Leadership appointments at ARQ Group

Amidst the challenges posed by COVID-19 global pandemic, ARQ Group has continued to strengthen its advisory team and to bolster its position in the market as one of Malta’s leading advisory firms. As part of its growth strategy it has recently announced three key leadership appointments that reflect the Group’s forward-looking vision.

Ramona Galea was recently promoted to Group Head of Operations & Human Resources. Ramona, who holds an MBA as well as a Masters in Protocol and Soft Diplomacy Skills, is a seasoned professional with over 25 years’ experience leading and motivating dynamic teams in multi-cultural environments, across diverse industry sectors.

Upon taking up of this new role within the Group structure, she has assumed oversight of operations across the Group entities and the harmonisation of the various functions. In this role, Ramona will be instrumental in driving the board’s strategy of achieving excellence, improving efficiency and empowering the Group’s 100+ employees to reach their full potential through ongoing mentoring, training, and personal development.

AML/CFT compliance advisory is one of the flagship service areas of the Group. In recent years it has grown from strength to strength and today the Group provides advisory services to most domestic banks, financial institutions and top-tier gaming companies.

Martina Scalpello, a seasoned compliance professional with extensive experience in the financial services and gaming sectors, both as a regulator and as a consultant, has recently been appointed Head of Risk & Compliance (Advisory). In her role she will be leading a team of compliance professionals involved in assisting clients with their compliance needs, focusing primarily on financial crime compliance.

Another long-standing employee of the Group, Dr Denia Ellul, performs a dual role as the recently appointed Head of Financial Services (Advisory) at ARQ as well as Partner of law firm FFF Legal. In her role within the ARQ Group she will continue to develop the financial services advisory practice, focusing on advisory, licensing and compliance.

She leads a multi-disciplinary team of professionals focused on providing support and solutions to entities licensed by the MFSA. Denia completed her LL.D. degree in 2014 and since then she has gained extensive experience in corporate and commercial law. Besides obtaining a professional certificate in taxation, she also successfully completed a Masters’ degree in International Trade and Investment.

Dr Manfred Galdes, Managing Partner of ARQ Group said “We are extremely proud to announce these appointments, not just because of the contribution of these professionals to the Group, but because they embody our core values. These individuals represent the future of the organisation and its commitment to excellence. Their leadership will be instrumental for us in achieving our goals.”

About ARQ

ARQ Group is a professional services firm based in Malta that provides a wide range of advisory and corporate support services to local and international clients operating within different industry sectors. The Group is committed to bringing talent together and taking a multi-disciplinary approach to client solutions.

“In a historically male-dominated sector, we are committed to equal opportunity and gender equality in our workplace and within our leadership team.”

Second COVID-19 vaccine found to be 95% effective

Biotech company Moderna has announced that, according to preliminary data, its COVID-19 vaccine is 94.5 per cent effective at preventing the disease.

On Monday, Moderna said the results were found following an analysis of its clinical trial of the vaccine.

“This positive interim analysis from our Phase 3 study has given us the first clinical validation that our vaccine can prevent COVID-19 disease, including severe disease,” said Stephane Bancel, Moderna’s CEO, according to several reports.

Last week, the world rejoiced at the news that Pfizer reported an effectiveness rate of 90 per cent at preventing the disease. It is working on the COVID-19 vaccine with BioNTech.

Moderna’s trial involves 30,000 test subjects, half of which were given two doses of the experimental vaccine, two weeks apart. The remaining half were given a placebo.

The company then analysed the first 95 people among those test subjects who reported they were COVID-19 positive. Of the 95, 90 came from the half who received a placebo, while only five cases were among those who received the vaccine.

While the results have elicited hope that the world can see the back of COVID-19, like in the Pfizer trial, the data is still considered preliminary and a number of questions remain.

