. This focused effort provides team members with clarity, purpose and direction and prevents frustration and demotivation. BUILDING A SENSE OF TRUST, CARE, SUPPORT, AND SAFETY. Trust is the lifeblood of any relationship. It puts people’s mind at rest, knowing that they do not have to watch their back constantly. The first step in building trust in the team is for leaders to be trustworthy and always treating their people with consistency, fairness, respect, and dignity. Leaders set the tone for their teams and the entire organisation. When leaders show that they genuinely care for their people, empathise with their realities, and truly respect them, they set an example for the entire team. Good leaders know their people well, and their people know what is expected of them. Respect and integrity become fundamental standards for all the team. This means that there is zero tolerance to any acts of disrespect, humiliation, or abuse. Within such an environment, people feel safe, thrive, and give their best. TAKING EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO COACH TEAM MEMBERS. Skilled leaders are highly aware of their important role in coaching their team members to encourage them to develop and play to their strengths. They recognise the different strengths of their team members and allocate their roles accordingly. They also give their people regular feedback about their technical competencies,
behaviours and attitudes while holding them accountable to high performance standards. By coaching their people, they also create the opportunity to identify talent for potential succession. They ask critical questions such as: What are my people’s strengths? Are they growing? Do they have untapped potential? How can they improve? Is their attitude an asset or a liability? Are they fully engaged with what they do, and how well are they doing it? THEY ARE REGULARLY CONSULTING WITH THEIR TEAMS. Good leaders are humble enough to accept the fact that they do not have all the answers and that genuine consultation with their people can result in great ideas and solutions to problems. They also know that when they listen to their people and solicit their input, people feel validated and empowered and that this is a significant source of motivation for them. They believe in their people and trust them with responsibility and the power and authority that goes with it. DEALING WITH CONFLICT EARLY. Effective leaders have the courage to deal with conflict in their teams and address it before it escalates and starts to have a seriously negative impact on the relationships and dynamics of the team. They normalise disagreement as something healthy that can result in passionate debates and discussions that give rise to innovative approaches and solutions to issues and problems.
INVESTING IN THEIR OWN PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT. Finally, effective leaders never stop learning and growing. They ensure that they have mentors who can offer them support and guidance. They seek formal and informal learning opportunities and keep up to date with developments in the leadership role. They are also open to feedback from their team members and create a nonpunitive culture where honest and respectful feedback is welcomed and regarded as an opportunity for self-awareness and growth. When leaders build and maintain high functioning teams based on a shared leadership principle, and that is, for the most part, selfsufficient, they achieve the ultimate level of effective leadership. It also helps them to put their minds at rest that operationally, the show can go on without them because they have invested in competent, confident people they can trust. It takes a lot of professional confidence and security to reach this level of leadership. However, great leaders know that their role becomes that of providing vision and direction, mentoring, and inspiring their teams and creating new opportunities for the future as they grow.
About the author The author is a warranted psychologist, executive coach and training consultant. He is the co-director of PsyPotential Ltd, a company that specialises in human factors, leadership, and people development in organisations. page
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WORDS DUNCAN BARRY
COOKING OUT OF THE BOX IN COVID TIMES AND BEYOND DUNCAN BARRY speaks to leading Maltese chef KARL MALLIA on how the food industry is faring during the pandemic, and that one needs to think out of the box more than ever as the food industry, like many other industries, gets to taste how sour the impact of a pandemic is. “The best way to one’s heart is through the stomach.” Closing in on a contract, impressing a potential client, or dining with a prospective wife or other through a food experience has always been one of the methods still used by many. Today, there are so many ways to achieve this, but the market is saturated with the average norm like everything else. Karl Mallia has been organically working on a concept that gives clients the best-personalised experiences. He is a fun-loving chef whose passion for food led him to travel extensively, learning many different cooking techniques while experiencing hospitality from the best in the Middle East, Monaco, Asia and Australia. His concept, COOKING OUT OF THE BOX goes an extra mile and
makes sure that these experiences are all personalised, unique and brilliant culinary ideas one would never expect to find on a small island like Malta. The name is a mixed play on the words “thinking out of the box”, and a reflection of this are some of the ideas for past events offered to distinguished clients. “It’s a culinary concept based on the idea that there are no limits to the creativity that can be expressed in the experience of food and hospitality. We don’t have any categories, anyone who shows interest in what we do is an honour for us, so we deal with any request with utmost attention!” Some example of past events are, IN THE MIND OF THE WINE-MAKER which was a wine-pairing event which menu was based on questions asked to the winemaker - going into what foods the winemaker loved as a child then paired with the wines he produces. GLOW was a private cooking session party for VIPs holidaying in Malta. Many are visitors to Malta who want to engage in cooking ideas, and this was one of the ideas people loved the most. The organiser would have chosen the items, usually traditional Maltese food, then cooked together as a group and served for lunch or dinner.
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and Yellow-themed event - the food had to be Spanish - no doubt! We had what we called a Paella overdose, with giant paella’s being cooked simultaneously enough to feed a whole office. Of course, everything was washed down by litres of specially made Sangria!
give experiences what really gets me! This will throw us back and will take years before the industry is back on its feet! This is where we need to support local and allow local talent to come back with more remarkable products and experiences.
The most recent was helping a young gentleman with his marriage proposal from start to finish - helping with finding a villa, setting it up, private dining for the couple, shopping list. We went to the extent of also preparing ready-made meals for their stay!
Creativity does not stop even when hard times hit. Since Covid hit, one had to reinvent the wheel and - it has not been easy! We introduced dinner kits and cooking kits for people to get involved but it’s not the same. We also taught free cooking online classes to get people interested and occupied during these tough times.
“Ideas keep on growing as we mainly work with the guests, we have a solution for all - of course, usual catering ideas are still catered for, but it’s that new challenge we love catering for,” Karl says. He adds: “A few months before COVID 19 forced us all in the industry to cancel all plans a client asked us for a Red
We are going through a nightmare; the travel and hospitality industry has had to endure for much of eight months last year, and 2021 is another loss. Besides the financial burden, it’s not able to serve and
Cooking out of the box keeps working on new ideas, working with other like-minded people to get the ball rolling once we are let back in the playing field, giving our motto the most importance. Karl strongly believes that “a customer may forget what you said but will always remember how you made them feel” this is a motto that was passed to him during his first years in the catering world, which he will never forget, lives by and continues to share with everyone!
DAZZLE was an impromptu cooking together Q&A event for foodies mainly for friends or couples who want to get into food - on a closer combination of techniques or ethnic styles. TU VUÓ’ FÁ L’ AMERICAN! was a Neapolitan pasta event - this is for patrons who want to get closer to traditional foods. This was about pasta techniques from scratch served with simple condiments found in everyday larders. “DAY WITH A CHEF, SPICE’N THE CITY... the list is endless!”
“True hospitality is giving the best of yourself to your guests.” page
ADVOCATE(ING) CRYPTO ADOPTION DUNCAN BARRY interviews JONATHAN GALEA, CEO of BCA Solutions and lawyer by profession, with A deep involvement in the blockchain and crypto industries since 2013.
Jonathan Galea is a member of The Malta Chamber representing Blockchain Advisory Ltd.
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WORDS DUNCAN BARRY
JONATHAN, CAN YOU GIVE US A SNAPSHOT OF YOUR PROFESSION? I like to call myself a crypto lawyer who’s been passionate about the crypto industry since 2013, focusing on the intersection between the legal and technical parts and helping to bridge the gap between techies and regulators. I am the founder and CEO of BCA Solutions, a multi-national crypto consultancy firm providing regulatory services to the public and private sectors alike. We assist some of the best-known names in the crypto industry to operate in full compliance with the applicable laws in various jurisdictions and advise governments and regulatory authorities on how best to deal with such a cutting-edge industry without stifling it. Our team is made up of regulatory, technical, and compliance specialists aimed at providing end-to-end solutions ranging from incorporation of legal entities all the way to obtainment of regulatory licences with various authorities worldwide. HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN CRYPTO? I stumbled across it by pure accident. I was building my own laptop and found it difficult to source the graphics cards I wanted; finally, I managed to come across an article explaining that the shortage of AMD cards was due to Bitcoin mining. After muttering a few choice words about these miners standing
between me and my dream laptop, I started reading about Bitcoin and quickly became intrigued. In the span of a few weeks, most of my waking hours were spent reading about the subject, getting involved in some of the earliest crypto projects, and even created a cryptocurrency in 2014 which was aimed at miners living in warm climates such as Malta due to its energy-efficient hashing algorithm. I’ve also written my Doctor of Laws thesis on the subject of Bitcoin and its effect on money laundering legislation in 2015. The full-time switch to crypto happened in 2017 when I set up BCA Solutions. DOES THE COMPANY OPERATE INTERNATIONALLY? Yes – our HQ is in Malta, and we opened up our second office in Liechtenstein last year. We also cover Singapore, Switzerland, and the UK through our services. Before the pandemic, BCAS has been highly prolific in terms of attendances at various conferences in Europe, Asia, and the United States. I have participated as a speaker in over 30 international conferences. ARE YOU CURRENTLY EXTENDING TO OTHER COUNTRIES? Our plans to open additional physical offices are on hold, thanks to the pandemic. We are currently concentrating on the markets
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It’s no longer a question of “if” they (banks) should adopt crypto - it’s now a question of “when”…
in Malta and Liechtenstein, but of course, we are keeping an eye on global developments to ensure that we cover any upcoming jurisdictions that offer a well-regulated yet balanced ecosystem for companies to thrive in.
case it is being applied for. On the other hand, crypto is still very much alive, more so than ever in fact. The total market value of cryptocurrencies is over $1.5 trillion, and there’s never been so much substantial interest in the sector as there is now.
IS BLOCKCHAIN STILL A VERY ACTIVE SECTOR? Here I must make a significant differentiation between blockchain and crypto. Blockchain is the technology underpinning crypto, whilst crypto is by far the best and most prolific use case of Blockchain. Blockchain as a technology can be seen as a ledger of transactions that is distributed across, and maintained by, a network of nodes. Therefore, as a tech in and of itself, Blockchain cannot be described as a sector since it permeates various industries depending on the use
WHAT HAVE YOU SEEN CHANGE IN THE CRYPTO INDUSTRY? I’ve watched the industry evolve from a geeks’ secret mostly discussed on bitcointalk.org, which was the primary forum for discussions at the time, all the way to a powerhouse in its own right that is attracting interest from the likes of Tesla, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley, PayPal, and Mastercard, to name a few… not to mention regulatory interest and actions from the majority of countries worldwide. I firmly believe we’re still at a very early stage and that this will be
a wave of change, the likes of which is experienced once in a generation. WHO USES IT MOST? It depends on what you term “usage”. Investors are coming in from all parts of society, from institutional investors to grandmas buying up some savings. Actual users who transact in it for what is commonly termed as “real-world goods & services” are increasing, especially with the advent of crypto-debit cards that allow crypto expenditure in an easy and userfriendly way. Power users who purchase crypto to make use of blockchain-based apps and protocols is also increasing, especially those purchasing Ether (ETH) to make use of the Ethereum blockchain to build decentralised apps (dApps) and decentralised finance (DeFi) protocols. page
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Investors are coming in from all parts of society, from institutional investors to grandmas buying up some savings.
WILL BANKS END UP OBSOLETE AS A RESULT OF CRYPTO? The answer is “no” – but with a caveat. Those banks, aware of the vast implications that crypto has, are already adapting to the change and working with the crypto industry rather than against it. Banks like BNY Mellon and J.P. Morgan have already started providing services in relation to Bitcoin, which is by far the most prominent cryptocurrency in terms of market share. Conversely, those banks which will stubbornly shove their heads in the sand will inevitably lose ground in relevance and importance. It’s no longer a question of “if ” they should adopt crypto – it’s now a question of “when”. WHAT SAFETY MEASURES HAVE BEEN INCLUDED FOR CRYPTO USERS TO COMBAT FRAUDSTERS? If we’re specifically talking about fraud, then the only safety measure that works is common sense – if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Avoid projects that promise a guaranteed fixed rate of return, projects that self-proclaim to be the next best thing, or projects that make a massive fanfare about partners page
and famous names rather than the project’s substance itself. As for the elephant in the room, which is money laundering – most countries have brought service providers like exchanges and custodians within the remit of local and supranational anti-money laundering laws. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has issued a set of Recommendations targeting virtual asset service providers, which Recommendations have to be implemented by virtually every country by June 2021. All this is helping to combat money laundering. However, what will definitely help the most is education, especially by supervisory authorities and police forces worldwide. The blockchain technology underpinning crypto will actually make their lives a lot easier since there’s a publicly available log of all the transactions taking place in crypto on most blockchain networks. IS THE MARKET VOLATILE AS A RESULT OF THE PANDEMIC? Possibly, but not entirely. The market is volatile due to the relatively small size of
the entire market – let’s not forget that the entire market cap of gold, which is just one asset, is around $11 trillion. I would say that the confinement of almost the world’s whole population indoors has potentially led to more people reading about crypto and getting themselves involved in it. Did that contribute to the sharp rise in the total value of the cryptocurrency market? I would say that this was simply overdue and not triggered by the pandemic – the amount of innovation happening in the crypto space is staggering, and it’s now starting to become publicly recognised. Again – just starting. HOW ARE YOU GETTING ALONG IN THE MIDST OF A PANDEMIC? We have moved to newer and bigger offices in Malta, recruiting new team members, and looking for some more too! I hope you don’t mind me doing a shameless plug – but if you’re a lawyer specialising in financial services & instruments and want to make the jump to the crypto industry, contact me! ANY FUTURE PROJECTS? Plenty, keep an eye out on our website and LinkedIn page.
Photography Jonathan Borg
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WORDS VALLETTA CULTURAL AGENCY
VALLETTA SPRINGS TO LIFE The Valletta Cultural Agency has launched its spring programme of events designed to uplift spirits during these challenging times. The Valletta Design Cluster within the Valletta Cultural Agency has recently opened as a community space for cultural and creative practice in the renovated Old Abattoir (IlBiċċerija l-Antika) in Valletta. Throughout May and June, the collaborative visual arts exhibition and research project fuse will take place at the Valletta Design Cluster and the surrounding areas. A jam-packed programme awaits audiences in June as Valletta welcomes Cinema City – a five-day festival of outdoor film screenings at Laparelli Gardens, underneath the City Gate Bridge. The performance Bejn Linja u Oħra, directed by Norbert Buġeja, Ray Calleja and Albert Marshall, occurs at Pjazza Teatru Rjal on 12th June. Between the 30th June and the 4th July, Tritons Square will host the Valletta Local Food Festival, to raise awareness on the diversity, creativity and ever-growing quality within the local culinary scene, its local food producers, ingredients, and all local businesses who contribute towards it. Due to the ongoing situation, the Valletta Cultural Agency reserves the right to amend dates and other event details at any time. Updates will be posted on vca.gov.mt and the Valletta Cultural Agency Facebook page.
fimbank.com FIMBank offers a wide range of trade finance solutions including the most complex supply chain structures in the domestic and international trade space. Supporting clients in this challenging environment requires more than just the standard trade finance offering. Through innovation and a strong commitment to successful execution, FIMBank structures bespoke trade finance solutions designed to support sustainable business growth.
FIMBank p.l.c. is a licensed credit institution regulated by the Malta Financial Services Authority and is listed on the Malta Stock Exchange.
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WORDS ronald cassar
STREETS AHEAD IN COMFORT AND STYLE RONALD CASSAR caught up with FIONA HILI, Managing Director of the upmarket apartments named 10 Strait Street, situated in the capital’s most famous street. HOW DO YOU DESCRIBE 10 STRAIT STREET? WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL, AND WHAT MAKES IT STAND OUT FROM OTHER BOUTIQUE HOTELS? 10 Strait Street is a property that I renovated four years ago in the upper part of this fascinating Valletta street. The challenge was to convert a large old house into a collection of 6 serviced apartments, including our flagship property, the penthouse, in keeping with the spirit of the location.
