Trust and Confidence: Malta’s International Trademark
Financial services have become a major pillar of Malta’s economy, averaging an impressive 30 percent annual growth over the last three years and employing over 7000 people, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi said in his speech marking the opening of the FinanceMalta Second Annual Conference held at the Hilton Hotel on 29 May 2009.
The conference, with the theme “Financial Services in Malta, Building on our Success”, underlined the importance of the financial services sector to the local economy and highlighted the opportunities for Malta to maintain the dynamic growth and expansion of the sector as well as the challenges ahead. The event was attended by around 150 senior executives from across the industry in Malta and closing remarks were made by Finance Minister Tonio Fenech.
The Government’s vision is to see the industry’s contribution to GDP grow from 12 percent to 25 per cent within the next six or seven years, the Prime Minister said in his opening remarks. “My Government has already publicly stated its commitment to sustain the continued development of this industry,” Dr Gonzi said. “This is our vision and we strongly believe that, working together, we can achieve this target.”
In welcoming the delegates and participants to the conference, Kenneth Farrugia, Chairman of FinanceMalta, said “Malta’s open market economy is not immune to the global recession, though the impact has been relatively mild albeit the fragility of the international economy may cause Malta’s own economy to deteriorate somewhat in the short to medium term.”
Despite the international situation, Mr Farrugia said, Malta has a resilient banking sector which is in good shape and credit is still available and Malta’s financial services sector has continued to register significant growth throughout 2008. “In 2008 we saw growth of 33 percent in the number of funds registered in Malta, bringing the total to 398, growth of 10.5 percent in the total assets held by Malta’s financial and credit institutions, which reached 41.9 billion euro, and 335 percent growth in general insurance premia,” he said.
The conference brought together a comprehensive list of keynote speakers, comprised of leading industry experts and other professionals from Malta and Europe. These included Catherine Ashton, the EU Commissioner for Trade, Michael Bonello, Governor of the Central Bank of Malta, Richard Ogden, partner at Ernst & Young in the UK, Richard Cottell from HSBC Malta, Heikki Niemela, Chairman of Nemea Bank, and Mr Joseph Sammut, Chairman of Banif Bank Malta.
Other keynote speakers included Marianne Wolfbrandt, DG Internal Market and Services, European Commission, Gordon Cordina, economist at the University of Malta, Kevin Valenzia, partner at PWC, Hamish McRae, author and associate editor of the UK’s Independent, and Helga Ellul, President of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry.
Speakers addressed issues such as the challenges facing Malta’s banking system; how tax policy could provide economic stimulus and attract investment; the effect of the global economic situation on the financial industry; the promotion of financial sector competitiveness; and trading our way out of the economic crisis.
We must continue to differentiate ourselves on the basis of quality in everything we do, everything that adds value to our client base and our organisations, Minister Fenech said in his closing remarks. We have never been self serving, but nor should we allow ourselves to become this way through protectionism or opportunism as the rules of the game change, he said.
“We have worked hard together to create a sound base for the financial services industry which is today bearing fruit,” he said. “I am fully confident that, working together as we have always done - the Government, the regulators and the operators - we can reach our goals.”