Innovation the focus of discussion during final day of FinanceMalta annual conference

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    Innovation was the focus of the discussion during the final day of FinanceMalta’s 13th annual conference, with a number of stakeholders across various sectors discussing the opportunities and challenges that Malta will be facing in the new decade.

    The first panel discussion of the day focused on innovation in the new decade in general, and saw the participation of Michael Xuereb – Chief Officer, Strategy, Policy and Innovation at the MFSA, Stephen McCarthy – CEO of the MDIA, and Dana Farrugia – CEO of Tech.MT.

    It was moderated by the Central Bank of Malta’s Communications Coordinator Vannessa Macdonald.

    Asked about whether Malta is facing a bottleneck in training the necessary talent to support innovative sectors, Farrugia said that the matter is two-fold.  She said that there are students who taken up STEM subjects which lead to engineering, development, or statistics related careers, and then there are students who take up careers related to the digital economy.

    Farrugia said that in the digital economy, it has to be constantly explained what careers the digital world can expose one too, noting that there are fields such as e-sports and front end application development that fit into this sector.

    However she admitted that Malta, much like the rest of the world, is not producing enough talent for this sector.

    McCarthy meanwhile said that the MDIA was ahead of its time when it was opened, and has been looking at innovative technologies such as Artificial Intelligence in order to ensure, in this case, that if a program is meant to do one thing, then it requires an audit from the MDIA.

    Elements of Malta’s law and way of thinking in this sector are in actual fact being drafted by the European Commission for inclusion in the legislation they are working on.

    Xuereb meanwhile was asked why no VFA licence has been issued yet, to which he replied that the first licences being issued is very close and that it does take some time for the eco-system to start working. 

    He too said that when Malta began regulating VFAs two years ago, the country was ahead of its time and had to basically draft legislation from scratch.

    Meanwhile at the end of the discussion, it was announced that the Central Bank of Malta will be introducing a new euro denominated payment structure, which will reduce the reliance on correspondent banks.  This was described as an important step towards offering a reliable solution with no credit risk, and to ensure access to European payment structures.

    The second panel of the day focused on innovation in asset management, a significant subject given that no less than €22 trillion in assets are managed in Europe alone.

    The panel began with a presentation by Christian Mackintosh – Senior Manager of Wealth &Asset Management at EY UK.

    The discussion then played out between Mackintosh, Antonia Zammit – CEO of Praude Asset Management, Andre Zerafa – Partner of Ganado Advocates, and Hakon Haugnes – CFO/COO of Andurand Capital.

    It was moderated by FinanceMalta’s governor, Kenneth Farrugia.

    Zammit most notably said that the key opportunities in this sector are in creating an action plan for recovery, that saving and investments are done in an adequate manner at EU level, and attempting to reach a single market across the capital market.  In terms of a challenge for the industry, Zammit noted that competition from non-financial operators, which includes finTech, is something to keep an eye out for.

    Zerafa meanwhile observed how for innovation to thrive, all industry players and government stakeholders need to work together.  He noted that in recent years, the government and regulator have not been in sync; noting that whereas the government was very “gung-ho” on crypto-currencies and VFAs, the MFSA issued rules which were too onerous for the industry to every take off.

    The final panel of the three-day conference focused on new opportunities in the insurance sector.

    It saw a presentation from Javier Baixas Valls, a partner at PwC Madrid, and a panel discussion between Valls himself, Mario Xuereb – Deputy CEO at Lockton European Brokers Limited, Elizabeth Carbonaro – Chairperson of the Malta Insurance Managers Association, and Robert Geraghty – Senior Vice President of International Sales Leader at Marsh Captive Solutions, Marsh UK.

    It was moderated by Matthew Bianchi, the Vice-Chairman of FinanceMalta.

    In his closing address, FinanceMalta Chairman Rudolph Psaila praised all the panellists who took part the three-day conference, and invited all stakeholders to remain in touch and in discussions to reach new heights.

    He said that they all have the same goal; continuing the fight against financial crime and making Malta a hostile place for criminals to do business.  He said that the priority is not just to pass the Moneyval assessment, but to attract legitimate business to the island.

    He said that to continue to innovate, we must embrace change and transform ourselves to attract sustainable investment, remain competitive, and better serve the market and our communities.

    Psaila added that together a new legal framework which allows innovation but which retains a level playing field in the sector must be created, before thanking all 35 delegates and 300 or so participants who followed the conference.