Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said it is “abundantly clear” that Malta needs more banks, as he ripped into traditional banks for making it virtually impossible for several people to open accounts.
“While fully understanding and supporting the banks’ de-risking efforts, one cannot tolerate a situation where banks simply opt not to open accounts to legitimate individuals and businesses simply not to take any risks,” Muscat said, while launching the MFSA’s vision document for 2021. “In fact, I would say this is in breach of EU directives.”
“Banks need to be prudent but pro-active, they need to be engines for growth and not safety deposit boxes. This duty doesn’t fall on one particular bank but on the whole ecosystem.”
A 2016 EU directive that has been transposed into Maltese law requires banks with more than four branches to provide basic payment accounts to residents and that this process shouldn’t be too difficult or burdensome. In Malta, that directive should therefore apply to BOV, HSBC, APS, Lombard and BMF.
Yet banking remains a major problem for foreign workers moving to Malta
and companies seeking to set up shop here, with banks often making them jump through hoops before allowing them an account. For example, expats have complained that banks had demanded a bank reference from their home country, an impossible task as they had already closed their accounts before removing to Malta.
Meanwhile, iGaming and blockchain companies are routinely denied bank accounts on the grounds that their industries are too risky – a headache for the government, which is seeking to turn Malta into a hub for disruptive technologies.
The Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) recently launched an awareness campaign to inform people of their banking rights, with MFSA CEO Joseph Cuschieri urging banks to adopt more client-friendly policies.
Finally! The MFSA has a new website
Addressing the launch of the MFSA’s new strategy this afternoon Cuschieri pledged to bring the Maltese financial services regulator closer to European standards of supervision.
This will be done by investing in human resources and technology and by adopting a tailored approach to the regulation of fintech companies.
He also used the occasion to launch the MFSA’s new website, a massive relief for anyone used to the old, outdated version.