Financial education a key pillar in Malta’s national strategy for a stronger financial services sector

Dr Bernice Buttigieg

Last Updated on Thursday, 4 July, 2024 at 8:36 am by Andre Camilleri

National strategy proposes 175 initiatives across five main pillars

In March 2023, the Malta Financial Services Advisory Council (MFSAC) launched a National Strategy for a stronger financial services industry to promote Malta as a more reputable and innovative international financial centre.

One of the five pillars of this strategy, which proposed a total of 175 initiatives, focuses on the supply of talent through HR and education in a firm bid to address the skills’ gap in the sector. The strategy seeks more professional and academic education to encourage more students to consider this industry in their subject option considerations.

In line with this commitment, the Malta Financial Services Authority, in collaboration with the University of Malta, is announcing a Postgraduate Diploma in Financial Regulation and Compliance with applications now open.

According to Dr Bernice Buttigieg from the Programme Management Office of the MFSAC, this academic programme represents a significant milestone in the jurisdiction’s commitment to advancing the standards of financial regulation and compliance education in Malta.

“Finding talent remains a challenge for many and one of the key thrusts in the National Strategy refers to ‘building talent’ because although Malta is already highly regarded for its skilled financial services workforce, potential growth is leading to a high demand for new sought-after skills,” says Dr Buttigieg.

“This newly-launched Postgraduate Diploma in Financial Regulation and Compliance, being offered in collaboration with the MFSA’s Financial Supervisors Academy, is an important development which should attract individuals and professionals to the financial services industry who will help us strengthen Malta’s capacity in compliance and anti-money laundering (AML).”

The financial services sector is poised for more growth. From 11,000 employees in 2018, the sector today employs around 18,000 people, including professional activities which support the industry.

On a nationwide level, there is increasing recognition of enhancing financial literacy among the population, with the Strategy identifying some 70 active financial literacy programmes or activities. FinanceMalta is also doing its part by collaborating with both FreeHour and JA on two separate initiatives, aimed at promoting financial literacy with youths, towards the end of the year.

The Advisory Council’s HR & Education team is also working on recommendations to increase the availability of skills and to achieve better retention, focusing first on third-country nationals.

A national strategy for Malta’s Financial Services Industry

According to Dr Buttigieg who is also chief Strategy officer at FinanceMalta, the National Strategy’s 175 proposed initiatives focus on five vertical pillars: banking and payments, insurance and pensions, capital markets, wealth management and fintech and AI as well as horizontal enablers such as the elimination of bureaucracy, taxation, the supply of talent through HR and education and open and sustainable finance.

Describing the national strategy as “very ambitious and varied in scope, scale, and complexity” Dr Buttigieg noted how thanks to 15 distinct workstreams and the contribution from experienced stakeholders from firms and regulators, half of this year’s planned deliverables are already completed.

“Technology needs to be at the core of Malta as a financial services jurisdiction. Digitalisation and innovation feature very prominently in this strategy, in fact, three of our four key initiatives are deeply embedded in technology. We also want to expand our potential in Fintech.”

“Given the MFSAC’s focus on capital and talent acquisition, regulatory frameworks, technical infrastructure and the promotion of Malta within this framework, we are very happy seeing Malta-based companies proposing very innovative tech services in areas such as compliance,” she added.

Dr Buttigieg acknowledges that the fight against financial crime remains a key element in strengthening Malta’s competitiveness and, following Malta’s greylisting, the approach to financial crime has changed significantly in the past two years.

“Malta’s swift exit from the FATF grey list within just a year reflected the country’s commitment to rigorous financial regulations and more robust anti-money laundering measures and today, there is real awareness and understanding that the crimes by a few can hurt the reputation of many.”

“This is why we are in line with Moody’s expectations in its latest report about Malta to continue to engage with the financial community to ensure more effective compliance and enforcement of the regulatory framework to support the island’s financial competitiveness more sustainably,” she added.

She also noted how the increase in Suspicious Transaction Reports filed with the FIAU and the decrease in Malta’s overall money laundering residual risk as reported by the latest National Risk Assessment reflect a higher level of vigilance.

According to Dr Buttigieg, the new national strategy will encourage the financial sector to also redirect private capital towards more sustainable investments and to promote greater transparency with more focus on sustainable finance and specific financial instruments that promote sustainability.

This includes initiatives which incentivise instruments such as green and blue bonds, sustainability-linked bonds and social bonds, as well as Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs).

Innovation is also seen as a key element of growth as the jurisdiction moves towards further specialised niches including the fintech sector, asset management, insurance and aviation, particularly through aircraft registration and maintenance activities.

“The MFSAC has received conclusions of an extensive study on the opportunities in aircraft leasing. This will be followed with a plan of required legislative changes and incentives and some major developments are targeted for the end of this year,” concluded Dr Buttigieg.

- Advertisement -