From Start-up to Grown-Up with International Expansion Plans

Interview with Lara Camilleri, COO of Konnekt

When recruitment agency Konnekt was set up in 2007, it was operating out of a one-room office. Some 15 years later, the firm has become one of the go-to names for financial talent and plans for international expansion. FinanceMalta spoke with Konnekt’s Lara Camilleri.

Lara Camilleri, COO of Konnekt

Picture: Lara Camilleri, COO of Konnekt

Konnekt was established in 2007. What can you tell us about Konnekt’s beginnings and the vision of the company?

We started in 2007 with just a two-man team and one client. The focus was and has always been on service excellence. The phrase that has been our ‘motto’ – I recall it even from my first interview nine years ago – is that we are driven by a simple principle: to do what is right for both the candidate and the client as the change we have on people’s lives is quite impactful.

What would you highlight as the main milestones and achievements of the firm throughout the past years?

We have seen quite a few changes over the years as we are constantly evolving as a business. From 2007 to 2009, we were still in the start-up phase, with a small team and a one-room office. Between 2010 and 2013, we started to invest in technology that will help improve our level of service and efficiency. The six years that followed can be described as our diversification and growth phase. We extended and refurbished our San Gwann offices, tripled our headcount and also invested in new technology. Currently, we are focusing on leveraging our technology, we aim to continue to grow and have our eyes set on internationalisation in future.

What sets Konnekt apart from other recruitment agencies and how’s the business doing today?

We aim to remain focused on doing what we do best and delivering an excellent service. Global talent shortages make this, at times, exceptionally challenging. Because of our size and areas of specialisation, we really cater for most types of roles with few exceptions. We have three teams: Finance & Legal; IT and iGaming; and Generalist Recruitment. This gives us an extremely broad view of the market but also gives us the depth of specialisation. We definitely focus on quality over quantity when it comes to shortlisting, and we aim to be more of an extension of a company’s own HR team rather than a source of CVs. At the moment, we are focused on embedding technology deeper into our service offering. This is a three-year project that we have just embarked on to keep on improving our service and to deliver a seamless experience to candidates and clients.

From a talent and job market perspective, can you tell us how Malta has evolved throughout the past 15 years?

The talent market in Malta has always been tight. It has been a candidate-driven market for many years now, and I do not envisage this changing anytime soon. Post-Covid-19, the market is even tighter. Candidates are much more passive than they were previously and have the luxury of choice. It’s really important to mention that the talent pool we consider cannot only be local, there is not enough ‘supply to appease the demand’. Some companies have been very slow to nudge their mindset into considering international talent pools, unfortunately to their own detriment.

Konnekt Offices

Based on your experience, how would you describe the depth and breadth of Malta’s financial services talent pool today?

From a quality perspective, I would definitely say that it has improved over the years. For instance, pure compliance people were extremely difficult to come by some 15 years ago. At the time, there was not a lot of focus on this area, so the interest in it, and as a result, the talent pool was quite limited. Today it’s a completely different story. KYC/Compliance and regulatory roles are in extremely high demand, and this will certainly continue to be the case. It’s fair to say that demand continues to grow across many fields, yet the local supply of candidates is simply not enough, across all levels. Looking overseas, even outside of Europe, really has become a must now.

In the financial services industry, what are the most sought-after candidates at the moment?

I can give you a list of specific roles, but it simply can never be exhaustive as recruitment is very fluid. However, the most sought-after candidates at the moment are people with regulatory and compliance experience, while areas of specialisation that have always been extremely sought-after are definitely audit, tax, funds and client accounting.

How did Covid-19 affect the job market in Malta and in the financial services industry in particular?

There was a period between March and June 2020 when the market was extremely dry. I would go as far as to say it was almost dead. Companies were hesitant to recruit, even for replacements, while candidates, unless unemployed, were understandably very hesitant to leave secure employment knowing that if they are the last in, they may be the first out with a new employer. In addition, the global shutdown prompted some people to relocate back to their countries, and this reduced supply locally because new foreign candidates were not able to relocate due to the lockdown.

There is strong demand for fintech and digital talent in the financial services industry. What’s your key piece of advice to financial firms wanting to attract tech talent?

Financial service companies tend to be the most corporate when compared to the rest of our client base. At times, this translates to having less flexible working conditions. To be clear, I am not talking about gaming environments with chefs and gyms etc, but I am referring to basic flexibility in hours and remote work. We have had clients who, post lockdown unless stipulated by Covid regulations, were extremely hesitant or flat out refused to maintain a flexible schedule between working from the office and from home. This makes them relatively unattractive employers when compared to others who are significantly more trusting and flexible. I think financial services companies in general could make their workplaces more employee-centric and need to be open to foreign talent.

Konnekt Offices (2)

Picture: Konnekt Offices | Floriana

What are your predictions for the job market in Malta in the next two to three years? Will it continue to be a candidate-led job market?

I do not see this changing anytime soon. It’s the same in all advanced economies. There are two factors at play here. As economies progress, jobs tend to become more complex, and therefore, the demand for specialist skills will continue to increase. Secondly, in Malta as elsewhere, the education system is failing to deliver sufficient candidates with the right skills. This is not specific to finance but applies to many economic sectors. Our educational sector needs a much-needed overhaul.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Work 2020 report, one in five of all jobs in financial services are at risk of disappearing, and half of all employees in the sector can expect to see their jobs change by 2025. How do you believe the talent landscape will evolve over the longer term?

This is certainly the case. We will see increased automation and an increasing number of tasks, potentially the more basic ones, taken over by advanced algorithms /AI. However, we need to understand that most advanced economies have millions of unfulfilled jobs, so this will ease the pressure. As humans, we crave human contact and that personal touch – although more routine roles may be at risk, I do not see us obliterating client relationship/facing type roles. Secondly, I am a strong believer that in most cases technology will work alongside humans not replace them entirely. If employees want to make their jobs future proof, they need to invest in their education and make it a lifelong journey. Tech is continuously evolving, and we need to evolve right alongside it.

What are Konnekt’s plans and priorities for the coming years?

We want to scale up our operations; this is mainly focused on our talent and processes. We have already grown significantly over the past few years, and we will certainly not stop here. We also aim to merge technology with our service offering. We are working on making our technology even more client-focused and deeply integrating it into service delivery. We hope that this will really make the experience outstanding for all those who interact with us. Finally, in the more distant future, we would like to raise funding to expand and open offices overseas.


Lara Camilleri is the Chief Operations Officer of Konnekt Search and Selection Ltd. She joined Konnekt in 2013 and proceeded to set up the Finance and Legal Recruitment team in 2015. In 2019, she moved into the operational running of the business, she has worked towards growing and strengthening the team ever since.