Newsletter / FinanceMalta

Malta would make ideal ESG centre of excellence – Shrier

Malta should consider becoming the centre of excellence for ESG in the EU, according to futurist and innovation catalyst David Shrier.

Photo - Mr. David Shrier, Futurist | Professor of Practice, Imperial College Business School

He told FinanceMalta during an interview that Europe has become a haven for ESG investment – at a behavioural level and not just at policy level. However, no country has yet emerged as the centre for ESG activity, even though there were many contenders.Mr Shrier is very positive about Malta. When he was involved with the Commonwealth’s /fintech Toolkit a few years ago, Malta’s success had won it a place in the publication as a case study.

He praised what he referred to as the country’s assets – membership of the EU with financial passporting; membership of the Commonwealth with links that create a potential platform for cross border trade and activity; its size, which gives it an advantage in an era where a few people can leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and Big Data, as opposed to the considerable labour cohort required by, for example, manufacturing.

At the time of the Commonwealth case study, Malta was chosen for what was considered to be a “fairly enlightened approach” towards creating an enabling environment for /fintech and innovation, creating some coherency around regulation and policy.Since then, COVID and volatility in the cryptocurrency markets, to name but a few issues, may have affected financial services around the globe, accelerating some elements while slowing down others. However, in Malta’s case, he sees the lack of private sector involvement as the limiting factor.The [FATF] greylist certainly did not help. But getting off the greylist opens up opportunities for Malta. Now is the time to step forward and take advantage of a number of Malta’s intrinsic assets. Small is good in the new era of AI and Big Data. Why? Because you can get a handful of people in a room and make a decision about policy, about economic allocation, about enabling environments,” he said.Mr Shrier compared Malta – and other small jurisdictions like Bermuda – to the USA, saying that the were Americans had “over 100 government officials at senior levels who think that they get to decide what happens in /fintech and blockchain, which is why nothing has happened”.

“This is why the US is not the world’s /fintech leader, despite having all these /fintechs, and despite having all this venture capital. The policy and regulatory framework is so inhibitory to progress that other nations have been able to assume more leadership around /fintech,” he said.

In the wide-ranging interview, Mr Shrier traced the evolution from machine learning in the 1980s, to deep learning, and eventually AI and blockchain, giving his insight into each step and the lessons learned, as well as the current threats to evolving technologies.For example, he said that it would take another decade or so for blockchain to reach its full potential.“There are things that we desperately need to fix in the global financial system such as cross border payments, which blockchain is really well suited for. I am not yet disappointed with the lack of progress in blockchain because it is still early and we have some interesting use cases for it. And others will emerge,” he said.Read more about Mr Shrier’s insight into AI and Big Data in our audio podcast