Permanent residency in Malta: Family is ‘at the heart of our programme’

Residency Malta Agency is the official management body for the popular Mediterranean island’s residency-by-investment programme. Offering access to Malta’s real estate market, permanent residency for up to four generations from day one of approval, and visa-free travel across the Schengen area, it’s an ideal solution for investors seeking to secure the future of their families. Residency Malta Agency CEO Charles Mizzi explains why Malta is such an attractive destination, the unique features of Malta’s Permanent Residency Programme, and the new schemes recently introduced by the agency for digital nomads and start-up businesses.

World Finance: Charles, I’m sure many viewers will be aware of Malta’s attractions as a holiday destination; but beyond that, what attracts people to become residents?

Charles Mizzi: Yes, Malta is a fantastic destination. We have a wonderful climate with 300 days of sunshine; our outdoor life is fantastic, the nightlife is second-to-none, and our cuisine is top-notch.

We are very well connected, with daily flights to the major airports. Communication is also very easy, because we are an English-speaking nation.

But when looking for somewhere to live, people think about the future of their families. They want to make sure that they give a better education to their children, and they have the comfort in knowing that they are in a country that has one of the top five healthcare services in the world.

People also look for safety and security; and Malta offers all of this.

Of course, they are also thinking about their business. We have a pro-business climate, and government offers full support to entrepreneurs.

World Finance: You offer a permanent residency programme; what benefits does it offer, and what makes it unique?

Charles Mizzi: So as I said, people are often thinking about their families, which are at the heart of our programme.

The MPRP is also one of the few that offers residency from day one. You also get access to the real estate market, by buying or leasing a home. In fact, the MPRP is one of the few that gives the opportunity to lease: it gives you the chance to discover the island.

And of course as a resident of Malta, you will be entitled to visa-free travel across the Schengen area: for 90 days every 180 days.

World Finance: So I need to either lease or buy a property; what other requirements are there for the scheme?

Charles Mizzi: Apart from acquiring a property, you make additional contributions dependent on the property you opt for.

One must also make financial contribution which goes to the government’s consolidated fund.

On top of that, you make a donation to a registered NGO.

We also require residents to have health insurance that offers cover in Malta.

And finally we capture biometric data to issue the residence card.

World Finance: Now, for you as the official government body behind this programme, it’s not enough that people tick all those boxes – there are also some important due diligence checks that you carry out?

Charles Mizzi: Yes, due diligence is the backbone of our programme. It’s the basis of our strong reputation.

It starts with KYC, which is done by the licensed agent. Then once the application is submitted to us, we carry out checks for completeness and correctness of all the documentation we have in hand. We also conduct further due diligence checks on open sources, police checks including Interpol and Europol, and we also look at the source of wealth and source of funds of each applicant. We conduct checks on dependents, donors, benefactors and business associates.

In the meantime we also commission a background verification report from international due diligence companies. And finally our specialised analysts prepare a report which is presented to the board of approvals.

Once an application is approved, the applicant is subject to annual compliance and ongoing monitoring. The agency also has the right to revoke a permit in case of any wrongdoing by the applicants, at any point in time after approval.

World Finance: So if I’m looking at Malta as a residency option, where do I start?

Charles Mizzi: So you start on our website: there is a full list of licensed agents, and you need to choose one from there.

The agents will guide you to fill in an application form. They collate all the required documentation, and then submit an application on your behalf. Then we conduct due diligence; we promise a four to six month timeframe to give a reply on each and every application we receive.

World Finance: Permanent residency is just one of the programmes you offer; tell me about the digital nomad permit, and also the startup residency programme coming later this year.

Charles Mizzi: The nomad residence permit is for non-EU nationals. They can apply for a one-year temporary permit to work remotely from Malta, which can be renewed up to two times. It is designed for those people who work for an employer registered abroad, or are self-employed with a business registered abroad, and also for those who offer freelance services to clients registered outside of Malta.

The Malta startup residence programme will be for third country nationals: non-EU nationals who want to use Malta as a launchpad for business.

Malta is the perfect ecosystem for startups and micro-businesses: government offers a lot of support to businesses, such as financial grants. We are a small country, but a fully developed market. Being an English speaking nation also helps a lot.

Malta is very well connected to other countries; we also have a very strong broadband infrastructure, and we are also blessed to have highly skilled workforce.

How Axxela is transforming Nigerian industries with natural gas

Through its four subsidiaries, Axxela Group provides natural gas to commercial and residential customers across southern Nigeria – and in the process, is helping the country’s industries to transform and grow. Bolaji Osunsanya is Axxela’s CEO; he explains why so many industries are embracing the natural gas advantage, how Axxela’s combination of physical and virtual pipelines are helping extend that advantage outside of the richer south, and what the future holds for the company as it looks to expand across western Africa.

