MeDirect Bank Malta CEO Arnaud Denis has proposed that given the opportunities presented through research and development (R&D), Malta has the potential to become a southern European version of the US’ Silicon Valley.
He was speaking in a panel discussion during EY Malta’s Future Realised Conference, held on Wednesday at the Mediterranean Conference Centre. During the event, the results of the corporate service provider’s latest Attractiveness Survey were presented.
The panel discussion, moderated by EY Malta and Cyprus Country Managing Partner Ronald Attard, included Mr Denis, Bank of Valletta CEO Kenneth Farrugia, HSBC Malta CEO Geoffrey Fichte, APS Bank CEO Marcel Cassar, Farsons Group CEO Norman Aquilina, and Malta Enterprise CEO Kurt Farrugia as panellists. The aim of the discussion was to get the general feeling of some of Malta’s key business leaders about the results, together with what needs to be done to ensure a sustainable economic future.
Mr Denis, who leads MeDirect, a digital bank that has grown steadily in recent years, primarily referred to a finding in the survey that said that just 25 per cent of the 130 existing foreign direct investment (FDI) companies surveyed viewed R&D and the innovation environment as a factor contributing to Malta’s attractiveness for investors. This was a minor improvement over last year’s result, yet it still ranked on the lower end of the attractiveness chart.
He noted that this result “struck” him, as the team at MeDirect is experiencing a “much more positive experience” than portrayed in the survey. Mr Denis proceeded to attribute this to five key signals of the opportunities for R&D present in Malta’s economy.
“I want to highlight the impact of the iGaming sector which has produced a steady amount of engineers and tech professionals. In fact, as MeDirect, we have taken on board most of our engineers from that sector,” he said.
He also remarked that although the Fintech and blockchain ecosystem is “still small”, it is “steadily growing and expanding”.
Within the banking space, R&D has also witnessed a massive change through the increased popularity of digital banking application Revolut. Mr Denis said that it is “hard to ignore what Revolut has done and it is not going to stop”, and as a result, local banks “must react”.
Additionally, he was full of praise for the amount of cybersecurity leaders with teams in Malta, noting that this is a “very positive sign” as it indicates that there is “growing digital activity” within the economy.
Lastly, he also highlighted a number of Government-led initiatives, such as those by the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA), that can, and have, driven innovation in banking, together with other industries.
“I think that overall, these factors create a good base for a thriving ecosystem,” he emphasised.
In addition to this, he said that adopting emerging technologies is “high up” on many local businesses’ priorities, and one needs to consider how many companies will live on generative AI.
“I think that Malta has the potential to project itself as a southern Europe Silicon Valley,” he said, referring to the US-based high technology and innovation hub. However, for this to happen, Malta also needs to “attract engineers together with fulfil a number of other key factors,” Mr Denis concluded.
MeDirect Bank Malta CEO Arnaud Denis / LinkedIn
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