The Institute of Financial Services Practitioners (IFSP) called a Members’ Update meeting last week to discuss the impact on Malta’s financial services industry of the country’s greylisting by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
The IFSP is ‘The Voice of the Financial Services Industry in Malta’, bringing together a diverse range of professionals with an interest in the industry. Defined by the sector it serves, the IFSP offers the Government of the day expert guidance whenever an opportunity arises or crisis looms, on matters such as taxation, anti-money-laundering or professional education. The IFSP works closely with regulators and competent authorities to ensure that the perspectives of practitioners are understood and taken into account where reasonably possible. The IFSP also tries to establish a basis for broad support on matters of national importance impacting this important economic sector.
This latest IFSP Members’ Update meeting addressed Malta’s FATF greylisting and the challenges it represents for the nation’s financial sector. Opened by IFSP President Tonio Zarb, the meeting included input from guest speakers Deputy Director at FIAU Alfred Zammit, CEO and Registrar of the Malta Business Registry Geraldine Spiteri Lucas, and Alison Cortis, Senior Technical Expert at the MFSA, as well as briefings from the heads of the IFSP’s technical committees.
“Certainly, the most important aspect of Malta’s greylisting is the reputational damage it brings,” said Mr Zarb at the meeting. “There are also practical difficulties connected with it, so our focus must remain getting off the greylist. Although the regulatory requirements our industry is subjected to are, I believe, not the same as those experienced in other countries, we cannot simply do the average – we must go beyond. That means addressing the aspects of regulation, supervision, connected enforcement and the regulatory pressures it brings.”
The IFSP President nevertheless went on to emphasise the importance of implementing measures in a way that does not destroy what they seek to protect. “Of course, the regulatory authorities must ensure that they are doing enough to enable Malta’s removal from the greylist to satisfy the FATF,” he continued. “The consequences of that are not just significant – and possibly inevitable – additional costs as an industry, but also the extreme stress it will create. As an analogy: we need a weedkiller that will kill off the weeds, but not damage the good crop, as is happening today. I’m sure we can improve on where we are and still achieve the necessary result.”
Mr Zarb also highlighted the challenges to employing personnel. “Our financial services industry, like most other industries, needs experienced professionals that cannot be found within the Maltese market. Therefore, the solution is to bring in people from overseas – normally third country nationals from outside the EU. However, their treatment locally is not conducive for them to remain in Malta, such as xenophobia and practical issues such as problems with Visa applications for their immediate family members.”
Mr Zarb concluded by reaffirming IFSP’s role in tackling the issues currently being faced by its members. “Our goal is to highlight these four main areas of concern that represent a perfect storm for our industry. We will continue to voice our concerns and our members’ views, while assisting the Government as much as we can in their efforts to remove Malta from the greylist. The IFSP acts as a voice for the industry when necessary – and I believe, at this time, it is very necessary.”
More information about the IFSP is available online at https://ifsp.org.mt/.