World Finance: Bolaji, Nigeria’s industries often depend on diesel, so gas really can be a game changer.

Bolaji Osunsanya: Yeah, you’re correct Paul. Most industries in Nigeria are dependent on the very dirty fuels. We have in the last 20 years been trying to introduce much cleaner natural gas to the system. We’ve made significant progress introducing natural gas to them, and today they’ve all agreed to take the gas advantage. They’re very keen on its clean nature and the comparative cost advantage.

We have customers in most of the industrial groupings, so we have customers in cement, food and beverage, textiles. Today in total we provide gas to about 200 of the blue-chip industrial concerns in Nigeria. And they’re beginning to use it for more than just their power requirements: they’re also using it for their process needs. So today we have people using gas for their furnaces, for their floor lines, for many other process requirements that we then start to see.

World Finance: Of course you operate traditional pipelines, but also a virtual pipeline for customers out of reach of normal infrastructure – why is this solution so important for Nigeria?

Bolaji Osunsanya: As I’m sure you know, the grid in Nigeria is still very limited – largely in the southern part of Nigeria. And the virtual pipelines get to those stranded customers who are not currently on the pipeline infrastructure. So we’re targeting a large part of the north, and a large part of the middle belt, where the resource is not available, and where there are no linkage pipelines yet.

So we liquefy or we compress the same natural gas, and we put them on wheels – either on trucks, or on rail – and wheel them to the customers wherever they are in the hinterland.

We expect that ultimately all nooks and crannies of Nigeria will have the pipeline infrastructure; but while we adapt, there should be production possible on the tracks of virtual pipelines. So we expect that it will be a forerunner, it will be a door-opener for most of the market. And will probably switch seamlessly away from virtual pipelines back into the pipelines when we get there.

World Finance: Now, how do you ensure your operation is both safe and sustainable?

Bolaji Osunsanya: Well, we deal with natural gas, and natural gas already has conditions under which you would operate safely. And as much as possible we try to keep to those regulations, and as much as possible also we try to pass that on to all our customers. So there’s a lot heavy dose training, heavy dose inspection, heavy dose supervision, that we ensure makes our operation safe.

On the sustainability point, we’re subscribers to the ISO integrated management system, and with that we’re constantly operating according to the guidelines, and ensuring that we have a system that looks at our operations.

Additionally, we’re also subscribers to the Sustainable Development Goals objectives, and each of those principles we’ve embedded in our operations to ensure that we’re working in a sustainable manner.

World Finance: And what does the future hold for Axxela Group? Where are you planning your own growth?

Bolaji Osunsanya: Well I think we’ve used the last 20 years to demonstrate what is possible in the African clime, using Nigeria as the guinea pig, if you like. Now I think we’re confident enough to continue to do that in Nigeria and extend it to the rest of the region. So Togo, Benin, Ghana, and all the other west African states should be beneficiaries of our service in the coming years.

And additionally we will be looking at taking on a lot more in the power space. We’re a gas and power company; we’ve predominantly done more in the gas side. I think it’s time now to push the boundaries into the power space, and in that regard we are already registered on the west African gas pipeline and on the west African power pool. We expect to be able to trade power into these same markets within Nigeria and the region in the coming years.

Additionally, we will be trying to expand the solutions that we have in the gas space. Supply security’s a big part of the strategy going forward; and so we will be getting into processing plants and all the other ways that assure our supplies over time.

Banorte: Banks must ignite a sustainable recovery for Mexico’s economy

As COVID-19 swept the globe, financial institutions with a digital-first strategy stepped to the fore. Marcos Ramírez and Carlos Hank-Gonzalez are respectively CEO and Chairman of Grupo Financiero Banorte; they discuss how Banorte’s customers responded to the lockdown-enforced switch to digital, the future for Banorte’s digitisation, and the bank’s mission: to renew Mexico’s economy with sustainability at its heart.

World Finance: Carlos, how have Banorte’s customers responded to switching to digital through the pandemic?

Carlos Hank-Gonzalez: Our customers are in the heart of everything we do. When social distancing made branch visits difficult, they switched to digital with remarkable ease. At Banorte we had been working on our digital transformation for many years before, so we were ready to serve them through whichever channel they preferred. Today, almost six million of our clients are digital, and only 3.1 percent of transactions take place in branches.

World Finance: Now Marcos, what’s next for Banorte’s digitalisation?

