Since 1991, the HBM Group has been providing a complete range of tailor-made corporate services that fit in the reality of a global market. Through its network of preferred service providers, the group can offer anything from company formation, international corporate structuring, directorships and trustee services to accounting as well as corporate secretarial services. Their operations spread across numerous jurisdiction - from Curaçao to Luxembourg, from Malta to the Netherlands and Colombia plus many more. MaltaProfile speaks to Sarah Borg Director of e-Management Ltd, who represent the HBM brand in Malta.
Can you give us some insight into HBM Group's history and its key markets?
The HBM Group was established in 1991 by Herman J Behr in Curacao. Simultaneous to the establishment of the office in Curacao, offices were established in Aruba and The British Virgin Island. In 2000 e-Management N.V. was formed to become the leading e-commerce company solution organisation in Curacao. Today the HBM Group maintains a presence in multiple jurisdictions and boasts a substantial team of experienced and dedicated professionals, with more than a decade of experience in assisting major software providers and operators with their corporate and licensing requirements.
The Group’s presence in Malta is manifested through e-Management Limited, HBM Malta Ltd and HBM Trustees Ltd. E-Management Ltd and HBM Malta Ltd are both approved and registered by the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) to operate as Company Service Providers (CSPs) in terms of the Company Service Providers Act (Chapter 529, Laws of Malta) whilst HBM Trustees Ltd compliments the Malta service offering as a duly authorised trustee and provider of fiduciary services in terms of the Trusts and Trustees Act (Chapter 331, Laws of Malta).
The Group’s key markets include the financial services industry as well as online gaming and all other variants of e-commerce sectors.
What have been the key milestones in the history of your sector?
The Malta International Business Authority Act of 1988 provided a legal framework that permitted Malta to venture into the international business and financial sphere. A major legislative reform was undertaken and in 1994, the Malta Financial Services Centre (MFSC) was set up to consolidate the regulatory framework and spearhead the development of an integrated financial services sector able to service both domestic and international economic activity. This was further consolidated in 2002 with the establishment of the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) as the single licensing and supervisory authority for all financial services activity. Malta’s accession to Europe in 2004 proved to be the catalyst for the exponential growth of the island’s international corporate, financial and gaming sectors over the course of the years following EU-membership to date and has effectively positioned the jurisdiction to attract the right foreign direct investment and improve the level and quality of professional services.
What sections of your business do you see delivering the greatest innovation and growth potential?
Malta has been at the forefront of European regulatory innovation particularly with regards to the financial services, online gaming and e-commerce industries. Accordingly, insofar as this trend appears set to continue, we regard these sectors and other IT-driven industries to be the primary lynchpins for future growth of our Group and the jurisdiction in general.
In terms of evolution, what major developments have influenced the sector over the last 5-10 years?
The most significant development for operators in the corporate services industry came in December, 2013, when Parliament enacted the ‘Company Service Providers (CSP) Act’. This Act brought about, for the first time, a requirement to register a CSP with the MFSA and, as such, CSPs are now subject to rigorous screening by the MFSA.While the regulation of the industry clearly meant an increase in required regulatory compliance costs and resources, we feel that these are far outweighed by the positive improvements to the industry as a whole as a result of enhanced procedures and controls required to be implemented by CSPs in order to qualify for registration. Moreover, the regulation of the industry has contributed to maintaining high qualitative standards and achieving a level playing field for local or foreign CSPs operating from Malta as well as ensuring that the Company Secretaries and Directors operating in or from Malta adhere to the highest standards of service.
What are the key challenges facing your industry at the moment and how is your company attempting to challenge them?
The cumbersome regulatory environment brought by the EU 4th Money Laundering Directive (4MLD), coupled by the implementation of The Common Reporting Standard (‘CRS’) and The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) have undoubtedly posed a strong challenge. They affect various industries, such as banks, and other financial institutions, accountants, auditors, law firms, the gambling industry and others, and have brought about much higher levels of compliance, reporting and risk management. To meet the expectations of the new regulations, we had to further invest in recourses to keep us abreast with this changing landscape, increase on-going training to our personnel, enhance our AML/CFT Compliance procedures and optimise our business model and infrastructure.
How important is it for Malta to attract foreign direct investment?
FDI is an important source of Maltese job opportunities and market expansion as well as having a positive overall ripple effect on our economy. Providing access to the EU single market, Malta’s proximity to, and cultural links with, North African and Middle Eastern countries serve to attract companies looking to use Malta as a stepping stone for trading, distribution and marketing for international operations in Southern Europe and North Africa. With its strong incentives intended to encourage and assist foreign investors, Malta has attracted a number of large international operators to set up or relocate to the island. Over the past 20 years Malta’s economy has been increasingly more focussed on professional services, and industries such as financial services, remote gaming and aviation (including the repair and maintenance of commercial aircraft) continue to thrive.
A good banking infrastructure, availability of skilled workforce and a clear regulatory environment are crucial issues for the economic success of a country. How would you assess the infrastructure and the regulatory environment in Malta?
Over the years, Malta’s exponential growth in the corporate, financial services and online commerce sectors has enabled the jurisdiction to develop a sophisticated corporate and regulatory infrastructure which is complemented by a highly skilled professional workforce with an ‘anglo-saxon’ work ethic and attitude to business and which has certainly contributed to solidifying the island’s solid reputation as a stable Eurozone economy and a highly competitive, cost-effective and tax-efficient jurisdiction.
These incentives are further bolstered by cutting-edge regulatory innovation. Taking the financial services sector as an example, the MFSA, the sector’s regulator, has consistently demonstrated a commitment to working together with the industry for the implementation of major strategic objectives with a view to fostering innovation through regulation which has effectively been manifested in the creation of various niche markets which Malta is well-positioned to service.
In terms of economic growth as a whole, what are your expectations for Malta in the coming years?
Statistics are typically consistent in showing that the Maltese economy is performing well. Malta is at the top of the league for growth in the European Union, the economy is registering year on year growth and the unemployment levels are at a historic low, a shade over 5%. All the forecasts for the coming months are favourable. Going forward, the outlook appears bright insofar as the jurisdiction continues to leverage its unique selling points by fostering innovation through regulation, promoting unparalleled efficiency and incentivising compliance.
Malta has excelled in attracting financial services operators as well as several variants of eCommerce business and, as such, is well positioned to take a leading role in regulating online financial services (FinTech), such as ‘crowdfunding’ and similar platforms. The lack of any EU-wide regulation in respect of this ‘sub-industry’ effectively means that Malta can take a lead in regulation in Europe as it had so successfully done with online gaming over 10 years ago.