MBB-MCST Event Highlights Direct EU funding Opportunities for Businesses

The Malta Business Bureau (MBB) and Malta Council for Science and Technology (MCST) organized a business conference titled ‘Navigating EU Direct Funds – Unlocking Financial Opportunities for Business.‘ This was organised through the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) project, which aims to assist SMEs in their journey towards sustainability, digitalisation, and resilience.

The primary objective of the conference was to enhance accessibility to direct EU funding programmes, such as Erasmus+, LIFE, COSME-SMP, Horizon 2020, and EIT, among others, for the national business community. The benefits of capitalising from the EEN service were also highlighted, as it facilitates the connection between finance experts and local businesses seeking funding opportunities.

Opening the event, MBB President Alison Mizzi said, “One thing that we have learnt throughout these years is that while businesses have many ideas for projects that may be eligible for EU funding, they find it complicated to identify the correct funding stream where to propose their ideas for funding. As such, the MBB, under the auspices of the Enterprise Europe Network, is here to advise businesses on identifying the correct funding stream for their project ideas and connect them with the relevant contact points to pursue their project application.”

On his part, MCST Chairman Dr. Tonio Portughese commented that “by prioritising innovation, digitalisation, and sustainability, we can drive economic growth, create new job opportunities, and enhance the quality of life for our citizens”.  Dr. Portughese reaffirmed MCST’s dedication to supporting R&I that drives the growth and prosperity of Malta’s scientific and technological landscape.

Parliamentary Secretary for EU Funds Hon. Dr. Chris Bonett stressed that, despite the challenges the country has faced in recent times, Malta has adapted, innovated, and grown due to the government working hand in hand with the private sector. The Parliamentary Secretary closed by emphasizing the importance of financial support for digitization and sustainability, for businesses to adapt these factors in their operations.

A presentation on direct funding programmes and their potential value for local businesses followed, led by MBB Senior Projects Executive Michele Agius and MCST National Contact Point for Horizon Europe Martin Vieira.

The event included two panel discussions with international and local funding experts, together with businesses with experience in tapping direct EU funds. These explored how such funding can support investments in sustainability, digitalisation, and R&I.  The first panel discussion on R&I opportunities featured insights from Mario Balzan, Founder of Ecostack Innovations, Oxana Mercieca, Eureka Eurostars National Project Coordinator at Malta Enterprise, Gonca Kara, EIT Climate KIC Senior Research Officer at MCAST, and Lili Kankaya, Senior Executive at MCST. Anthea Fabri, Director Framework Programme at MCST, facilitated the discussion. The second panel was moderated by MBB CEO Joe Tanti, focusing on the green and digital transformation and the role of EU funding. This included interventions from Joel Fernandes, Project & Policy Advisor at Eurochambres, Denise Fiorentino, CEO of Servizzi Ewropej Malta, and Morgan Parnis, CEO of Business Leaders Malta.

Addressing the conference, the President of the European Parliament Dr. Roberta Metsola encouraged Maltese businesses to embrace the change that the new realities are bringing. “They represent opportunity. A chance for renewal. For growth. Without change, we will stagnate: as an economy, as a country and as a Union. You who have invested all your energy and resources into creating something new and innovative, you who have sacrificed everything you have for your business, it is you that has every potential and all the stamina it takes to come out of this period stronger, perhaps more than ever before,” concluded President Metsola.

Businesses interested in finding out more about the EEN or other available funding schemes are encouraged to contact MBB’S EEN project coordinator, Michele Agius, at magius@mbb.org.mt.

The Malta Chamber Deputy President and CEO discuss national priorities during IFSP Annual Conference

The Malta Chamber Deputy President Nick Xuereb and CEO Dr Marthese Portelli were invited to participate during 2 panel discussions at the IFSP 2023 Annual Conference.

In his opening remarks, Xuereb noted that government subsidies, although critical, should be focused on the right areas such as directing funds towards investment into new energy projects.

With regards to manufacturing, Deputy President said that although manufacturing was key to Malta’s economy and was one of the most resilient during COVID, the industry’s contribution towards our GDP has declined throughout the past years. “Due to Malta’s geographical disadvantages and productivity challenges, we need to move up the value chain and push for the manufacturing sector to continuously invest in improvement and automation,” he said.

CEO Dr Marthese Portelli said that “excessive and superfluous bureaucracy always has a negative impact – this is true not only for the financial services industry but it is crosscutting across all sectors and industries. It impacts our competitiveness and attractiveness, apart from the frustration that it creates.”

“Admittedly our current bureaucratic system puts us at a disadvantage when compared with other countries – there are countries which are worse than us, but we should be looking at being better than those who are already better than us. Tackling excessive and superfluous bureaucracy is all about simplification, automation and integration,” she said.