Marcos Ramírez: Thank you. We believe that hyper-personalisation is the key to the best banking experience. In 2021 we signed an alliance with Google Cloud to continue improving our platforms through cloud technology, artificial intelligence, and analytics. But we have all options available. Some still value traditional banking, so we’re combining branch services with our digital offer. In this regard, we are continuously enhancing processes across the organisation to improve efficiency. So our collaborators better input their time to provide value-added offerings to our customers.

World Finance: Carlos, is this transformation the bank’s top priority?

Carlos Hank-Gonzalez: Digital transformation is a part of our commitment to people. But it must come alongside a sustainable recovery of the economy that banks must ignite. So our mission is very clear. Mexico needs a bank that works as the engine to that recovery; and that bank is Banorte.

World Finance: And how are you making sustainability a part of that mission?

Marcos Ramírez: Sustainability is a key element of Banorte’s DNA – especially during the pandemic. We have kept our ESG strategy at the core of our operations. We just became a founding member of the United Nations Net Zero Banking Alliance, committing to decarbonise our operations and portfolios by 2050. And we have pioneered social and environmental risk management in credit portfolios for years. So we will continue to do so in the years to come.

How Convoy is transforming trucking and protecting the environment

Convoy is a Seattle-based transport technology innovator, working to fix the inefficiencies in one of the largest industries in the US – trucking. Worth an estimated $800bn a year, it is the lynchpin of American logistics – but, explains Convoy’s Juliet Horton, it hasn’t evolved in decades, and is rife with inefficiencies. She outlines Convoy’s approach to disrupting the industry: using automation to match shipper loads with carriers, reducing the number of empty miles travelled, and slashing the carbon cost of trucking.

World Finance: Why is digital transformation so critical for this sector?

Juliet Horton: Thanks for having me, Paul. Trucking is an $800bn a year industry in the US, that powers every aspect of our economy. Something that’s only become more clear in recent years, throughout this global pandemic.

Yet despite how critical this business is, it is riddled with inefficiencies, and hasn’t evolved very much in the last several decades. This is a problem for shippers, because it doesn’t allow them to have full access to the capacity across the country, and as a result doesn’t give them the best prices and the best scheduling options. Conversely for carriers, inefficiencies in this market cost them the ability to find the best jobs that would work for their schedule and allow them to optimise their earnings for themselves.

Secondly this has major consequences for our environment. In the US truckers log 175 billion miles every single year, a third of which are driven empty. That results in 87 million metric tonnes of carbon emitted needlessly into our environment.

So we see this as such a critical industry to innovate in, both for the benefit of our customers, and our environment.

World Finance: You’re creating what you call a digital freight network – what does this mean, and what does it achieve?

Juliet Horton: A digital freight network is an open, fully connected freight marketplace that uses software, automation, and machine learning to streamline every step of the process.

So we’re thinking about building products and services for our customers that hit two key areas that they need. The first is efficiency: that means every aspect of the shipment lifecycle we’re looking to automate and drive efficiency in, and as a result pass our savings along to our customers.

The second piece is around transparency. This means giving shippers better insights into the health of their network, the status of their shipments, and allowing them to most efficiently run their businesses. And for carriers that means giving them the transparency into every opportunity that exists in their market for them to optimise their schedules and earn as much as possible for themselves.

We see our business as a flywheel, meaning that we can become more efficient the bigger that we get. The more shippers we bring into our network, the more loads that are available for carriers: that attracts more carriers onto our network, and the more truck drivers that we have available, the more likely we are to match that load to the best driver at the best price possible, saving shippers money.

World Finance: How does your technology actually achieve that efficiency and transparency?

Juliet Horton: We’re using technology in two key ways. The first is to automate every necessary step of a shipment lifecycle. So when you think about everything that has to happen from when a producer creates a good before it gets into the hands of consumers, there are countless steps in that process. And we’re looking to automate each and every one of them. Currently we’re able to automate 100 percent of our pricing and matching decisions in our target markets. So we’re looking at everything that has to be done and trying to make it as fast and efficient as possible. And the second way is that we’re building new businesses to rethink how the freight industry works.

One of our businesses is called Convoy Go, which is our drop-and-hook service, that allows us to decouple the loading of a trailer and the transportation of a trailer. This means shippers are able to load up a trailer on their own schedule, at their own convenience. And the carrier only has to be on site to actually transport that trailer.

So there’s less downtime for the carrier, they’re able to fit in more shipments into their schedule and maximise their earnings. And within our Convoy Go network, these are our trailers that we’re able to equip with smart technology. That means we have great insights on the status of shipments that we’re able to send back to the shipper, give them transparency into where everything in their network stands, and allow them to optimise their business.

