Maltese business delegation participates in the European Parliament of Enterprises

This week, a delegation of The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry and Malta Business Bureau participated in the European Parliament of Enterprises (EPE) organised by Eurochambres, the European Association of Chambers of Commerce. The EPE is the largest event in Brussels recreating a parliamentary session giving the floor to entrepreneurs and represents a unique opportunity for businesses to have a direct debate with high representatives of the EU institutions on EU policies. During the EPE, entrepreneurs also expressed their opinion on several questions through a voting procedure on major EU business-related issues.

Discussing ‘Unlocking the potential of the single market for skills and human capital’, The Malta Chamber President Chris Vassallo Cesareo stated, “The private sector is keen on turning workplaces into learning centres to promote upskilling and reskilling of people, but it cannot face this challenging task on its own. EU funding towards training programmes, educational grants, and skills forecasting tools, are critical to complement and build on the investment already undertaken by business.”

On ‘Navigating the energy crisis’, Malta Business Bureau President Alison Mizzi emphasized that, “focusing solely on currently available solutions must not come at the expense of continued innovation. EU policy must be forward-looking, flexible, and fast to anticipate technological developments which we will certainly see in the coming years.”

With regards to ‘Strengthening Europe’s competitiveness in uncertain times”, The Malta Chamber Deputy President Nick Xuereb highlighted that, “SMEs potential for growth through international trade is significant. The inclusion of dedicated SME Chapters in Free Trade Agreements aimed at improving transparency and increase access to information is welcome. But more effort is required so that rules are harmonised as much as possible. This is key to provide a level playing field for all companies, especially SMEs, to compete globally.”

During this visit, the delegation also had the opportunity to meet European Parliament President Roberta Metsola to discuss some of the challenges being faced by Maltese businesses as a result of EU legislation that does not look at the specific realities of island states. Changes to the EU governance in view of future EU enlargement was also discussed.

Other members of the delegation included Dr. Marthese Portelli, Mr. William Spiteri Bailey, Mr. Mark Bajada, Mr. Brian Muscat, Mr. Sergio Vella, Mr. Joe Tanti, and Mr. Daniel Debono.

The visit was organised by the Brussels office of the Malta Business Bureau (MBB). The MBB is the EU-business advisory organization of The Malta Chamber and the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association. It is also a partner of the Enterprise Europe Network.

Unlocking the potential of the Single Market for skills and human capital

The below is the speech given by Chris Vassallo Cesareo, The Malta Chamber President, during a skills session at the European Parliament of Enterprises in Brussels

New skills are continuously emerging whilst others are sunsetting especially in fast-paced industries undergoing digital transformations such as automisation and artificial intelligence.

Upskilling and reskilling have become an essential part of day-to-day business operations, and this requires an investment which may be significant for companies, especially SMEs, considering the cost-inflationary pressures that have eaten up an important size of their revenue in the last years.

In a tight labour market like the one we are experiencing today, hiring specialized employees may be a lengthy and costly process, especially if one must look beyond the EU into third countries’ labour market.

The private sector is keen on turning workplaces into learning centres to promote upskilling and reskilling of people, but it cannot face this challenging task on its own. EU funding towards training programmes, educational grants, and skills forecasting tools, are critical to complement and build on the investment already undertaken by business.

The competitiveness of EU companies is at stake and we must ensure that the right level of funding is available to secure the right skills set to shape the digital transition rather than be conditioned by it.   

Reputation, Simplification and Digitalisation are key if we want to remain competitive

During an event organized by The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry together with the Malta Business Registry as part of SME Week under the auspices of the Ministry for the Economy, European Funds and Lands, practitioners and businesses emphasized the importance of reputation, simplification and digitalisation.

When addressing the conference Minister for the Economy, European Funds and Lands Silvio Schembri lauded the important work carried out by MBR and the importance of such collaboration with the business community.

Minister for the Economy, EU Funds and Lands said that businesses need more efficient systems in place in order to be able to launch, operate, and expand their business.