These apartments are available for short and long lets. The finished product is contemporary luxury - using the best materials and bespoke carpentry - we offer our guests a stylish home-from-home stay in a suite of rooms which all include completely separate bedrooms, a living space and dining space, as well as a fully equipped kitchen. The furnishings and colour schemes are soothing to the eye, with a few elaborate touches such as carved stone fireplaces. The rooms in each apartment combine space and elegance with all mod-cons for independent travellers seeking to experience Valletta’s authenticity. What makes it stand out from other boutique hotels is that guests enjoy a large serviced apartment (one- or two-bedroomed options available, average size 80sqm, and a penthouse with large terraces having panoramic city and sea views) in upper Valletta on a car-free part of Strait Street. Most of Valletta’s best cultural attractions, such as St John’s Cathedral and most popular
bars and restaurants, are a stone’s throw away. With standard arrangements which include twice-weekly housekeeping and linen change, concierge services such as the organisation of city and Malta-wide sightseeing tours and restaurant bookings, we believe that we offer very good value. We also offer our guests the choice of a higher level of service: we can arrange daily turndown, maid, personal laundry and grocery shopping service, and the service of a chef and a chauffeur on request. Our guests’ comfort and privacy are our priority. IN MALTA, THERE IS A SHORTAGE OF WOMEN MANAGING AT TOP POSITIONS IN ALMOST EVERY BUSINESS FIELD. IN YOUR OPINION, HOW CAN THIS BE CHANGED? In my view, the critical factor in bringing about change, that is to say channelling more female talent upwards, is the actual commitment to visibly bring women on board at managerial levels: organisations must practice what they preach. The path to gender equality starts at the top. I do think that although the pace of this change is slow, barriers to gender diversity are, in fact, breaking down. These barriers are cultural, legal and structural, and I believe that the lastmentioned barrier is the biggest challenge. Organisations that sustain their engagement to driving change by placing women in top posts without discrimination spearhead this change. Culturally the traditional Maltese
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mindset that women are the boss in the home and men on the job has significantly changed thanks to education. Successive governments are pushing women to move more easily through the pipeline to more senior posts with legislation and policies. Therefore, within the business models embraced by organisations themselves, these changes will be actualised, and managers need to push to enable them. TO INCREASE FEMALE PARTICIPATION, WHAT FAMILY-FRIENDLY MEASURES SHOULD BE INTRODUCED? In addition to the already existing family-friendly measures such as maternity leave, parental leave (including unpaid), paternity leave, adoption leave, work on a reduced timetable, and others, the addition of flexitime, job sharing and teleworking as options should be on offer.
THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC HAS LEFT MOST BUSINESSES IN A PRECARIOUS POSITION. HOW DID THE PANDEMIC AFFECT YOU? The pandemic did affect us for the simple reason that the number of visitors to our islands decreased drastically; therefore the numbers simply went down. Having said that, we are compliant with all the mandatory standards for mitigation measures. This includes social distancing, correct hygiene measures, prevention of transmission, constant updating of advice and strict monitoring of our guests’ clean bill of health upon arrival. We have seen the demand grow for longer let as staying in a serviced apartment makes sense economically and within the Covid scenario. We have also seen a marked increase in Malta-based guests coming to stay. Staying in an apartment within a small block can offer travellers more peace of mind because they are more private. One does not have to eat in a restaurant or congregate with others in areas which in the case of hotels, are essentially accessible to all. ANY PL ANS IN PL ACE FOR WHEN THE PANDEMIC EASES? We will continue to do what we do best and provide a wonderful and relaxing stay in luxurious accommodation, a tribute to Valletta’s history and its heritage of excellence. WHAT’S YOUR MESSAGE TO PROSPECTIVE NEW CUSTOMERS? My message is that Cov id-19 w ill not st and in our way of prov iding a high st andard of accommodation to our v isitors, both local and foreign. Their satisfaction is our goal.
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WORDS DAVID XUEREB
AN IMPACTFUL CHAMBER IS DRIVEN BY POSITIVE ENERGIES Over the past twenty-four months, I consider myself blessed to work with a team of people who have managed to impact its membership during these unprecedented times. The Executives have unearthed tremendous motivation and energies driven by clear ambitions for the organisation. The Chamber Council has been courageous to address what matters most and to drive the organisation to be relevant, efficient, inclusive, researched and professional. This was a veritable journey of self-discovery as an organisation. The Malta Chamber has cemented itself as the undisputed foremost business leader representative body in the country, providing credible and non-partisan thought-leadership.
When I look back over the past two years, I almost find it hard to fathom the immense work we have done together as a team and the goals we managed to achieve. The Chamber’s relevant, honest, timely and professional actions have been the ingredients of this successful formula. The engagement and quality of the Annual General Meeting held in a virtual format on the 24th March 2021 was a true celebration of this. The professional production that enabled effective presentations and opinions, disseminating information, and participants’ effective involvement was a tangible confirmation that the Chamber is walking the talk and committed to renewing, regenerating, and leading. Our formidable executive team very well detailed the achievements of our Chamber in this year’s annual reports. I do wish, however, to reflect on why we decided to take this quantum leap and how we did it.
Firstly, we were driven by absolute and unashamed objectiveness and relentless national ambition. Every step of the way, we studied and addressed every issue objectively and took the right steps, in the interest of our members, without looking anyone in the face. This led to our Chamber becoming the undisputed thought-leader on all issues that affect business and the quality of life of the Maltese. Be it the Economic Vision, Good Governance, Public Procurement, the National Budget process, COVID-19 assistance to businesses, the need for Business Re-engineering, Brexit, and so many other issues; we never stood shy nor minced our words. I am proud to have formed part of a Chamber that addressed the national concerns on Good Governance holistically and led national debate with tangible recommendations expected from ethical business. Business leadership paved a clear way on what the various country layers (including the business community itself) needed to do in order to repair the expected damage to our economy and our international reputation. I was exceptionally delighted to experience the engagement of around 150 business CEOs in coming together to mould a very strong COVID-resilient economic vision that Government and the Opposition then endorsed. This is real engagement ... this is true impact.
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With every priority that the Chamber identified, we rolled up our sleeves, engaged with as many members as possible, engaged with experts, understood the global dimension, studied options, priorities and recommendations well, took a pro-active approach and communicated effectively. We managed to bring on board the finest minds the country has to offer and formulated a veritable patrimony of thoughtrich documents, which we presented to Government and all relevant authorities. All documents were filled to the brim with concrete, measurable proposals, most of which, I am pleased to note, were appreciated, accepted and implemented into national policy. As COVID 19 offered the perfect storm to our businesses, as the globe’s economy ground to a halt,
the Chamber chose to see the opportunity in these challenges and offer real guidance and leadership to its members and the country. I feel we grew closer to our members as we offered tangible support while we all navigated the uncharted territories of the pandemic. While we vociferously expressed the true and tangible concerns and recommendations to Government, we made a difference and have been truly impactful. This did not go unnoticed, as more businesses saw the true value of becoming part of our Chamber. We grew in new areas bringing on board many new business leaders with true and real engagement from various backgrounds, industries, and sectors. Today our organisation is richer and more diverse than ever, which is possibly one of our most outstanding achievements. The Chamber has captured the aligned energies of many and channelled this into
true value to members and the country at large. Looking back, I am satisfied that we have come a long and meaningful way. The restlessness of our members is well reflected in every breath of our organisation, and that is expected to augur well as we strive through the next steps in history that remain in the making. I am truly proud and happy to form part of the Malta Chamber of Commerce since this has enabled me to work with the best and most inspiring business leaders in an honest, objective and intelligent manner that has enabled meaningful impact. I wish to congratulate the new Council led by the Chamber’s new President, Marisa Xuereb. The strength of the composition of this Council leaves me no doubt that this organisation is set for new and stronger heights in its relentless actions to remain relevant, true, honest and impactful. page
Genoa Ravenna Savona Ancona Fos Livorno
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01. CHAMBER PRESENTS PUBLIC PROCUREMENT PROPOSALS TO DEPARTMENT OF CONTRACTS A delegation of The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry presented the recently launched Public Procurement Reform Report 2021 to the Director of the Department of Contracts, Mr Anthony Cachia. During the meeting, Former Chamber President Architect Xuereb was pleased to hear that specific proposals within the report were already being implemented to provide a more transparent and fair public procurement process that is driven by the highest standards of good governance. “As a Chamber of Commerce, we acknowledge the complexity that such a process may entail, and although steps forward are being taken to provide a level-playing field for all, more needs to be done, especially in terms of direct orders and blacklisting,” explained Xuereb.
02. MALTA CHAMBER HELPS MALTESE COMPANIES IN TECHNOLOGY, HEALTHCARE, ENVIRONMENTAL AND FASHION SECTORS TO FIND INTERNATIONAL PARTNERS The Malta Chamber teamed up with Zenit (Germany), Netherlands Chamber of Commerce and SFG (Austria) to facilitate business-tobusiness virtual meeting as part of Enterprise Europe Network (EEN).
0 1 03. THE MALTA CHAMBER AND VISTAGE MALTA LAUNCH BUSINESS CONFIDENCE INDEX RESULTS \The Malta Chamber, in collaboration with VISTAGE Malta, has launched the first edition of the international Confidence Index for businesses this afternoon. The Confidence Index for businesses is a benchmarking exercise introduced to Malta for the first time by VISTAGE Malta. VISTAGE Malta CEO Nathan Farrugia said, “The Vistage CI index aims to collate and measure the confidence of CEOs around the world. Now released in Malta, the results show the current sentiment of local business leaders of the past 12 months and their predictions of the upcoming year."
04. ANALYSING THE EU-UK TRADE AND COOPERATION AGREEMENT FOR BUSINESS Over 60 participants from eight different countries joined the webinar, ‘Deciphering the Brexit deal for business’ held recently, providing a thorough analysis to understand the salient specifications that emerged from the EU-UK Cooperation Trade Agreement.
The events spread over various thematic clusters, including green office solutions, healthcare technology textiles and fashion.
EU and international trade lawyer Dr Jan Micallef, who also forms part of the Malta Chamber International Relations Council, started off by briefly introducing what this trade agreement truly entails.
Over 20 Maltese companies met international counterparts during preset meetings, which brought together start-ups and established enterprises to explore business ventures, partner in international projects, discover new ideas and exchange knowledge and experiences.
Shanella Rajanayagam, trade economist at HSBC Holdings plc, reiterated what Dr Micallef explained regarding the opportunities and risks that the post-Brexit trade deal would introduce. Alan Mamo, Director of Compliance and Systems at the Department of Customs provided insights on trading with the UK as of January 1st of 2021. page
Issue 95 05. THE MALTA CHAMBER FORMS PART OF CONSORTIUM TO INNOVATE VET SECTOR The Malta Chamber has partnered up with 11 other entities, one of which being MCAST, across four other different European Union member states on a project aimed at designing and developing a European Platform of Centre of Excellence devoted to innovating the VET sector for the social inclusion of individuals belonging to disadvantaged groups. The project titled Governance for Inclusive Vocational Excellence, better known as GIVE, aims to consolidate the activities and practices developed at the local level by the partners in terms of inclusion, exploiting their outcomes and impacts of Inclusive Excellence.
06. TECH.MT BACKS THE MALTA CHAMBER’S VISION TOWARDS THE DIGITALISATION OF MALTA “Government, business leaders, and educational institutions must give vital importance to technology and innovation as the true backbone to any sustainable economy,” said Former Chamber President Architect David Xuereb during the Tech.MT Annual General Meeting, which was held at The Malta Chamber. Xuereb continued by emphasising the importance of smart investment by both businesses and the Government to ensure optimum efficiency to achieve sustainable economic growth ambitions.
07. THE TIME TO RECOVER, RETHINK AND REVITALISE MALTA’S TOURISM INDUSTRY IS NOW The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry and the Tourism Executive Committee welcome the Malta Tourism Authority’s Strategy Document that is envisioning a higher quality, diverse Maltese tourism experience page
0 6 for travellers in the coming years, titled 'Recover, Rethink, Revitalise.' The Tourism Executive Committee has continuously noted the importance of shifting the strategic focus of tourism development. This would entail that the touristic experience of the island and its tourism economic operators are given centre stage for a more sustainable and smart approach towards tourism, the backbone of Malta’s economic success.
08. THE MALTA CHAMBER WELCOMES ANNOUNCEMENT OF PRE-1995 RENT REFORM The Malta Chamber welcomes the Government’s announced reform which is set to absorb up to €10,000 in rent for the pre-1995 residential rental agreements. The mechanism that is set to be introduced reflects the position of the Malta Chamber in its Policy Recommendation ‘Rent Reforms: Eight Years on – A Review’ from 2017. While the Malta Chamber welcomes this reform, it feels certain issues still require further clarification and discussion, not least on the amount budgeted for implementing this scheme, which the Malta Chamber deems too low.
09. THE CHAMBER DISCUSSES OPPOSITION’S VISION FOR ENERGY The Leader of the Opposition the Hon. Dr Bernard Grech thanked the Chamber for its warm welcome, as he underlined the importance of a broad discussion on which to base the country’s long-term vision for Energy. Ing. Patrick Spiteri Staines highlighted the importance of
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addressing the excessive bureaucracy of energy schemes. Mr Joe Pace stated that manufacturers in Malta face a situation unique in Europe, where industry rates for utility bills are higher than commercial rates. "Rectifying this situation is important to maintain competitiveness for the sector," Mr Pace said. Mr Konrad Pule spoke about the need to encourage a culture change to experience a modal shift in transport. He also warned that while electrification of the vehicle fleet is the way forward, this does not resolve problems with congestion, so there must be broader transport solutions. The Leader of the Opposition was accompanied by the Hon. Ing. Ryan Callus and the Hon. Ms Kristy Debono.
10. CARE HOME OPERATORS BUSINESS SECTOR WITHIN THE MALTA CHAMBER MEET WITH THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION The Care Home Operators Business Committee within The Malta Chamber recently met with Dr Bernard Grech, Leader of the Opposition and Dr Maria Deguara, Shadow Minister and spokesperson representing the Elderly. Dr Grech and Dr Deguara listened to the concerns of Care Home Operators, especially following the last year as they battled Covid19 trying to keep the elderly in their care safe. They spoke of their apprehension now that it has been suggested that measures within care homes will be eased and their wish that this would be done in stages to safeguard the elderly further.
13. THE MALTA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE WELCOMES CONTINUED EMPLOYMENT SUPPORT... EAGER FOR NEW ECONOMY-RELATED INITIATIVES The Malta Chamber welcomes the extension of the existing wage supplement scheme for employees employed in business experiencing difficulties due to the Covid- 19 pandemic. Since its launch early last year, the scheme has safeguarded thousands of jobs and kept a number of businesses afloat while working hard to recover lost business. It is clear that this direct assistance is crucial at a time when a number of business operators are trying to survive the current impact. Furthermore, the Chamber also calls for an immediate focus on what Minister Dalli referred to as the “New Economy Initiatives”.
11. DISCRIMINATION AGAINST PRIVATE AND CHURCH CARE HOME OPERATORS The decision reached between the Government, and the Union of Nurses is welcomed; however, the decision to allow only those employed in the public sector to benefit from such decisions is unjust. Anything but an equal playing field is not acceptable. Therefore, the Government is being asked to reconsider its decision and offer the same terms and conditions on work permit duration, costs, and applications irrelevant if one is employed in the public or the private sector.
12. CHAMBER PRESENTS PUBLIC PROCUREMENT RECOMMENDATIONS TO HON. SILVIO SCHEMBRI The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, presented a copy of its recently published report on a proposed Public Procurement Reform to the Hon. Silvio Schembri, Ministry for the Economy, Investment and Small Businesses. The document was developed after a consultation process with its members and a working group of experienced individuals and professionals from across the economy. Hon. Silvio Schembri praised the Malta Chamber initiative concerning the public procurement report.
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Issue 95 14. THE MALTA CHAMBER AND JAYE TEAM UP TO SHAPE MALTA’S FUTURE The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the JAYE Malta Foundation to promote an entrepreneurial culture amongst the young, the leaders of tomorrow. Ms Fiona Captur, CEO of JAYE Malta, said, “The Malta Chamber and JAYE Malta Foundation have long been aligned in their collaboration. Our mutual focus on developing resilient and relevant human capital brings synergies to our mission to the benefit of our students who are ultimately tomorrow’s Young Chamber Network (YCN) members.”
15. DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION AT THE CORE OF SIGNING BETWEEN THE CHAMBER AND BMIT TECHNOLOGIES The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry has signed a Bronze Collaboration Agreement with BMIT Technologies plc. The agreement will pair BMIT Technologies with The Malta Chamber’s Digital Transformation Committee, which will provide awareness to the business community in the data economy, cybersecurity, and digital skills. Ing. Christian Sammut, BMIT Technologies CEO, said, “We are excited to be partnering with The Malta Chamber and support the digital transformation initiative being launched. We look forward to contributing our expertise and resources through steering the Digital Transformation committee and play a leading role in rendering Malta a better place to do business and in so doing generating better lives for its people.
1 4 16. KLIKK AND THE MALTA CHAMBER STRENGTHEN TIES Klikk has renewed its Bronze Partnership Support Agreement with The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry for the second consecutive year. The Malta Chamber is honoured with the trust Klikk is placing once again in the Chamber of Commerce through this agreement and looks forward to continuing building on the strong relationship the parties enjoy. Klikk CEO Kevin Rapinett said, “Klikk, a leading technology shop in Malta and an authorised partner to major brands, is proud to be once again supporting the Malta Chamber to further expedite the Chamber’s digitialisation journey through multi-dimensional support”. Mr Rapinett also congratulated Mr Xuereb on his outstanding contribution to the business community amidst challenging times during his term as President.
17. THE MALTA CHAMBER RELEASES RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CULTURE OF WORKPLACE RESILIENCE DURING COVID-19 The Malta Chamber’s Health & Wellness Committee released a policy document tackling the new ways in which COVID-19 has contributed to stress at the workplace, by offering best practices and policy recommendations to both employers and Government alike. While remote working has offered certain advantages, it has also had an impact on work culture. Therefore, the document, titled “Recommendations to Employers and Government to build a Culture of Wellness & Resilience during COVID with Employees”, aims to address problems such as the impact which remote working has had on team
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cohesion, and the importance of new digital tools to address the resulting gaps. The committee is chaired by Mrs Catherine Calleja, Director & Group Company Secretary at Atlas Insurance.