Shireburn’s Indigo Attendance Named Best Cloud-Based Solution as a Service in The Malta eBusiness Awards 2020

Shireburn’s Indigo Attendance was named the best Cloud-Based Solution as a Service in The Malta eBusiness Awards 2020. The winner was announced on Friday 13th November.

Shireburn had already won a series of awards for its software products, both locally and internationally, with the organisation’s Indigo Payroll solution winning the award for MCA eBusiness Award for Best B2B App back in 2017.

“Success does not usually come from doing one thing right but from repeatedly doing things right over years. You can only achieve this with vision, good design and development, excellent execution, combined with great support and continuous innovation – that is what Shireburn’s team does every day.
Maintaining high levels is always hard. Doing so in the Technology sector over a long time span is even more challenging. Yet again I find myself being so proud of the achievements of the team and grateful for the support of our clients as we get closer to the company’s 37th anniversary.” said John de Giorgio, Executive Chairman of Shireburn Software.

Indigo Attendance forms part of Shireburn’s Indigo Suite solution. A powerful and easy-to-use software that simplifies staff rostering, scheduling, labour cost management and attendance tracking. Indigo Attendance has recently introduced Indigo Mobile, an extension to the solution which has been adapted and optimised for remote workers. Given the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Indigo Mobile has allowed Shireburn’s customers to continue to leverage the Attendance module to cater for the growing cohort of remote workers across the island.

The awards, organised by Tech.MT, aim to reward and aid in the promotion Malta’s best tech companies and solutions.

Shireburn Software is a 37-year-old software products company, specialising in the development of business software solutions and their support, both locally and overseas. Solutions include accounting, payroll and HR, inventory and retail solutions among others.

Teambuilding & remote working: How important is it for employers to ensure staff maintain a strong working-relationship?

As COVID-19 continues to disrupt standard practices in the business world and beyond, the importance of having fun at work and bringing teams together has, unfortunately, been pushed to the wayside.

Understandably so, with businesses fighting for survival, however – as many seasoned employers may testify, the cost of low staff engagement ultimately impacts an organisations’ bottom line.

Outdoor Living, Malta’s longest running and largest company dedicated to innovative and dynamic teambuilding events, can help address the challenges brought on by homeworking through a series of remote teambuilding events.

Ultimately, “team alignment is crucial for an organisation to succeed, and this cannot be achieved unless there is great communication between everyone in the team,” explains Outdoor Living Managing Director and Co-Founder, Danica Fava.

Asked about just how important it is for employers to actively ensure communication and engagement within teams are maintained throughout this challenging period, Ms Fava commented:

“I guess in an ideal world, we would all have had time to prepare, train and practice how best to work remotely so that there is no impact on team performance, before actually starting to work remotely.

“For many of us, remote working was an abrupt change and with that we were faced with many challenges which we were not prepared for. Having said that, and with all the changes that are happening around us every day, teams are still expected to remain cohesive and reach their goals.

“Isolation, disengagement and anxiety, are all common challenges being faced by many remote workers and which result in negatively affecting the performance of the business.”

No business, whose aim is to be successful, was ever in a position to ignore employee engagement and team performance, she stresses.

“Now, more than ever, teams have to work harder to keep their strong relationships and it is the responsibility of the organization to assist teams to stay engaged and build on their teamwork.”

To this end, Outdoor Living works with Catalyst Global as its official partner to support its mission to bring teambuilding activities to Malta, whether it is remotely, hybrid or in person.

Catalyst Global is a network of highly passionate teambuilding providers from all over the world. It is the largest teambuilding network, with 50 top worldwide teambuilding providers, where all members share best practices and resources.

“All members share a common goal of creating highly relevant, socially responsible, good value experiences for their clients,” says Ms Fava of Catalyst Malta, which is operated locally under an exclusive licence by Outdoor Living.

“Through the shared learning, we keep pushing our boundaries and the high-quality level of how we deliver our events.

