Mark Mallia has gone from serving as Deputy Commander of the Armed Forces of Malta to leading Identity Malta Agency. The role may be different, but his commitment to motivating those around him and instilling the belief necessary to reach the highest possible performance standards remains the same.

When looking for somebody to run an organisation with military precision, Mark Mallia is the man for the role. Before he was appointed CEO of Identity Malta in January 2022, he had already served 25 years in the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM), most recently as Deputy Commander – a military career that equipped him with a wealth of management experience. A graduate of the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, he was already leading a team of 40 as a 20-year-old officer. Later, he would head the AFM’s human resources branch and serve as senior aide-de-camp to the President of Malta, managing many national events in his five years in the role.

“Without a doubt, these experiences taught me how to understand people’s needs, how to balance teams so as to achieve our intended goals, how to listen to concerns and address them without sacrificing momentum, and how to get people on board,” Mark says. “No man is an island, and a leader can only ever be as successful as their team. Having a motivated workforce is crucial.”

The CEO’s work ethos also reveals his military background. “My guiding principle is to strive for excellence,” he says. “I always reiterate that we should all give 100 per cent and put in extra effort to achieve the best results possible. I set high performance standards and am never satisfied with less than that. I try to instil this in all my team members because I strongly believe in accountability and respect towards others. That is why I endeavour to demonstrate these principles myself, for others to follow.”

Mark’s background has also equipped him with a desire to support and assist those around him. Asked about his landmark career moments, he highlights the successful coordination of several L-Istrina events, as well as concluding a sectoral agreement which saw the largest-ever pay increase for AFM members. “More than 1,800 uniformed members and their families benefitted from a substantial rise in their take-home pay,” he explains. “It made a big difference in their lives.”

So, while the nature of the job may have changed, the parts that Mark finds most enjoyable come as no surprise. “I like witnessing satisfied clients,” he says. “Whenever we provide a service that meets – or, even better, exceeds – our clients’ expectations, it fills me with great satisfaction. Leading and motivating our workforce is also something I continue to cherish in my managerial positions.”

These priorities served Mark very well as he transitioned into his first year as CEO of Identity Malta, the Government’s umbrella agency for passports, visas, identity cards, residency documents, public deed registration and other matters relating to identity. “Every Maltese citizen and resident will, at some point, use one or more of Identity Malta’s services, beginning right away with the registration of their birth,” he says. “As CEO, I have to drive the agency towards reaching our intended goals, ensuring we provide excellent customer service without jeopardising the security of our citizens’ and residents’ identity.”

Identity Malta was established in 2013 and, in the years before Mark joined the agency, it had relocated several of its services to new, modern, accessible facilities in Msida and Marsa. It had also opened a new office at Mater Dei Hospital to facilitate birth and death registrations. What’s more, it was also transitioning from the slow, paper-based procedures of the past to faster and more efficient digital platforms, offering the public access to services online.

“Thanks to these investments, Identity Malta has managed to simplify many processes, but not at the expense of security checks and verifications,” Mark explains. “These technological advancements are reflected in the highly secure documents we provide, such as passports, identity cards and residence permits, as well as the high level of security assurance we have received both locally and at an EU level.”

When Mark was appointed CEO in January 2022, Malta was slowly emerging from the uncertainty of the pandemic and there was a clear sense that demand for the agency’s services, including passports and visas, would soon spike. When it came, that demand was overwhelming. “People started planning journeys abroad once again, and many realised that their passports had expired or were about to expire,” Mark recalls. “The number of clients we served from April to August was unprecedented and we had to shift our operations to meet that demand.”

Dealing with the situation required urgent hiring and training of new staff and close collaboration with the Ministry for Foreign and European Affairs and Trade, diplomatic missions abroad and other stakeholders. “I visited every office and explained our situation and what we should do to succeed. I discussed plans for the way forward, and I asked them to own it. When changes to the original plan were needed, we made them together, as a team,” Mark says. “For me, seeing the backlog and pressure cleared, and the satisfaction in our employees’ eyes, was invaluable.”

With those challenges successfully behind him, Mark’s sights are now set on the road ahead. First on the agenda is the conclusion of a three-year plan, extending to 2023, to innovate and simplify existing work practices by eliminating unnecessary bureaucracy and inefficiency. “While the agency is leading digital transformation and expanding the number of services available online, its main goal is to deliver a high[1]quality public service while maintaining the value of face-to[1]face customer interaction,” Mark explains.

Additional exciting developments are on the way in the form of new advancements in identity security. In fact, Identity Malta recently commissioned and installed state-of-the-art biometric collection equipment at the Expatriates Unit and Passport Office, enabling a faster and more effective process. “Since this biometric data is of a superior quality, such that errors are almost non-existent, the system has reduced queues and waiting times,” Mark explains. “These devices will be particularly important when we conduct an identity card release in 2024, as the cards issued when Identity Malta was first established will expire at that time. The new devices will help us tremendously.”

Meanwhile, plans to centralise the agency’s operations in Gozo into a new one-stop shop are already at an advanced stage. Discussions are also underway to further integrate online systems with other relevant stakeholders, as well as to digitise more of the agency’s services. “We need to make our services more efficient and less bureaucratic, but we will be likewise sending a strong message that those who attempt to abuse the system will be caught and will face the consequences at law,” Mark says. “We are here to ensure we meet our clients’ needs in the least possible time, but not at the risk of lining anyone’s pockets.”

Mark is also keen to stress that, for all the vital investments taking place, the change he is after must also come from within, and it is one he is eager to spearhead. “I intend to nurture a more positive work culture at Identity Malta, to keep motivating our employees and promote better job performance,” he says. “I have always strived to create a team that works not because they must, or because they fear their leader, but out of respect and belief in the intended plan, goals and objectives.”

This article is part of the serialisation of 50 interviews featured in MaltaCEOs 2023 – the sister brand to and an annual high-end publication bringing together some of the country’s most influential business leaders

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