18. BUILDING FUTURES - THE MALTA CHAMBER AND AP VALLETTA SIGN AGREEMENT TO WORK TOWARDS A SUSTAINABLE BUILDING SECTOR The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry has signed a Cooperation Agreement with architecture and design firm AP Valletta to actively explore common projects on the future of the built and unbuilt environment in Malta. ‘Building Futures’ will focus on typologies of space representative of the challenges Malta faces from a cultural, economic, social and environmental point of view, taking a multidisciplinary approach, bringing together designers, data analysts, economists and others in a collective effort to re-imagine the current systems. It will combine AP Valletta’s knowledge and experience in research and design projects with The Malta Chamber’s commitment to developing a tangible vision for sustainable economic growth.
19. ARCHITECT DAVID XUEREB - 2 YEARS AS PRESIDENT OF THE MALTA CHAMBER Marking his two years at the helm of The Malta Chamber, Former President Architect David Xuereb was interviewed on TVAM to discuss the journey that the foremost business representative organisation has been on during the past 24 months. “Looking back at the past two years, The Malta Chamber of Commerce revitalised and improved its operational structures, both internally and externally, to strengthen its position as Malta’s leading voice of business. I am truly humbled to have been entrusted with this responsibility to lead Malta’s leading business representative body as we embarked on many ambitious projects,” noted Architect Xuereb.
20. ANYTHING BUT A LEVEL-PLAYING FIELD IS NOT ACCEPTABLE In a recent development, Health Minister Chris Fearne announced an updated quarantine rule which allows fully vaccinated healthcare workers to go into quarantine for five days instead of 14. However, this new rule only applies to employees working at Mater Dei Hospital.
Although this decision is welcomed in order to ease pressure on healthcare workers by freeing up staff at an earlier stage, it is deemed to be unfair as it only applies to healthcare workers in the public sector. page
Issue 95 Therefore, the Government is being asked to reconsider this decision and offer the same terms and conditions to all employees who are fully vaccinated across all sectors to alleviate the COVID-19 burden as much as possible.
21. THE MALTA CHAMBER WELCOMES 'START IN MALTA’ SCHEME The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry applaud the ‘Start In Malta’ scheme to promote the Maltese start-up ecosystem. The Malta Chamber is proud to form part of this initiative. “The ability to grow a start-up into a successful business requires many factors to work in unison. It necessitates a culture of collaboration, where background, skills, and many other elements come together to make a project a success. We trust that this tool will continue to create this special environment which will be conducive to our startups’ growth into success stories,” Architect Xuereb augured.
22. ADDRESS BY ARCHITECT XUEREB AT CHAMBER AGM Addressing the Annual General Meeting of the Malta Chamber, outgoing President Architect David Xuereb said that while Covid was a major disruptor in the past months, the Malta Chamber still managed to reach its goals and represent businesses in Malta throughout one of the most challenging times of our history. “There has never been a better time than this time of stimulation, to rise to the occasion and work hard to make a difference in our personal lives and that of our businesses,” said Architect Xuereb. The former Chamber President was reflecting on the main highlights of his Presidency in the past year.
23. RESHAPING THE WORKPLACE FROM COVID EXPERIENCES The Malta Chamber, in collaboration with the COVID-19 Public Health Response Team and the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Directorate, organised a webinar on the current scenario in terms of Covid measures and the recent update in protocols and procedures at the workplace. Addressing the attendees and moderating the ‘Reshaping the workplace from covid experiences’ webinar, Ms Fabianne Ruggier, Executive Consultant at RSM Malta, sponsors of The Malta Chamber HR and Talent Thematic Committee, noted the importance of such a webinar in providing the much-needed clarity that businesses are after to help mitigate the spread of Covid at the workplace. Dr Elaine Lautier and experts from the Public Health Response Team provided insights on controlling the spread of Covid while securing employee safety.
24. PRIME MINISTER ROBERT ABELA ADDRESSES MALTA CHAMBER AGM During the recently organised Annual General Meeting by The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, Dr Robert Abela, Prime Minister of Malta, emphasised how vital The Chamber was in a national effort to unite stakeholders to work towards a unified objective. Prime Minister Abela noted how The Malta Chamber was crucial in providing well-researched positions and proposals that prioritise the needs of the business community and Malta’s workforce to enhance our economy at large.
25. LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION PRAISES THE MALTA CHAMBER’S WORK DURING AGM Dr Bernard Grech, Leader of the Opposition, noted how The Malta Chamber is one of the most important stakeholders on the island is contributing to Malta’s economic and social dialogue. Grech commended the indispensable efforts and initiatives that The Malta Chamber took to be a true catalyst of change and innovation in the past year. Through the robust Economic Vision for the next five years, Dr Grech emphasised the importance of such a vision as it was created through the efforts of The Malta Chamber members, the top business leaders of the country.
26. PRESIDENT OF MALTA H.E. DR GEORGE VELLA ADDRESSES CHAMBER AGM H.E. Dr George Vella, President of Malta, expressed his gratitude towards the diligent and earnest drive that The Malta Chamber showed during the past months to enhance Malta’s business sphere.
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As he addressed attendees during The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry Annual General Meeting, the President thanked The Chamber for its exceptional work in establishing itself as a credible and real organisation that is the backbone of Malta’s economic pulse. Dr Vella noted how paramount The Malta Chamber was in acting as a beacon to Maltese businesses, through its thought leadership approach, to aid such organisations in navigating unchartered waters.
27. POLICY, REPRESENTATION AND THOUGHT LEADERSHIP During the Annual General Meeting by The Malta Chamber, emphasis was given on The Chamber’s work in influencing policy formation and effective representation within the economy through a thought leadership approach. Mr Andre Fenech, Head of Policy and Members Relations at The Malta Chamber, noted how during 2020, which COVID heavily influenced, The Chamber remained in constant dialogue with members of the business community. Mr Kevin Mizzi, Member and Stakeholder Relations Manager at The Chamber, explained how the restructuring process also included the establishment of a Think Tank, which brought together numerous business leaders and CEOs to propose concrete recommendations for a post COVID scenario. Ms Diana Miceli, Policy Development Manager at The Malta Chamber, noted that as the country’s foremost guardian of competitiveness, The Malta
2 8 Chamber was once again proactive in leading several efforts to ensure that all initiatives lead to an enhanced economic future.
28. MARISA XUEREB ELECTED PRESIDENT OF THE MALTA CHAMBER Following the Annual General Meeting of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry held on the 24th March, the newly elected Council met, and elected Ms Marisa Xuereb as President of The Malta Chamber 2021-2023. Addressing the Council for the first time, Ms Xuereb outlined her presidency’s priorities for the coming two years. She said that she felt honoured to follow in the footsteps of the outgoing President who worked tirelessly to elevate the vision of The Chamber. Xuereb noted that in the next 24 months, she will strive to maintain The Chamber’s leading role in representing businesses while facing the challenges ahead. “Together we will work relentlessly to enhance competitiveness and ensure a steady recovery and the implementation of a smart and sustainable economic vision for the country,” said President Xuereb.
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3 1 29. QUALITY TO MEMBERS Throughout the past year, members remained at the centre of The Malta Chamber’s efforts and work. Mr Kevin Mizzi, Member and Stakeholder Relations Manager at The Chamber, explained how the restructuring of the onboarding process allowed the team to meet and understand every new member’s different needs to make a proper difference in their business ambitions. The Chamber’s internationalisation efforts remained active to provide support to interested members to grow beyond our shores, stated Mr Lino Mintoff. Internationalisation Advisor of The Malta Chamber. TradeMalta CEO, Mr Anton Buttigieg, explained how the implications of COVID initiated a shift in services, with most of the services provided now being implemented online, together with a series of webinars regarding several focus areas. Ms Dana Farrugia, CEO of Tech.MT, which was established in 2019 as a Public-Private Partnership between The Malta Chamber and the Maltese Government, remarked on their continuous encouragement on the need to upskill and reskill while providing guidance to firms seeking to advance internationally. Though disrupted by COVID, the operations of Education Malta shifted virtually to reflect new interests from global players within the education field, said CEO Mr Charles Zammit during The Chamber AGM. Mr Joe Tanti, Malta Business Bureau CEO, commented on the ongoing discussions being held with key stakeholders in order to keep The Malta Chamber and its members updated on relevant news from EU institutions.
30. PPROJECTS & REACH OUT - BUILDING STRONGER RELATIONSHIPS WITH MALTA’S BUSINESS COMMUNITY The Malta Chamber of Commerce team reflected on the drive towards building stronger relationships both with existing members and the business community at large. Resolute in its mission to be the leading voice of business in Malta, Ms Johanna Calleja and Mr Stefan Bajada, Statutory Affairs and Administration Manager and Business Development Manager at The Chamber, respectively, outlined the several initiatives launched to identify opportunities. In line with The Malta Chamber’s constant advocacy for the need for smart investment in technology and innovation, Ms Rachel Micallef, Projects Manager, explained how the restructuring process included a digitalisation push which introduced several initiatives to enhance communication channels with members. The rebranding exercise launched in mid-2020 showcased the restless drive of The Chamber in being the foremost representative of the business sphere in Malta noted former Communications Manager Mr Edward Bonello.
31. THE MALTA CHAMBER THANKS NNG AND MAD-ABOUT-VIDEO FOR AGM SETUP The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry’s 2021 Annual General Meeting held recently was organised completely online for the second time running. The deployment of the best technologies to maximise member
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3 4 appreciation and engagement was a priority for The Chamber.
and Mr Nicholas Xuereb of Toly Products Ltd were elected Vice-Presidents.
The Malta Chamber must express its gratitude to Mad-About-Video Multimedia for the setup and NnG Promotions for supplying the LED screens that were utilised during this event, including the magnificent screen that featured behind the head table.
Mr Norman Aquilina of Simonds Farsons Cisk plc, Mr Mark Bajada of Bajada New Energy Ltd and Mr Ian Casolani of Belair Property were elected Officers on the Board of Management.
Through their professional expertise and wide range of state-of-the-art equipment, NnG Promotions and Mad-About-Video managed to provide a seamlessly enticing experience for all the attendees while ensuring that engagement levels were high throughout this most important annual event of The Chamber.
32. MALTA CHAMBER BOARD OF MANAGEMENT ELECTED Following the electoral process, which took place at the end of March, The Malta Chamber’s newly elected Council convened for the first time on Tuesday the 30th to elect Ms Marisa Xuereb as President to lead the organisation for the next two years. Next was the establishment of the board of management, which is tasked with advising the council on policy matters and the administration of The Chamber. Mr Christopher Vassallo Cesareo of Domestica Ltd. was elected Deputy President, while Ms Liz Barbaro Sant of Alberta Group
33. ENFORCEMENT AND COMMUNICATION ARE KEY The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry are pleased to note that the restrictions adopted in response to the spike in Covid-19 cases a month ago have so far had the desired effect. The President of the Chamber, Marisa Xuereb, highlighted that this comes at a high cost to businesses and their employees. Therefore, every effort needs to be made in terms of both enforcement and personal responsibility to ensure that cases do not overwhelm us again. Our economy can reopen and stay open safely. The Chamber commends the decision to prioritise the reopening of schools and stagger the reopening of other establishments to ensure that the situation remains under control. What certainly needs to improve is communication with social partners on the implementation and relaxation of restrictions.
34. MALTA CHAMBER APPOINTS NEW CEO, TO START ON JUNE 1 The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry recently announced that Dr Marthese Portelli is to take up the post of CEO within the Chamber as of June 1. Dr Portelli, a law graduate, has ample years of experience in policy formulation and negotiation. She served senior roles in the corporate world for 13 years in the technology sector before becoming a Member of Parliament, serving for seven years. Dr Portelli also shadowed several portfolios, including EU affairs, energy, environment, transport, infrastructure, capital projects, planning and property. Later she became involved in sectoral representation while working as a management consultant in her professional capacity. The Malta Chamber said that it is confident that Dr Portelli will build on the solid legacy of The Chamber and will be an engaging and effective driver of The Chamber’s vision during such challenging times. “The business community,” the Chamber continued, “will benefit from her broad skills and strong personality”.
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WORDS DR STEPHANIE FABRI
MISSION MALTA: BUILDING A VISION FOR MALTA AND GOZO Dr Stephanie Fabri, an Economist and lecturer at the University of Malta, writes on what Malta can gain even in the time of crisis and the way forward. WE HAVE HEARD A LOT ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING A NATIONAL VISION AS A WAY FORWARD BY DIFFERENT STAKEHOLDERS, INCLUDING SOCIAL PARTNERS, POLICYMAKERS, AND BUSINESS LEADERS. SO, WHAT CONSTITUTES A NATIONAL VISION? A vision can be seen as a lens into the future of a country. It enables a nation to define its idealistic state for the next 10-20 years or even more. It guides policy in terms of ushering in a new and revised version of growth through foresight. Whilst hindsight is essential to ensure that we learn from lessons learnt in the past, it is only through foresight that we can start charting a future for Malta, and to explore, discuss, and analyse potential directions that we want our future economy to take. As an economist, I fully agree with these calls from stakeholders. I usually refer to it as 'Mission Malta', as we need to draft and embark on this new mission and vision that will take us into a better future for all.
Foundational elements involve values, well-being, institutions, human capital, and infrastructure.
WHAT CAN A COUNTRY GAIN FROM A NATIONAL VISION, ESPECIALLY IN TIMES OF CRISIS LIKE THESE? To date, we are experiencing three intertwined rises – a global pandemic, a severe economic situation, and an impending climate change catastrophe. Despite these challenges, based on historical events, one can say that crises have always marked a new era for economies and societies large. Obviously, this heavily depends on the
country’s ability and agility to use these situations as economic turning points by redirecting their resources towards a new growth path. That is why national visions matter even more in times like these. They provide hope, and they instill market confidence. They guide investments, direct policymakers, ensure continuity, inspire business leaders, give hope to employees and societies at large, and provide a brighter future for the younger generations. Visions are there to bridge the gap between the short-, and long-term goals. Ultimately, visions assist in developing a nation whereby societies and institutions can be transformed, while resource capacity and capital investment are built to address the new needs of the country. It is only in the presence of a vision that stakeholder commitment toward economic progress can ensure that the path towards progress can begin. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE IN MALTA’S NATIONAL VISION? Malta’s vision, in my opinion, should be based on three elements. First, you have the foundational pillars. Based on these pillars, there should be several key enablers, and ultimately, in line with these enablers, there should be several strategic pillars. Foundational elements involve values, wellbeing, institutions, human capital, and infrastructure. Built on these foundations, we need to outline several key enablers. These enablers include providing clear insights into the transformations of industries and
Issue 95 societies, investing in the green and blue economy, developing further our infrastructure and ICT, and ensuring that markets (labour, product, and capital) are flexible. CAN YOU EXPAND ON THESE ELEMENTS? Foundational elements are the bedrock of the whole vision, and they form the basis on which the rest of the concept is built, and for me, this is built on the following elements: • Values: The vision must be rooted in our values as a Maltese society. We need to start looking at the economy and its structure through its DNA. This is especially important as we struggle to make sense of the impact of the pandemic, it is the right time to rediscover our national identity and continue building on what makes us truly Maltese. Thus, whilst a new normal is something we should be aspiring to, we need to ensure that this normal is based on our identity, culture, and economic heritage. • Well-being: The end goal of this vision, and also as we recover from the pandemic, we must go beyond the usual focus on GDP. We must go beyond and focus on well-being which in turn needs prosperity to be able to happen. This well-being can only be achieved if we try to balance quality with quantity in decision-making. Well-being should be ensured in terms of the society’s mental and physical health, financial stability of all individuals within the society, the opportunity for everyone to progress in society, and also in terms of
community development. Well-being is safeguarded by ensuring that society remains abreast with regards to digital literacy. Also, safeguarding the limited space we have in terms of our urban and natural environment is key for social well-being. • Institutions: As specified through the Global Competitiveness Index, Malta is currently facing several challenges in this regard concerning elements such as freedom of the press and the incidence of corruption. The vision has to ensure that institutional quality is strengthened from all aspects concerning this area. • Human Capital: The quality of human capital is fundamental for Malta’s future growth. Our economy is entirely dependent on this resource. The knowledge, skill, and health of society are definitely fundamentals for our success. • Infrastructure: ICT and physical infrastructure are key elements for Malta’s competitiveness. Private sector infrastructure typically leads to investment in this case. However, Government investment in infrastructure is key to attract foreign investment too. Investment in particular in digital infrastructure, needs to play an important role in Malta’s future. Key Enablers allow us to leverage on our foundational elements and achieve our goals as a country, and these include: • Industry Mapping: In collaboration with the industry, the vision has to incorporate transformation maps for the
existing sectors in order to ensure that the present sectors diversify and reach their full potential in terms of valueadded. The industry transformations have to consider investments in industry infrastructure, human capital, internationalisation, digitalisation, green and blue investments to ensure business continuity, resiliency, and adaptability. In addition, new niches should be explored to enhance the economic development and competitiveness of Malta. • Social mapping: We speak a lot about industry transformation, but we often fail to acknowledge how societies are transforming. Malta’s vision should consider the potential of households’ socio-economic conditions in terms of skills, property, education, income, and living conditions. This will allow for an analysis of such conditions’ social development based on the new economic path. • Flexible markets: Ensuing that labour, product, and capital markets work efficiently is an important enabler for Malta’s vision. Certain challenges in terms of market size and openness remain. Thus, it is even more important to ensure that the necessary legal infrastructure is in place without having too many bottlenecks, which will inhibit the efficiency of such markets. While ensuring a holistic vision is key, the next step is to ensure that the vision is translated into strategy, which will directly benefit businesses, employees, and society at large. These enablers will need
markets, we risk losing our competitiveness. Green, blue, and digital investments will increasingly become imperative for economies and companies to survive and thrive. The availability of EU funds and institutions such as the Malta Development Bank are key elements in such investments’ success. We have achieved a lot already. However, challenges remain in terms of digital literacy, building the right ecosystems, transport, smart buildings, the circular economy, and so on.