Minister Schembri said that, “we are working on a string of measures to address business concerns and to bring about more efficiency. These include a central data repository solution whereby all economic operators will have the possibility and access to update this register interlinking all services offered by government to businesses while putting the once only principle into practice, a credit review office which will reconcile and act as an arbiter between commercial banks and clients to ensure the loan system works effectively, and the right to a bank account which is currently a major stumbling block for those looking to invest in Malta.“

He added that the joint MBR and The Malta Chamber event held today is a true representation of the spirit and objectives of SME Week, an event that serves as an important instrument in providing our SMEs with a unique opportunity to understand business challenges and improve them.

In his speech, Chris Vassallo Cesareo, President of The Malta Chamber said that “due consideration should be attributed to the challenges faced by regulators in these complex times. Safeguarding our hard-earned reputation should remain the primary overarching priority for the country, something we intend to always uphold with our members through collaboration with Government entities.”

He added that, “reducing red tape and simplifying business processes across government agencies, authorities and departments is crucial to improve operational efficiency as well as to reduce useless additional costs and time wasting for business. Embracing newer and more efficient technologies, including digital compliance obligations, is essential for our progress. In this digital era, customer expectations have soared. Real-time interactions and seamless digital interfaces are non-negotiable. To meet these demands, investment in human resources and technology is crucial. Labour shortages are unlikely to vanish anytime soon. Placing tech at an elevated platform to play is the way to go.”
The MBR’s Chief Executive Officer and Registrar Dr Spiteri Lucas gave a thorough explanation on the recent changes and milestones the MBR experienced in aim to better its services to the business community.

Whilst mentioning the ongoing projects of the online system and central repository data solution, Dr Spiteri Lucas said that, “above all it is crucial to have an open mindset to adapt and adopt new methods in our operations, hence why the MBR is introducing digital methods that pave the way to a paperless entity.

During a panel discussion moderated by Rachel Bondi Attard, Head of Media and Communication the Vici President of The Malta Chamber William Spiteri Bailey, emphasized the need and importance of an ongoing collaboration between The Malta Chamber and MBR. He noticed the efforts done by MBR in taking up recommendations put forward by The Malta Chamber members and implementing them through their new digital platform. Christine Cassar Naudi, Partner – Ganado Advocates spoke about the importance of having a seamless, paperless procedure in place to facilitate any requirements without the necessary red tape for the shipping and yachting industry. Timothy Zammit, Principal for Tax and Corporate service – RSM spoke about the shift in the way locally registered businesses view their obligations on compliance since delisting. Mark Lautier, Partner – PWC highlighted the challenged encountered in terms of filings including legal obligations on disclosures of UBOs’.

HSBC Bank Malta Clinches Top Honours in Euromoney Cash Management Survey 2023

HSBC Bank Malta plc has been named as the overall Market Leader and Best Service for Non-Financial Institutions in the prestigious Euromoney Cash Management Survey 2023. These accolades underscore HSBC Malta’s strong commitment to excellence in treasury management of payments, receivables, and cash as well as its overall leadership in the sector.

The Euromoney Cash Management Survey, which is run annually, gauges the quality of cash management services globally, drawing on the insights of 30,000 corporate respondents and 800 Financial Institutions.

In addition to the local awards, the HSBC Group has also achieved significant global success. The Group has been named the Global Market Leader for Non-Financial Institutions, with first-place regional rankings in Asia Pacific and the Middle East and has claimed market leader status in 19 markets. Furthermore, the Group has been recognised as the Global Market Leader for Financial Institutions, with top regional rankings in the Middle East and Western Europe.

These global and local achievements highlight HSBC’s comprehensive international capabilities and its extensive network, which plays a pivotal role in delivering superior cash management services to customers around the world. The bank’s strategic initiatives have been instrumental in enhancing its operations and deepening customer relationships, as evidenced by the positive outcomes of these efforts.

HSBC Malta extends its sincere thanks to its customers for their trust and custom.  The bank reiterates its unwavering commitment to its customers, ensuring that their needs continue to be the driving force behind the bank’s business strategy.

Geoffrey Fichte, CEO of HSBC Malta, said: “We are honoured by these awards, which reflect our strategic focus on delivering service excellence and our commitment to our customers. This is a proud moment for HSBC Malta and a clear indication of the strength of our teams.”