Vertex tax technology: Introducing SAP chain flow accelerator

Managing tax across Europe has become increasingly complex: with new VAT regulations, migrating to the cloud, multiple financial systems, faster data speeds, and urgent reporting deadlines.

For companies with cross-border supply chains, ensuring consistent VAT treatment across all legs of transaction requires tedious manipulation of data in the ERP system. The process is manual, error-prone, and usually requires significant support from IT.

Errors in the interpretation of which data is relevant for VAT determination can mean errors in VAT payments and accruals which affect the bottom line.

Vertex offers a visualisation tool to streamline chain flow data mapping for improved VAT determination. Using the chain flow accelerator, the user can map data inside SAP ECC or SAP S/4HANA to Vertex VAT fields – and perform an interpretation of the data before it’s sent to the Vertex tax engine for VAT determination.

To perform this data mapping, Vertex offers a unique visualisation tool to streamline the data mapping and improve accuracy. Tax professionals can use the tool without IT intervention, connecting up to 80 data elements and documents in a chain, to ensure consistent VAT treatment across the transaction.

The streamlined chain flow data mapping is not only available in S/4HANA, but also in ECC. SAP customers who implement the tool now in ECC can streamline their migration to S/4HANA, since the VAT data mapping can be easily transferred.

Add the Vertex Chain Flow Accelerator to SAP ECC or SAP S/4HANA today – to improve VAT accuracy and spend less time recouping VAT overpayments, reduce IT support, increase tax department efficiency, and improve audit performance.

Vertex tax technology: Why add a tax engine for VAT determination

Today’s multinational businesses face constant changes that affect global tax determination. Not just the ongoing regulatory changes, but business changes: including market expansion, M&A, new financial systems, and new product offerings.

With these constant changes, the process of manual tax research and updating every financial system can be a significant cause of VAT error, and a strain on in-house tax and IT. Even if the tax content is up-to-date, the native functionality in these systems often doesn’t meet the needs of a complex multinational, leaving them exposed at audit time.

Adding a tax engine to your ERP and financial systems improves your VAT process in multiple ways. A tax engine takes away the burden and cost of continuous in-house tax research, since tax content is maintained by the tax engine provider. Adding a tax engine improves VAT determination accuracy, since more relevant data elements are considered than in a native ERP calculation.

With a tax engine, there’s less IT support needed to implement VAT changes, since this can be managed by the tax specialists themselves. Using a tax engine, you can introduce consistent tax coding for a reliable, repeatable accounts payable process. You can conduct adequate real-time reporting, since the tax engine ensures VAT is calculated accurately the first time. A tax engine centralises your VAT controls, allowing for a more agile tax organisation that can scale quickly with business growth.

Adding a tax engine can reduce the overall cost of global VAT management. Integrating a tax engine with your financial systems is essential to stay ahead in today’s tax landscape. You’ll improve your end-to-end VAT processes, making it more efficient, agile, and scalable.

Vertex tax technology: Why add a tax engine for procurement

Today’s tax departments continually look for ways to streamline their operations and reduce audit risk. That focus is not just on the sales side of the business, but on the procurement side as well.

Regardless of whether you’re using your ERP system or implementing a new procurement platform, managing tax in the procure-to-pay process requires constant collaboration between tax, IT, procurement, and accounts payable teams. Without this partnership, it will significantly increase audit risk and inefficiencies within AP.

The manual process of tax research and updating financial systems can strain in-house tax and IT resources, and lead to tax errors. Even when these systems are updated with the latest tax content, their native tax functionality is usually not granular enough for today’s complex tax landscape.

At the same time, tax coding decisions on purchase orders and supplier invoices are being made in the AP department instead of the tax department; and all this is happening at a time when tax authorities are increasing audit activity.

Integrating a tax engine automates sales, use, and value-added tax determination to improve the accuracy of taxes paid and accrued. It uses rules-based calculations instead of human decisions. It applies the same tax logic across the procure-to-pay process: at the requisition and purchase order stage, and at the invoice reconciliation and approval stage.

Adding a tax engine for your procurement process brings benefits across tax, IT, and purchasing. It reduces the burden and cost of continuous in-house tax research, since tax content is maintained by the tax engine provider. There’s less IT support needed to implement tax changes, since this can be managed by the tax specialists themselves. It improves tax accuracy since the functionality is more robust than native ERP or procurement systems.

You can introduce consistent tax coding for reliable, repeatable accounts payable process, where tax own tax decisions. And you can integrate a single tax engine to all your financial systems across sales and purchasing, for centralisation and scalability.

