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Malta, already set to benefit from Brexit, gets ready for Crowdfunding, Cryptocurrency funds and ICO regulation - Roundtable

 

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Malta has rapidly emerged as one of Europe's fastest growing and most stable and innovative finance domiciles, benefitting from a sound commercial infrastructure, and an English-speaking business community with a strong platform of professionals able to service the needs fund promoters. Both the number of Malta based funds and fund managers operating from Malta have been growing steadily. "It has been a highly pleasant experience to come here. Everything is synchronized and works well together," says Hakon Haugnes, COO of Andurand Capital.

Push and pull factors in favor of Malta

A number of distinct push and pull factors come into play when analyzing a jurisdiction like Malta. Brexit is an issue and that creates some uncertainty, however at this time, UK based fund managers can keep their options open and decide first quarter of 2018 if they are going to move or if they are not going to move. Most are nimble and it's easy for them to move. But, having a Brexit hedge in place already today may also act as a edge over competing managers (page 7, 21).

The second point is that the UK dispensed with the non domicile tax regime, which provided some tax advantages to those not domiciled in the UK and acted as a safety valve for very high tax rates. Malta's special tax regime for highly qualified personnel has been very successful - a flat 15% tax rate for the first 5 million Euros and thereafter zero - and will continue to be a key driver for more and more highly qualified individuals to move to Malta, so that's an important pull factor.

The key push factor is a tax regime aimed specifically at UK hedge fund managers and private equity managers, called the Disguised Investment Management Fees (DIMF) is a powerful motivation for founders to leave the UK. Insiders say that "it's an extraordinarily bad piece of tax legislation, and as managers get to understand it, they are more inclined to leave the UK." (page 9, 21). On a personal level, people are happy to live there and enjoy the attributes of Malta including the sun, the weather, and crystal clear sea, good food - generally a great way of living, particularly for bringing up a family.

Crowdfunding, Cryptocurrency funds and ICOs: soon to be regulated?

The Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) has built a solid reputation as a meticulous, yet accessible, supervisory body, ensuring that the local industry is closely monitored and fully compliant. Most recently, the MFSA issued a consultation paper regarding crowdfunding and also proposed a regulatory framework for collective investment schemes that invest their entire portfolio in virtual currencies, essentially outlining a separate rule book for these types of funds. The regulator is also looking at ICOs (initial coin offerings) and suggests to regulate the issuers of (crypto currency) coins as regulated persons (page 15).

The Opalesque 2017 Malta Roundtable, sponsored by Apex Fund Services, took place at the office of the MFSA in Malta with:

  1. Professor Joseph Bannister, Chairman, Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA)
  2. Dr Christopher Buttigieg, Director Securities and Markets Supervision Unit, MFSA
  3. Dr Isabelle Agius, Senior Manager Regulatory Development Unit, MFSA
  4. Clare Farrugia, Senior Manager Securities and Markets Supervision Unit, MFSA
  5. Monika Salomon, Senior Manager Authorization Unit, MFSA
  6. David Butler, Founder, Green Day Advisors
  7. Andrew Zarb Mizzi, Chief Executive Officer, Swissquote Financial Services (Malta)
  8. Chris Portelli, Associate Partner, EY Malta
  9. Nicholas Warren, Senior Manager Financial Services, Chetcuti Cauchi Advocates
  10. Adam de Domenico, Founder and CEO, Cordium Malta
  11. Hakon Haugnes, COO, Andurand Capital
  12. Paulianne Nwoko, Managing Director, Apex Fund Services (Malta)
  13. Omar Cascun, Head of Business Development, Apex Fund Services (Malta)
The group also discussed:
  • Consequences of the ESA (European Supervisory Authorities) review for the asset management industry (page 6, 27)
  • Changes to Malta's Notified AIF regime (page 8)
  • Why Malta kept its Professional Investor Fund (PIF) regime when introducing AIMD - benefits for fund managers and investors (page 10, 11, 16)
  • What are the risks of crypto currency funds from a depository perspective? (page 14)
  • Substance versus outsourcing: In order to operate from Malta, fund managers need to have local substance (page 16-17)
  • What is the MFSA looking for when conducting on-site inspections? (page 18)
  • What could Brexit mean for Malta? (page 18-21) What should US managers know regarding Brexit? (page 21)
  • The safety consideration: A safe place to raise children (page 23)
  • Why Malta offers opportunities for all types of service providers (page 24)

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