Monique Gilmour, Head of Global Payments Solutions in Malta, commented: “It’s a privilege to lead such a dedicated team who collectively come together each day to deliver award-winning level of cash management services to our customers. These awards from Euromoney validate our customer-centric approach and are testament to the team’s hard work and dedication.”

The Malta Chamber and Willingness Team sign agreement to promote wellbeing at the workplace

The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, and Willingness Team have signed an alliance agreement to work together in proposing solutions and ideas that can enhance wellbeing at the place of work.

“Wellbeing at the workplace is not just a mere trend; it’s the key to unlocking the full potential of any business or organisation. When people are supported, healthy, and engaged, they can achieve remarkable things and drive the success of both themselves and the company they work at,” said Chris Vassallo Cesareo, The Malta Chamber President, ahead of the signing.

Through this collaboration, with the involvement of The Malta Chamber Health and Wellness Committee, both parties will work on initiatives that put wellbeing at forefront and support businesses in implementing wellbeing practices in order to improve employee health which in turn enhances productivity and team dynamics, reduces stress, increase employee retention and attracts talent.

“I believe that by taking a leadership role in the Health and Wellness Committee at The Malta Chamber, Willingness Team aims to strengthen mental health strategies into our business culture. Our experience showed us that businesses thrive when they consider the holistic well-being of their teams. This is now more important than ever before, due to the prevalence of stress, anxiety, and burnout being present in the workplace. It’s imperative to embed mental health into the very core of business strategies. In the current environment, nurturing a resilient workforce is paramount. And who better to partner with than The Malta Chamber, which has consistently championed sustainable business practices? Consequently, in the upcoming months, the Health and Wellness Committee will launch a series of workshops and resources. These will be tailored to foster a balanced, mentally astute, and resilient workforce. Members of The Malta Chamber will have the opportunity to leverage these resources, enhancing team well-being, boosting productivity, and paving the way for a thriving future,” said Matthew Bartolo, Partner at Willingness Hub.

The alliance agreement was signed by Chris Vassallo Cesareo and Dr Marthese Portelli, President and CEO of The Malta Chamber respectively, and Matthew Bartolo, Partner at Willingness Hub.

BOV issues fresh warning on new scams

Bank of Valletta has issued a warning urging customers to be wary of a series of new scams that are currently in circulation. Some of these new scams are in the form of SMS messages that include links to fake sites, claiming that customers’ debit or credit cards are blocked, or that their password has been locked, and asking potential victims to click on the link to release their cards or passwords.

Other scams are in the form of alerts about transaction authorisations, asking customers to insert their card data to cancel transactions if these are not authorised. Other SMSs warn customers that their mobile signature is restricted and ask them to log onto a site guising as a BOV internet or mobile login to release the signature.

It is important to point out that some SMSs are being received in the same thread of SMSs that legitimately originate from BOV, deceiving customers into believing that BOV is sending this message. Fraudsters are also using emails to dupe potential victims.

These latest scams are all designed to trick potential victims into taking ‘urgent action’ and 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 Bank of Valletta does not send SMSs containing links to websites. Customers should never click on links that appear in SMS messages, even if these appear in bank SMS threads, and should never give out sensitive information.

The Bank will not ask for 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.

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 or SMSs that they have received.

BOV Staff Joins Olive Picking Event in Support of Caritas

Bank of Valletta (BOV) staff recently joined forces with the charitable organization Caritas for an olive picking event aimed at supporting community welfare. The event, held in a scenic olive grove on the ground of San Blas in Zebbug, served a dual purpose: to assist Caritas in their philanthropic endeavours and to foster a unique engagement between the bank’s employees and individuals undergoing rehabilitation within the drug rehab system.

The olive picking event was a symbol of collective goodwill, where volunteers from both Caritas and BOV came together to harvest olives. The occasion not only contributed to the noble cause of aiding Caritas’s initiatives but also provided a moment for team-building among the participants. What made this event even more special was the interaction between the BOV staff and the inmates participating in Caritas’s rehabilitation program. Amidst the tranquillity of the olive grove, these two groups engaged in discussions, sharing their experiences, perspectives, and insights. The exchange of views allowed for a deeper understanding of each other’s lives and situations, fostering empathy and understanding.

