A lawyer by profession, Geraldine Spiteri Lucas was appointed registrar of compass and Malta Business Registry CEO in 2021. With that role came a host of responsibilities related to the overall management and performance of the registry, as well as the strategic development and implementation of the business register.

As the Registrar of Companies, the powers vested in Malta Business Registry CEO Geraldine Spiteri Lucas derive from the Companies Act, as well as subsidiary legislation issued under the Companies Act and the Second Schedule of the Civil Code.

Her career within the MBR began with the position of Legal Officer with the Registry of Companies. Since then, the Registry of Companies has evolved into a standalone agency, and Geraldine was appointed Head of Legal at the Legal and Enforcement Unit before assuming the roles of Registrar of Companies and CEO.

Looking back on her journey prior to her current position, Geraldine says she has witnessed a huge change in the role of the Registrar. “As a Registry, we’ve always carried out basic checks. However, nowadays, we do extensive checks, we screen all involvements, we assign a risk score to each and every company, we carry out on-site inspections on beneficial ownership information, and we ensure that companies are keeping their profile up-todate in case default penalties are issued and enforced through judicial means when required,” she explains, highlighting that employees are aware of the risks and the general public is aware that the MBR is one of the important gatekeepers when it comes to legal persons in this regard.

Since her appointment, the CEO has also made her presence felt, despite the waters she needed to navigate not always being calm.

“To ensure that an efficient service is offered, I segregated the Registry Unit into three teams, making certain that every team is specialised in a relevant area – whether it is the inception or closing of a company, notifications to be filed during the existence of a company, sector-specific expertise relating to shipping companies, financial services companies and PLCs, or more complex transactions like changes in currency, division, crossborder mergers, conversions, and amalgamations,” she maintains.

“When you work with a government agency, Malta’s success becomes your success and vice versa,” the CEO says. “But I wouldn’t be able to fulfil any of this without MBR’s dynamic team. Our employees are our most valuable asset, and they give their 100 per cent in whatever they do and at every level.”

Geraldine’s ethos as a leader centres on acting with passion, respect and gratitude. “You need to love what you do, your job and your employees, and to show appreciation for all the effort everyone puts into their tasks. In turn, this provides a positive customer experience to all our clients,” she maintains.

And her personal ethos, the CEO believes, fits nicely with the MBR’s mission: “to provide the best possible service expeditiously and impartially to our customers, working cost-effectively with state-of-the-art facilities to incorporate companies, and to register and inspect company documents. Beyond that, we provide stakeholders with adequate, accurate and easily accessible registers, undertake effective enforcement, and maintain Malta’s global reputation as a jurisdiction of choice. And, finally, we ensure that the legislative frameworks that govern businesses are efficient, up-to-date with international standards, responsive, user and investor-friendly, and aligned with the right legislative tools to combat crime, money laundering and financing of terrorism.”

Looking back on her landmark moments, Geraldine smiles, “when Malta was placed on the grey list, the MBR faced an action plan regarding the effectiveness of the law on beneficial owners. The most rewarding moment for me was when I heard the declaration that Malta was back on the white list.”

Geraldine also highlights her election to the Corporate Registries Forum, an association comprising more than 70 international corporate registries. “It marks the first time that Malta has had a representative on such a prestigious platform,” she explains. She expresses her pride in the fact that Malta was chosen to host the Annual Conference of the Corporate Registries Forum, welcoming nearly 200 attendees from around the world over four days last October.

Then, in November, the team went on to launch a fully-fledged online system through which all types of commercial entities can be incorporated or dissolved online, all notifications can be filed online and all certificates from MBR’s end are also generated using a qualified signature.

Speaking of the new online platform, Geraldine explains that, first off, MBR gave the opportunity to all company officers – together with their shareholders and company service providers or advisors – to obtain a qualified signature free of charge. “That signature is equivalent to a wet signature and therefore is recognised everywhere,” she maintains, noting that the online system provides a more efficient and unique experience to the user, allowing them to file any notifications any time they want and/or incorporate companies or file for dissolution from the comfort of their home or office.

Furthermore, she continues, “the system will remind the user of annual notifications if penalties were imposed for late filing of documents and will provide guidance when two notifications or more need to be filed for a transaction. The system ensures that data is the same across all companies.”

Against the backdrop of an ever-evolving business landscape, Geraldine remains steadfast in the crucial work carried out by MBR, also commending the business community in Malta and beyond, noting that, in the face of unprecedented challenges, businesses worldwide have demonstrated remarkable resilience, showcasing their ability to adapt, innovate and stabilise.

“The global business landscape has weathered economic uncertainties, supply chain disruptions and shifts in consumer behaviour, all the while emerging stronger and more robust,” she maintains, attributing this, in part, to the rapid adoption of digital technologies. “The pandemic accelerated that digital transformation, forcing businesses to embrace online platforms, remote work solutions and e-commerce. This shift allowed companies to reach customers beyond geographical boundaries, ensuring a steady flow of revenue even amidst lockdowns and restrictions.”

Furthermore, the CEO notes, businesses have become adept at diversifying their supply chains and embracing local sourcing options. “This approach has reduced the impact of international disruptions, ensuring a continuous supply of essential goods and services, with companies having also focused on sustainable practices, responding to consumers’ growing environmental concerns. By adopting eco-friendly initiatives, businesses not only contribute to a healthier planet but also appeal to environmentally conscious consumers, bolstering their market stability.”

Government interventions and support programmes have played a crucial role as well. “Many nations implemented stimulus packages and financial aid to help businesses stay afloat during challenging times. These measures provided essential lifelines, enabling businesses to retain employees, invest in technology and adapt their strategies to the changing market demands,” Geraldine affirms, stating that the business community has also displayed remarkable adaptability and creativity. “Companies have diversified their product offerings, explored new markets and redefined their marketing strategies. This flexibility has not only ensured their survival but also paved the way for sustained growth.”

Thus, collaboration and resilience have been the cornerstone of business stabilisation, the CEO says, adding that networking and partnerships within industries and communities have allowed businesses to share resources, ideas and best practices. “This collaborative spirit has fostered a sense of unity, creating a supportive environment where businesses can thrive despite adversities.”

In conclusion, Geraldine maintains, “the lessons learnt during these testing times have made businesses more adaptable, innovative and prepared to face future challenges with confidence. As we move forward, this spirit of resilience and collaboration will continue to be the driving force behind the stability of businesses worldwide.”

This article is part of the serialisation of 50 interviews featured in MaltaCEOs 2024 – the sister brand to MaltaCEOs.mt and an annual high-end publication bringing together some of the country’s most influential business leaders

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