Malta's largest financial services conference – FinanceMalta's 12th Annual Conference – gathered over 400 delegates from Malta and abroad under the same roof to discuss innovation in this sector.

Titled "Malta: A Platform for Innovation", the conference included various sessions on the innovation that is driving this sector forward such as Fintech and AI, and delved into important issues that arose due to this innovation, such as cybercrime. The conference was chaired by Federica Taccogna of FTI Consulting, who is a strategic adviser to the MFSA on financial crime.

In his introductory speech, FinanceMalta's Chairman Kenneth Farrugia welcomed the delegates, saying: "While Malta's small size may be considered a disadvantage by some, in actual fact it provides the perfect platform for innovation as it allows new structures to be developed and introduced to the market." 

"Innovation also goes hand-in-hand with the digital-led environment that the industry now operates in, which is challenging the traditional ways of doing business, and, through this disruption, is providing new opportunities across the board," he added. 

Mr Farrugia said that Malta is home to a complete ecosystem of financial services which traditionally are pensions, private wealth, credit and financial institutions, insurance, and asset management. 

"However, one definitely cannot ignore the new kid on the block – DLT & Blockchain," he stated.

The Prime Minister of Malta, Dr Joseph Muscat delivered a keynote address, while the Minister for Finance Prof. Edward Scicluna and Silvio Schembri, Parliamentary Secretary responsible for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation, addressed the conference on the fight against money laundering, and "Innovation Vision 2021" document, respectively.

In his speech, Silvio Schembri emphasised on the constant need for innovation within the financial services sector, and touched upon the need for banks to embrace digitisation.

On the Government setting up a Consultative Body on Financial Services, Silvio Schembri said: "It will serve as a forum for discussions between the Government, the Regulator and the practitioners, aiming to understand better the difficulties, anticipate any developments on the international scenario and to formulate a 10 year strategy for the financial services sector in Malta. In view of this, I cannot stress enough the importance of the full collaboration and cooperation of all the relevant stakeholders, if we are to achieve and sustain success within the sector. 

When talking about the opportunities for Malta within the European context, he said: "Turning our head to shifting European landscape, the attracting of new businesses and economic niches should be a top priority for the sector. Malta's proposition to UK based financial services operators has always been centred around solutions which will enable them to sustain their business in Europe through a co-location arrangement rather than a complete relocation."   

"Within this context, Malta's UK based financial services operators in the insurance, asset management and wider financial services space that wish to sustain their business with mainland Europe, will find that Malta provides a strong and robust solution that is underpinned by an excellent track record as a location for foreign businesses as well as the presence of an established, diversified and dynamic financial services clusters and overall ecosystem that is supported by a meticulous yet approachable and business-friendly financial services regulator," Silvio Schembri said.

A highlight for the business community during the conference was the insight gained into the strategic MFSA document "Innovation Vision 2021" and MFSA's Fintech strategy aimed at taking the financial services forward, as well as the understanding into the work being undertaken by the Government of Malta to strengthen and widen the breadth of the financial services industry in Malta. 

Other topics covered during the conference included the industry's vision for the immediate future to continue sustaining growth, and the MFSA's role in ensuring that such development is done in a sustainable manner – whilst ensuring that the industry is regulated in an efficient and effective manner. 

FinanceMalta's Annual Conference featured a novelty in the form of case studies focusing on setting up a business in Malta and what it entails for a foreign national, giving further insight into people's practical experiences with financial services in Malta. 

The topics of banking and cryptocurrency also featured in the event.

"The broad number of topics that this conference has addressed are in effect a reflection of the sheer diversity of the financial services industry in Malta," Mr Farrugia said. 

"With all these important topics in mind, we have invited a strong line up of high-calibre speakers comprising distinguished subject matter experts from the regulatory authorities and market players alike. All under one roof, the speakers and panel members have discussed the challenges and opportunities that both regulations and financial technology are inducing on the industry's traditional business and operational models," he added. 

The speakers during the conference included the CEO of the MFSA Joseph Cuschieri, the President of the Institute of Financial Services Practitioners Wayne Pisani, the Senior Content Editor of the Financial Times Live Michael Imerson, the Chairman of the Malta Stock Exchange Joseph Portelli, the advisor to the OECD in Mauritius Loretta Joseph, the Chief Officer for Strategy, Policy and Fintech at MFSA Christopher Buttigieg, PwC Partner Forensic Services & Financial Crime Leader, Switzerland Gianfranco Mautone, and the Chairman of the Malta Bankers' Association Marcel Cassar, newly elected MEPs Alfred Sant and Roberta Metsola, among others. 

The event was sponsored by: Reyl & Cie (Malta) Ltd - Diamond Sponsor; Vacancy Centre - Platinum Sponsor; Apex Fund Services (Malta) Limited, Dolfin, Francis J. Vassallo & Associates Ltd., Malta Stock Exchange, Profile Software, Sparkasse Bank Malta plc, Systemic, Western Union Business Solutions – Gold Sponsors, among others.