This interaction was a valuable opportunity for both the BOV employees and the inmates. For the bank staff, it offered a chance to gain new perspectives, challenge biases, and participate in a meaningful social cause, promoting a sense of social responsibility. On the other hand, for the inmates, it was an occasion to feel a sense of inclusion, to be seen beyond their past, and to engage positively with members of the community. The event not only highlighted the importance of community involvement and social solidarity but also demonstrated the transformative power of such interactions. It emphasized that meaningful conversations and shared experiences have the potential to break down barriers, promote understanding, and contribute to the rehabilitation and reintegration of individuals into society.

In summary, the olive picking event organized by Caritas, in collaboration with BOV, not only brought people together for a benevolent cause but also exemplified the positive outcomes of social engagement and mutual understanding between individuals from different walks of life. Such initiatives stand as a testament to the potential for change and unity within communities.

BNF Bank Partners with Aspire Systems to Implement New Digital Channels

BNF Bank, a leading financial institution with a strong commitment to innovation and customer-centric solutions, is excited to announce a strategic partnership with Aspire Systems and Temenos, a renowned global technology services firm. This collaboration marks a significant milestone in BNF Bank’s ongoing efforts to enhance its banking infrastructure and deliver even more streamlined, efficient, and customer-focused services.

Aspire Systems is a trusted implementor of cutting-edge technology solutions with a proven track record worldwide. The partnership with Aspire Systems and Temenos demonstrates BNF Bank’s commitment to staying at the forefront of the banking industry by embracing state-of-the-art technology solutions to meet evolving customer demands. Aspire Systems also brings its expertise in ensuring the highest levels of security and compliance within the financial industry, helping BNF Bank maintain the trust and confidence of its customers.

Commenting on this exciting partnership, David Power, CEO of BNF Bank, stated: “The implementation of new digital channels will empower BNF Bank to provide our customers with an enhanced and seamless banking experience, through more user-friendly digital banking platforms.”

Mr Power added: “Our collaboration with Aspire Systems is a testament to our dedication to providing our customers with the best banking experience, and our commitment to continuous innovation. This strategic move will equip us with the tools and technologies necessary to adapt to the ever-evolving financial landscape, ensuring we are future-ready, and we are eager to see the positive impact it will have on our customers.”

Gowri Subramanian CEO of Aspire Systems added: “We are thrilled to partner with BNF Bank, a forward-thinking institution dedicated to the well-being of its customers. Our digital channels’ solutions will help BNF Bank remain agile and responsive in a rapidly changing industry, ensuring they are well-prepared for the future.”

Facing challenges to Financial Sector’s Road to Sustainability – BOV Chairman

‘It is vital to our own business on how we deliver our services to our esteemed customers and help them sustain their businesses for the future while sustaining ours.’ This was stated by Dr Gordon Cordina, Chairman of Bank of Valletta during the 3rd Conference on Ethics in Business organised by the Gozo Business Chamber.

In line with the conference’s theme, ‘Putting Corporate Social Responsibility into Practice’, the BOV Chairman emphasized that while all those who run a business have a duty to all their stakeholders to make a profit, they must also think of long-term survival by making a fair profit. A company must have solid values and a profit is made while remaining true to their values and respecting their employees, their customers, their shareholders, the environment and the community in which they operate.

‘An organization is responsible for any product or service that it puts out on the market, and all the repercussions of producing that product or delivering that service,’ continued the BOV Chairman. ‘Focus must be on a good return on capital but always keeping Environments, Social and Governance (ESG) considerations at the forefront.’

‘At Bank of Valletta we genuinely care of what happens to our employees, our customers and our society. We believe in constantly sharing information with our employees to make them share the values of the organization and feeling a sense of belonging into an organization that is doing good,’ emphasized Dr Cordina. ‘We accept the fact that we might need to grow at a lower rate while investing more in technology and building socially responsible business models for the satisfaction of our employees and customers.’

Bank of Valletta’s collaboration with the Gozo Business Chamber stems from the Bank’s commitment towards alliances with organisations that share the same values and work positively with motives to do genuine good and change people’s hearts in the process.