18 July 2001


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A seamless financial service

BARCLAYS IS PERHAPS THE MOST RENOWNED NAME IN BANKING AMONG THE MALTESE AND, FOLLOWING A LONG ABSENCE, IT RE-ESTABLISHED ITS BANKING SERVICES ON THE ISLANDS JUST TWO YEARS AGO. MORE RECENTLY, BARCLAYS SET UP AN INTERNATIONAL INVESTMENTS FACILITY THROUGH WHICH IT NOW SELLS ITS OWN FUNDS. DAVID LINDSAY SPEAKS TO BARCLAYS MALTA GROUP REPRESENTATIVE AND GENERAL MANAGER, RICHARD WALLACE, ON ITS NEW INVESTMENT ARM AND HOW IT HAS PROVIDED ITS MALTESE CLIENTS WITH A SEAMLESS SERVICE


What’s the distinction between the Barclays Representative Office and the newly set-up Barclays International Investments?
The representative office in Malta is involved purely in banking and not in investments. It essentially handles the affairs of Maltese residents who bank with Barclays, primarily in Jersey and the Isle of Man.
Meanwhile, Barclays International Investments has been licensed by the Malta Financial Services Centre to sell investment products through Barclays’ offshore funds division.

What local market conditions enticed Barclays to set up the new venture?
Well, we have to go back to about 1880 when Barclays first had a presence in Malta through the offices of Thomas Smith. Following a long and successful history of banking on Maltese shores, by the 1970’s Barclays had established itself as the leading bank in Malta, so we had a huge customer base. We were also the employer of choice on the Islands, with those looking for work going either to the government or to Barclays.
In 1995 we had appointed Globe Financial Management to sell Barclays’ international funds products. However, in 1999 we made the decision to set up our own presence here for two reasons.
Firstly, we had a large number of clients banking at Barclays who found themselves unable to resolve their banking issues through Globe, as Globe is not a licensed banker.
Then at the end of last year we came to a concrete decision that there was really no point in having a third party selling our international funds for us. We now sell the entire Barclays package ourselves through Barclays International Investments.
By doing this, Barclays is now offering a seamless service in Malta. One can both invest and bank with Barclays with one integrated service.

How has the take-up to your products been on the Malta Stock Exchange?
Formerly Globe was very successful in selling our products and I personally find that the Maltese generally save a good deal of money and that they like investing in funds.
Barclays is obviously a very big name with a huge range of funds and from Barclays earlier association with Malta, it has earned a rather strong reputation in Malta.
Standing behind Barclays is the International Funds Group, a division of Barclays Global Investors, which is the largest fund management division in the world. In fact, worked out on a mathematical basis, BGI handles approximately five pounds for every person on Earth. So we have a very powerful back-up.

Are you looking to capitalise on the potential privatisation of pensions in Malta?
No we’re not but that is not to say that in the future we won’t look at the possibility. However, the pensions issue is still in its early days.

How do you view the market at present and the level of competition within it?
Some very big names have come into the Maltese market recently. There’s UBS, Lloyds TSB plus, of course, you also have all the local funds. So of course the market is very competitive. What we have to our advantage, apart from the strong funds that we sell, is the name of Barclays, which is renowned in Malta and which gives us an advantage from the outset.
I also think that having our own direct presence in Malta so that we can directly manage our own funds, instead of selling them through third parties, is another factor that gives us a market advantage.
Drawing on my experience from working in Barclays’ international banking division, I can say that one of the best things about the way that Barclays sells its investments is that we insist that all our advisors are trained to rigorous standards. Accordingly, we know that the quality of advice given and the controls we have in place ensure that clients are given the best advice. I believe that this is one of the main reasons why Barclays remains a market leader.

How is Malta’s status as an international financial centre viewed in other countries?
I think, in a way, the Malta Financial Services Centre is seen as the symbol, if you like, of what Malta is to the financial services industry, and this perception is extremely positive.
In fact, all the financial reports have praised Malta’s robust regulatory legislation.

Over the last two years, have you seen a sway in the Maltese mentality toward investment?
I suppose in that two-year period there has been a downturn on the stock exchange in terms of equities trading. Although investment advisors say that investments can go up as well as down, I think it’s the down bit that people find hard to handle.
But I do get the general feeling that the Maltese like saving money, they have done for years, and that’s why we have so many Maltese investors banking with us.
Actually, given the comparatively small population, a lot of the major investment players are present on the island.
I think there has been a trend to look ahead toward the future and that’s why clients prefer the kind of investment advice that we give. We always make sure that we give a balanced approach and a balanced answer to what they are looking for. Whether it’s the short-term game or a five-year plan that a client is looking for, we ensure that clients achieve their financial goals.
If people really don’t want to take any risk at all, then we also offer totally risk-free products.

Does Barclays hold any plans to expand its Maltese business?
We don’t have any plans of expanding on the type of operation that we conduct at the moment. However, I personally hope that we will be successful enough here to increase the number of people that we have working for us. However, we have no plans to extend into any other areas.



The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07
Tel: (356) 382741-3, 382745-6 | Fax: (356) 385075 | e-mail: editorial@networkpublications.com.mt