A lifetime of experience in the banking world was the solid foundation upon which FinanceMalta Chairman Kenneth Farrugia helped to build a new entity that promised to bring Malta’s financial services sector to the international forefront.
“I hail from an exclusively-banking background, having spent more than 33 years climbing the traditional business ladder in the sector,” Kenneth explains. “I worked within diverse divisions of a local commercial bank, where I was responsible for a number of business areas in the group, from investments, credit, e-banking and insurance.”
However, Kenneth noticed that the country’s financial climate changed once Malta joined the European Union. “The new reality for Malta within the EU was that it was centred around the local market, as opposed to Malta being the centre of its own services. Malta wasn’t known for its financial services sector, and we intended to address that gap.”
To refocus Europe’s attention upon Malta’s financial services sector, in 2007 it was agreed that a private-public foundation, FinanceMalta, would be set up. “We wanted to establish an entity with a shared vision, that would create networking opportunities for the sector and comprehensively represent the financial services sector through various member organisations,” Kenneth explains.
Over the following decade, the foundation succeeded in its plan to lead this evolution, thus changing the make-up of the industry in Malta and beyond along the way. “Over the past 10 years, we have never looked back,” Kenneth confirms. “We have achieved a noticeable change in the areas of insurance and private wealth management, for example, and we are currently leading the way in regard to the global financial services industry’s new-kids-on-the-block: blockchain and cryptocurrency.”
The journey towards applying these necessary changes to the industry continues to be a busy one for Kenneth and his small team at FinanceMalta. “The foundation organises around 55 events per year that are predominantly focused around specific sectors and, in addition, we contribute speakers to third-party events,” he highlights. “Furthermore, we have a strong international PR presence and our website is constantly updated, providing an excellent source of sector-specific information for the island. FinanceMalta is also very active on social media, and we have translated all our documentation and literature into five languages over the course of just three years in order to boost communication.”
With so much in their collective workload, Kenneth has been mindful in his approach to leading the FinanceMalta team. “We have a small set-up, with just six people,” he explains. “However, innovation knows no size, and we have achieved a lot simply by ensuring that we work together as a team and communicate with each other effectively. As well as having the right set of skills and a positive and determined mindset, it’s all about everyone working with the same vision towards the same goals. My role is to make sure that we have a good strategic vision and a plan to support that, and to make sure that I am fully transparent and candid with the team regarding the implementation of that plan.”
In fact, it seems Kenneth’s philosophy towards his team’s dynamic has been inspired by his own outlook on life. “I’m not a nine-to-five sort of person, I run on determination to achieve my objectives and the motivation to excel. I have a constant hunger for success, so I never lose focus and I make sure that I live my life – and lead FinanceMalta – with passion and enthusiasm.”
The reflected zeal of his team also continues to inspire Kenneth as he tackles the challenges he faces as he drives FinanceMalta ever forward. “One of my biggest challenges is curbing my desire to do more than is possible with our existing resources. I have a great sense of pride in Malta’s fast-growing economy, when so many other island economies are struggling. However, as a country we have our limitations, and we must be careful not to spread our wings too thinly and risk losing focus,” he points out. “The industry has very quickly developed from being almost solely domestic to being open to international business. FinanceMalta must also stay on top of that logistically, managing arising issues in a proactive manner, moving quickly to apply new regulations, and setting appropriate structures to ensure that we are communicating effectively with all of Malta’s ever-expanding workforce.”
For Kenneth and his team at FinanceMalta, however, a potentially golden opportunity for Malta’s financial services industry, thanks to new technological innovations, may well be worth their efforts. “We are currently working with numerous blockchain operators, as Malta is rapidly becoming renowned as a leader in this new market,” he says. “We are also making sure that we are up-to-date with all the latest advancements in fintech, which present their own challenges.”
With that in mind, Kenneth predicts that the next five years will serve to continue FinanceMalta’s success story. “Although I will probably have retired by then, FinanceMalta will grow stronger, and will keep strengthening Malta beyond our shores. Technology has done a lot, but the human element is essential moving forward: we are now ambassadors for Malta internationally. We now represent the new global Malta brand.”
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.