Add a tax engine to your procurement process today to improve tax accuracy, reduce IT support, increase efficiency, increase scalability, and improve audit performance.

Vertex tax technology: How Siemens sought (and found) a tax calculation engine built for growth

“When you’re processing 20-25,000 tax returns and 146 audits a year, it’s extremely important to have a partner like Vertex that you can rely on,” says Sandra Blair, Head of Indirect Tax for Siemens in the US.

Sandra Blair: I’m head of indirect tax for Siemens in the US. We are a global conglomerate in the top 50 throughout the world. We have locations in every country in the world.

We were seeking a new tax calculation engine provider. In conjunction with the Vertex consultants, the DMA alliance partner, we were able to move seven SAP systems off of our previous provider, onto the new Vertex tax calculation engine. Move 3.5 million tax exemption certificates, and set up our use-tax accrual program in less than six months.

After a bit of stabilisation, we then moved our Oracle system in three weeks from our previous provider, onto the Vertex solution.

One of the big benefits that we have been able to obtain from Vertex is putting our destiny in our control. We are no longer having to reach out to IT to make changes once a configuration is identified, or an overpayment, or an over-accrual on the use tax, we’re immediately able to go into Vertex, test our solution, correct it, and get it rolled into production. So a five to six month process has now been taken down to a day, if needed. So it’s been a huge benefit, cost reduction, savings.

We have also had a report customised, so any of these changes that we have made because of Vertex, we were able to identify down to the penny how much we’ve been able to save. So it’s setting us up to take us into the future, into the digitalisation environment and economy. And Vertex, with their content, has given us a broader range to handle our conglomerate and all the service lines that we sell.

When you’re processing 20-25,000 tax returns a year, and 146 audits a year, it’s extremely important to have a partner through, like Vertex, that you can rely on. Their tax calculations, you know they’re right. That provides the right answer when it comes back in to your system.

Working with Vertex has enabled my shared service organisation to take on additional work without additional headcount. It has allowed us to increase our accuracy on our consumers use-tax filing, our accuracy on our customer billings, which has led to helping us increase our customer satisfaction scores from a tax department perspective: making sure that everything is compliant, and that we’re responding in the most efficient and effective manner.

Vertex tax technology: Global tax determination at speed and scale

Tax and IT departments today face an uphill battle, with constantly evolving tax rules and business changes. A Vertex tax engine provides a powerful solution to automate, streamline, and centralise indirect tax, so companies can reduce risk and increase scalability.

Vertex takes tax determination out of each individual transaction system, and puts it in a single global tax engine to support the sales and purchasing side of your business. No matter how many financial systems you use.

With Vertex, indirect tax is managed in one place – but leveraged across all of your business units around the world.
A Vertex tax engine delivers robust capabilities for the end-to-end tax process.

Continually updated tax content, maintained by the Vertex research team, supports sales, use, and value-added tax; plus industry-specific content for retail, leasing, food and beverage, and communications services.

Configurable tax rules let you configure your system to support your specific products and complex business needs.

Real-time address cleansing and precise jurisdiction assignment improve tax accuracy, regardless of where the transaction takes place.

Robust integrations seamlessly pass transaction details and tax calculations between Vertex and your financial systems in real-time.

Integrated tools to help you collect, track, and store exemption certificates. Reporting and data to automate compliance and support audit management. And options to let you deploy the tax engine in whatever way meets your business and IT requirements: in the cloud, on premise, or a hybrid approach that combines the benefits of both.

Find out how a Vertex tax engine can help you: reduce audit exposure, improve compliance, improve global scalability, centralise tax management, and increase productivity.

Integrate Vertex with your financial systems today, to make your end-to-end tax processes more efficient, agile, and scalable. Contact Vertex today to learn more or schedule a demonstration.

Vertex tax technology: Data intelligence for tax

All tax departments collect data. But are you using it in an intelligent and insightful way?

Tax has access to one of the largest, most detailed datasets in the company: sales, purchases, expenses, payroll, and more. But many use that goldmine of information merely to support the monthly compliance process. You use data to generate and validate the monthly returns.

A truly value-driven tax function uses that data for more than just compliance. It leverages data intelligence tools to not only improve the accuracy of the returns, but unlock time, capacity, and insight, to become a more strategic tax function and drive better business outcomes.

You’ll reduce the time spent on compliance and focus more on higher value functions: like audit defence and planning to support the business.

Data Intelligence leverages every data point that already exists in various business systems, and turns it into insight for the tax function to enhance business outcomes.