YOU HAVE MENTIONED THE GREEN AND BLUE ECONOMY AND ALSO INVESTMENT IN THE DIGITAL ECONOMY FREQUENTLY. WHY ARE THEY SO IMPORTANT, AND ARE WE DOING ENOUGH IN THESE AREAS AS A NATION? When we look at the GDP per capita and competitiveness levels across the EU Member States, data indicates high performers such as the Netherlands and Denmark, who are detached from other countries, grouped at lower ranks. Malta is one of the best performers compared to the ‘other countries’ but still far away from the best performers. Our next step to success is to make the leap and enhance our economic standards to get as closer as we can to these countries. Without proper investments in these areas in terms of infrastructure, human capital, legislations and financial
WHAT APPROACH WOULD YOU SUGGEST IN DEVELOPING THIS VISION? In formulating a vision, we need a broad and wide-ranging consultation process. The success of the vision is based on stakeholder engagement and commitment. Further to this, I would say that a social pact should accompany this vision to ensure that there are synergies between the institutions and bodies responsible for implementing such vision. We also need an interdisciplinary expert-based approach. To this end, it is essential to convene a think-tank on the future of the economy. We also need cluster working groups. Thus, the setting-up of working
WE HAVE DISCUSSED THE LONGTERM... BUT IF YOU HAD TO ADDRESS SHORT-TERM FIXES, WHAT WOULD THEY BE? Obviously, whilst working on a vision, we cannot stand still, we have to focus on short-term planning that will ultimately allow the effective implementation of the vision. I believe that first and foremost at this point is to prioritise people’s health and safety. In addition, we need to focus on support measures that encourage upskilling and reskilling of our work-force. In terms of the work-force, we need to get ready for developments in new forms of work such as the gig economy, the platform economy, teleworking, employment sharing, etc. The COVID related measures should also be updated constantly in line with the economic developments. From a business perspective, they should always be encouraged to focus on re-engineering and transformation models. These elements will help us embrace the new economic path and vision for Malta. The time is now. About the author Dr Stephanie Fabri is an economist, specialising in entrepreneurship, strategic management and public policy. Having worked in the private and public sector, Stephanie brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in applying economics to firms, consumers and communities.
STRATEGIC PILLAR & R&D FLEXIBLE LEGISLATION
KEY ENABLERS & R&D
FOUNDATIONAL ELEMENTS & R&D
groups made up of people from different backgrounds and sectors to ensure intrasectoral development and investment.
INNOVATION AND R&D
MARKET FLEXIBILITY HUMAN CAPITAL
GREEN & BLUE INITIATIVES
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to be transformed into action points, and that is why some strategic pillars which will guide policy in more detail are required. These pillars include internationalisation of the economy, enhancement of the skillbased and the work-force, innovation, digital transformation, flexible legislation, and ensuring green and blue initiatives across all industries.
Photography: Justin Mamo
Arts and culture
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WORDS DAYNA CAMILLERI CLARKE
With events suddenly ground to an almighty halt, the melodies of Malta Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) fell eerily quiet, but not for long. Dayna Camilleri Clarke finds out, speaking to CEO Sigmund Mifsud about how they navigated through the pandemic scenario whilst reaching new audiences. Dayna Camilleri Clarke
“Of course, in the beginning, it was hard for us – we were used to perform nearly 60 concerts a year, that’s one every week. . But we quickly realised what we had to do, to act as a catalyst of hope and courage. Music is such a powerful medium and the perfect tool to convey this,” explains Mifsud. The first online releases were very well received, including Where the Streets Have No Name performed in an empty Valletta and the Maltese version of Chaplin’s song Smile featuring tenor Joseph Calleja and Daniel Cauchi. “Last summer, we co-produced the APS Summer Festival, an 8-week long programme of events with all safety measures in place. Naturally, socially distancing a 60+ orchestra is quite a logistical feat. We downscaled, and a handful of musicians teamed up with local artists to provide a series of concerts.”
“After events were prohibited, we quickly redefined our artistic strategy to create an Online Programme; this enabled us to bolster our name, reach new audiences both locally and internationally. In fact, now more than ever, we are receiving requests for exciting collaborations. It’s inspiring.” Apart from establishing a close working relationship with Grammy-nominated PARMA Recordings, another success story was the online auditions held in October. Apart from receiving an unprecedented number of applications, many cited the Orchestra’s online endeavour as a main reason for the interest .” It certainly seems the MPO was working non-stop throughout the pandemic, including recently releasing an orchestral version of Malta’s Eurovision contestant Destiny’s song entry. “We truly enjoyed this collaboration. It was great to appeal to new younger audiences
Photography: Darren Agius Photography
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A recent audio-visual production as part of the MPO's online programme.
with a fresh contemporary song such as Je Me Casse. Destiny is a real raw talent.” Mifsud continued, “Through our digital transformation, during the 1st quartet of 2021, we reached 5.2 million unique hits, with 6.2 impressions attained through 17 productions released online.” During the last months, the Orchestra nurtured its international collaborations, working with acclaimed artists including Gautier Capuçon and Daniel Lozakovich whilst fostering its ties with the local community and strengthening partnerships with local partners, including the Malta Tourism Authority. It was always my vision to elevate the reputation of MPO and to value and recognise every single member, whether management or musicians; after all, we are one large family that works together, literally in harmony!” It’s clear, Mifsud attributes the success of the Orchestra to this joint team effort. What does the future have in store for the MPO? Mifsud explains, “Well, we are working on some exciting projects to promote educational awareness in schools, in collaboration with the government. It’s so important for us to educate today’s younger generations on the value of classical music and spur interest in the arts and culture.
We are also mentoring and nurturing young talent within the Orchestra by providing opportunities for them to grow and develop through the Internship Programme. Being a part of an orchestra goes far beyond just playing your part. There are so many skills gained which are transferable to everyday life. One must listen actively to the others and learn how to work in a team”. “This is one aspect of our strategic development; the other is collaborating with Malta’s growing film sector. We have been in talks with various key industry figures about how we can play a role in both homegrown and international productions set in Malta. It’s certainly a direction we wish to pursue”. The Orchestra has performed in leading venues across the globe, including in the United States, Russia, Germany, Austria, China, Italy, and Belgium, and presently embarks on at least one international tour each concert season. “As it stands, we are currently working closely with the health authorities to understand the safest way to proceed with regards to live events. We do have a UK tour booked for September, during which we shall perform in some prestigious halls. This will be another opportunity to act as a cultural ambassador, tap new audiences, and promote the Maltese brand! page
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WORDS YLENIA ATTARD
YLENIA ATTARD catches up with entrepreneur and mother, MARIA BARTOLO ZAHRA. A desire to start a business coupled with a passion for HR, Mrs Bartolo Zahra started SurgeAdvisory in 2017, alongside her father. Now a mother with a flourishing company, Maria shares the secrets to her success and how it all started. Interestingly, Maria had been in a completely different line of work prior to starting her business – pharmacy! ‘Life has a funny way of giving us a different direction’, as she explains how she had changed her career to recruitment administration. After seven years, she got involved in training and consultancy, which led her to study HR, remuneration and compensation, which significantly interests her.
Wanting to change up her routine schedule in order to have the flexibility to start her own family, Maria thus started SurgeAdvisory "I am passionate about HR and consultancy, and in no way did I want to let go of that, so we wanted to start something small and personal based on the years of experience that we brought to the business. "The business focuses on "forging supportive, fiduciary and long-term relationships with a small clientele base", built on values which she values deeply: ‘integrity, transparency and professionalism." Inspired by her clients and seeing how she’s helped make their business a better workplace, Maria has no doubt many achievements she could boast about – yet what she prides herself most on is setting up the business while getting married simultaneously starting a family. She admits it was a delicate time for the company, but her efforts paid off, and she was able to achieve what she set out for in just the first year. Maria has achieved much success in other parts of her life outside the business. For one, she was president of JCI Malta in 2009, which allowed her to travel to different
conferences in Japan and India, among other countries, and was later awarded Senatorship in 2014. Also, in 2009, she was nominated by the US Embassy in Malta to participate in an exchange programme on ‘Business Development Issues for Women Business Leaders’. This gave her the opportunity to visit NGOs in different US states. She explains how eye-opening this experience was, a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that gave me the exposure to see the different challenges women, and more specifically women entrepreneurs, face and how much NGOs support them." Being a female entrepreneur in a maledominated sector, Maria faced some minor challenges at the start of her career. Clients would at times make her feel intimidated simply because she was a young woman, but she soon won them over by making them see what she believed: that she was capable of what she was doing, giving her the strength to overcome any challenge. "Understanding your self-worth and knowing who you are is the first step to succeeding," Maria says. "Additionally, never be afraid to make sacrifices to make your dreams come true," she advises. Most importantly, seek help, as "there is no magic wand. We cannot do everything, especially if we are working mothers." It’s important to have a family life, and in fact, Maria tries to spend as much time as possible with her boys, to create memories that will last. An entrepreneur and mother, Maria seems able to do it all, an inspiration for women alike, who wish to succeed in their field, not allowing their insecurities to get the better of them. Looking to the future, Maria plans to keep doing what she’s doing. "That’s the best way I know how to build on what I currently have."
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Understanding your self-worth is the first step to succeeding.
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WORDS Duncan Barry
FIFTY FADES OF GREY DUNCAN BARRY interviews ANTONIO CAMILLERI – the man behind Antonio's barbering service on a trend that won't fade away too soon, as this lifestyle becomes ever more popular among men.
WERE YOU AMONG THE FIRST TO KICK OFF THE CONCEPT IN MALTA? Unfortunately, Barbering had died down for a good number of years. Once social media expanded throughout the world, men started realising that they need to look better to feel better. Yes, I was the first one in Malta to kick off the new concept in barbering. After attending barbering courses in the UK and opening my shop there, I decided to move back to Malta in 2012 and bring back all my knowledge and offer my clients these new services. IT SEEMS THAT MEN ARE BECOMING MORE CONSCIOUS OF THEIR WELLBEING AND SELF-CARE. WHAT DO YOU THINK BROUGHT ABOUT THIS CHANGE? Once again, social media was the starting point to their wellbeing and self-care. Originally it was just the professional barbers that improved their techniques and recreated products specifically for men. Within a couple of years, big industries that specialise in beauty products realised that they were lacking in men's beauty products and evaded the sector. Thus, men became more conscious of their looks and self-care.
THE CONCEPT OF TASTING A TASTY BREW WHILE RECEIVING THE SERVICE OF GROOMING OR PLAYING A GAME OF POOL TO KILL TIME WHILE WAITING IS PART OF THE EXPERIENCE. DO YOU FEEL BARBERSHOPS HAVE MANAGED TO CREATE A SPACE FOR MEN TO GO TO AND ASSOCIATE THEMSELVES WITH, ESPECIALLY ON SOCIAL MEDIA? Tasting a great brew while receiving the service was my idea, and some followed (only a few). Before opening our Gentlemen's Quarters in Balzan, we worked hard on what we can offer other than just a haircut; what better than enjoying some beer or whisky? We wanted our clients to come and relax in every way and enjoy the full experience, and be pampered at the same time! VINTAGE FURNITURE, WOOD PANELLING AND BILLIARD TABLES GIVE A LUXURIOUS FEEL TO THE SHOP. DID YOU GET SOMEONE INVOLVED IN THE INDUSTRY TO GET THE CONCEPT RIGHT, OR WAS IT SOMETHING YOU EMERGED WITH? During the period I was training to become a qualified Old School Barber in the UK, I also
Photography Jonathan Borg
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travelled to different countries to get the feeling of various barbering services and barbershop concepts. I wanted to create something different and something better, so we came up with the idea of having a more extensive shop than the norm and created a luxurious and relaxing atmosphere for the shop. The idea of having a billiard table was because it is a quiet and relaxing game in itself! MANY SEEM TO BE JUMPING ON THE BANDWAGON, AND QUITE A FEW BARBERSHOPS ARE SPROUTING ACROSS MALTA. DO YOU FEEL SUPPLY IS GREATER THAN DEMAND? Well, the demand is there. When we first opened, we were refusing so many clients daily. To keep up with the demand, we had to choose between our services' quality or the quantity. Having said that, once other barbershops started opening,
people could be served at different barbershops. As for today, the supply is bigger than the demand. Every barbershop gives different services (always keeping in mind that barbering is always barbering), but the better the barbering services you offer, the better the chance of keeping your clients. Once again, giving a choice to clients is always better.
HOW MANY OUTLETS DO YOU CURRENTLY OWN, AND DO YOU INTEND TO OPEN MORE OF THESE IN FUTURE ELSEWHERE? We currently have two shops and have got some things coming up shortly, we always plan well-ahead, not just for our brand but for all our clients.
SOME BARBERSHOPS SELL THE SPACE TO SEVERAL BARBERS. DO YOU ADOPT THIS KIND OF CONCEPT TOO? Every barbershop operates in different ways, this being one of them. I do not work this way as all my barbers prefer to serve as a team rather than individually. All our clients receive the same type of service from the minute they contact us to when they leave our shop, whoever the barber is. Working individually cannot work in the same way.
DO YOU HOST A MIX OF BARBERS IN TERMS OF NATIONALITIES? WHAT'S YOUR MIX COMPRISE OF, SPANISH AND ITALIANS? Yes, we have multinational barbers, we choose our barbers according to their experience in barbering and train them to our high standards in barbering; having said that, no matter who the barber is or where he is coming from, we intend to give the best barbering service one can get! page
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WORDS DINAH DELCEPPO
A BUSINESS THAT TESTS POSITIVE TO EMPLOYEE SATISFACTION In the business world, talk about the workforce is typically characterised by production and efficiency perspectives. Yet, the importance of maintaining a good level of happiness and satisfaction among employees is often downplayed. DINAH DELCEPPO virtually connects with MIKELA FENECH PACE, HR Consultant and Executive about this hot topic. Mikela Fenech Pace has done it all – starting out in the public service, as Head of Strategy and Policy within the Office of the Prime Minister, she then moved on to transforming HR departments, developing leaders within the private sectors and working with renowned names such as Vodafone, Deloitte and AMSM.
Nowadays, through her own company, Upstream, Mikela Fenech Pace puts her skills and years of experience to good use for other businesses, by guiding them through the people challenges that they face, making sure they are surrounded by the best people, all the while keeping business growth as their main focus. WHAT CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF? I love being around people and understanding what makes them tick. I am a sociable individual, yet there is nothing I love more than disappearing into my own little world with a good book. IS THERE ANYONE YOU CONSIDER AS A ROLE MODEL IN LIFE? I have been very fortunate to have different role models throughout my life in different circumstances. My parents for the love they shared and values they passed on, my
grandparents for their unwavering dedication to everything they believed in and their integrity, my husband for always believing in me and for being him and many others that have influenced me and believed in me throughout my life. WHAT WAS YOUR INSPIRATION BEHIND CHOOSING THIS CAREER PATH? My first career choice was that of a diplomat inspired by my paternal grandfather. I loved the public service and hold it very close to my heart. HR and Executive Coaching was accidental yet in many ways, brings together the skill set I have developed over the years. Setting up my own practice was motivated by the people I have met as an HR Manager, recognising that they had a right to the best working conditions. I studied to become an Executive Coach as I realised how much easier and more meaningful my working life would have been had I had the opportunity to use this as a developmental tool. WHAT WAS YOUR JOURNEY LIKE, IN ARRIVING WHERE YOU ARE TODAY? In one word, challenging. I had to reinvent myself completely and went back to studying. It's been a roller coaster ride of emotions as the key to be an accredited Executive Coach is to be acutely self-aware. This introspective journey has allowed me to reflect like never before yet
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Transformation in Executive Coaching is not magical; it's more like drip irrigation. Slow and steady and longer-lasting.
also confront many of my demons and insecurities. As you can imagine, my inner critic has been on overdrive. IS EXECUTIVE COACHING RELATIVELY NEW AS A CONCEPT IN MALTA? Executive Coaching has been around for a while yet has become the development tool of choice in mainland Europe over the past few years. In Malta, the idea of engaging an Executive Coach is still in its infancy. As with all things, it will pick up slowly but mainly by word of mouth. WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR EXPERIENCE IN THIS ROLE? HOW ARE BUSINESSES IMPACTED THROUGH YOUR ASSISTANCE WITH MANAGING AND LEADING THEIR WORKFORCE? My experience to date has been a very positive one. Most companies may know they need advice on their people yet do not know where to start from. I have always believed that people are a company's greatest asset, and they are key to driving change and success. COVID-19 has shown this very clearly. Businesses I have worked with have benefitted from a better understanding of their workforces' needs with a strategic plan as to how to address any pain points. My philosophy is one
Issue 95 that ensures I become redundant, working hand in hand with leaders to develop the best policies for their people, inspiring fellowship and empowering leadership.
means you lead with purpose and values by building lasting relationships and never compromising principles. Decisions that are taken this way, with heart and with the people's best interest in mind, are the best decisions. I have always worked on the basis of decisions taken upon principles as one can never be inconsistent if one sticks to principles.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE SUCCESS STORY? IF SO, WHAT MADE IT YOUR FAVOURITE SO FAR? People can be the most frustrating to work with yet also the most satisfying. My favourite success stories are those where I provide the space for individuals to explore their deepest fears and step out of their shadow only to realise how liberating such a change is. Success is very relative. Any time a client acknowledges something important or creates a better selfawareness, this is a success in itself. This signifies that the individual recognises a pattern or reflects upon triggers that he/she reacts to. Transformation in Executive Coaching is not magical, it's more like drip irrigation. Slow and steady and longer-lasting.
