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Malta well-positioned for e-commerce boom

Future of e-banking highlighted

Addressing a seminar hosted by the Malta Chamber of Commerce last week, e-finance expert Michael Jannsen emphasised that Malta is already well prepared for the introduction and adoption of multi-channel services. He elaborates, "Malta is among the top three of the EU Candidate Countries in web connections and these have increased by 63.2% over the last year, whilst the mobile phone penetration per inhabitant has increased by 218.2% over the last year. There is also a higher percentage of Cable TV connections established in Malta than in most other European Countries."
Mr Janssen is the Chief Financial Officer at Brokat, one of the leading European providers of software and services for flexible e-finance solutions. The company is present in seven European countries and is considered as a pioneer in Internet-banking and a European market leader of Internet financial services solutions.
In fact, over 2,000 financial companies today make use of Brokat’s solutions. It specialises in the provision of solutions for retail, corporate and private banking as well as retail and professional brokerage and insurance and portal solutions.
Speaking about the important role of the Internet in today’s banking world, Mr Janssen explained how banks and other business organisations are now becoming more aware that investing in IT applications is the only way which guarantees survival.
As such, e-banking IT expenditure in Europe in 2000 stood at US$2 billion while by 2005, given today’s trend, the expenditure is expected to reach the US$5 billion mark.
The seminar was chaired by Joseph F. X. Zahra, Chairman of the Chamber’s Financial Services Trade Section and Chairman of the Bank of Valletta Group. Addressing the delegates Mr Zahra comments, "Malta is making important steps in catching up with the rest of Europe and the United States in the areas of IT development and e-commerce - the launch of the E-Malta and E-Government initiatives are steps in the right direction. A recent initiative by MSFC on e-Money is a clear sign that we fully understand the importance of this phenomenon in the way we live and conduct business."
Speaking about Internet banking, Mr Zahra explains, "New technology is already having a profound impact on the financial services industry both internationally and locally. It is revolutionising the operation of, and access to, wholesale and retail markets; it is transforming local and cross border service provision; and it is acting as a catalyst for the creation of new financial services and new business models, often triggering new alliances involving telecommunications, information technology, retail and financial services providers."
Mr Zahra referred to BoV’s recent signing of an agreement with Brokat to develop a multi-channel delivery software for the Bank. The Bank is expected to upgrade its telebanking services and plans to move into internet banking and to set up a sophisticated call centre.
Mr Zahra concluded, "Internet has brought about a revolution in the way business is done locally and internationally. Malta is taking part in this new experience of doing business however, the environment needs to be supported by the necessary legal infrastructure."
The seminar was also addressed by Victor Denaro, Executive Head for Information Technology at Bank of Valletta. Speaking about the developments in IT carried out within Bank of Valletta over the past few years, Mr Denaro explained how the bank's IT Division has been able to position the bank in terms of its systems and infrastructure so that it can offer its range of products and services through a variety of delivery channels. In the past, banks have operated their functions via a single channel approach with very limited back office and CRM support.
BoV is now working towards achieving a multi-channel approach where sales and service channels can be easily integrated together with back office operations. This involves the use of multi-functional applications thus servicing a widespread number of users.
Mr Denaro also detailed the difficulties being faced by executives and project managers that are developing and implementing e-Business solutions. Traditional IT projects were managed on the basis that the working and operating environment was rather mature and therefore predictable.
In this scope, the emphasis has always been to deliver "on time, according to scope and within budget". Because they are based on emerging technologies, e-projects are of an entirely different nature where the desired result could differ from the original requirement. This concept should not be misunderstood in that we should not establish targets, but only to understand that the goal is to get the product right at the end and not at the beginning.


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