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Prof. Andrew Muscat, managing partner

Prof. Andrew Muscat explains how Mamo TCV Advocates is adapting to clients' changing needs.

What do you see as the main points that differentiate Mamo TCV from your competitors?

We have always sought to foster a work-ethic based on excellence and the highest professional standards, which has consistently earned us the recognition and praise of our clients and peers.

The firm also encourages its lawyers to take an academic interest in their areas of practice and a significant number of our partners and associates lecture in graduate and/or post-graduate courses and regularly address seminars and conferences, both locally and overseas.

Our firm’s capacity is such that we are able to offer in-depth legal advice across a wide spectrum of practice areas, making us one of the top-tier full-service law firms in Malta.

One further aspect that we are particularly proud of is the spirit of camaraderie that permeates throughout the firm. There is a strong team-spirit that makes the working environment at Mamo TCV very pleasant for our lawyers and helps us attract the best talent.

What practices do you see growing in the next 12 months? What are the drivers behind that?

We believe that the main growth areas over the next 12 months will be the following:

  • (i) Capital Markets

The capital markets sector has been gathering momentum over recent years. A number of local initiatives being promoted by the local authorities are bound to take this sector to a considerably busier level. For example, the Malta Stock Exchange has recently launched a national capital markets strategic plan with a view to modernising the Maltese capital markets in order to compete effectively with other European exchanges. In this respect, there have been proposed amendments to the existing Listing Rules to cater for the possibility of listing Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) and Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), the creation of a new regulated market for wholesale securities, the development of Islamic capital markets products and various tax incentives. The reception to these initiatives has been positive and we are confident that we will be seeing more capital markets-related mandates in the next 12 months.

  • (ii) Financial Services (Banking, Insurance and Investment Funds – maybe with reference to Brexit)

The financial services sector continues to post excellent results and is regarded as one of the major contributors to the country’s GDP (8.5%). We believe that Malta has all the ingredients to continue to develop and grow its financial services sector.

The banking sector now hosts some of the safest and most liquid institutions with a total asset base close to the Eur50billion mark and appears to be going through a consolidation phase. On the other hand, the non-bank financial sector continues to expand. In fact, we are seeing a considerable increase in the interest in the sector related to payment institutions. Likewise, the strong and healthy growth of the i-gaming and e-commerce industries coupled with a solid legal regime, is pushing the number of stand-alone electronic money institutions being set up in Malta.

The investment services sector continues to register further growth. The recent implementation of the AIFMD has opened the sector to more opportunities to expand internationally. In fact, this is one of the areas where we anticipate major growth as the increase in the number of AIF managers continued to strengthen the investment management sector thereby providing greater market access.

Last year, the insurance sector experienced remarkable regulatory developments following the implementation of the Solvency II framework. The sector has absorbed the impact of the new legalisation and continues to attract interest from international players who wish to set up or re-domicile their re(insurance) carrier. Malta offers certain unique features when compared to other EU domiciles. For example, Malta is the only EU member state to offer Protected Cell Company legislation. We believe that following the increase in the reporting and capital requirements under Solvency II, this innovative corporate structure shall be increasingly resorted to by current captive owners looking at a cost-effective alternative to the traditional stand-alone captive. In addition, Brexit may prove to be an interesting opportunity for Malta as UK-based insurers will be looking at setting up a subsidiary within the EU in order to continue to service their EU-based portfolio of business and continue to benefit from the single passport mechanism.

  • (iii) Aviation

The Aviation industry has been one of the main industries which has developed ‘on the ground’ in Malta. Although Malta has consistently acted as a base for a number of aircraft operators, recent legislative incentives and attention given to the further development of the sector has seen a significant increase in the presence of operators in Malta.

The aviation operators which currently operate in and from Malta have the capacity of operating a number of aircraft ranging from the traditional commercial civil carrier (Airbus A320, A330, A340, B 737, B757, B767, Bombardier, ATR) and the modern business jet (all ranges from Gulfstream, Bombardier, Dassault, Cessna, Pilatus…). These operators are complemented by a number of authorised maintenance organisations present on the ground, thus rendering Malta, Europe’s prime aviation hotspot.

This significant presence of key players in Malta, has invariably led for the requirement of specialist legal assistance in order to address the various needs of such operators.