“Through this, as Outdoor Living, we are the local market leaders in delivering high quality teambuilding events as our level of delivery is matched against the biggest teambuilding companies in the world,” she explains.

“Thanks to our Catalyst partners, when we went into lockdown and many people started working remotely, through our shared experiences we came up with different virtual teambuilding events in just two weeks. Today, we have the largest portfolio of virtual teambuilding events and we have around 30 different virtual activities.”

Onto the benefits which can be reaped from undertaking online teambuilding events, Ms Fava says that when properly organized and managed, such activities are all about using fun innovative games to improve team dynamics.

“Through our virtual teambuilding events we make people aware of their present doings, and, by completing different challenges, we look at best teamwork practices, how to succeed and build a winning team.”

For change to happen people need to be aware of what they are doing and what can be done better, she asserts.

“When a person realizes all this by himself and has full control of his change journey, change is more likely to happen successfully.”

Acknowledging that there are challenges to working remotely, Ms Fava says through virtual events such as the Infinite Loop – an escape room game – the importance of active listening and clear communication is highlighted.

“At the end of the activities we gather teams together and share experiences of what worked best and what could have been done better. We then discuss how such learning outcomes can be applied at the workplace.”

Outdoor Living boasts a large variety of online teambuilding games which are designed to cater for different learning outcomes.

“Fun is common in all programmes we offer, since we believe that fun is an important element to succeed and work together better.”

Going into further detail about various games, Ms Fava says:

“We have events like the Digital Global Innovation Game, which focuses more on design thinking; Peak Performance, which focuses on strategic thinking; and the very popular Infinite Loop, which is designed to make teams more aware of effective communication and the importance of sharing clearly the information to be able to move forward.

“We also do fully customized events, where the client shares with us his requirements and what he would like to achieve from the event and we design and build a team activity for them accordingly.”

Asked for any personal favourites, which are guaranteed to elicit high levels of engagement, Ms Fava points towards The Race Around the World, which she says is not just a personal favourite but one that continues to enjoy positive feedback from clients who take part.

“There’s something about travelling that gets people together and also creates a positive feel. In our Race Around the World there’s something for everyone – it’s not just about fact finding but also about thinking outside the box and being creative.

“When one thinks of a virtual teambuilding event, one may think of sitting down and staring at a screen for one or two hours.

“Race Around the World is a high-energy event where participants have to get up from their seats to complete challenges, and as teams use different props found in their houses they create a personal bond with their team mates.

“We now also have the Race Around the World Festive Edition, where teams discover festive facts from around the world as they race through the night delivering presents. It’s a great fun event to get teams together for the Christmas period which can also be combined with around the world gifts to be sent to the participants homes so that they can share the gift with their colleagues during the virtual event.”

While businesses may be seeking to cut back spending during these uncertain times, others understand that a disconnected team can be far more costly.

Gallup, a well-established American analytics and advisory company based in the US, conducted research which shows that companies with a more engaged workforce have a higher productivity rate than that of team with lowest engagement.

The study further shows that employees who are not engaged cost their company approximately 18 per cent of their annual salary.

“This year may not be the best for many businesses but if an organisation wants to be successful, the least it should do is cut costs on team development,” says Ms Fava when asked about concerns businesses may be having to spend on employee training while the global economy continues to operate on unsure footing.

“Having a disengaged workforce will lead to higher staff turnover and this further adds to the expenses of the business as they have to recruit and train new personnel.

“One advantage of virtual events is that they cost less than in-person events, since major costs like venue fees and travelling are not required when organising virtual events,” she concludes.

Malta Chamber encourages employers to actively organise work from home where possible

In the context of the sustained rate of infection currently being experienced in Malta, which is resulting in an unfortunately consistent consequential mortality rate, The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry is compelled to call for utmost care and responsibility by all, no less the country’s employers, in the interest of everyone’s health and wellbeing.

The Malta Chamber notes that though there have been a number of recoveries registered in the past days, the spread seems to be happening at a consistently high rate, also claiming the youngest victim to date on Friday.

