Over the past years, Malta has made significant efforts and improvements in its financial crime risk compliance, explained Rudolph Psaila, Chairman of FinanceMalta. Speaking to Dayna Camilleri Clarke, Psaila said he is confident that, with all stakeholders’ collective contribution and co-operation, Malta will overcome the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) challenge as it did with other recent challenges.
“The level of effort that Malta has undertaken to ensure international AML obligations are reached and its institutions strengthened, is something we know very well. Understandably, it was disappointing for everyone in the sector to hear this news, especially since, over the last two years, Malta made significant efforts and improvements and no longer has any “partially compliant” or “non-compliant” ratings in its assessment by Moneyval. Malta has implemented several reforms across the board, both on technical matters, but more importantly, in practical terms. We thank all those who were involved in this process, and it is reassuring that FATF and the government have also agreed on a programme and will be working together to address the issues raised. Communication is key, and it is important that as the agreed implementation plan progresses, this progress is communicated regularly to all stakeholders in order to keep everyone in the loop of all developments taking place, including those investors we will continue working with.”
Psaila said that one key aspect highlighted by FATF and echoed by the Maltese government and many stakeholders is the importance of not only implementing the necessary changes but to ensure the effectiveness of the changes and demonstrate tangible results and outcomes.
Notwithstanding the challenges, Mr Psaila noted it is reassuring that the outlook from credit agencies and additional external bodies has been positive thus far. “Credit rating agencies like Fitch believe there will be no immediate impact on Malta’s ratings. The focus must be on restoring our reputation and addressing the issues raised in the FATF assessment. We believe it is important to nurture stronger business relationships with our foreign counterparts and develop sound networks to promote Malta as a robust financial centre. “
“FinanceMalta believes that it is in Malta’s interest that the highest levels of financial crime compliance are upheld and implemented effectively for the good of the jurisdiction. Irrespective of the increased monitoring status by FATF, it is and will remain crucial that working to safeguard our reputation must be an ongoing process to ensure we address any shortcomings. This is the time to work collaboratively to restore our reputation. We must work with all the various stakeholders to reassure any confidence lost.”
He added: “In our industry, trust and integrity are everything and these two attributes are the basis of a good, solid jurisdiction. The country’s sound and robust reputation and the trust in the jurisdiction are key for the continued success of the Maltese financial services industry, and FinanceMalta firmly believes this should always be at the top of the country’s agenda. The work carried out by all stakeholders in the last year reinforces this direction of travel. “This challenge must be viewed as an opportunity – an opportunity for the country to emerge stronger and to continue to attract foreign investors to our shores.”
Of course, aside from FATF greylisting, being at the helm of FinanceMalta has been no easy feat in this past year. Psaila took up the role just before the pandemic hit in Q4 2019. Confident with the progress made and of Malta’s position as a robust and compliant financial centres within the EU, and in unison with all stakeholders and members, FinanceMalta’s Chairman and his team are emboldened to continue with the remit to promote Malta as a jurisdiction of choice in financial services.
“Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, we were quick to tackle new channels and invest in different mediums to attract FDI. As a result, our webinars, podcasts and online events have taken off and have seen industry leaders from across the world join our expert panels,” he said.
In fact, FinanceMalta has now invested in a new platform for its upcoming 14th annual conference with the theme “Malta’s Financial Services Industry: Emerging Stronger” and which will take place in the mornings of 20th and 21st July. It will simulate a real-life conference with plenty of networking opportunities. What is more, it will follow a hybrid format with onsite speakers in a hotel venue and others linked online, while relaying proceedings via the interactive platform. More information on the conference can be found on https://conference.financemalta.org/fm-2021/ .
Mr Psaila said that one of the main speakers during the upcoming conference will be Mr Teitur Már Sveinsson, Iceland´s head of delegation to the FATF and chairman of the Steering Committee on Actions against Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Proliferation. He will share his experience in leading Iceland out of the FATF status of increased monitoring as well as the lessons learned in the process.
“We augur and are confident that, similar to Iceland, Malta can get back to the “white list” in the earliest time-frame possible. This can be possible with the effective collaboration and co-operation of all stakeholders,” said Mr Psaila.