During her intervention The Malta Chamber CEO highlighted that the strategy is in the right direction, however, in order to lead to its proper execution, we need to make sure that it:

•             has clear milestones and implementation dates

•             has set KPIs that must be reached

•             has proper service standards which must be observed

•             is supported by the proper infrastructure and support structures required

Elevating customer experience in the digital age

The Malta Chamber, together with PwC Malta (Gold Sponsors of The Malta Chamber) organised an event titled ‘Elevating your Customer Experience in the Digital Age’. The event aimed at raising awareness on the importance for organisations to re-imagine and re-think customer attraction and leverage digital innovation by moving to more data-driven, customer-centric omni-channel solutions which are tech-powered and human-led.

In his opening speech, The Malta Chamber President, Chris Vassallo Cesareo, highlighted that due to the dramatic increase in e-commerce activity, consumers are moving to digital channels in unprecedented numbers.

“It’s more important than ever for retailers to create a seamless experience across the physical and digital worlds as each channel plays a distinct and critical role in the customer journey. Consumers have clear ideas about where and how they want to shop and where they want to get services from so organisations must ensure that they provide a seamless experience,” he said.

Businesses should continue to improve their product and service quality so as to remain competitive and closer to the customers’ needs,” said President Vassallo Cesareo.

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MBB webinar on EU Vat in the Digital Age Package

The European Commission has introduced a package of proposals to address the challenges faced by companies in the digital economy in relation to Value Added Tax (VAT). The package’s key actions aim to support the growth of businesses, particularly SMEs and cross-border operators, as well as to help Member States recover billions of euros annually in VAT revenues.

By implementing real-time digital reporting by companies through e-invoicing, the new system will equip Member States with crucial information to combat VAT fraud. Additionally, it will streamline administrative processes and lower compliance costs, fostering harmonization across EU countries and enabling the establishment of national digital reporting systems.

The EU Vat in the Digital Package also proposes the implementation of a single VAT registration system throughout the EU, expanding upon the existing ‘VAT One Stop Shop’ model for online shopping companies. This allows businesses selling to consumers in other Member States to register only once for VAT purposes for the entire EU, streamlining their obligations through a single online portal in a common language.

Moreover, the package introduces updated VAT rules for passenger transport and short-term accommodation platforms in the sharing economy. Under these rules, operators in these sectors will bear the responsibility of collecting and remitting VAT to tax authorities on behalf of their users. This uniform approach across all Member States will not only level the playing field between online and traditional short-term accommodation and transport services providers but also simplifies the VAT compliance process for operators across the EU.  

Local businesses are invited to participate in the Malta Business Bureau’s upcoming online webinar taking place on Tuesday 6th June, between 9.30am and 10.30am, that will provide more detailed information on these reforms. Anyone interested in joining this event can register by visiting the Malta Business Bureau website or reach out to the MBB policy team on infobrussels@mbb.org.mt.

The Malta Business Bureau is the EU business advisory business organisation for The Malta Chamber and the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association. It is also a partner of the Enterprise Europe Network.

HSBC Malta awarded Richmond Foundation Gold Certificate for its commitment to employee mental wellbeing

HSBC Malta has once again been recognised for its ongoing dedication to the mental wellbeing of its employees. The bank was recently awarded the Richmond Foundation Gold Certificate for a third time after completing mental health first aid training for 10% of its workforce.

The first aid training was administered to line managers and several other willing employees in

order to equip them with the skills necessary to help their colleagues, and themselves, through challenging periods. The training also focused on ways of spotting signs of mental distress in the workplace.

Having been the first corporate entity to receive the certification back in 2018, HSBC Malta is proud to be awarded the Gold Certificate once again – a testament to the bank’s continued dedication to fostering a supportive and inclusive work environment for its whole team.

The award certificate was presented to HSBC Malta Chief Compliance Officer Mandy R Falzon and Interim Head of Human Resources David Perotti by Richmond Foundation CEO Daniela Calleja Bitar and Assistant Manager Learning and Development Denise Brincat.

Richmond Foundation is a leading provider of several community-based mental health services across Malta and Gozo, supporting thousands of people every day through its invaluable work.

In line with this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, which emphasizes anxiety as one of the most common mental health challenges faced by individuals, HSBC Malta is placing a continued emphasis on mental wellbeing and anxiety at the workplace.

“Our partnership with the Richmond Foundation allows us to provide crucial support and resources to our employees, enabling them to address any mental health concerns they might have, including anxiety. With a 20-year history of working together, we look forward to further strengthening this relationship in the future,” said HSBC Malta Chief Compliance Officer Mandy R Falzon.

The Malta Chamber President together with BOM pays courtesy visit to Leader of the Opposition

The President of The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry Chris Vassallo Cesareo welcomed the meeting with Leader of the Opposition Dr Bernard Grech and stated that The Malta Chamber looks forward to continued dialogue.

President Vassallo Cesareo spoke about the issue of inflation and said that, “ even though the government has done well to protect the economy by absorbing energy prices but the business community needs a clear way forward on when and how government intends to stop or taper off energy subsidies.”

During this meeting President Vassallo Cesareo also spoke about good governance especially in regards to public procurement and urged for a more level playing field. He also made reference to the urgent need for a justice reform.