Data Intelligence tools gives you insight about your customers, your vendors, your taxes collected and paid. Your newly released products and services. Your new selling and buying locations.

You can easily identify changes and trends; and pinpoint areas of risk that you can address more proactively, to impact the business sooner.

Data Intelligence turns raw data into insight; insight you can use immediately, to not only optimise tax performance, but to model, predict, and influence business decision-making to drive business growth.

It’s the key to moving your tax department out in front of the business, and becoming a profit centre; rather than just a cost centre that handles regulatory reporting.

With Data Intelligence, you’ll use tax data to identify new business opportunities, and influence business growth strategy beyond the tax department. You’ll become more proactive, not just reactive. You’ll measure the value contributed, not just the tasks executed.

Vertex tax technology: Introducing Vertex Cloud VAT compliance

A manual spreadsheet approach to VAT reporting is labour-intensive, error-prone, and costly. Keeping up with the latest regulatory changes is challenging at best; and the effort required to support business expansion can hinder a company’s agility to respond to market opportunity.

Vertex offers a cloud-based VAT-reporting solution to reduce risk, automate and improve process efficiency, improve data quality, and keep the business in line with the latest regulatory changes.

Import tax data from multiple ERPs, a tax determination engine, and all other financial systems – even Excel files.
Perform data quality checks and make necessary enhancements.

Map data easily to generate signature-ready, multi-language VAT/GST returns, reports, and AP/AR ledgers. E-file right in the application.

Access workflow tools, dashboards and reports, designed to let tax preparers and managers alike track progress across the end-to-end compliance process: from filing preparation, to approvals, to submissions.

And support audits with drill-down capability to detail transaction data and complete audit logs.

Vertex Cloud VAT Compliance enables multinational corporations to support business growth without additional VAT/GST process burden.

Built-in up-to-date tax content ensures you keep pace with the latest return forms and regulatory changes.
And efficient cloud access reduces the need for IT infrastructure and maintenance, accelerates deployment, and scales easily to support business growth.

Leverage a robust, multi-country VAT-reporting solution across the enterprise: ideal for decentralised tax departments and shared service centres.

Add Vertex Cloud VAT Compliance to your tax operations today, to: streamline process efficiency and reduce manual error, enhance data accuracy and transparency, improve audit performance, and accelerate scalability.

Post-pandemic surge for healthcare, banking and infrastructure sectors

Dimitris Kantzelis is CEO of XSpot Wealth; the innovative, technology-driven wealth management company he co-founded to provide convenient, transparent, low-cost and flexible wealth management solutions to people at every level of income. In the first video from our interview with Dimitris, he discusses how the markets responded to the slow pandemic recovery of 2021. You can also watch him explain how XSpot Wealth has adapted and evolved through 2021, and outline the company’s new offering for institutional investors.

World Finance: Dimitris, obviously 2020 was a year of incredible volatility; how have the markets responded this year, as we inch closer to recover?

Dimitris Kantzelis: Yes, it was a quite bumpy ride, especially in March 2020, when we saw the stock markets dropping more than 30 percent, and oil prices at some point trading at below zero levels. So that was a very difficult situation for investors, as they were dumping everything and getting cash, preparing for a lifetime catastrophe.

Now, we saw that governments and central banks were very well prepared to support the system, with trillions in stimulus packages. This is now bringing some fears of hyperinflation lasting for the next couple of years – this is the main theme of discussion for these current months and the next year.

The counter-argument for that is that these stimulus packages went to support households and businesses to get through the pandemic, as we saw record levels of savings all around the world. We believe those savings will help as we go out of this pandemic; we believe we will be going out very quickly, and we will be looking at the face of mature growth in the global stock and bond markets.

World Finance: And what sectors do you expect to perform well as life slowly returns to normal?

Dimitris Kantzelis: Well, we’re looking at some sectors specifically. I would mention the health sector, because the MRNA technology helped a lot – not only in the COVID-19 vaccines, but also in the entire research and development around vaccines for the future. So that’s a sector we’re focusing in.

The banking sector is another very important sector. The banks were very well capitalised this time, and we believe that with increasing interest rates they will be very profitable, so that’s another sector we’re focusing on.

Real estate is another sector – we’re seeing people buying houses, turning to real estate for safety after the global pandemic. And also infrastructure, as we’re trying to change the way we commute, and we live in cities.

So, these are the main sectors we’ll be focusing on.

World Finance: And which geographies do you expect to be outperforming?

