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Financial Services Firms Should Focus More On Local Market, Prime Minister Says

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Prime Minister Robert Abela has urged Malta’s financial services industry to focus more on servicing local clients in order to dismiss any potential speculation about the business activities.

Abela was speaking during FinanceMalta’s annual conference which was held over the past two days. The conference’s theme was ‘Malta’s Financial Services Industry: Emerging Stronger’. 

Asked what his vision for the sector was going forward, Abela said that the country needed to accept that the sector will continue to see increased regulation.

“The digital transition has given rise to new opportunities but also to new risks. Regulation will need to address this. The state has a role to play by looking at how to create digital identification solutions and by adapting the judicial system, to give on example,” Abela said. 

He added that while efforts in recent years were mainly focused on Malta’s legislative and regulatory framework, the emphasis had now shifted to enforcement.  

In this regard, he said that financial services providers acted as gatekeepers and needed to help Malta’s regulators top the system being used for unregulated and illicit purposes. 

Above all, he said that the financial services industry needed to integrate better with the rest of the economy. 

While it shouldn’t shun foreign clients, the sector, he said, needed to understand that having a stronger local presence would help dismiss speculation about their activities

“Catering more for local operators could be a winning formula for financial services firms, and the economy as a whole,” Abela said. 

He also expressed his hopes that the industry could start to focus more on high-value services rather than high quantity low-value work. 

“It is crucial not to let the sector’s low-lying fruit hinder its evolution. We can’t afford to be in parts of the sector that are of low value-added,” Abela said. 

Meanwhile, Opposition leader Bernard Grech emphasised that the financial services sector was one of the main pillars of the Maltese economy, and one that needed to be safeguarded.

He said the fact that the industry had flourished in recent years wasn’t down to chance,  but rather the result of both of Malta’s parties working together to ensure its success. 

“Of course this was built on trust, credibility and Malta’s reputation… What we have today is a lack of all three and it is what we need to start addressing as soon as possible,” Grech said.  

He said that to get there, Malta needed to go beyond simply ticking all the boxes, and to convince professionals abroad, as well as other nations, that Malta could be trusted. 

“Since we got to know Malta was greylisted we have offered our full support and collaboration,” Grech said, adding however that more information was necessary. 

He said the PN had called on the government to make available correspondence and feedback from the FATF for the party to be able to offer its own contributions. 

He noted that the Opposition had also called for a parliamentary debate, pointing out however that the proposal had not been accepted by the government. 

He said that the PN had also met with social partners to discuss the development. The government cannot do this alone. Everyone needs to be on board.”

Grech also stressed the need for a paradigm shift in the way things are done in Malta, stressing the need for political leadership and a will to change things. 

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