President Vassallo Cesareo was accompanied by the Board of Management of The Malta Chamber together with the CEO Dr Marthese Portelli.

BOV issues warning on scam calls

Bank of Valletta has issued a warning urging customers to be wary of scam phone calls being made by fraudsters pretending to be Bank employees. The fraudsters are making calls that seem to be originating from the BOV number 2131 2020. However, these are not legitimate calls and do not originate from the Bank.

The callers are using a technique called spoofing to disguise fraudulent communication as coming from a trusted source. Victims are being told that ‘suspicious transactions’ have been noted on their cards or their accounts. This is designed to trick them into taking ‘action’ by giving out sensitive financial information such as bank account numbers, passwords, card details, or authorising financial transactions.

It is important to keep in mind that BOV employees will never ask for account or card numbers in full, card CVV details (the 3 digits at the back of the card), card PINS, internet or mobile banking passwords, codes, signatures, one-time passwords, or multi-factor authentication. Bank employees will never ask customers for information that leads them to carry out financial transactions over the phone. It is important not to give out sensitive information over the phone, or through any links received via SMS.

The Bank urges the public to be vigilant and cautious at all times. When in doubt customers are urged to contact the Bank immediately. Calling the number 2131 2020 will direct them to the legitimate BOV Customer Service Centre, where they can verify any calls that they have received.

Calamatta Cuschieri organises first of its kind, Capital Markets seminar

Calamatta Cuschieri, in collaboration with Moneybase and The Malta Chamber, organised a unique seminar on Capital Markets on Tuesday, 18 April 2023.  13 leading representatives of the capital markets industry together with Mr. Joseph Portelli Chairman of the Malta Stock Exchange and Dr. Marthese Portelli, CEO of The Malta Chamber, gave their views on Capital Markets in Malta.  

Interest from local businesses in borrowing money by issuing bonds or raising finance through Equity on the Malta Stock Exchange has continued to grow in recent years. The aim of the event was to help familiarise companies considering a listing themselves with the ins and outs of the listing process. Leading stakeholders participated in the event and shared their experience of raising capital through a listing on the exchange. The attendance at the seminar, which was fully booked, attests to the growing interest in listing locally. 

Alan Cuschieri, CEO of Moneybase and Co-CEO at Calamatta Cuschieri opened the seminar entitled, ‘The Capital Markets Boom’ commented “Capital Markets has grown considerably in Malta, and today we all realise the importance for companies to be able to access finance easily to allow them to flourish and achieve their full potential. The success of capital markets in Malta is made possible thanks to a healthy environment for retail investors locally who are able to access capital markets cheaply and easily online or through their financial advisor.”

Calamatta Cuschieri is a leader in capital markets in Malta providing services to companies which help them throughout the listing process and helping them to raise finance swiftly through Bond issues or to raise capital via Equity listings on the Malta Stock Exchange During his keynote, Nick Calamatta highlighted “The Investment and savings market in Malta is circa €15Bn, and this is expected to continue to grow as a function of more affluence and a growing population that has grown from circa 400k to 600k in the last ten years, as a result of this bank deposits of households today exceed €24Bn.” Similarly, there has been an large increase in corporate bond issues since 2013 more than doubled in number, from 50 to 120 whilst the value of Maltese corporate bonds has gone from €1Bn to €2.5Bn. “ 

In his opening address for a panel discussion Patrick Mangion Head of the Capital Markets Division at Calamatta Cuschieri said “Borrowing money from the bank and borrowing money through a bond issue are no longer seen as alternatives to each other but as complementary to each other. The number of local corporate entities which have a listing on a local exchange stands at an all-time high of 106. This is a testament to the fact that the business community has become much more attuned to the benefits of listing.” 

Dr Marthese Portelli, CEO of The Malta Chamber in her closing remarks said “In today’s fast-moving world businesses are facing new realities and new exigencies, including on the financing front. We are firm supporters of agility and adaptability. The alliance between The Malta Chamber and Moneybase is offering businesses an alternative to traditional financial instruments in line with digital evolution and ecosystem transformation.” 

In his concluding remarks, Alan Cuschieri said, “We are delighted to have managed to get the best of what Malta has to offer together to share their knowledge, take part in some interesting discussions. I would like to thank all the panellists for their participation and all the businesses who attended this event.”  Moneybase has been working closely with the business community, listening to their needs and pain points and this is a first step towards our contribution towards local business. The company announced it plans to organise other initiatives in the future covering other areas of interest to business which will be announced soon.  The seminar was held at the Chamber of Commerce premises in Valletta and followed by a networking event.  Calamatta Cuschieri also provides Wealth Management services to businesses and intends to organise seminars on wealth management specifically for the benefit of local companies.   Calamatta Cuschieri Finance Group is one of Malta’s largest financial services provider which pioneered the local financial services industry as early as 1971. Today the company offers a wide range of services including Investment Advice, Moneybase a digital platform that offers online investing and payments, saving plans, retirement planning and wealth management services amongst others.