WHAT WOULD YOU CONSIDER TO BE THE MOST CRUCIAL FACTOR IN HAVING A SUCCESSFUL, EFFICIENT AND HAPPY TEAM? Laughter, purpose and learning. I have always worked to build teams that bring something different to the table. Work is already stressful enough for it not to be fun. I have always insisted work should be fun first and foremost. The second is a sense of purpose, and what we are working towards, and the last is learning. Happy teams are those that learn together.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ARE THE FUNDAMENTAL CONCEPTS IN STARTING, RUNNING AND GROWING A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS? I would say I am still finding out. I am an accidental start-up in all honesty. I fell into this situation quite by accident but I am glad I did. If I were to identify what has allowed me to set up, I would say a good support network of people who believe in me, a recognition of the value I can add to companies and individuals and the courage to take the first few steps, all accompanied by hard work and dedication. BOSS VS LEADER – WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE WORKS BEST, ESPECIALLY IN SITUATIONS WHERE GOOD DECISION MAKING IS OF UTMOST IMPORTANCE? I would say none of the two but rather an authentic leader, which
FROM YOUR YEARS OF EXPERIENCE, HOW IMPORTANT WOULD YOU SAY IT IS FOR EMPLOYEES TO BE SATISFIED AND CONTENT AT THEIR WORKPLACE? AND WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON ASPECTS WHICH AFFECT EMPLOYEE SATISFACTION AND HAPPINESS? It is crucial for employees to be satisfied and content at work. Satisfaction for different people will mean different things. For some, it may mean financial reward, for others it may mean challenging work. One of the most important aspects for employee satisfaction and happiness is psychological safety. People who feel safe sharing their views and contributing ideas without the fear of being shot down or humiliated are satisfied and happy. There is nothing more soul-destroying than not feeling safe at work. WHAT IS THE OVERALL PERCEPTION OF WHAT YOU OFFER? DO PROSPECTIVE CLIENTS TEND TO BE A BIT SCEPTICAL AS TO WHETHER IT WILL BE BENEFICIAL? I believe that there is a general recognition, especially after our experience with COVID-19, that HR departments and talent management and development are crucial to any business. There will always be sceptics, yet it is my job to encourage leaders to put their trust in people like me, to develop a better understanding and awareness of the people they lead and therefore their companies and develop strategies that will encourage buy in and followship, which propels business forward. HOW HAS COVID-19 IMPACTED PEOPLE'S PERCEPTION OF EXECUTIVE COACHING? COVID-19 has had a cataclysmic effect on our workplaces. Those with robust HR practices were better prepared than those without. This has highlighted the importance of developing strong strategic HR departments that have a voice around the board room table. COVID-19 has also provided businesses with a choice. Will we capitalise on the agility and call to action that allowed companies to spring into action due to the health crisis or go back to business as usual irrespective of the fact that our workforce is fundamentally different a year on? These are the opportunities that consultants like me can tap into, which will play a crucial role in a postCOVID-19 environment. COVID-19 AND A BUSINESS' SUCCESS – IS IT A THREAT OR AN OPPORTUNITY? A year has passed from the onset of the COVID-19 health crisis, and there is still no end in sight. The closer we get to herd immunity, the sooner we can start understanding the emerging business environment. Driving through Malta and Gozo's streets, one can already notice the warning signs – the 'to
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let' signs have multiplied, businesses are struggling, and many have suffered a loss of income or even their job. The business terrain in one year has seen a radical shift. Those businesses which were most exposed will suffer the most. Whatever the case, the key will be the people. Have businesses got the best people to ride out the next few years? What skillset is required and do your people have it? COVID-19 is already a threat to business. For those that survive, the question will be to what extent they can harness the lessons learnt from this year and transform them into opportunities. HOW HAS COVID-19 IMPACTED THE WAY YOU PERFORM YOUR WORK? As with everyone, I have been impacted by the pandemic, mainly by shifting all of my work online. To begin with, my studies were online, which was a first. Executive Coaching is very personal and intimate so having to conduct it online was challenging as the small shifts in body language and facial expressions are key to any coaching session. Yet, with some practice this can be overcome. What is great is that online has become the new normal, opening many new doors to Executive Coaches. One can now coach internationally with ease, which is something I am already doing. The world was already a relatively small place, and it has just become smaller. I have found business in my area to be steady and needed. I look at the quality of clients rather than quantity as I find it important to ensure my work's impact is indeed effective and long-term. WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF EXECUTIVE COACHING? IS THERE A LIMIT TO WHAT CAN BE ACHIEVED, OR IS IT AN EVER-GROWING AREA? As long as we interact with people and work within businesses, there will be a need for Executive Coaching and Team Coaching. As a developmental tool, it is very effective but dependant on the individual or individual teams. No Executive coach is a magician, yet the chemistry between the individual and the coach is crucial. As with anything, trust and safety are the most important ingredients of a coaching relationship. Once found, the transformation achieved over a few months can be very effective. In a micro-environment like Malta, I believe there is even more scope for Executive Coaching as the challenges executives face here due to our size can be even more accentuated with less allowance for people to truly be their authentic selves. IN YOUR OWN OPINION, WHAT ARE WE TO EXPECT FROM THE ECONOMY IN THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE? As with everything, the economy is cyclical and will eventually come around. It's anyone's guess how long this will take. The biggest challenge we face is that we are not quite sure how things will look when we are finally out of the woods. To begin with, this year had had a large impact on the mental health of our workforce (an aspect that cannot be diminished). Couple this with the global aspect of this crisis, and you have a recipe for uncertainty. The differentiation of services may not necessarily work this time round, yet businesses still have salaries to pay, families to support and businesses to grow. I have always believed that an economy has the capacity to reinvent itself. Necessity is the mother of invention, and this what businesses will be faced with – creativity and innovation will be key, and the best place to look for ideas is in the people. Allow them the space to speak and suggest ways in which to reinvent. They know the business better than you think, and most are closer to the market than their leaders. Unleashing this potential will allow for some surprises.
Secondly, there is a need to shift mindsets when looking to the future. We cannot take for granted that what worked a year ago will work today as it is too early to understand the post-COVID-19 economy, the shifts in patterns, priorities, likes, dislikes. The shift is very much a psychological one, much like a post-war economy, which needs to consider a possible societal shift. How will we emerge? What will be important to us when we do? Will people whose movements have been restrained go to the extreme or have their behavioural patterns changed? There are too many unknowns, yet one certainty – people's inherent ability to be creative when faced with adversity. The ability to tap into this creativity will be key to reinventing a postCOVID-19 economy. DO YOU HAVE ANY WORDS OF ENCOUR AGEMENT AND ADVICE FOR CURRENT BUSINESSES, ESPECIALLY LOCAL AND START-UP ONES, WHO ARE HAVING A CHALLENGING TIME COPING WITH THE CURRENT SITUATION? For leaders facing this predicament, I encourage them to recognise that they do not need to have all the answers. For the better part, they were used to coming up with strategy upon strategy. Based on their experience and foresight, yet this situation has blindsided even the most seasoned leaders. A more collaborative approach to leadership and strategy will allow you the opportunity to tap into resources that have been there all along – your people. Take some time to reconnect with those that have always made the difference, those on the front line. Listen to them and ref lect. Ask for their ideas and reach out and empathise with those that may be struggling. It is these relationships that withstand the harshest economic climates and will make all the difference. It is in your people that you will find the strength and answers to take your business forward. In addition, surrounding yourselves with a good support network where you can be open and express your fears, will be very helpful going forward. WHAT IS YOUR MESSAGE TO BUSINESSES OUT THERE THAT ARE CONSIDERING EXECUTIVE COACHING YET ARE STILL UNSURE WHETHER TO GO FOR IT OR NOT? Executive Coaching offers you the opportunity to be at your most authentic without the fear of being judged or discouraged. It provides you the space to think and detach from your day to day. If there was ever a time when you need this, it is now. Taking time out to reflect can make all the difference to your business and relationships going forward. Try it … book a session or two and see how it goes. If you are ready for Executive Coaching, you will never look back.
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WORDS krysta micallef
KRYSTA MICALLEF - a designer, illustrator and content writer on what it means to start a company from the ground up, leaving her full-time job to do so… but where there’s passion, there can be success. Perhaps destiny is a romanticised word in our current climate. And the concept of choice too playful to associate with the likelihood of a fallible business venture. But when I first started thinking of setting out on my own, none of those plans involved a global pandemic. An economic crisis. Five different moves across two islands. Or the gruelling back and forth between pursuing what I wanted and reverting to the familiar and safe.
could also say sometimes I incorporate my illustration, photography, and content writing to fulfil the project’s scope. Yet that only scrapes the surface. All it tells you is what you can expect the final result of collaborating with me, as x or x creative, to look like. The thing about design is that simply being visually appealing doesn’t mean the output serves its purpose. I don’t start projects thinking, “how can I make the material the client gave me look good”? That is occasionally the limitation clients who aren’t accustomed to working with an experienced designer think we can do for them and what, in the design sphere, we may call a pixel pusher.
Forgive me. I haven’t introduced myself. My name is Krysta. I learn a little something about myself through my business every day. I collect few things aside from art books, business cards, and memories. And I have found a way to make your vision as well as my own real for the both of us whenever granted the opportunity to turn your words and ideas into something that not only makes you proud of what we produce together, but that also delivers the essence of what you’ve been craving to share with the world.
My approach considers the purpose and user first. “Who am I (as a design) to the viewer? Who is my viewer? And who might I converse with the best? What do I want to tell them?” Better yet, “How do I make sure that they understand, without overwhelming them or risking my message getting lost, everything I want them to grasp?”
I could say I am a graphic designer interested in beautiful publications, ranging from high-end collectables, annual reports, brand guidelines, product catalogues, ebooks, novels, recipe, poetry, and children’s picture books amongst others. I page
Design exists to ‘solve a problem’ such as “I need to present my company’s financial reports” or “I want to share my art with the world”. Both of these problems can find their solution in the form of a publication. Although, I am certain that even as you read this, you pictured two very different things. The first would take life as an annual report. For the sake of this exercise, let’s say the layout, typography, and colour choices would be modest and corporate. We know board members, directors, and prominent stakeholders care about this material. And that tells us that design, here, should serve comprehension and readability first. Any embellishment should support the final product but not distract from the written content.
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On the other hand, an art book likely intends to be experiential first and foremost. You may see very little text aside from the artist’s musings and captions to accompany the works. Here; the layout, typography, and colours can forego structure and instead seek creative ways to enrich the art. Using this approach, design attends to the purpose, and the purpose is what inspires the stylisation. I write this while in the trenches of discovering what it means to build your own company from the ground up. Although certainly not new to design, I am still learning about the world of business. Twice last year alone, I walked away
from financial and emotional stability to pursue this direction I felt pulled towards but had no idea how to achieve. I won’t even pretend I left the agency because I felt ready. I sat with my wish to go freelance for months before COVID became the catalyst. Last year wasn’t kind to many. My career direction itself didn’t give me a hard time, but life did. Consequently, x or x creative started as a passive venture, and as 2021 rolled in, I recognised how true it was that no one and nothing prepares you for what working for yourself is really like. No podcast, video, course, or peer taught me, on an experiential level, quite like investing myself into doing the work I did. This year I’ve made my choice. Those around me can see it too. I’ve been polishing the groundwork, doubling down on marketing, and refining our services and direction. We’ve hit three milestones in three months, and that makes me both overwhelmingly happy and terrified. I know change is the only constant, and I am looking forward to it. You may follow my pursuits on xorxcreative.com, and enquire directly via email@example.com page
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POST PANDEMIC DRESSING Anything goes
tips to find your new look
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WOMEN IN SUNIESS
As the time approaches to get back to real life meetings, why go back to the old normal when you could embrace the best of Zoom dressing – comfort, versatility, and a bit more self expression, So don’t reach for the suit, the shirt, the tie.
01 Ease into dressing up again with coordinating items that show off your personality. 02 Pick one colour and look for tones of it in various items of your outfit. 03 Mix patterns up! The key is to look for them in similar sizes. Here we have used thin-ish stripes, 04 Add pattern and colour with a pocket square instead of a tie. 05 Add interest and pull the look together with a coordinating waistcoat; this can be patterned and work with the jacket or plain to add a muted layer worn alone. 06 A button-down soft collar shirt gives that ‘preppy’ look and can be worn without a tie. 07 Driving shoes or loafers work well with this look instead of formal brogues.
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business as usual
If your place of work promotes a business casual dress code, you can still dress to impress. Bortex have a fine quality shirt line - shirts that can easily be tucked in or out, and when you decide to lose your tie and cuffs, the shirt will still give you a smart look but a less formal one – as the smart components of the shirt will remain.
The bottom line: Always make sure that this is business casual, so leave your comfy clothes at home and make sure all your clothes are pressed and go for a proper fit when possible. Accompany the shirt with a pair of lightweight loafers now that summer is about to kick in and a pair of slim fit lightweight trousers. And if you are still working remotely, the shirt is perfect for those zoom meetings we are now so accustomed to!
Contrast inside collar For when you take off your tie.
Buttondown Collar Wear it with or without a tie, with or without a jacket.
Shorter side seams Wear it tucked or untucked.
Contrast button sew It’s the little details that matter.
Contrast cuff For when you turn back your cuffs.
More curved hem Wear it tucked or untucked.
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from rags to riches
Ukranian immigrant Bernard Gantmacher started GANT Shirtmakers with his two sons in 1949 in Connecticut, USA. Returning from serving in WWII, they opened their father’s eyes to the new opportunies that youth culture brought and the company was born. The company mimicked the revolutionary mood of the 1950s and created shirts for the youth in Madras, candy-stripes and tartan fabrics. This colour explosion is a trademark of the company till today! The Ivy League Look is the art of never looking dressed up while always looking well-dressed and pertains to a style coined by students wearing GANT shirts at the Universities in the 1960's. The shirtmakers patented various elements of their shirts including the button at the back of the collar, box pleats and hook. Today, these have been copied by almost every shirtmaker! The 1970’s saw the line expand to include rugby shirts, ties and trousers. The distinctive colourways complimented by modern classics to make GANT. The head office of GANT has a library of every shirt ever made, all the colours, the fabrics and the styles. Watch any American movie and you’ll see one of their shirts, sweatshirts or t-shirts. Throughout the decades, more sportwear, the ubiquitous baseball caps, colourful, comfortable ladieswear and the cutest children’s wear has been introduced. From a sell-out university store to a mono store, GANT now dresses millions of people all over the world! Visit the new store at Bay Street, St Julian’s. page
YOU'RE HIRED! DUNCAN BARRY speaks to KARL CHETCUTI BONAVITA, Co-Founder & CEO of BigWig Headhunters & WigWam Recruitment, and COO DAVID OZI BORG – two head-hunters who have poached investment bank workers serving in top roles in big gun countries. The two have now gone local.
Karl Chetcuti Bonavita is a member of The Malta Chamber representing Bigwig Ltd.
