What has been the impact of Covid-19 on industries across Malta?
This year has highlighted the importance of technology when it comes to conducting business, aside from the obvious increase in use of platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft teams, has the firm made any other innovations this year to ensure a better client experience?
By and large the industries that were most negatively affected in Malta were, and still are, the same as those across the world. All tourism related businesses bore the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic. When taking into consideration the wider effects from investment in tourism and its supply chain, the Malta’s tourism industry accounts for some 27% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In this respect, a substantial part of the workforce ground to a halt having a considerable impact on Malta GDP, with anticipated GDP growth forecast for 2020 at -7.7%. On the other hand the information and communication technology (ICT) sector in particular has performed exceptionally well throughout 2020.
2020 became a year of realigning expectations, regrouping and exploring new opportunities and as generally tends to be the case, when one does this; you soon discover that opportunities abound in all situations. We ensured that the restructuring and dispute resolution personnel stepped in to offer assistance to clients in the sectors worst affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
We also learnt the increased importance of being consistently agile. At no point in 2020 could we say there was a moment of certainty. This meant that strategy decisions could quickly become outdated. We had to keep a close eye not only on the measures and incentives being rolled out continuously by the Maltese government but also by other governments whose persons have interests in Malta.
This also meant internal communication, during a time of isolation became crucial. At a top management level we needed to stay on top of the constantly developing situation and adapt accordingly and quickly as possible. Consequently, each change in tack needed to be communicated to all personnel constantly to ensure that the perpetual change does not give the impression that no strategy was in place. The use of online communication platforms became essential both from an operational point of view and from an HR aspect.
Since becoming managing partner, what’s surprised you most about running a firm?
The need to anticipate and accept change is crucial and this easier said than done, particularly on a professional level. Letting go of certain aspects of the day to day legal work to which one has grown accustom over more than a decade of work is at times hard to digest. Specialisation has to make way for a broader view of the firm’s different practices, administrative and HR requirements.
The need to operate in the present and think in the future is crucial; but neither of the two can take precedence or outweigh the other.
How has your role/involvement in client-facing work changed since becoming managing partner?
The role of managing partner has necessitated more involvement in the initial stages of client meetings with a swift transition to oversight. The actual client-facing work is also substantially reduced and takes on the form of review. This change is something that, as hard as it may be, is necessary in order for a managing partner to carry out his or her role effectively. It does give way for other skills to be honed and the trust in top management takes on an even more crucial role.
What does diversity and inclusion mean to you? And, is D&I difficult in your jurisdiction?
I would like to think that diversity and inclusion are engrained in the firm’s DNA and are in fact the very foundation on which GMX was formed. It must be stressed however that diversity and inclusion are loaded words which warrant far more than a few lines, which can very easily be misunderstood and/or misinterpreted. They are terms that need to be framed in the context of, amongst other things, time, jurisdiction and culture. Inclusion and diversity may be difficult in certain jurisdictions for legal and/or cultural reasons whilst they may be difficult in other jurisdictions for geographic and/or demographic reasons. With respect to Malta, a small island state, the geographic and demographic reasons were long at the forefront. Accession to the EU in May 2004 helped enormously with overcoming these hurdles as a considerable amount of people relocated to Malta, considerably increasing the island’s knowledge pool. However, change is always hard and swift change all the more. This gives rise to cultural aspects that need to be tackled delicately. Internationalisation increases the interactions between every race, colour or creed (all of which are constantly evolving). It is for this reason, that diversity and inclusion are a constant and endless work in progress which must consistently be given the importance they deserve.