15 October 2003

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Bank of Valletta highlights internationalisation drive

Valletta Fund Management last week hosted an international conference entitled ‘Malta – Regional Developments and Opportunities in Financial Services’, which was attended by a large number of delegates from Malta, neighbouring countries and the Gulf region.
Speaking at the conference, Bank of Valletta Group Chairman Joseph F X Zahra focussed on the important role of the financial services industry; the Barcelona Process and the challenges the Euro-Mediterranean region is facing; how Bank of Valletta has embarked on an Internationalisation process to take full advantages of the opportunities available in the Mediterranean region.
"Today, the financial services sector plays a critical role in the allocation of resources within national economies," he explains. "Without an efficient and well-managed financial system, other areas of the economy will be seriously hindered. Clearly, the financial services sector is the blood stream of the economic machinery of every nation, particularly in today's global economy. This sector accounts for more than five percent of GNP in most developed countries and in many developing countries.
Commenting on the Barcelona Process and the challenges the Euro-Mediterranean region is facing, Mr Zahra comments, "During the Euro-Mediterranean Conference held in November 1995 in Barcelona, the European Union and 12 Mediterranean States signed the Barcelona Declaration. One of the three main goals of this Declaration is ‘The creation of an area of shared prosperity through the progressive establishment of free trade between the EU and its partners and among the partners themselves, in view of the creation of the wider Euro-Mediterranean free trade area by 2010’.
"This is being achieved through a network of bilateral Associated Agreements between the EU and each Mediterranean country. This free-trade area is going to link together the 15 EU Member States and the 12 Mediterranean Partners and at a later stage EFTA and Central, Eastern European candidate countries. This forms a market of between 600 to 800 million consumers, namely, one of the world’s most important trade entities.
"The last three years have seen a significant development in Euro-Mediterranean relations. Almost all the countries and territories have signed up their association agreement with the European Union. These agreements are not only important for relations across the Mediterranean but they are also stimulating a new type of dialogue among the partners themselves.
"Sub-regional free trade agreements, like the so-called ‘Agadir process’ between Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia, have to be hailed and supported as a genuine effort to open up their economies to their neighbours and enhance regional integration.
"Between 1990 and 2000, there has been a marked increase in trade flows between the EU and its Mediterranean partners. Exports to the European Union by its Mediterranean partners has doubled in ten years to reach 64 billion Euros, whilst imports from the European Union to its Mediterranean partners has more than doubled and reached 85 billion Euros. The Euro-Mediterranean financial service institutions have played an important role in achieving these positive results.
"The financial structures of the Mediterranean countries are still very different from one another, but in all of them, there is an intense process of change underway. All have recorded significant progress. Interest rates have been decontrolled, while quantitative restraints on the expansion of credit have been largely abolished. Monetary policy often has abandoned direct controls in favour of indirect instruments. Central Bank autonomy has been strengthened. Prudential banking regulations have approached international standards while State-ownership of banks has been reduced. Stock exchanges have introduced electronic trading facilities and many are now privately managed."
Mr Zahra went on to speak about the Bank’s growing internationalisation process, "The transformation of the Mediterranean financial systems will continue, and it is for this reason that we, at Bank of Valletta believe in the potential of the emerging Euro-Mediterranean region. The BOV Group has been closely following the liberalisation, deregulation, modernisation processes taking place in each country and the enhanced regional integration. We are making sure that our international strategy exploits all the possibilities available to us within the Mediterranean region.
"Bank of Valletta’s international strategy is basically a Euro-Mediterranean regional strategy based on four main pillars, namely:
"Having direct connections in key strategic markets through our regional representative offices which are of benefit to our business customers; utilising Electronic Alternative delivery channels; teaming up with international partners to design and market tailor-made products for the Euro-Mediterranean region; servicing of our international and local high net worth customers through our Bank of Valletta International brand.

"We have already set in motion our international strategy not only at banking level, which has been initiated with the opening of strategic representative offices in neighbouring markets, but also though our subsidiary Valletta Fund Management which as you will see during the course of this Conference has already achieved a degree of success.
"Mentioning success, we are extremely pleased with the development of Valletta Fund Management over these years. The assets under management have reached serious numbers. Over this year it has managed to maintain its leading presence in Malta. In fact we are pleased to note that over this financial year, business has increased by over 40 per cent and the increase in the number of new investors by over 16 per cent.
"Success does not come by itself, it is a result of dynamism, competence, dedication and hard work, values that one finds in VFM and a good team that works there. I would like to thank this opportunity to thank them for their efforts. The company is embarking on an ambitious internationalisation programme and I am sure that it will be successful.
"In the final analysis, we, at Bank of Valletta have the right mindset, energy, innovation, and are restless for change and prepared for the challenges and opportunities ahead of us. We have already taken the plunge."
The conference was also addressed by Dr Anthony Abela, Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs; Professor Joseph V. Bannister, Chairman of the Malta Financial Services Authority; Kenneth Farrugia, Assistant General Manager of Valletta Fund Management responsible for the company's marketing and business development activities; Mario C. Grech, Chairman, Middlesea Group; Mark A Guillaumier, Chief Executive, Malta Stock Exchange; Dr. Neville Gatt, Partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers; and Dr Louis de Gabriele, Partner - Camilleri Preziosi & Associates And FIMBank General Manager Ray Busuttil.
A number of the foreign speakers also gave their views and contributed towards the success of this event namely Insight Investment’s top executives Richard Robinson, Director Strategic Relationships, Insight Investment Management Limited, Alex Illingworth, Director Global Equity Funds, Insight Investment Management Limited and Mark Connolly, Managing Director Institutional, Insight Investment Management Limited. Other speakers included Lilia Abdelwahed, Director of International Relations, Cofib Capital Finances of Tunisia and Shireen Alkady, Chairman, Prime Asset Management.
The Conference, sponsored by Bank of Valletta and Insight Investment was also supported by the Malta Financial Service Authority, the Malta Stock Exchange, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Camilleri Preziosi and Associates and the Corinthia Group.

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
The Malta Financial & Business Times, Newsworks Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann
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