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WORDS DUNCAN BARRY
KARL, DAVID, HOW DID THE IDEA TO SET UP THE HEADHUNTING FIRM BIGWIG AND THE RECRUITMENT FIRM WIGWAM ARISE? Well, to be honest, this is something that has been on our minds for the past 7 years or so. Our intention was to one day change focus from our previous areas of expertise and bring what we have learned to the local market. In our previous recruitment life, we worked at the highest level of headhunting and recruitment, working with investment banking firms in Germany, the UK, France, and Italy. It was a super experience and a great amount of fun, albeit with many challenges to overcome along the way, but we loved every second of it. However, the dream was always one to do what we know best with our friends, acquaintances and Malta's ever-growing business market. In 2019 that dream was realised. Investment Banking in Europe was having a hard time due to regulations and we knew the timing was right. The rest, as they say, is history. CAN YOU MENTION SOME MAJOR DEALS YOU SEALED FOR GERMAN COMPANIES? What is it they say, never kiss and tell? We hold our client's information with the strictest of confidence, and the most successful headhunting firms are usually the ones who manage to maintain that level of discretion. So, details you will not get from us. However, yes, we worked on some pretty important deals in the past. Whilst our most productive client market was always Germany, we did have some success also in the UK, France, and Italy. We worked with some of the world's biggest banks and some very prestigious,
incredibly old banks. Some of the oldest. One of our German clients was over 400 years old as a bank. I think our biggest deal in terms of personnel was moving a team of 6 persons from a competitor to our client. The deal took 6 months to finalise and was highly satisfying. IS BIGWIG A LOCAL SERVICE, OR IS IT INTERNATIONAL? Well, if we are completely honest, currently we are focusing on local. But we have dreams; we aspire. Everything, however, will happen step by step. We are still young, so our immediate goal is to build up a strong reputation locally based on the quality of service and a solid ethical understanding of recruitment. Once we are satisfied that we are where we want to be in Malta, then an international franchise is definitely a possibility. Do not get me wrong, if an international client approaches us to work on roles outside of Malta, or a local client needs staff outside of Malta, we will never shy away from such a challenge. Our process does in fact, remain the same wherever the position is located. IN VIEW OF A PANDEMIC, HAVE YOU SEEN ANY CHANGES IN THE SECTOR OF HEADHUNTING? WHAT HAS CHANGED MAINLY IF SO? That is a good question. I think with most things in life; the pandemic has brought with it a certain number of challenges. Headhunting and recruitment are not unaffected by this. However, one needs to adapt to such situations. Our feeling is that where some sectors have been negatively affected by the pandemic, others have actually seen a significant upturn in
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business and revenues. With that in mind, it is all about having your finger on the pulse of the market and trying to react accordingly. Thankfully in many of our key sectors, the business has been largely unaffected by this pandemic. Thus we have been able to push forward progressively. This viewpoint, however, is a slightly self-centred one. It would be cold and calculated not to spare some thoughts and love for the people who have been hugely hit by this pandemic. Countless people have lost their jobs, been placed on reduced hours, or have seen their businesses and livelihood forced to close for long periods of time. For those persons, we think of you and hope we can somehow help get you back on your feet one day. IS IT HARD TO MATCH THE SKILL SETS OF CANDIDATES FOR CERTAIN FIRMS WHEN IT COMES TO LOCALS? Not at all. Being local or not local should not really come into the equation unless it specifically relates to a language-based role. A company/client is not just a name, address, and a job vacancy. They are so much more. They are an identity, a culture, an environment, and a strategy. At the same time, a vacancy in that company is a set of needs, requirements, responsibilities. On the flip side, a candidate is not just a CV. They are a person, with hopes, aspirations, and dreams. Yes, they will have a skill set. However, they are far more than that. So, to answer your question, no, it is not hard. It is just about taking the time to have the right conversations, to understand companies and candidates and then having the knowledge and skills to bring them together, local or not. CAN YOU MENTION SOME COMPANIES YOU HEADHUNT FOR? Commonly known in spy novels, referenced in Sherlock Holmes, and famously said by Maverick when telling his MIG 28 story, "that's classified. I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you. We do not discuss our clients; we believe in confidentiality and don't discuss names without their express permission in advance. It is our code. WHAT IS THE BRAND NARRATIVE BEHIND THE NAME/LOGO BIGWIG? AND WIGWAM? We spent a long time coming up with the concept for both brands. Let us start with BigWig. We considered
about 50 alternate names for the brand in this case but always kept coming back to BigWig as our preferred choice. The dictionary meaning for a BigWig is: "an important person, especially in a particular sector or sphere". As a headhunting firm that deals a lot with executive profiles all the way up to the CEO level, we thought it was a great way to identify the space in which we operate. We want to be in touch with all BigWig's out there. The logo design again came from the back of a lengthy process. The stag represents the hunt as that is, in essence, what we do. We target and hunt the right executives that would be a perfect match for our clients' needs. In the case of WigWam, it is a slightly more relaxed and playful brand. In terms of the name, a WigWam is, in a historical sense, "a traditional home/ structure lived in by the natives of certain areas." Our goal is for WigWam to become the home for recruitment and job opportunities on the Maltese Islands, so it was an apt representation of our brand's dreams. Even the logo is a very loose interpretation of a traditional WigWam that perfectly represents our brand and strategy. WHICH SECTORS DO YOU MAINLY CATER FOR? Currently, BigWig is mainly focused on Financial Services, iGaming, Tech/ Software/IT & General Upper Management roles. However, we plan in the next year or so to add two to three more sectors to focus on. As BigWig's strategy is intensive research, screening, and headhunting, we prefer to build up slowly, making sure that our quality of service in the coverage of each sector will be at the highest level, which we hope (and it is already proving so) will ultimately provide the best results for our clients. HOW DO YOUR FIRMS STAND OUT FROM THE REST? It is not our nature to stay discussing "the rest" as you say. We much prefer to focus very much on what we do and believe that will be our key to greatness in the long term. From our perspective, we focus on three main concurrent strategies. Training: Making sure that our head-hunters/recruiters receive the proper training and education so they will be able to represent our brands in the correct way, but more importantly give our clients the level of service they deserve from their recruitment partner. Quality of Service: We have a process; it is a detailed process. It is a process that has served us well for decades and is a process we believe will allow us to offer the very highest quality of service to the industry. We do not bend on this process, ever. Taking short cuts ultimately reduces the quality of service and lowers our standards of doing business. We are not interested in doing that. Ethics: If you ask many companies here in the local market their experiences with the local recruitment sector, the question of ethics will crop up regularly. Before we opened up here in Malta, we researched this
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particular point and were quite surprised with some of the stories we have heard. Stories of things that should never happen when working with a recruitment partner. To the point, if we are working with you, then we are not working against you. If we are actively working together, we will never entertain the thought of trying to poach any of your valuable assets. Ethics and standards should be across the sector. DUE TO COVID, ARE INTERVIEWS HELD ON ZOOM? Not just interviews, I think in the current climate, video conferencing has become the new norm, not just for interviews but for all inner and outer office collaborations.
IS THERE A FINAL MESSAGE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEND OUT TO THE MALTESE MARKET? Absolutely. Our message is quite simple. If you want a recruitment partner you can trust to have your company's best interests and its growth, we are here. If you want a recruitment partner who understands the mechanics of matching a person with culture, not just a job profile with a CV, we are here. If you need advice on building a recruitment strategy for your business, which can provide better results both in terms of search and employee retention, we are here. Finally, if you want to work with people who are passionate about their craft and want to make recruitment in Malta better by doing good quality work every day we roll into the office, we are here.
To get in touch with BigWig Headhunters or WigWam Recruitment, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
pandemic highlights needs for new skills
Recruitment of highly skilled employees has been and remains one of the biggest challenges for employers in the country. The advent of the Covid-19 pandemic has partially slowed down the demand for more employees but not for all sectors. Certain higher value-added sectors have remained in a similar predicament with shortages across the board for many job profiles, not least specialised ones. The Covid-19 pandemic has also highlighted the need for new skills, in many cases technology-related. Hence the Chamber’s focus on the importance of upskilling, reskilling, research and development, and innovation. The Chamber has always been an advocate of initiatives to strengthen the country’s resilience and competitiveness. Solid, forward-looking businesses, backed by a skilled and flexible workforce, are the pillars of a competitive economy. In this framework, the Malta Chamber, in collaboration with Malta
Enterprise, launched the Business Re-engineering and Transformation Scheme in November 2020. The aim of this scheme is to finance advisory services for businesses looking to restructure their operations with a view to the future. It goes without saying that the workforce plays a key role in any company’s future and restructuring plans. As the country slowly recovers from the disruption of the pandemic, we will emerge into an employment market that is very different from the one we knew. Technology, for example, has proven very useful for many sectors, allowing businesses to continue to operate, often even more efficiently and at a faster pace than ever before. However, technology has also highlighted how certain jobs are slowly but surely becoming obsolete. We must be prepared for this shift, and train our workforce to be resilient and highly adaptable. As many businesses struggle to get back on their feet, they need well-trained employees to safeguard and future-proof their operations.There is no doubt that recruitment plays a fundamental role in this
regard. That is why, in recent weeks, the Chamber has been actively organising all licensed employment agencies under a new business section which will assist the whole sector in elevating its standards. By joining forces with the Chamber, the recruitment sector will have a stronger voice in sharing its concerns and challenges both to government and the business sector. It will also ensure that a distinction is made between legitimate, professional players and rogue operators taking advantage of the current scenario. This structured approach will help further professionalise the sector, which will benefit business and the economy as a whole. The challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic in terms of employment will mark the start of a new era for the country. An era in which businesses will need to embrace change and the new world of work with the support of one of their greatest assets, their workforce. And the Chamber will be by their side in this demanding yet exciting journey.
Andre Fenech is the Head of Policy and Member Relations at The Malta Chamber.
CHAMBER OPINION: RECRUITMENT
BREAKING THE GLASS CEILING
Moving up the career ladder and reaching corporate level posts is the goal of many, but few actually make it to the top. Women may still find it especially hard to break the glass ceiling despite progress having been made on this front in the last couple of decades. Commercial CourieR speaks to Businesswoman of the Year, Deborah Schembri. "There is still a lot of work to be done for women to be somewhere near the number of male individuals leading and managing businesses. This is both because of a glass ceiling and glass caging, meaning that there is still the perception that a role model for a leadership role should be a male individual and also sometimes women do not take the risk in taking up decision-making roles," Deborah Schembri, CEO and managing director of STM Malta Pension Services Ltd and winner of the Businesswoman of the Year Award 2020, remarks. "Though one would not expect such obstacles in 2021, it is still a
reality. The more visibility is given to women who hold leadership and managerial roles, the more this serves to fight against the perception that such roles are held by male individuals and also encourage women to follow their career path in taking leadership roles," she stresses. Schembri's own success is proof that through hard work, sheer determination and perseverance, women can set their sights high. She has an impressive CV. After graduating from the University of Malta with Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Accountancy in 1994, she obtained a Masters in Business Administration pursued with Henley Management College, UK. She started her career holding senior finance roles with companies operating in several industries. As her career progressed, she was entrusted with corporatelevel roles in finance and operations within both local and international companies.
Deborah Schembri is a member of The Malta Chamber representing STM Malta Pension Services Ltd.
BUSINESS WOMAN OF THE YEAR
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WORDS commercial courier
Issue 95 She has been the CEO and managing director of STM Malta Pension Services Ltd for the past seven years. The company operates in the financial services industry and provides pensions products to local and international clients. It is registered as a retirement scheme administrator with the Malta Financial Services Authority and is also authorised to act as trustee or co-trustee to provide fiduciary services in terms of the Trusts and Trustees Act. STM Malta is part of STM Group plc, which is an independent firm listed on the London Stock Exchange. The company offers both personal pensions and occupational pensions. Also with other external stakeholders, Schembri was instrumental in shaping and growing the pensions industry in Malta both for local and international clients. She is, in fact, the chairperson of the Malta Association of Retirement Scheme Practitioners. Schembri placed runner up in the first edition of the Malta Businesswoman of the Year Award in 2019 and feels truly honoured and "very much pleased" to be the winner of the 2020 edition. "The Malta Businesswoman of the Year Awards are designed to help promote and recognise women who have achieved significant success in business and serve as an inspiration and encouragement for other women. The awards aim to accelerate the journey towards gender equality within the private sectors," she says. "Having been independently judged to be exceptional, not only in the core business activities but in illustrating my achievements and communicating to those not directly involved in my industry is a great achievement. Through such an award, one would have also won acclaim, admiration and respect." Schembri won for her key role in structuring and growing STM Malta Pension Services Limited into a major global pensions provider. "As a managing director and CEO, I am responsible for the performance of the company as dictated by the board's overall strategy. The responsibility for growing
a business, creating jobs and providing shareholder return while making a difference to society can be incredibly satisfying," Schembri says. "Under my direction, the company registered exceptional growth and performance results. Today we have around 8,000 clients with an approximate annual revenue of €9 million and 50 employees. When I joined STMM, the company had only a few hundreds in clients and less than 20 employees," she further notes. Schembri admits that becoming a CEO takes hard work and dedication. "Effective leadership is the most important aspect of a company and its team's success," she says and mentions many other important drivers, such as strong communication skills, effective coaching and building relationships (see sidebox). She also highlights four key attributes which she believes to be essential for women to succeed in corporate level roles: • Empathy: a skill that not everyone has, according to Schembri, but women are known to be more empathetic than men. • Determination: she says that women in business often have a real determination to succeed because they are powered by their mission and purpose in life. • Ambition: even though not everyone has ambition, she believes women in business tend to be very ambitious in taking the necessary next steps to turn their goals into reality. • Work ethic: Schembri says that most businesswomen are known for their great work ethic and "they won't stop working until the job is done". She also believes that it is imperative for women to strike the right work-life balance to be able to continue moving up the career ladder and gives some tips that include prioritising one's time, knowing your peaks and troughs, being realistic, doing what you love other than work and playing to your strengths. Schembri hopes that through her work and award, she will inspire women to achieve their goals but also to have the opportunity to mentor fellow colleagues. "Mentoring others is important and very much effective," she concludes.
DEBORAH'S TOP 10 TIPS 1. Ability to learn from the past A CEO must have the ability to learn from past experiences and instill lessons for the future. CEOs are only human. 2. Strong communication skills As a leader, a CEO needs strong communication skills. Communication is key in any setting, and as someone in charge, a CEO must learn how to communicate effectively to boost morale when necessary. 3. Building relationships A CEO must have the ability to build relationships. Relationships create loyalty and an image for the CEO and the company. 4. Realistic optimism It's important for a CEO to be confident but not arrogant about their skills and what they offer their employees. 6. Listening and understanding skills A CEO must be understanding of matters in and out of the workplace. A good CEO must have the ability to listen attentively. 7. Willingness to take calculated risks. Great, and sometimes unforeseen opportunities often come from taking risks. 8. Reading people and adapting to necessary management styles One of the greatest traits a CEO can have is the ability to read people and adapt management styles accordingly. 9. Coaching employees effectively As the head of a company, you are creating a healthy and collaborative work environment. 10. Thinking outside the box While it may seem like an obvious fact, the market changes with the times. It's important to think outside the box because sometimes there are better ways to achieve business goals.
Marthese Portelli, on joining the Malta Chamber as Chief Executive Officer. “I am taking up the role as CEO of The Malta Chamber fully aware of the huge responsibility and challenges that it brings with it. It is indeed an honour to be entrusted with the role and I am fully committed to continue building on its strong legacy, its sound values, and its successes. The Malta Chamber has been representing business since 1848 making it the longest established social partner in Malta and the highest echelon of business representation. "The Chamber can be the catalyst for change, even more so during these challenging times. I see it as being the prime mover in bringing about the much-needed paradigm shift in the mentality how policy is thought out and how things are done. Up till recently, people used to ask, “How is business?”. Now we need to ask, “Where is business?”. We need to help business re-engineer itself and adapt to the new realities and the changing customer behaviour. We need to help local business internationaliswe. We need to continue being the positive influence in the formation of policy both at national level and at European level. We need to continue developing an enterprise culture which creates favourable economic conditions for the members whilst also promoting interests of the wider business community. The Malta Chamber has a truly dynamic team committed to promote, encourage, and facilitate trade, commerce, and investment. I look forward to leading it to its next stage.”
A graduate in law, Dr Portelli brings with her a wealth of experience in policy formulation and negotiation. She occupied senior roles in the corporate world for 13 years in the technology sector, before her 7-year stint as a Member of Parliament during which she shadowed several challenging portfolios including EU affairs, energy, environment, transport, infrastructure, capital projects, planning and property. Following her departure from politics, she ventured into the sphere of sectoral representation while working as a management consultant in her professional capacity. page
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CHAMBER CAN BE A CATALYST FOR CHANGE
WORDS DUNCAN BARRY
RISING TO THE
HR CHALLENGE 'A big challenge for people managers is ensuring that senior leadership teams have the right skills to manage a virtual organisation.' MATTHEW NAUDI writes.
RSM MT are sponsors of The Malta Chamber HR and Talent Thematic Committee.
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WORDS MATTHEW NAUDI
Covid-19 has brought about a "tsunami" of change that many are still trying to come to terms with, but few are feeling the weight of all that change more than People and HR Managers who are now the new "front-liners" in their respective organisations. People managers have become one of the loudest and most important voices in the strategy meetings trying to figure out how to maintain an optimum employee experience by keeping their employees at ease, safe, and productive, which is key to all organisations' survival. More than ever, organisations need to have robust and resilient HR functions within their top management structures, driven by forward-thinking and agile HR leaders. In fact, if there is anything positive to extricate from the Covid-19 pandemic, it is the added respect being shown towards the HR function by business leaders who are seeing the effective management of their human capital as key to the development of their business strategy and To the successful continuance of their business under the current scenario.