In the case of the management of schools, our students have set an example for everyone, that where there are strict protocols, which are being adhered to, contagion can be effectively controlled.

In order to avoid further economic restrictions, The Malta Chamber calls on all employers in Malta to actively consider remote working for all their employees who are able to work from home. Employees should also seriously consider this option. This is especially relevant for the public sector.

The Malta Chamber reiterates and reinforces all calls made by the country’s Health Authorities, to practice all safety protocols related to the covid pandemic, namely social distancing norms, proper use of masks at all times, diligent hygiene routines, and the avoidance of crowded places at all costs.

Let’s maintain high protection levels in our own interest, and in the interest of our elderly and vulnerable members of our communities.

HSBC Malta supports innovation in education

HSBC Malta is supporting an initiative to trial Seppo, a Finnish educational tool which helps educators to teach through games. The Malta pilot project kicked off last month with an introductory webinar and involved 15 educators for whom HSBC has purchased a license.

The introductory webinar was organised by Dr Kenneth Vella, Ambassador Designate for Finland and Estonia and Headmaster of Mater Boni Consilii St Joseph School, Paola and supported by HSBC Bank Malta and the Centre for Environmental Education and Research (CEER), University of Malta. It also featured contributions from Maltese educators who have already made use of this software. The tool, enables the integration of gamification into pedagogy and teaching methodology.

Glenn Bugeja, Corporate Sustainability Manager at HSBC Malta, said: “HSBC Malta is supporting this pilot project because we understand the importance of finding new ways to give our children the skills they will need throughout their lives. This is a great tool which gives educators the ability to create lessons that combine creativity, collaboration, and the use of skills and knowledge. The webinar, we believe, was able to provide important and useful insights for educators and we look forward to seeing positive outcomes from this pilot project.”

The webinar was introduced by Dr Kenneth Vella and included presentations by Mr Santeri Jakkola, a Finnish educational expert; Ms Stephanie Saliba, a Mater Boni Consilii, St Joseph’s teacher; Mr Matthew Naudi, an educator from Whiz Adventure and Mr Riku Alkio, CEO of Seppo in Finland. The webinar was concluded by Mr Glenn Bugeja.

Any queries are to be addressed to Dr Kenneth Vella on head@materboniconsilii.edu.mt

Business urged to prepare for No-Deal Brexit

The President of The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry Perit David Xuereb said that with 50 days to the end of the Brexit transition period, businesses needed to make sure that they had everything in place, in order to ascertain a continuation of their business come next January.

The Malta Chamber President was addressing a press conference which launched an information campaign to help businesses get ready for a probable no-deal Brexit. The Malta Chamber co-organized the event with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Parliamentary Secretariat for EU Funds.
Addressing the press conference, The Malta Chamber President said that discussions between the UK and the EU were geared towards an agreement, however, this remained elusive.

“We are cautiously optimistic however we know that by the end of the year there might be a no-deal exit. We urge businesses to remain continuously updated,” he said, urging businesses to participate in a series of upcoming information sessions the Chamber was organising together with the relevant Ministry.

The Malta Chamber President also urged businesses to speak with their suppliers and counterparts in the UK as soon as possible, in order to make sure that their businesses would be in a position to function post-December 31. David Xuereb noted how The Malta Chamber had been following the developments around the Brexit negotiations through its partner organisations at EU level Business Europe and Eurochambres, as well as through the Malta Business Bureau.

In fact, as long as Brexit had been on the cards, The Malta Chamber had organised a number of events on the subject and kept the members of Malta’s business community well informed on the developments. “With just 50 days to the end of this transition period, it is now time to take necessary action to safeguard our businesses” Perit Xuereb said, as he urged companies to come forward and contact the Chamber for more information and assistance on the subject.

