Registered in 1992, V&C Contractors fast became one of Malta’s leading construction companies. Building upon these solid origins with strategic diversification, V&C Group has since evolved to trailblaze positive change on the island by improving infrastructure, creating jobs, and promoting sustainability across sectors from manufacturing and education to real estate and retail. As CEO since 2019, Christabelle Camilleri directs the group towards new opportunities to invest in Malta’s future.

V&C Group CEO Christabelle Camilleri’s life has always centred around showcasing the best of Malta. While her family focused on constructing the island’s future as V&C Contractors, Christabelle pursued an entirely different career path as an award-winning singer and songwriter, repeatedly representing her home country in major international competitions and concerts. Yet, while she initially had no interest in joining the family firm, her part in forging Malta’s future would soon change forever.

“Singing and songwriting was an enjoyable chapter in my life, now closed for good. It’s been a long and winding road from that career to this but, once I dipped my toe into the family business, before I knew it, I was totally immersed,” Christabelle shares, outlining her extensive arts and design experience, and a background that includes a Master’s degree in Accountancy, a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Accountancy and Marketing, and working as an Associate at PwC. “In 2016, I joined V&C Group as a Finance Manager, working my way up through the construction, development, retail, education, and hospitality industries.”

During Christabelle’s time climbing the career ladder at V&C, she oversaw the launch of an education company named Lil’Ville Childcare™; the purchase of Bitmac Ltd; the operations and finances of V&C Contractors, V&C Developments and V&C Investments Ltd; and the purchase and operations of all the hotels within the Group’s hospitality portfolio – while simultaneously overseeing all employees and operations under V&C. Appointed CFO in 2018 and CEO in 2019, today Christabelle continues to thrive in her fast-paced lifestyle at the helm of the widely diversified Group.

“My watershed moment was convincing my family to diversify the business, particularly our successful foray into top-notch childcare and educational facilities around the country,” she says, referring to Lil’Ville Childcare™ and her creation of Benny Bunny™. This fun character introduces young children to important roles in society, such as chefs, artists or postal workers. “I always had a deep interest in education. In fact, my Master’s dissertation focused on setting up a private school, so, when I worked with the rest of the Group directors to diversify, I grabbed the opportunity – and Lil’Ville was born and quickly flourished.”

Indeed, diversification may well be one of V&C’s greatest achievements and Christabelle’s most enduring legacy as CEO. “V&C started off in the construction business three decades ago and worked exclusively on growing in size and professionalising its services,” she explains. “More recently, we branched into different areas and eventually consolidated ourselves into a Group. We are now involved in hospitality, retail, real estate, manufacturing, education, pharmaceuticals, and medicals, and I am proud to say that we are holding our own on all fronts.”

With such rapid momentum and diversity, both Christabelle’s daily routine and leadership style of the busy and dynamic team require a flexible approach. “There is no typical day – and that is part of the joy and satisfaction of my work,” she shares. “Diversification has meant that I live my day in compartmentalised parts, which very often have nothing to do with one another. I love the rush of shifting from full-on concentration on contracting one hour, to giving the same focus on retail the next. I try hard not to be a workaholic, but my husband tells me that I’m failing magnificently! Nevertheless, I am a firm believer in leading by example; in showing rather than just talking about how things ought to be done. I have an open-door policy, which is the best way for everyone in the firm to feel connected to our outfit and therefore remain loyal to it.”

As the Group’s CEO with “both hands on”, Christabelle shares that V&C’s people create its success. “We continuously reinvest in the company as well as in our employees – this is what drives us forward,” she says. “We remain humble, keeping both our feet on the ground, which I believe is key to the company’s steady success over the years, and are constantly striving to find the right people, which is one of our ongoing challenges.”

Christabelle’s spirit of adaptability and optimism was challenged by the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, which impacted each of the many sectors V&C now pioneers. “For business, as much as for individuals and governments, the pandemic was initially a completely unknown quantity. How should one deal with an invisible and unpredictable threat that was impacting the entire planet? When was it going to end? Which operations had to cease and what opportunities were opening up to better deal with it? While debating these questions, I was pleasantly surprised how Malta rose to the occasion,” Christabelle reflects.

“COVID-19, in some ways, brought us all to our senses. We rediscovered the value of things that we used to take for granted and realised that money is not the solution to everything,” she asserts. “The pandemic cloud’s silver lining is that I became closer to our employees. Operationally, we rapidly introduced flexible hours, online working and many other ancillary measures, and I switched from managing people to managing their time and performance, regardless of their location.”

Characteristically, Christabelle also recognised opportunity within the pandemic storm’s gale force: “the crisis clarified just how crucial our health is,” she notes. “Running with this idea, we added pharmaceuticals and medicals to our portfolio.”

In fact, this new addition joins the increasing number of substantial projects led by V&C. “Smart City was our flagship project and the one that put us on the corporate map,” recalls Christabelle. “Everything we do aims to enhance the economy and create a better future for Malta. We formed part of the Central Link joint venture and are also key players in the construction and implementation of proper infrastructure of over 70 roads. Today, we are also in the final stages of creating the country’s largest concert area in Ta’ Qali and building a heated Olympic-size pool in Cottonera, next to the Sports Complex.”

While shaping Malta’s future, Christabelle also ensures that V&C’s signature sustainability drives every project. “We are ISO 14,001 certified for Environmental Management Systems,” she says. “Our asphalt plant uses recycled earth, which we use for new roads. We also break down excavation material and repurpose it in our infrastructural projects. Our offices are powered by a small solar farm and we have reverse osmosis systems in all the companies. Throughout the Group, we reduce, reuse and recycle.”

V&C Group is also positively impacting Malta’s community with corporate social responsibility initiatives and donations of resources and funds to organisations including Richmond Foundation, L-Istrina, ALS Malta, Smiles with Miles, Malta Trust Foundation, Id-Dar tal-Providenza, and Dar il-Kaptan. “During the pandemic we provided free accommodation to frontliners and are in the process of setting up our own mental health foundation,” Christabelle reveals.

For the coming year and beyond, the CEO visualises a bright future and a wealth of opportunities for her home nation. “The post- pandemic era is going to be a ‘ground zero’ of sorts. We need to rethink how we do business, consume, communicate, think, and manage. I predict that there will be as many new opportunities as new pitfalls – and the future will belong to those who grab the former and avoid the latter. At V&C, our diversification drive will strategically and smartly continue to grow stronger, as we venture into foreign markets,” she concludes.

This article is part of the serialisation of 50 interviews featured in MaltaCEOs 2022 – an annual high-end publication bringing together some of the country’s most influential business leaders.

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