Like Artificial Intelligence and other technological advances, Covid-19 has had a disruptive effect on many organisations, if not all, and has really triggered people managers to think outside the box and, in many cases, to experiment in new ways to keep the employees connected, motivated, engaged, and above all, productive. People managers have to be more agile in what and how they go about their work and need to be able to resurrect a sense of creativity in approaching their new-found challenges, moving away from their traditional comfort zones. In fact, agility, creativity coupled with a good dose of experimentation and empathy are the main attributes needed by people managers today, enabling them to take a leading role in engineering a prosperous future for their respective organisation, rather than micromanage their way through the day-to-day labyrinth they find themselves in. First and foremost, people managers need to show empathy with their employees as opposed to sympathy. People managers need to feel with the people and need to understand that many employee routines have been disrupted. Employees' workspaces are different; insecurity levels are high; some might feel a sense of loneliness, and many have their emotions in disarray. People managers need to practise empathy not just because they are caring people. Being there for employees through tough times is actually good for the business and impacts directly the bottom line.
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However, of all the HR main functions such as talent strategies, reskilling and upskilling, transformation and change, employee engagement and well-being, inclusions, analytics, which were always important, remote working, many organisations are finding that company culture and leadership upskilling and reskilling require the most effort by people managers, primarily because they have a direct impact on the cognitive and psychological well-being of all employees. A big challenge for people managers is ensuring that senior leaders have the right skills to manage a virtual organisation while driving performance and having to deal in previously unchartered territory, such as personal health and the physical and mental well-being of their employees. Remote working has pushed senior leadership to create a paradigm shift in their mentality, especially in the way they measure their teams' productivity, through results rather than activities, through outcomes rather than in hours, shifting the focus from individuals and more towards organisational goals and teams. People managers have to ensure that senior leaders can manage a virtual team, fostering employee bonding now and ensuring new employees get integrated even when working from home. In fact, the sudden need for remote working has pushed people managers to leap into the unknown, in many cases experimenting with how to deal with the sudden need for largescale remote collaboration and communication, even though remote working has been around way before the arrival of Covid-19.
What the pandemic has done, though, is that it has to a certain extent normalised and regularised the notion of working away from the office. However, we are now seeing new issues arising, such as the employee's right to disconnect. Legislation has to ensure that a win-win situation is created for both employer and the individual employee if we want to provide more productivity through added flexibility and work-life measures that remote working can bring. Studies are showing that remote working is here to stay in one way or another, well after we declare global victory over Covid-19 if ever that will happen. A hybrid way of working will persist with all its positive and negative implications on organisations, and above all, the employee experience. This is why People Managers are key in providing the solutions and in creating individual agreements that would align personal requirements with organisational goals. Remote working has definitely disrupted the employee experience like never before. The demarcation line between office and home boundaries has come crashing down. It is no longer a matter of what happens at the office is the responsibility of the organisation, while what happens outside the office is the employees. The employee experience revolves around three main criteria: 1. The work itself 2. The social aspect 3. The physical aspect And although working from home might have little impact on the nature of the work itself, the same cannot be said of the social and physical aspects that need to be managed differently and innovatively. The social aspect at work is about the collaborations, teamwork, friendships, support and alleviation of stress through mutual support. It also involves a sense of trust and fairness, which could be lost with less in-person communication and more online connections. With a hybrid workforce, employees require more personalised experiences. People managers need to experiment with new ways to understand their employees' engagement and well-being with and without physical interactions. People managers need to be creative in transforming the workplace to accommodate hybrid work. People will always need a place to interact and collaborate out of the virtual world. They need to start drafting flexible new work policies, create inclusive space designs, and keep abreast of innovative technologies to meet new
Issue 95 employee expectations, connect a more distributed workforce, and provide necessary collaborative tools. Then there is the issue of company culture.
Definitely. Factors faced by the employees working from home will now have an impact on shaping the company culture in the future.
The shared values, attributes, and qualities of any organisation have always been considered one of the most significant and most unique advantages a company has in its market. Company culture takes years of shaping and evolution and is hard to replicate by the competition.
Organisations need to invest a substantial amount of time and energy into leading their company culture in new directions. People Managers who fail to rethink company culture may well have disappointing results. Unlike all other senior leaders within an organisation, People Managers have to be good and responsible in their role.
However, the preservation of company culture has become one of the biggest concerns for HR leaders arising from the pandemic. Will company culture be diluted since employees will have minimal or no face-to-face interaction with their peers or their managers/leaders?
They need to ensure that all other leaders and employees are good in their respective roles, even in these difficult circumstances. The future of work requires resilient leaders and fostering resilience. Leaders need the support of the HR leaders at the personal, team and institutional levels.
The author is the President of the Foundation for Human Resources Development.
Contributing to local developments on policy regarding employment
shortage, salary discrepancies, low participation rates by females and persons with disabilities, and repercussions of Covid-19 within the ambit of employment.
Following a recent development at a national level on employment policies, the Chamber and RSM Malta have initiated a process of discussion with members on workforce matters.
Government is consulting with key stakeholders to assess such challenges and to design the policy following these consultations. A research and consultation process has kickstarted to generate constructive dialogue to capture the needs of the business community. Through the collaboration between RSM Malta and the Chamber, a structured process has been kicked off to ensure that the human capital concerns among the members are reported and put forth. As the longest established social partner in Malta, the Chamber aims to actively represent companies from all economical sectors and be the voice of enterprises and industries in the local sphere.
The Ministry for Finance and Employment has announced that it is spearheading the drafting of a new Employment Policy targeted toward improving the productivity of the local labour force. The previous policy is dated 2014: the time is now ripe for an extensive review. Such evaluation will consider the rapid changes in our socio-economic landscape, addressing new challenges within the labour market. Throughout recent years, the labour market has faced various challenges, namely skills
A number of qualitative conversations with members
have been facilitated. A Taskforce has now been brought together to create a multi-disciplinary approach to the complex matters around human capital. The objective is to produce an informed and relevant position to the Government on the related subject matter.
RSM Malta supports various employers daily on their talent matters. The workforce pressures have a direct business impact, with the most current concern being the availability of competency, aptitude and attitude to help businesses rebound from the pandemic. Having both the micro corporate-level HR and macro workforce view at heart, RSM Malta will continue collaborating and supporting the Chamber to conduct research, raise awareness and strategise programmes and initiatives that can alleviate the skills challenges faced by employers.
Fabianne Ruggier is the Executive Consultant at RSM Malta, who are gold sponsors of The Malta Chamber.
CHaMBER OPINION: Employment
ALEX FALZON writes about the importance of building pride in the sales profession and that people involved in the sales profession should undergo professional training before they are tasked with the role. He also emphasises the need for salespeople to seek a client’s needs first and foremost. Over a year and a half ago, I decided to start helping others build pride in the sales profession on a local level. This was something I was after for many years since I have been in the trade for nearly 20 years. I felt that locally the sales profession was not given its due importance, mainly from the sector's people. As soon as I started off my training and coaching business, I realised that I was regularly approached by companies who wanted to improve their sales revenues through training. However, the first thing they say is that ‘we do not really have a real sales team in place’. I often get the feeling that mentioning the word sales is seen as taboo in Malta. Nowadays, there are many other job titles that refer to sales, such as Business Development or Commercial and Account Manager. Really and truly, they are all sales roles. So my question is, “why does the sales title garner little respect.” Is it because we tend to attribute sales to a commission? What can salespeople do to build pride in the sales profession? First, we need to understand what is not working for us as salespeople. When I ask salespeople to name their favourite film tied to sales during a training session, most of them mention the ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’. I believe that this film actually portrays how selling should not be done in the first place. It goes against everything I strongly believe in. Selling
should not be an effort to convince people to go in for something they’d rather not. So, what does sales entail? Sales is about building a rapport and longlasting relationships with clients. And being entrusted by the client to help them find a solution to their problem ties in well with the next point: The lack of personal development and no real training in the sales profession. No real training and development. The fact that most salespeople work for a monetary bonus is still a dominant perception. Unfortunately, it has often been a reality, and that is because many people have gone into sales without undergoing professional training. Some have been tasked with the role within an organisation while others have studied business or management, then got into the workplace and found that they either didn’t like what they were doing or couldn’t make enough money in doing so and switched to selling. And to be fair many of those involved in sales are confronted with targets as soon as they step into their new role.
Most sales professionals have never been taught the basics of selling. Sales is anything but the depictions in the film 'The Wolf of Wall Street’. It is actually understanding the client’s needs and showing them why you genuinely believe that what you are offering can solve a problem they are facing. Sales is about building rapport and trust through active listening, asking the right questions to page
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STOP SELLING, START SOLVING
WORDS alex falzon
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find a client’s needs and finally adding value. “If people like you, they will listen to you, but if they trust you, will do business with you.” - Zig Ziglar. From my experience, usually, salespeople get most of their training during their onboarding. I fear that most of it is product or service-based, and little attention is given to skill enhancement. Ongoing training and coaching is not that popular on our islands and it is usually due to the fact that the organisation they work for does not believe in the power of ongoing training. Sometimes it is the salespeople themselves who don’t envision this investment as an opportunity for them to improve their skills. In some instances, it could be a combination of both. “Invest as much in yourself as you can, you are your own biggest asset by far.” - Warren Buffet. Educate from a young age!
If we would like to start earning more respect, we need to educate the young at the school level, enabling them with the skill sets required to view the sales route as a profession. Therefore, it would be great if these young students are exposed to sales labs and taught the importance of being passionate about their potential sales role, listening, and only pursuing clients who can truly benefit from their product or service. Passion. Sales is the transfer of enthusiasm, and I believe that to be truly great in sales, you have to have a real passion for what you’re doing. People who are only selling for monetary gain are confirming this negative perception. However, if the sales professional sells a product or service that can make a difference for the right client, they are doing it right since they are taking no short cut and basing everything on their integrity. Its people like these who will help build pride in this profession.
Taking time to find that product or service which you are passionate about helps you build a meaningful rapport with the client. That time and effort are worth it. Sales is the best profession in the world when done right and one of the worst when one wrong. About the author The author is a self-learner with a great passion for soft skill & sales training and coaching, team development and sales growth. Alex gets his fulfilment from motivating and inspiring other people’s growth and professional development. Alex’s management, leadership, and coaching skills delivered results for companies looking to expand their revenue and reach their profitability targets at a corporate level. Alex is a full-time freelance sales trainer collaborating with reputable corporate companies. He is also the founder of The Sales Profession Malta Facebook Page. Alex graduated in Economics and Management at the University of Malta in 2004. Alex is a certified NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) Trainer and is currently working on obtaining a personal mastery certification in coaching and mentoring, accredited by the ICF and EMCC. https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexfalzon80/
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Gender equality related issues should be old news in 2021 yet this long-time coming, gender-based discrimination is still very much present at this day and age. DINAH DELCEPPO virtually connects with CHARLOTTE GREGORY, business owner, president of the Malta Association of Women in Business (MAWB), and secretary of EMPOWER. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF? Outgoing and always looking for a challenge. HOW DID BECOMING A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS OWNER COME ABOUT? WAS IT ALWAYS A DREAM OF YOURS? I was involved in business from a young age through a family business. Growing up I toyed with the idea of becoming a lawyer, but I loved working in the family business too much and decided to stay put. I stopped studying for a while and then started again in my late twenties. I am a great believer in lifelong learning. Whilst working in the family business, I was always thinking of how things could be done differently, and possibly better, but realised that I would not be able to do them where I was, so I left the family business and started my own company together with my husband; Gregory & Murray has now been established for 13 years. YOU ARE ALSO THE PRESIDENT OF THE MALTA ASSOCIATION OF WOMEN IN BUSINESS. HOW DOES THIS TIE IN WITH YOUR OWN BUSINESS, IF AT ALL, AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU? It does not tie in with my company work really other than the networking opportunities that this brings. I have been a member of MAWB for over 17 years and have learned tremendously during this
period. I was also given opportunities through the organisation to work on large and international projects, which had in turn indirectly helped my business. I have always been a believer in women’s rights, have advocated for them and still do. MAWB gives me the possibility to do this and to also provide a platform for other women in business. MAWB also gives me the opportunity to help other women in business and possibly steer them towards entrepreneurship. WHAT DOES THE ASSOCIATION DO TO HELP WOMEN IN THE BUSINESS WORLD? The organisation offers members training, networking opportunities, up-to-date information, which at the moment is something our members are constantly relying on due to the changes brought on by Brexit and COVID-19, and also possibilities of working on large projects and sitting on various boards and committees.
HOW REAL IS THE GENDER WAGE GAP AND HOW CAN WE ALL CONTRIBUTE TO EFFECTIVELY TARGET THIS ISSUE? The gender wage gap is very real, and it is something that exists worldwide. The EU is now introducing a number of measures to do this, such as the Work-Life Balance Directive and also Pay Transparency.
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GENDER EQUALITY IS A NO-BRAINER, BUT WE ARE STILL STUCK AT ‘NO’
WOMEN IN BUSINESS
WORDS DINAH DELCEPPO
Issue 95 In my personal opinion, for us to tackle the gender wage gap, which is a very complex problem, we need to do it holistically,
have given equal parental leave to
nothing to tackle the gender wage gap. There are several things that can be done to target the issue, from simple measures that can be implemented immediately by companies, such as targeted training to managers and HR managers (and in fact some EU companies have also engaged diversity managers), to more complex
each parent, meaning that both men
legislation such as the Pay Transparency.
as there are a number of factors that contribute to this. Some other countries, mostly the Nordic countries, for example,
and women can have equally shared child responsibilities while giving the opportunity to all parents to continue with their career. In Malta, a few years ago, the free childcare centres were introduced, which has helped more women to enter or re-enter the labour market. However, this alone will do
THE ASSOCIATION ALSO FORMS PART OF ‘EMPOWER’, WHICH PROMOTES POSITIVE CHANGE AND ELIMINATES BARRIERS TO GENDER EQUALITY. WHAT IS YOUR ROLE? As MAWB, we were one of the founding members of ‘emPOWer’, which was founded over 3 years ago. I currently
form part of the board, as Secretary. ‘EmPOWer’ works on a number of issues related to gender equality. WHAT IS YOUR MESSAGE TO WOMEN OUT THERE FACING GENDER EQUALITY CHALLENGES AND STRUGGLING TO ACHIEVE THEIR CAREER DREAMS BECAUSE OF THIS? Do not give up; turn your challenges into opportunities, find the right support structure such as MAWB or any other organisation that can guide you and provide you with a safe space to learn and grow. Most importantly, believe in yourself, do not let anyone tell you that you cannot do something simply because of your gender; we are all equal.
WOMEN IN BUSINESS Diversity on boards “Diversity on boards leads to more efficiency, just as long as the underlying principle is professionalism and not tokenism,” Dr Rose Marie Azzopardi, President of Women Directors in Malta (WDM). WDM was established in 2015 and is a very active NGO. Companies increase their profitability when there are women directors on their boards, yet women are still underrepresented on boards in Malta. The chief objectives of WDM are to: promote the participation of women on boards of directors and equivalent bodies; strengthen the pool of female board members; serve as a point of contact for companies and the government; and provide training and support to directors.
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WORDS MARIELLA CAMILLERI
ENHANCING EMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN Working collectively towards common goals makes us stronger.
mariella camilleri, president of business and professional women (valletta) talks about the role of the association and upskilling women in business. Business and Professional Women (Valletta) Malta is an associate club of one of the oldest and truly global female NGOs, the International Federation of Business and Professional Women, which has a history of over 100 years and is currently celebrating 91 years from its incorporation in Geneva in 1930 by Dr Lena Madison Phillips. We are present in all five continents and over 110 countries and with Europe representing the majority of our global membership at approximately 20,000 members. Throughout its history, BPW has been instrumental in promoting women’s empowerment through its relationships and presence within Global Entities such as Consultative status with UN and instrumental in the creation of the Commission for Status of Women, Consultative Status with ESOCO since 1947, The Council of Europe since 1977 amongst many many others. Our mission is to develop business, professional and leadership potential of women on all levels through advocacy, education, mentoring, networking, skill-building and economic empowerment programmes and projects around the world.
