IFS Malta contributes to study on International Comparison of Investment Qualifications
The future’s looking bright for Malta. With annual growth predicted at three per cent until 2019 and the recent upgrade of its credit rating to A- by Standard & Poor’s, Malta has cemented its place as one of the top regional destinations for financial services, iGaming, tourism, and high-end manufacturing. There has never been a more exciting time to be an accountant and, not surprisingly, the nation’s economy took centre stage at the Malta Institute of Accountants (MIA) New Members’ Ceremony, which was held last month at the Mediterranean Conference Centre (MCC) in Valletta.
With 1,000 guests filling the Republic Hall, MIA president, Franco Azzopardi welcomed 211 new members joining the ranks of Malta’s accountancy professionals. “As Malta’s largest professional body, MIA represents some 3,000 accountants, while supporting the formation of 1,800 students,” Mr Azzopardi said.
Present at the ceremony were representatives of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, The University of IFS Malta was one of the contributors to a new study published recently which compares European investment qualification schemes in terms of their organisation, structure, and conformity with the requirements of the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID II).
The MiFID II seeks to facilitate the migration of the European regulatory landscape from a principles-based philosophy toward a more US-style rulesbased regulatory regime. One of its objectives is to improve investor protection by harmonising qualifications on an international level. IFS Malta was able to participate in this initiative through its membership in the European Banking & Financial Services Training Association (EBTN).
The aim of the International Comparison of Investment Qualifications was to form an overall picture of how the competencies required of personnel providing investment advice are regulated and self-regulated in Europe. Particular focus was on investment service qualifications and Malta and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, which are the three main routes to membership with the MIA.
With increased foreign direct investment and a flourishing services sector, Malta needs to substantially increase the number of new accountancy graduates their different forms. A key element in improving consumer protection is ensuring that the personnel who provide investment services have sufficient levels of knowledge and competence.
The implementation of the MiFID II package will give investment qualifications more weight in the regulatory framework. The assessment of the knowledge and competence of people employed in certain tasks has been part of national self-regulation, and has not been previously required by any EU legislation. In the future, a higher level of knowledge and competence will be required from personnel that give investment advice than from personnel that only give information on investment products and services. The deadline of MiFID II implementation each year in order to sustain its growth. Over the last few years, Malta has had to draft in over a hundred foreign accountants annually in order to meet the local market’s demands.
While local accountants are highly sought after, it is important that the requirement for a strong moral and ethical disposition is January 2018.
IFS Malta Vice President and EBTN Executive Committee and Board member Peter Calleya said: “This is a very interesting study which assesses different investment qualifications across Europe in the light of MiFID II requirements. Participating directly in this study was very useful and beneficial for IFS Malta as currently we are proactively working to raise the standards in the area of investment qualifications for the benefit of the Maltese financial services sector and society in general.”
The study was commissioned by the Federation of Finnish Financial Services and APV Investment Examinations Ltd. The information was collected qualitatively through a questionnaire from members of EBTN, from interviews, and from public internet sources. The sample included 16 countries.
The full study is available on the IFS Malta website at www.ifsmalta.org is not pushed aside. Quantity and quality are synonymous and should go hand in hand – a sentiment that was echoed in the speech of guest speaker and former MIA president, Frederick Mifsud Bonnici, who was representing the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.
Also speaking at the event was Joseph N. Tabone, who was appointed MIA’s second president soon after Malta’s independence from Great Britain. He went on to play a significant role in strengthening MIA’s current international connections, having been among the first officials in 1973 to hold meetings with the then-president of the Association of Certified Accountants in London, now known as Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). Thanks to these early initiatives, Maltese students are today eligible to qualify for the MIA and ACCA examinations, subject to country-specific regulations.
Liz Hughes, the ACCA head of Mainland Europe and Ireland, also addressed the event. ACCA, she stated, supported some 188,000 members and 480,000 students in 178 countries, and this global reach helps Maltese accountants to develop successful careers both locally and overseas. The need for convergence between the main business education sources has become more crucial than ever. This point was raised by Prof. Frank Bezzina, the Dean for the Faculty of Economics, Management and Accountancy at the University of Malta – the leading source for tertiary accountancy education on the island, producing some 100 accountancy graduates annually. Prof. Bezzina appealed to all stakeholders in the field to work closer together in their efforts to strengthen the appeal and values of this sector. The latter point was also brought up by Franco Azzopardi, who said that in spite of the 10 per cent growth in MIA membership in 2015, more efforts were needed to further promote the accountancy profession on the island. As part of its on-going efforts to achieve this aim, MIA has broadened its communications efforts significantly, targeting not only the profession and its members, but the public-at-large, including students, the business community and even other NGOs. During the last 12 months, MIA has embarked on an aggressive marketing drive, making use of traditional media channels such as the press, but also through email marketing and social media – with daily updates on the Institute’s newly set-up Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and G+ pages, reaching well over 300,000 people in a just a few months.
The 211 new MIA members
MIA president Franco Azzopardi with former president Joseph N Tabone