Dimitris Kantzelis: We believe the US will keep outperforming the global stock and bond markets. We see some worries in China – we still believe China is going to be the next big thing for the next decade, but with the Evergrande situation and the debt issues of many companies, the overregulation that Beijing is trying to bring in, we believe that it might grow at a slower pace for the next couple of years.

Now Europe will also grow and get out of the pandemic, but the issue is the big energy crisis that is unfolding at the moment. So we believe this will be lagging the US as well.

World Finance: Dimitris, thank you very much.

Dimitris Kantzelis: Thank you so much.

XSpot Wealth technology and transparency will empower institutions

Dimitris Kantzelis is CEO of XSpot Wealth; the innovative, technology-driven wealth management company he co-founded to provide convenient, transparent, low-cost and flexible wealth management solutions to people at every level of income. In the third and final video from our interview with Dimitris, he discusses XSpot Wealth’s new institutional offering. You can also watch him outline prospects for growth as the world recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, and explain how XSpot Wealth has adapted and evolved through 2021.

World Finance: Dimitris, this year XSpot has expanded the services you provide, and started offering your technology to institutional investors?

Dimitris Kantzelis: That’s correct Paul. We worked a lot during the pandemic, we expanded and upgraded our systems a lot. So we’re reaching a point where we’re discussing with people from the industry, and they will tell us that the system we have, the smart technology and AI, would be so helpful to them: so they can offer better services to their clients, and expand their books. Which is now something they cannot do: it would take very long, and they wouldn’t have the assets to invest in such technologies as well.

So we said, why not license the technology? Expand our global reach, help the investor get more robust and more transparent investment services. But also empower these companies to give better advice and services for their clients, and also expand their books.

World Finance: I know the foundation of XSpot Wealth has always been your smart technology; what sets it apart?

Dimitris Kantzelis: It could be summarised in four main sectors, which are scalability, security, efficiency, and transparency.

So, scalability: we’re working hard with the latest technology infrastructure to accommodate big data, big numbers of clients, while at the same time we give very low latency.

Security is of paramount importance; we’re implementing a lot of security layers before that point, but also security encryption is a very important feature, and we already have that in our system.

Efficiency: the wealth management and banking sectors are very complex sectors. You need a lot of things from the back office, the middle office, the front office, connections with fixed engines; and we’re covering all that.

And finally the transparency. With strong reporting engines, we can give all the information to the client, but also real-time information through our CRM. So they have all the details they want to value and assess their investment.

World Finance: And does it integrate easily? How does the partnership work?

Dimitris Kantzelis: It’s actually one of the big advantages, that it can integrate so easily, and it’s ready to go with any company. We’re very flexible – they can choose parts of the system, from the back office, middle office, reporting lines, the fixed engine connecting them to the global stock and bond markets with some of the biggest counterparties. We provide full support of course, for the entire engagement. And it comes in very competitive packages.

World Finance: And what are your hopes for this side of the business?

Dimitris Kantzelis: First of all expanding our global reach in many countries outside our normal retail space. So, all around the world.

Helping, empowering clients who can now take advantage of these transparent services. Helping other companies and other institutions; expanding their books, offering better services to their clients.

And this will result for us to keep investing and upgrading the technology even more. So hopefully become one of the global key players in the wealth technology space.

World Finance: Dimitris Kantzelis, thank you very much.

Dimitris Kantzelis: Thank you.

XSpot Wealth launches ESG plans and prepares to expand to Middle East

Dimitris Kantzelis is CEO of XSpot Wealth; the innovative, technology-driven wealth management company he co-founded to provide convenient, transparent, low-cost and flexible wealth management solutions to people at every level of income. In the second video from our interview with Dimitris, he discusses how XSpot Wealth responded to the trends of 2021, and its roadmap of future growth. You can also watch him explain the company’s new offering for institutional investors, and outline prospects for growth as the world recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

World Finance: Dimitris, how has XSpot Wealth responded this year to the macroeconomic trends you’ve described?

Dimitris Kantzelis: Yes, from the beginning of the year we had some transitions that needed to take place. The Biden administration coming in, and the fears for breaking down the big tech shifted some of our portfolios from technology stock to value sectors as our economies were opening up again – travelling, going out, real estate, banking, as we discussed before. Health sectors. This is where we had to change efficiently, quickly, and that was a key point where our clients saw that we made the correct decisions.

But we believe we’re doing nicely; the way of passive investments, and being able to be extremely diversified, more aggressive but also more conservative approaches, depending on the risk profiles of the clients, proved very, very efficient.

We also launched our ESG plans, we see a lot of people interested in ESG investments. So now we have the thematic ESG funds, which are targeting different kinds of investments in global stock and bond markets. So that was a quite successful launch as well.