Some of our main projects include Equal Pay for Equal Work, higher representation in decision-making positions, increase number of women on boards, and increased representation in parliament. Here in Malta we also mentor tomorrow’s business and professional women students mentored by women covering every sector, industry and roles) in an annual event. In Ma lt a, w ith so many disparate organisations, a number of which overlap in their primary purpose and focus, our voices tend to get lost, as such I believe we should collectively work towards common goals, thus giving us better visibility and a stronger voice, we need to sit at the table giving us a say at resolutions and the changes in the law as needed to empower women further. I believe that engaging men to promote and support gender equality gives us an opportunity to achieve our goals probably in a more expedited manner; afterall, this diversity promotes a more cohesive solution to everyday issues as men and women tend to look at problems from a different approach. page
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WORDS leanne bartolo
WORK(OUT) FROM HOME European fitness champion, OCR athlete and personal trainer LEANNE BARTOLO, who also runs Warehouse Fitness Studio, shares her expertise on how to stay fit while working from home. Are you wondering how to avoid turning into a lazy blob while working from home? What's sure is that you're not alone, struggling to balance between wanting to slide over to your couch, spending time on TikTok or Netflix after the workday is done, and also wanting to get fit and in shape. The struggle is real! Working from home comes with tons of benefits, in my opinion, like being in more control of your schedule, less commuting time, more sleep as well as a better chance to focus on healthy eating habits. While working from home is quite convenient and even reduces certain costs, it comes with specific dilemmas as well. Admit it; you were way more disciplined when you were going to the office for work. As a professional trainer and psychologist, I will share some tips to help you feel great both mentally and physically when remote working. Working from home can be a productive success if you put your mind to your goals and remember that work can happen anywhere. Maintain your morning schedule. That's right! Wake up when you typically would, and that goes for going to bed at the same hour as well, unless you typically wake up at 5 am to commute, which you won't have to do now! Keeping the same routine helps you avoid feeling sluggish and tired if you sleep until your first meeting. Start the day with a stretch. Begin the workday by doing any type of stretch! Stretching gives your joints and muscles some movement before you settle into
your 'home office' chair and take a twohour meeting. Stretching also helps relieve joints and aches that you might get sitting for that long. Or, if you're a morning person, use the time during which you used to commute to fit in a morning jog. If you have a bicycle, go for a ride in the fresh air! Putting on clothes that are not pyjamas and creating a designated space in your home for working is also crucial to keeping sane and motivated.
home, and it's one of the challenges that remote workers face all the time. How do you leave 'work' at work if work is now at home? This is why booking an online class or committing to doing an activity is required. With a range of fitness classes you can take online, some are even free of charge, to working out by yourself or with a partner, you can find your work from home exercise routine that fits in your new schedule.
Figure out how you'll take your 'lunch break.' If you typically 'break' for lunch around noon, then try to do that at home. If you don't typically break at all, then guess what? Maybe you finally have time to step out for a walk or cook a new recipe right over in your kitchen. Setting aside scheduled snack times every 2-3 hours, and stocking only on healthy items like grapes, carrots, nuts, and easy to prepare healthy snacks to make it practical and quick to fit in.
Take an online class. You can choose to do an online HIIT Session! What's cool about HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts is that you need very little equipment and can do them from home as part of your work-from-home workout plan. The typical HIIT workout fan will confirm that HIIT workouts make you sweat like crazy and keep you engaged and far from bored. Next, remote workers who regularly do HIIT workouts say that they can see results quickly. Such classes can be fit either early in the morning before starting work or after work.
Choose a break-time activity. Make sure you get steps during your lunch break. This tip is a simple one. Go for a walk on your lunch break! You can feel free to count your steps or walk as far as you have time for and pat yourself on the back for having gotten in some movement rather than none. If it's too cold or hot outside, do an activity at home instead of going out for your lunch break. If you are a dog owner, walk your dog as a break time activity! Leave work 'at work,' and enjoy your evening as you typically would. This is one of the biggest challenges of working from
At Warehouse Fitness Studio, I offer various classes perfect for all fitness levels that promote core strength, muscle control and stability. While it sounds pleasant, it is certainly very hard work. You won't believe what kind of fitness you can get into, all within the comfort of your home as a home worker. To help you out in the mission to make work from home productive and healthy, here are some simple and effective exercises that can be done quickly while you are at your desk.
Issue 95 PUSH-UPS – DESK AND WALL This is an alternate version of push-ups. Ensure that your desk is sturdy enough to take your weight. You don't want yourself injured in your zeal to become fit! Place your hands flat, in a little wider format than the length of your shoulder. Start the push-ups the usual way. Do a minimum of 20. You can do the same thing by using a wall as the base. Just ensure that you keep your core engaged.
Photography: David Schembri.
CHAIR SQUATS The best part about these is that you do not need to take time out for this. Chair squats can be done in between work or meetings and calls. Just stand up from the chair, lower your body back into the chair but don't sit entirely. Get up again. Let your heels carry your weight. Repeat the squats 10 times.
OBLIQUE T WIST This is best if you have a swivel chair. You can use the movement of the chair to work on your core muscles as you work from home. All you have to do is sit straight in the chair, take your feet a little up so they are not
touching the f loor, hold your desk so you don't fall or slip, and then do the oblique f lip by swivelling the chair from side to side. Repeat it 15 times at least. NECK ROLLS This is perhaps the most basic and recommended exercise for anyone who spends more than an hour on the laptop. Often while working we are so engrossed that we forget our stiff necks. There is a simple fix for that. After every 1.5-2 hours, roll your neck clockwise and anticlockwise 10 times. This will loosen the muscles and make them more flexible, lessening the chances of cervical issues when you finally step out of lockdown! SHOULDER STRETCH Another basic exercise that would ensure your upper body muscles stay in prime shape as you work from home is a shoulder stretch. All you have to do is grasp your one hand with another, raise it straight above your head with your palms towards the ceiling. Take around 2-3 deep breaths while you do that to instantly feel your muscles more relaxed.
UPPER BACK STRETCH Your back is the most strained when you spend hours in front of the laptop. This particular exercise has been on our daily to-do for the longest time and is easy to do as well. Hold both of your arms in front of you, in a straight line, facing down. Lower your head in a way that it is line with the hind-arms, as you look down, making the upper back of your back slightly curved. Take around 2-3 deep breaths to relax your muscles. SHADOW BOXING It doesn't literally mean shadow boxing. Rather, it is faux boxing. It means that you imagine a punching bag and then act accordingly. However, make sure you are at a safe distance from your system. You wouldn't want to break it. This is a great form of cardio to keep your heart healthy and burn some calories in less than 15 minutes. It's also a great stress buster! WRIST STRETCHES If you are someone who uses the computer a lot while working from home – especially typing, this is the best exercise for your wrists. Just lift and stretch your palms as you press those to each
other. Another way to relieve wrist tension is to do circular movements, both clockwise and anticlockwise, just the way you do it for the neck. FINGER EXERCISES There are a few simple exercises for the fingers as well, especially useful for those who have writing or coding jobs. Pinch your fingers and thumb, put an elastic band around and then flex the fingers and thumb with the band's elasticity, at least 10 times. Repeat thrice a day. You can use a squeezer to release finger and palm stress. You can grasp a cloth or towel and do the grasping movements a couple of times. In case any of your fingers are in pain specifically, use it with the thumb to form an 'O' and hold that position for 5 seconds at least. Repeat it 10 times twice a day.
Remember that there's so much more to life than work, so even if your home becomes your office, set aside another area for entertainment, fitness, relaxing and family, pets or roommates. Also, be happy that you're saving hours of your life every day you're working from home.
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CHAMBER OPINION: HEALTH & WELLNESS
Set up in July 2020, chaired by Catherine Calleja and sponsored by Atlas Insurance, the Health & Wellness Committee within the Malta Chamber is made up of varied individuals with complementary skill sets and an interest in wellness from large to smaller organisations. Key themes being addressed by the committee include Resilience and Organisation Culture, Worklife Balance, Gender Burden Sharing, Health and Safety, Mental Health Services in Malta as well as Corporate Wellness Programmes. Of course coping with the various challenges presented to employers under the COVID-19 scenario has featured strongly on the committee’s radar Two key events were organised during the period of July to December 2020. The first, held in October, was a Benchmarking Session on Culture and Resilience during COVID-19. It was addressed by key speakers to bring context to the discussion. Participants were divided into working groups to come up with recommendations for employers and government. During the second event, in December, representatives of the Manufacturing Economic Group were addressed by the COVID-19 Public Health Response Team, which was followed by a Q&A to address their particular sector’s issues in an attempt to build a closer relationship with the Health authorities and understand the principles of Contact Tracing and quarantine. An intended outcome was to ensure that standards are high enough at work to minimise any loss of labour hours following cases of employees or their contacts being tested positive. A paper has been prepared with key recommendations for employers and for government following both events. The committee has engaged with the Commissioner for Equality about particular wellness issues related to gender. It has looked at burden sharing in a gender context in particular and has issued a paper on the same subject. It has also engaged with the CEO of the OHSA and discussed risk assessment obligations for employers with a particular focus on mental health especially during this stressful time. During the month of March, the committee held a design thinking workshop on standards in mental healthcare provision in Malta. In May, the committee is organising an event on Corporate Wellness Programmes while in July an event on essential health and safety obligations for employers is also on the agenda.
Catherine Calleja sits on the council of The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry 2021-2023.
Coping with the various challenges
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WORDS Commercial Courier
MCESD FACILITATING DISCUSSION ON COVID-19 MCESD Chairperson JAMES H. PEARSALL tells THE COMMERCIAL COURIER that throughout the pandemic, MCESD played a vital role in facilitating discussion among social partners, comprising of trade unions and employer organisations. Late last year, MCESD held two Covid-19 high profile meetings at Auberge de Castille, which saw the presence of the Prime Minister, whereas in March, another was held earlier the same day when restrictions were imposed by the authorities. Other similar meetings followed this year between February and April. “MCESD always tries its best to see that all Council members (social partners) pull the same rope, especially in the midst of a pandemic where everybody’s cooperation is needed,” Mr Pearsall said when asked about some of the national priorities that have been discussed among social partners. INDUSTRIAL PEACE Asked whether he feels whether industrial peace is balanced these days, he replied in the affirmative. Industrial peace is when both employer and employees abstain from industrial action, such as strikes and lockouts during industrial talks. MCESD, he said, helped bring about industrial peace, apart from social and economic changes. Giving a snapshot of his background, he explained that when he was in the GWU, he wasn’t a full-time official as he was always involved in vocational training mainly but ended up being a top official of GWU as he always had industrial relations at heart. MCESD IS NOT RIGID He explained that Council members, comprising of employers and unions, have
the chance to engage in bilateral sectoral agreements without the need of MCESD having to be informed. He also spoke about his aspiration that both the Trade Union Council and the Chamber of employers will be established in Malta. This will give a better standing for both sides for a better focus to protect their interests on national issues. He spoke about the fact that MCESD keeps social dialogue alive but strikes a balance between unions and employers, although they have different vested interests. “We give everyone the freedom to express their opinions related to their particular interests, but MCESD is there to discuss national priorities, first and foremost.” Asked what he would like to see happen within MCESD, he said: “I would like to see that Council members focus more on the issue being discussed during plenary sessions; we cannot discuss an issue and go off on a tangent.” RESEARCH-BASED EVIDENCE He also highlighted that when he was appointed chairperson, research was limited on the issue to be discussed within MCESD and therefore he came up with the idea of having evidence-based information for Council members prior to each and every MCESD meeting. “I introduced a Steering Unit made up of experts from various fields.” BRANDING MCESD has been around for years but lacked presence on social media. “Our work entails a lot of effort and we are a small team.
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However, in June last year we entrusted a person to handle the promotional aspect of MCESD. He is assigned to publish an account of our work to the public and supporting the organisation sphere of our events. We can now boast of a fullyfledged website and other platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. We also partnered up with other organisations to hold events. NATIONAL PRODUCTIVITY BOARD Mr Pearsall is also the chairperson of the National Productivity Board since MCESD was delegated to handle the NPB on Malta’s behalf. There are a number of other EU counterparts who host the board as well. The NPB presents with its recommendations the way forward for the economic development of the country on different issues. This report is presented every year to the public sphere through an annual conference which this year was supported by the presence of the Prime Minister.
“The meeting - which was held in February and attended by foreign NPR representatives - was a great success. The report, entitled ‘The Malta Competitiveness Report’, is a very important report on Malta’s economic and social trends and experts behind the report seek to emerge with recommendations for Malta to adopt over the coming years, and this year was no exception.” FROM INFORMING TO ENGAGING: MCESD’S VISION “My next step is to see that MCESD takes the leap of informing to engaging.” “Engaging in this case means that if issues are comprehensively discussed resulting into objective
recommendations for the common good are put forward with all responsibility that it carries, and all members will be standing by that responsibility. We want to raise the standards of social dialogue in Malta, at the end of the day. MCESD HOSTS TWO COMMITTEES MCESD spans also in hosting two committees: The Civil Society Committee and the Gozo Regional Committee. “These are two committees that comprise of representatives from various sectors, including officially registered NGO’s. MCESD facilitates discussion among such representatives, at times also in the presence of Ministers concerned. The aim of the committees is to discuss important issues at stake and to seek a way forward.” BUDGET 2021 As carried out every year, one of the MCESD meetings discussed was the Budget proposals 2021. This year MCESD engaged an expert to compile Budget-related proposals of all Council members to help define the proposals and combined all the efforts as presented by all stakeholders, this resulted into a more practical document which made it easier for the Finance Ministry to go through such proposals. In fact, the former Finance Minister Edward Scicluna lauded MCESD for taking this incentive. GOVERNMENT’S PRESENCE IN MCESD MEETINGS As for the participation of Government in MCESD meetings and other discussions, Mr Pearsall said that such presence whilst it is conferred in the law, is vital since without the political will, proposals will never see the light of day. After all, stakeholders confirm that it is only the Government that has to decide and implement proposals at the end of the day.”
Mr Pearsall’s career ranged from a Malta Drydocks apprentice, furthering onto vocational training, where he served as a Director at one of the institutes of the Malta College for Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST). He is also a former President of the General Workers’ Union. In August 2020 he was appointed as Chairman of the present MCESD. His spent years in education, vocational training and trade unionism. This provided an invaluable experiential learning which he applies to his current role. He is also the chairperson of the National Productivity Board, and also sits on the National Post Pandemic Strategy Committee. page
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How to improve remote working
FULLY-FLEDGED HOME OFFICES The WFH boom during the pandemic came so suddenly, it was simply a case of workers grabbing their laptops/computers, and taking them home with them. If companies intend to keep this going post-pandemic, then there’s a shared responsibility with the employees to create the best home office environment possible. The first thing to think of is the physical workspace for employees. Operating from this home office also incurs increased costs of Internet consumption, phone bills (unless already provided for), stationery and the like. At home, silence might not be as easy to come across as in the office, so something like noise-cancelling headphones could go a long way. CYBERSECURITY IS VITAL More important than ever is cybersecurity. Scams become harder to distinguish; black hat hackers are evermore cunning and tougher to keep up with. One way of increasing security is simply
A VPN is like a tunnel between two cities: instead of driving through the dark forest of danger, drive safely through the underground tunnel. - Sam Grubb
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WOMEN IN SUNIESS
It's been over a year since the first lockdown was put in place, and while some things like video meetings and hybrid conferences are here to stay, there are many considerations to take into account to ensure remote working is performed in its best possible form. From increased device security to how employers should monitor their employees, it’s easy to ace remote working if you pay enough attention to the details.
having company-owned laptops. That way, the company would be more in control of safety, and if aligned with a Virtual Private Network (VPN), that’s a whole lot of security concerns alleviated. Other security tips include installing updates as soon as possible, as these tend to have patches for security risks; password managers; multi-factor authentication and if you use separate devices for different things, keep it that way. If you watch TV shows on your tablet, pay bills on your home PC and use a work laptop exclusively for work, keep it that way. Avoid carrying out work tasks on your home devices, as that increases the risk of compromising business data, no matter how benign the task may be. BETTER TECH HELPS If your organisation requires meetings with high profile clients, you’d do well to invest in decent web cams and microphones
Issue 95 for your employees. Video quality and crystal-clear sound give better impressions than grainy visuals and distorted audio, the same way you’d show up to a physical meeting sharply dressed instead of the tracksuits you’ve been wearing at home for the past year or so. WILL OFFICE SIZES CHANGE? The current trend outside Malta’s shores is that office sizes are shrinking as the benefits of remote working outweigh the negatives. Although Malta tends to follow trends rather than diverge, commuting times are different here than abroad, a key factor in deciding whether to work from home or take a one-hour journey to get to the office. If you do have the opportunity to downsize the office and save on office rent though, it’s a fantastic opportunity to turn those savings into improved hardware and software for the company. Better security programs, better laptops and machines, better phone contracts… WORK STYLE What’s also key is establishing a work pattern that works for everyone individually. Since you can’t see employees at their desks at any given moment, are you happy to judge on output alone? Is it invasive to monitor them via management software? Can they still make that 3pm meeting now that the kids are at home? Keep in mind that points of contact have been reduced, so while it’s important to keep constant contact, make page
sure that it’s being done in a way that respects everyone’s boundaries as much as possible. CREATE THE WORK EXPERIENCE THAT YOU WANT, NOT THE ONE THAT’S EASY Avoid the premise that everyone needs the same solution. Not everyone needs constant connection and not everyone needs uninterrupted silence. Do you really have to create a solution, or can you look back at what used to work back in the office and recreate it virtually?
Gadgets is the go-to place for anything related to innovation and technology – we aim to make the fascinating world of tech as attractive and easy-tounderstand as possible for people who are far from tech gurus. We seek to partner up with creators, nurture So, while the remote working innovative projects, phenomenon was accelerated and lead the way by the pandemic, it’s most in the world of tomorrow… the certainly here to say in some island of tomorrow. shape or form. It’s up to each We reach out to business to tailor-make the our audiences best experience possible for their via our TV, web employees and the employees to and social media reach and surpass pre-COVID platforms. Go on levels no matter where they’re and check us out on gadgetsmalta.com! working from.
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