Malta also offers significant solutions for the importation of aircraft in the European Union. These coupled with the accessibility of Customs and VAT authorities has seen to a significant increase of aircraft importation in and through Malta. Malta allows for exempt importation for commercial aircraft (registered in any jurisdiction under and operator’s Air Operator Certificate) together with possible VAT mitigation initiatives for private aircraft.

  • (iv) Yachting

We anticipate that there should be significant growth in the yachting sector. Whilst this sector has grown strongly over the past ten years and Malta is today considered as a market leader; a looming Brexit and problems with the French commercial vessel exemption rules will invariably see Malta’s further consolidation as a jurisdiction of choice.

  • (v) Regulatory Enforcement and Litigation and Insolvency Work

Following the incorporation and licensing of significant numbers of financial services companies in Malta over the past years, some of these companies are facing financial difficulties, or otherwise have been the subject of regulatory investigations or enforcement action or have challenged certain decisions that may have been taken in their regard by the competent authorities. We believe that this forms part of the natural cycle which a dynamic domicile such as Malta inevitably experiences over the years. We are receiving an increasing amount of new instructions in connection with such matters. Our extensive experience in regulatory work as well as our strong litigation department have made us the firm of choice for many clients particularly in the regulated sectors.

Furthermore, our litigation department has also been consistently involved in the repossession of assets based in Malta (aircraft, ships or yachts) or otherwise owned through Maltese vehicles. Given the current down turn in the ship owning market and the lack of guaranteed consistency in the scheduled aircraft charter market, we believe that Malta could be at the forefront of certain repossession actions.

What’s the main change you’ve made in the firm that will benefit clients?

One of the challenges that our firm has sought to address is the need to cater for the specific exigencies of our international clients – for example, that they are often based in different time zones. We are often involved in transactions across multiple jurisdictions and our round-the-clock availability is earning us praise from our clients.

We have also refined our policy on flexible billing arrangements and are stressing on the importance of building lasting relations with all our clients, making them feel that they are in the best of hands.

While I would not call it a change in the firm, I should mention that we are making significant efforts to continue to build on our strong ties with international law firms and firms operating in other jurisdictions in order to be able to refer clients requiring assistance overseas to professionals of the highest calibre.

Is technology changing the way you interact with your clients, and the services you can provide them?

Mamo TCV is committed to maximise the use of all available technological tools, with a view to providing the best service to our clients. We have recently launched a new, more user-friendly website and rolled out a new video and teleconferencing system. We are also in the process of updating our entire practice and time management systems and we are confident that these tools will facilitate the manner in which we interact with our clients.

Insofar as services are concerned, we are constantly building on our library of precedents and the manner in which they are made available throughout the firm and have recently undertaken a study on the desirability of an interactive client portal on our website.

Can you give us a practical example of how you have helped a client to add value to their business?

One recent experience where we helped a client add value to its business was when we were approached by a client whose in-house counsel resigned and was in urgent need of day-to-day legal and regulatory advice. We immediately discussed the matter with one of our senior associates who was immediately seconded to the client on a temporary basis thereby filling the gap left by the departure of the client’s in-house counsel. This solution was actually beneficial to the firm, the client and also to the lawyer who was seconded, who had the opportunity to get a more thorough understanding of the client’s operations.

Are clients looking for stability and strategic direction from their law firms – where do you see the firm in three years’ time?

As one of Malta’s largest and most established firms, we pride ourselves in the stability we offer to our clients and I believe that this is yet another characteristic we should be proud of.

Insofar as strategic direction is concerned, we always endeavour to identify the best and most effective legal solutions for our clients and are sensitive to the commercial realities surrounding any matter that we are asked to advise upon. In doing so, we would work with the client’s board of directors or senior management team/s. One area that we typically get involved in is the structuring and drafting of internal policies and procedures to ensure compliance with applicable regulatory or legal requirements, particularly for public-interest or listed companies.

In three years’ time, I envisage that the firm will have maintained its top-tier status and will have grown and further diversified its client base. The firm will remain committed to attracting and moulding the best talent. I am convinced that the firm will continue to command the esteem of its clients and peers, thereby remaining at the forefront of the Maltese legal industry.

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