World Finance: And what feedback have you had from clients, as you’ve adapted and evolved?

Dimitris Kantzelis: They were very happy, because with the passive way we’re investing, with the big transparency, they can always see what we’re doing. And that’s why they feel comfortable. And this is the reason why they’re bringing us a lot of referrals. And we also see them bringing deposits from different institutions over to us.

World Finance: As the world has opened up, you must have been able to interact with your clients in better and more engaging ways?

Dimitris Kantzelis: Yes of course – being digital doesn’t stop us, because at the same time, we’re hybrid. So we always have our private wealth managers ready, and our customer support, to help solve any questions and advise our clients in a better way based on their individual goals and what they have in mind, yes.

World Finance: When we spoke last year you mentioned your ambitions for 2021 of entering two new countries and reaching 10,000 clients; how far along are you on your roadmap?

Dimitris Kantzelis: We’re very close actually; we believe we can hit that by the end of this year. But COVID-19 delayed us a bit – I believe it did most companies. We’re launching our Dubai office very soon, and we believe by next year we’ll be in another European location.

So by 2023 we will have expanded our reach all around south-eastern Europe and the Middle East. So we’re on track for our next target, which is the 100,000 client mark. But also with the institutional offering we now have, we believe we can expand all around the world.

World Finance: Dimitris, thank you.

Dimitris Kantzelis: Thank you Paul.

How BVI fosters entrepreneurship with its fintech regulatory sandbox

The last year has shown how truly dependent we all are on smooth international supply chains and the business structures that enable frictionless, cross-border trade. Simon Gray is Global Head of Business Development and Marketing for BVI Finance; he explains how the British Virgin Islands has been helping to create our modern global village for the last 36 years, and how the BVI is continuously updating and upgrading its offering to foster entrepreneurship.

You can also watch the second half of this conversation with Simon Gray, where he discusses the ways the BVI is innovating in funds and trusts.

World Finance: Simon, what role has the BVI played in creating our modern global village?

Simon Gray: The role has been very significant. It really began about 35, 36 years ago with the introduction of the International Business Companies Act; and that was extremely innovative and flexible at the time. But we continue to be responsive to business needs and changes globally. So we tend to always try to benchmark with the best. We try to seek out opportunities where they maybe haven’t been considered for whatever reason. And we try to capitalise on that, to the advantage of our stakeholders.

And perhaps a good example of that with the global village is that we do now represent interests in the four corners of the world. And an independent report through Capital Economics indicated or advised that two million jobs were created globally as a consequence of BVI mediated finance, and we contributed $1.5trn to the global economy. So we always try to punch above our weight.

World Finance: I think there is a broad perception that IFC structures are kind of the domain of enormous multinationals, but they are particularly important in helping young entrepreneurs or small businesses to grow internationally.

Simon Gray: Oh absolutely. And you’re right, we do have a number of listed entities – I think there’s about 140 of them. But we have many, many more thousands which are very much smaller operations.

Entrepreneurship is very much something that we’ve always wanted to attract, and we continue to attract. And in the past four years we introduced the Microbusiness Act to help small entrepreneurs. Most recently there’s been our fintech initiative, and our regulatory sandbox, which we introduced last year.

World Finance: Tell me more – what is your fintech regulatory sandbox? Who is it for, what does it achieve, and how has it been performing so far?

Simon Gray: Well it was actually introduced in the summer of last year, and that was not by any means the first globally. But the approach we’ve always taken is: look, and learn, and listen from others, and hopefully improve.

It’s really targeted at the young entrepreneurial individuals who wish to create a new initiative in the fintech space. And we’ve worked very closely with the Financial Services Commission to disentangle some of the regulations that would have been required normally for a period of time while they sit in the sandbox.

Obviously there’s no risk to consumers, because they’re in the laboratory at this point. And at such time as they leave the sandbox, the condition absolutely is they have to have full compliance. There are certain rules that are non-negotiable – there’s no way we’re going to compromise on anti-money laundering or counter-terrorist financing. But for the most part it’s managed to attract a great deal of business. So that is very much the spirit of entrepreneurship that we continue to propagate.

World Finance: And how do you stay agile and adaptive while still maintaining a strong regulatory framework?

Simon Gray: Well I’ve said we try never to be complacent; but we also recognise humility. It’s very important to understand that there are amazing competitors out there, and rather than fear them, I respect them. Hopefully they respect us as well.

But by benchmarking, by networking, we bounce ideas and thought leadership around. And working together, we hope we can price things slightly more competitively. But by working together we think it’s for the good of the overall global industry.