From investment advice and stockbroking to discretionary portfolio management and more, MZ Investments has become a go-to financial advisory firm in Malta, working with loyal client base over the past 25 years. At the core of this success is CEO Martin Zahra, whose values rooted in personalised service and human connections define every client interaction.

When considering where to invest your hard-earned money – especially in the unpredictable world of financial markets – there’s one thing that matters above all else: trust. You want to be confident that your investments are in the hands of someone who truly has your best interests at heart. For a quarter of a century, Martin Zahra, the CEO of MZ Investments, has made it his mission to provide just that.

MZ Investments is a boutique firm that Martin built from the ground up, and which remains firmly anchored in the principle of always putting the client first. Through word of mouth and a commitment to this core value, MZ Investments has not only grown but also attracted a steadily expanding client base.

As Martin explains: “my greatest satisfaction in my work comes from connecting with my clients, and meeting people face-to-face. Even today, I continue to meet with clients personally. Of course, I have a team of advisors to assist me, but I believe it’s essential for me to understand my clients on a personal level – to get to know them, their families and their unique needs. My goal has never been to become the biggest broker in Malta. I aspire to remain boutique so that we can maintain a strong human element in our services.”

Before taking the entrepreneurial route, Martin enjoyed an 18-year career at one of Malta’s leading banks. During his time there, he discovered a passion for investments, which led him to pursue further education in London, where he carefully selected courses that would equip him with the knowledge and skills needed to eventually establish his own financial services company.

“There was no one in my family who had ventured into this line of business before, so it was a challenging experience. There was a lot I had to figure out on my own. But when I look back, I feel an immense sense of pride in what I’ve accomplished,” Martin shares, reflecting on his journey. “I’ve always believed that with determination and hard work, you can make any project succeed.”

As the business began to flourish, MZ Investments secured a Category 2 Investment Services licence from the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA). This pivotal step expanded their offerings to encompass a broader spectrum of investment services, including investment advice, executing orders on behalf of clients and managing portfolios. Then, in 2016, the company acquired a stockbroking licence, further solidifying its position in the financial industry.

Growth has been gradual yet steady, and Martin attests that he has been particularly fortunate in recruiting the right talent who possess a deep understanding of the local market and, crucially, can cater to the predominantly Maltese client base that MZ Investments serves.

“At MZ Investments, we don’t employ salespeople; we have advisors,” he explains. “Our primary commitment is to safeguard our clients, not to push our own agendas. Our advisors listen to our clients, taking the time to understand their unique circumstances and what stage they are at in their lives. We then provide tailored financial advice that suits their specific situation. Every client brings a unique story.”

Martin also emphasises that while many financial institutions have eagerly embraced automation and technological solutions, he remains committed to ensuring that his clients can always find real people ready to assist them on the other end of the line. Personalised service and face-to-face meetings take precedence; another aspect which he takes great pride in.

All of these factors have laid the foundation for building trust. Clients have peace of mind knowing that Martin and his team are actively working to minimise risks and striving to keep their investments as secure as possible. However, the world often has its own plans. Since its inception, MZ Investments has weathered various global events that have wreaked havoc on financial markets, ranging from the bursting of the tech bubble and the tragic events of 9/11, to more recent challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Martin candidly acknowledges: “we never want to let our clients down, but certain situations are beyond everyone’s control. That’s why it’s crucial for us to stay at the forefront of the industry and remain hyper-aware of global events. In doing so, when these unforeseen situations do arise, we can act swiftly on behalf of our clients and minimise losses.”

Central to managing and reducing such risks is MZ Investments’ discretionary portfolio management service. This offering was introduced in 2016 in response to today’s fast-paced world where simply providing investment advice is no longer sufficient when the financial landscape can undergo drastic shifts in a matter of days and weeks. With discretionary portfolio management, clients put the decision-making power in the capable hands of MZ Investments, who can act swiftly to reduce risks.

The past year has presented other challenges, including the rapid introduction of new regulations, which has made it demanding for smaller teams like MZ Investments to stay on top of everything and implement necessary changes. Notably, there has been a significant shift towards ESG-compliant investments, with more clients seeking to align their investments with companies that take their environmental and community responsibilities seriously.

Certain regulations demand significant investment. Unlike larger firms with ample resources, we have to balance updating our systems and processes while attending to our clients’ needs. Another challenge is finding qualified compliance professionals. In Malta, the pool of such talent is limited, and it takes time to find the right people. Nevertheless, we are committed to working to overcome these challenges. Ultimately, we believe this is a step in the right direction.”

Regarding other ESG initiatives such as the push towards paperless transactions, Martin emphasises the importance of accommodating clients of all generations. He explains, “we cannot force our elder clients to go online or use certain mobile apps if they aren’t comfortable with it. We must respect their needs. Instead of sending them emails that they might not see, we might opt for SMS messages or phone calls. We aim to reduce paper usage while ensuring that they receive the information that is important to them.”

Given Martin’s grounded approach to business, it might seem unlikely that MZ Investments will be embracing AI solutions and newer financial instruments like cryptocurrencies anytime soon. However, the CEO is keen to point out that, while they would never hastily jump on any trend, if the right opportunity presents itself, he’s always open to considering it. Currently, they are also in the process of implementing more advanced mobile applications that can provide clients with more accurate updates on their investments.

“2024 marks our 25-year anniversary in business. This is a tremendous milestone for us. What fills me with even more pride is that my children are now actively involved in the business, joining me in paving the way for its future. We will continue to strive to be one of Malta’s leading financial services companies. More than anything else, we want our clients to always feel secure in knowing they can count on us whenever they need our advice and support,” Martin concludes.

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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