In preparation to the end of the Brexit transition period, The Malta Chamber has teamed up with the Ministry for Foreign and European Affairs and the Parliamentary Secretariat for EU Funds, to keep businesses up to date about how best to be prepared for a probable no-deal Brexit. Businesses who will be affected by Brexit, are welcome to attend a series of information sessions which will discuss important issues, namely: Customs, Transport and Trade; HR and Employment; Standards; and VAT, Fiscal and Company Law Issues.

All Malta Chamber members will also receive a detailed informative publication which will help them answer several questions on the subject.

TradeMalta CEO appointed Board Member at the European Trade Promotion Organisations' Association

The CEO of TradeMalta Anton Buttigieg has been appointed as a board member at the European Trade Promotion Organisations’ Association, following an election which took place in October 2020. The European Trade Promotion Organisations’ Association (ETPOA) aims to promote the interests of European trade promotion organisations (TPOs) in dialogue and collaboration with European institutions and other competent authorities. It is an international non-profit organisation established by 12 European TPOs from 10 EU member states, with TradeMalta being one of the founding members. Today, the European Trade Promotion Organisations’ Association has a total of 27 members. The Board of Directors is comprised of 5 members, including the President and Vice-President, and an elected Head of Secretariat (HoS). ETPOA Board Members are elected for a period of two years.

Anton Buttigieg joined TradeMalta as Chief Executive Officer in 2015 and helped shape the trade promotion strategy which supports Malta-based businesses to internationalise and become export-ready. A dedicated team of professionals at the organisation provide a wide-ranging portfolio of services which cater for different modes of entry within specific markets. As Malta’s Trade Promotion organisation, TradeMalta encourages organisations to reach out of their comfort zone and establish new partnerships in non-traditional markets. The aim of TradeMalta is to help define and strengthen Malta’s profile around the world as a reliable business partner and a fantastic country to do business with.

TradeMalta is a public-private partnership between the Government of Malta, currently under the remit of the Ministry for Economy, Investment and Small Businesses, and the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry.

New medical cannabis industry business section established within The Malta Chamber

A new business section dedicated to the sector of Medical Cannabis was set up within The Malta Chamber. The election for the Executive Committee took place on 3rd November 2020.

“With the setting up of this Business Section, The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, is once again being proactive in representing a new economic sector. As had been done in the past with numerous other emerging economic sectors, The Malta Chamber, shall support the operators in this new field as they set-up within a developing legislative framework, as well as identify the correct eco-system to safeguard the sustainable growth of the sector” said Perit David Xuereb, President of The Malta Chamber.

Mr Robert Spiteri, Chairman of the new Executive Committee expressed his enthusiasm to support the business community within the Medical Cannabis Industry, through The Malta Chamber.

“We need to continue what we have successfully started and maintain an environment that is conducive to business thereby ensuring that Malta is viewed as an attractive, reputable and competitive jurisdiction worldwide. Having a unified front and in conjunction with other key stakeholders in the industry, we are now in a position to strengthen the sector locally and ensure that the industry is able to flourish at a relatively fast pace within the right parameters” Mr Spiteri said.

This is the first time such an industry is being set up locally. Hence it is essential to safeguard and develop the sector strategically, with a view to attract further foreign direct investment.

The Executive Committee is made up of Mr. Robert Spiteri as Chairman (Zenpharm Ltd.), Mr. Adrian Azzopardi as Deputy Chairman (ASG Pharma Ltd.), Mr. Matthew Deguara (Materia Malta Operating Ltd.), Dr. Angele Azzopardi (Natrix Sciences Ltd.), Mr. Christopher Busuttil Delbridge (Evolve), and Mr. Peter Paul Farrugia (A2W Pharma Ltd.).

The Medical Cannabis Business Section follows another two economic sectors which found a new home within The Malta Chamber in the past months, namely a Business Section dedicated to Virtual Financial Assets (VFA) Agents, as well as another dedicated to operators of Care-homes for the Elderly.