IFSP Conference 2021: Press Release Conference Day One

5th March 2021 • Articles & PRs, Events, News

The 2021 IFSP Conference opened yesterday, 4 March 2021 at 14:00 with close to 200 people in attendance. The conference continues today, 5 March 2021 at 14:00.

This year’s conference is titled “Malta at the crossroads”, which as the IFSP President, Dr Wayne Pisani told participants in his opening address, is not “overly dramatic” in today’s context. He addressed the conditions leading to the 2019 MONEYVAL evaluation report of 2019 and the measures that spurred but did not leave it there: he moved to the core of this year’s conference: how Malta can and should rebuild, refocus, and develop for the future beyond the immediate demands of MONEYVAL and other, similar assessments.

Dr Pisani was followed by the Hon Clyde Caruana, Minister for Finance who outlined the Government’s response to the MONEYVAL evaluation while laying out the expected path for the follow up assessment, telling the audience that he expected the outcome to the report by Moneyval to be made public in the near future, following which there will be the FATF assessment. He also announced that a call of applications for the crucial position of MFSA CEO would soon be advertised, both in Malta and abroad in an attempt to attract highly qualified and capable applicants.

The first of four conference sessions saw Dr Stephen Attard, IFSP Council member and partner at Ganado Advocates, asking Dr Geraldine Spiteri Lucas, head of legal at the MBR, and Mr Joseph Farrugia, MBR CEO, about developments at the Registry, which is an essential component in Malta’s business and financial infrastructure. They fielded questions on the functioning of the registry, and the importance of the Register of Beneficial Owners, with Dr Spiteri Lucas explaining that “We are living in a world in which transparency is crucial”.

Mr Farrugia continued to explain the MBR’s introduction of a new platform for the online submission of documentation, and tackled questions from the audience about delays with processing of documents submitted. He told the audience the delays are a result of a combination of an increasing volume of documents to be processed, the greater effort required to process documents as due diligence needed to be conducted on each.

Mirko Rapa, IFSP Council member and PWC Partner and Rachel Zarb Cousin, Director at Deloitte, then tackled tax transparency and the way the EU Directive DAC6 is being put into effect in Malta. This has only recently come into effect, and is designed to minimise “aggressive tax planning”. They were followed by Claudine Attard (PWC) and Claudine Borg Azzopardi (KPMG) who tackled yet another highly relevant area of interest: remote working. It is their view that, while spurred by the COVID19 pandemic, remote working is now here to stay, in some form of hybrid arrangement. It was interesting to note that, according to research carried out, 80% of surveyed employers and employees found that productivity was either unaffected by, or even improved through remote working over the past year.

The first day of the conference closed with a discussion titled “Beyond MONEYVAL”, moderated by IFSP President Dr Wayne Pisani, with Juanita Bencini, IFSP Council member and PMLFT sub-committee chair, Manfred Galdes, partner at ARQ, Alfred Zammit, Deputy Director of the FIAU and Maruska Buttigieg Gili, Chief Risk Officer at BNF Bank. The panelists tackled difficult issues, from how Malta should proceed to what should the jurisdiction do if the MONEYVAL follow up evaluation led to grey-listing, or indeed should the jurisdiction not be grey-listed.

The clear message from all participants was, in the end, a simple one: Malta cannot go back to the way things were. The bar needs to be raised, and indeed in many cases the industry bar has been raised. Malta does not want to facilitate the proceeds of crime. And to do so effectively, what is needed is, in Dr Galdes’s words, “meaningful compliance” that does not miss the wood for the trees.

The aim, the panellists agreed, is to rebuild Malta’s reputation as a reliable jurisdiction within which to do business. And furthermore, Junaita Bencini told the conference participants, in the future the emphasis should be on the quality of business attracted to Malta and not, as so often in the past, on the number of businesses and investment coming to the island.

The conference continues today, 5 March with discussions on the new rulebook for CSPs, the developing area of sustainable finance, the importance of good corporate governance and what is on the cards for tax policy.