The business world is extremely dynamic. If you are operating within it, you will know that your regulatory requirements may change overnight, particularly when you consider the current international tax scenario and the ever-changing and increasing anti- money laundering requirements.
It’s as a result of all this that companies so often turn to advisors – like DFK Malta, a specialised medium-sized audit and accountancy firm that has built a sterling reputation on its ability to advise clients and help them achieve success.
DFK Malta’s history dates back to 1990, when it was known as Farrugia, Farrugia & Co. It joined DFK International (a worldwide association of independent accounting firms and business advisers) as a full member in 1998. Since then, the company has grown considerably and now provides a full range of services to various clients.
“We provide our services through three separate entities that form part of the same Group,” explains David Farrugia, who is a lawyer and a qualified accountant, and is the director of the Tax and Advisory Department within DFK Malta. “The services that we provide today reflect the requirements of a typical business in today’s world. As such our services include audit and assurance, tax services (compliance and advisory – including VAT), accounting and advisory (including payroll accounting), business advisory services, corporate advisory and support services, residence advisory and liquidation and dissolution services.”
Over the past few years, the firm has also seen an increasing interest in estate and succession planning, long-term business planning and strategic advisory. “In my role, I am principally involved in this area of advisory, together with overseeing our Corporate Services Department and International Tax queries,” Dr Farrugia continues. “In effect, my work involves advising and assisting clients with estate and succession planning, corporate reorganisation and restructuring, and tax advisory.”
He explains that, these days, clients are increasingly aware of the opportunities that are available and are generally becoming more interested in the benefits of strategic planning and estate planning in such a fluid and competitive business environment. “This is one of the main drivers behind the change in the way that we are perceiving our role in the sector. We are no longer expected to complete tax returns, VAT returns, and prepare audited financial statements without providing added- value to clients’ needs.
“Being of a medium size means that we have both benefits and disadvantages – like anything else. For instance, this means that we sometimes find it easier to provide a personalised and bespoke service, and offer advice. This is generally appreciated by clients because it is becoming more and more difficult to find – given the rapid pace of regulatory and legislative developments in the financial and fiscal world. We always strive to be different by offering a personalised service in a way that meets the clients’ requirements. At the same time, being a member of DFK International enables our organisation to benefit from technical assistance from member firms around the globe.”
With regards to DFK International, Dr Farrugia explains it is currently present in 93 countries around the world – from Argentina to Japan – with its global presence constantly increasing. “This is extremely beneficial in today’s globalised world, where, for instance, a client may require fiscal or corporate advice in various jurisdictions in connection with a single transaction,” he says. “Beyond that, we also benefit from the various international conferences, activities and literature (technical handbooks and guidance) that are organised and shared by DFK International on a regular basis. Our objective as a boutique advisory firm is to balance our personalised approach with the benefits of the international reach and dimension provided by our membership with DFK International.”
And, already, 2018 is proving to be quite a year for the firm. “Our organisational structure is changing rapidly – due to expansion of our service lines and also because of changes at our managerial level. We are strong believers in organic growth and we are constantly increasing our degree of specialisation by creating and enhancing our departments’ resources. When faced with the necessity of adding or enhancing new posts (due to the ever-increasing pressures to specialise) our first priority is to satisfy such new posts by promoting our staff. This enhances our continuity and ensures that our expansion progresses as smoothly as possible – by having our departments headed by individuals who are well-versed and experienced with our organisation’s core values and principles.”
At managerial level the firm is experiencing the transfer from one generation to another. “Naturally, our aim is to execute this transfer with the same objective in mind – continuity,” Dr Farrugia says. “Hence our current changes will involve individuals who have been employed at various levels of our organisation – in the vast majority of cases starting off at the lowest echelons. It is by working and facing the clients for every type of situation that a person can really know how the requirements of the clients and the requirements of our organisation can be met.”
The firm is also moving into refurbished offices, in Balzan. This was a project that meant a complete overhaul for DFK Malta – including re-tiling the whole floor and re-designing the reception area, office spaces and boardrooms. “As expected, these things invariably always take longer than originally expected and we are still in the finishing stage,” Dr Farrugia says with a smile. “However, even though the project is still not finished, we are sure that the efforts and the costs will be worth every penny.
“After all, our workspace is where we spend most of our daily time – and it is only fair and equitable that all of us enjoy a pleasant environment. Moreover, we always strive to offer the best to our clients and, whilst we acknowledge that our location at De Paule Avenue in Balzan is excellent, we were in need of giving our office a fresh look and a better layout to reflect our clients’ needs.”
And there are other reasons for DFK Malta to be looking positively towards the future. “Firms in our sector enjoy the fruits of a healthy financial services sector in Malta, which in turn benefits from a regulatory and legal framework which can be described as thorough and exhaustive, yet at the same time flexible and dynamic,” Dr Farrugia says. “For instance, fund structures and wealth management services benefit from an innovative legislative framework that is also fully compliant with EU legislation, together with an abundance of experienced professionals.
“Moving forward, we hope Malta can continue to build on its reputation as an investor-friendly jurisdiction by enhancing the cooperation between all the stakeholders involved in this sector. This will provide a precious opportunity to all firms in our sector to keep abreast of the very exciting yet challenging times we are currently facing.”
Finally, Dr Farrugia looks to the future of the organisation. “Last year DFK Malta embarked on a reorganisation of our Corporate Support Services Department and our Tax Department. This was undertaken with a view to align the operations of these departments with the requirements of our foreign clients and local clients that seek specialised tax services (both corporate and individuals). We are now at the next step – that of supplementing these main departments whilst also enhancing our audit function due to the changes at the managerial level that were discussed earlier. Of course, having a freshly-refurbished office with a new design will hopefully make it even easier to accommodate these changes whilst at the same time helping us to look forward to the rest of 2018 and the coming years!”
This interview originally appeared in The Commercial Courier