“Forget ‘full service’ and focus on niches to compete”

With 30 years’ experience of working in the legal field, the three men behind GTG Advocates operate in citizenship, shipping, commercial and corporate law, as well as in financial services and IP, but Managing Partner Ivan Gatt talks consolidation as he gives MaltaProfile his thoughts on the legal sector and the Maltese economy.

GTG Advocates Managing Partner Dr Ivan Gatt states that its high time that law firms in Malta accept that not everyone can and should offer a ‘full service’ type operation and that lawyers need to find niches to compete and then ‘set out to build the competitive advantages applicable to this market segment’. In comments to MaltaProfile he also picks out the Common Reporting Standards Procedures and the General Data Protection regulation as the two major statutory and legal developments that lawyers will be scrambling against over the coming months.

Can you give an overview of the company and its key markets?

GTG Advocates was established in 1997 in Malta’s capital city Valletta following the merger of three distinctive legal practices. GTG’s founding partners each have over 30 years’ experience of working in the legal field. Today, we have a diversified local and international client-base to whom it offers a range of legal services on Maltese and European Union law.

GTG Advocates combines experience and knowledge to provide its clients with integrated advice and assistance in the fields of citizenship and residence, shipping, commercial and corporate law, financial services and intellectual property.

GTG is a leader in telecommunications, gaming and betting, e-commerce and information technology, and serves a diverse client-base while benefiting from an international professional network including international firms and banks.

What have been the key milestones in the past couple of years in your sector?

Malta’s entry into the European Union in 2004 brought with it a wave of new legislation to bring the country in line with the community acquis. The legal field, in particular, the financial services sector, also continued to evolve. The financial crisis has inevitably brought about a number of changes to the legal framework in different sectors. Additional safeguards were introduced and today we also cater for a wider range of investment products. As a financial services centre, Malta has withstood numerous difficulties and come out unscathed. This is primarily owed to its consistent economic record and its strong foundations as a knowledge-based economy.

What sections of your business do you see delivering the greatest innovation and growth potential?

We believe that technology will continue to play an even more important role in future industries and everyday lives. It is intrinsically linked to consumers’ daily lives, particularly in the medical field and general well-being, consumer goods, entertainment as well as innovative services, such as Fintech.

What are the key challenges facing your industry at the moment and how is your company attempting to tackle them?

The legal industry is divided into clearly defined segments, each having a different core client focus and specialisation and therefore experiencing different competitive pressures. Despite this, many firms continue to proclaim ‘full service’ as a key element of their strategic focus, while market changes make this increasingly redundant as a strategic concept. The challenge facing the majority of law firms is to define clearly where they can compete and then set out to build the competitive advantages applicable to this market segment. We as a firm are focusing on our core strengths, and market segments and channelling our investments and efforts accordingly.

How important is it for Malta to attract foreign direct investment and what sectors of the economy offer foreign firms the greatest opportunity and why?

Malta is a highly competitive location for foreign investment. Some of the sectors that are booming in Malta include niche manufacturing and many others in the service sectors. Some of the key industries for foreign investors to explore in Malta include biotech, maritime activities, financial services, electronics, ICT and software development, automotive, pharmaceutical and healthcare. Another sector worth investing in Malta is the financial sector, thanks to the tremendous growth it has registered in the recent past.

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?

Malta’s track record as one of the world’s soundest banking systems is proof that Malta benefits from a strong reputation, backed by the sector’s robustness and resilience which has withstood the tests posed by the financial crisis.

As an international centre Malta also aims to offer a sound platform for business, catering for the demands of a highly sophisticated business environment. Use of English in Malta is universal and with state-of-the-art telecoms infrastructures, together with affordable office space, Malta has continued to develop a pro-business climate and marking itself as a global business gateway.

Malta’s political leaders are also intent on further developing key industries such as finance, IT, gaming and aviation and this is reflected by the ongoing improvement of the legislative and regulatory framework which is done hand-in-hand with the relevant authorities.

Have there been any recent statutory or legal developments affecting companies operating in Malta

The implementation of the Common Reporting Standards Procedures from January 2016 has imposed a number of reporting obligations on Maltese Financial Institutions as defined in the OECD Standard and the relevant EU Directive. Also worth noting is the General Data Protection regulation which will become operative as from May 2018.

In terms of economic growth as a whole, what are your expectations for Malta in the coming year

In terms of economic growth, Malta has continued to exceed expectations this year, and

we believe that this positive trend will continue next year.

Looking to the future, what is your firm’s investment/growth strategy?

As a firm we have chosen to focus on our core strengths, areas of expertise, market segments and channelling our investments and efforts accordingly.



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