With more than two decades of experience in the financial services, gaming and hospitality industries under her belt, business management has always been a passion for STM Malta’s Managing Director and CEO Deborah Schembri.
“The areas of financial services and business management always fascinated me,” she observes. “After I graduated from the University of Malta with a BA (Hons) in Accountancy in 1994, I began my career as a Certified Public Accountant by holding senior finance roles with companies operating in a number of industries. In 2002 I also obtained a Master’s in Business Administration from Henley Management College, UK, and, currently, I am the only Maltese resident to hold an Advanced Diploma in Retirement Provision, which I pursued with the UK Pensions Management Institute.”
Deborah’s steady upward trajectory through her career also afforded her many opportunities to address company growth. “In my various C-level and board member roles I formulated new strategic directions and implemented necessary changes, becoming instrumental in setting up and growing various companies,” she says. “In such roles I always concentrated on the company’s strategy and objectives, while also ensuring that its finance function is assisting the organisation in achieving those objectives.”
Having built such a catalogue of experience in company strategy and growth, it became clear that Deborah’s career journey was leading her towards becoming a CEO. “As my career progressed I was entrusted with senior managerial roles where I was responsible for the whole operations of an organisation,” she recalls. “Holding the role of a Managing Director and CEO was the next natural step in my career path.”
In 2014, that goal was realised when Deborah was appointed Managing Director for STM Malta Trust and Company Management Ltd. By successfully navigating this role ever since, Deborah has discovered what it takes to thrive as a CEO.
“In my opinion, the CEO has overall responsibility for creating, planning, implementing and integrating the strategic direction of an organisation, including all the components and departments of the business. To accomplish this, you need to be driven by a particular set of skills and character traits, including resilience, the ability to visualise the future, building and motivating a team, being an active communicator and having the courage to take risks while thinking outside the box,” Deborah enthuses.
As she channels this management-specific skillset, her approach to being CEO also focuses on a clear- cut philosophy. “In fulfilling my role, I focus on showing a great sense of purpose and mission, demonstrating passion and urgency, yet valuing substance and pursuing the core of every issue. Employing one’s skillset to accomplish goals that will contribute positively to a firm’s growth and performance has always been a main motivator in my various roles. My key to success has been focusing on the organisation, its outcomes and results, as well as on the well-being of team members I’ve worked alongside.”
Even with these motivational rules, however, Deborah points out that CEOs such as herself still face numerous challenges. “CEOs have a lot to manage at any given point in time. Tasked with increasing business growth while managing employees and customers, there are a lot of moving parts,” she observes. “Some of the toughest challenges I face every day revolve around hiring the right talent to provide the skills and backbone of the company, while staying competitive and creating growth in the face of stiff competition and market oversaturation, combating cybersecurity threats, and, simultaneously, maintaining a healthy work-life balance.”
Regardless of these challenges, Deborah nevertheless predicts continued growth and a positive future for STM Malta thanks to the country’s ever-evolving financial climate. “Over the past few years, Malta has established itself as a centre for the management and administration of personal pension schemes, and it’s likely the future of the pensions industry in Malta will include the provision of workplace schemes for locals and International Occupational Pension Schemes.”
Over the past three years particularly, STM Malta has registered exceptional growth and performance results, and it is a trend that Deborah fully intends to maintain. “I am pleased that both myself and STM Malta are now multi-award winning. I won Malta’s Best Knowledge Entrepreneur of the Year and Most Innovative Entrepreneur of the Year at the Wealth and Finance INTL 2015 Finance Awards, and was also one of four finalists for the Commonwealth Women Entrepreneur of the Year that same year. At company level we have won the Best International Retirement Scheme Administrator Award at Corporate Vision’s 2015 European Excellence Awards, Best Performing Pensions Provider and Retirement Scheme Administrator in Malta at Wealth and Finance INTL’s 2015 Finance Awards, as well as Malta’s Best in Business Pensions Provider Award and Malta’s Best in Business Trust and Fiduciary Company Award. In 2017, we were named National Champion at the European Business Awards.”
“Moving forward, our objective is continued growth, with a firm focus on acquisition strategies and product expansion. Our outstanding results have been made possible because we have focused on our senior leadership, our strategy development, our customer engagement, our knowledgeable workforce and our operational effectiveness – and we will keep focusing on exactly these as we grow and achieve even more.”
MaltaChamber.org.mt is proud to be serialising MaltaCEOs 2019, a high-profile publication consisting of 50 in-depth interviews with leading CEOs in Malta. Celebrating the most influential business minds in the country, two different interviews will be featured on this business news portal week by week. MaltaCEOs was created by Content House Group in collaboration with the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise & Industry.