The INSIGHT Interview: Chris Casapinta, Country Executive Malta Alter Domus
15th March 2022
Alter Domus is a Luxembourg headquartered company. Our main services are fund administration and corporate services. We assist in setting up funds, we calculate Net Asset Value, and we are the liaison between the fund manager, the bank and other third-party service providers. We are also involved in setting up both regulated and unregulated companies and provide the entire suite of back-office services, including accounting and tax compliance. In more recent years, with more regulations coming in, we also significantly enhanced our compliance services.
Although Alter Domus has grown over the years and now employs around 3,300 people worldwide, the Malta office remains the third largest in the EMEA region, right after Luxembourg. We have a staff complement of close to 170 people. We support the group in various ways, most notably when it comes to training and staff resources.
Malta has very good accountants: English-speaking with training and experience in the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). While it is not impossible to find similar talent in other jurisdictions, our skilled accountants frequently support clients outside of Malta. We also regularly send personnel abroad. Assignments in Luxembourg, Ireland or the UK usually last between three to six months. Our people work in small teams across countries, and they do need to spend some time with their team members based in other office locations. This staff mobility is definitely beneficial for the group; it also helps us to attract top professionals who appreciate the international work exposure.
The Malta office also plays a key role in Alter Domus’ private client business. Our services to high-net-worth individuals and their families have been developed in Malta, and most of Alter Domus’ private client business in Europe is run from Malta. Malta has a very good trust law and a solid corporate law in addition to the offering on the asset management side. We are also seeing more high-net-worth individuals using Malta for other asset classes such as yachts and aircrafts.
“Malta has a very good trust law and a solid corporate law in addition to the offering on the asset management side. We are also seeing more high-net-worth individuals using Malta for other asset classes such as yachts and aircrafts.”
The vast majority are institutional funds investing in alternative asset classes, which typically invest in private equity and real estate. We do not service retail funds. Most of our clients are European fund managers looking for a platform or vehicle to attract other investors. Fund sizes range between €50 and €250 million. The funds in Malta are smaller than those in Ireland and Luxembourg, where funds typically exceed €500 million. In Malta, we see a lot of clients who come in with a relatively low level of investment, which is why they would have chosen Malta as a jurisdiction in the first place. However, we have seen some very nice success stories: Fund managers starting off fairly small but then growing significantly. That’s very rewarding business because we offered them a platform for growth, which contributed to their success.
Cost of regulation is a key challenge. Technology is one way to reduce this cost. We offer managers access to our technology platforms so that they can reduce their overall costs.
Global fund managers also need to make sure they are compliant in many different jurisdictions depending on where their investments and investors are. Alter Domus has evolved into a global player, and we can therefore support them in practically every jurisdiction with 40 offices worldwide.
I am happy to say that we have become a key service provider on the island. During the past 12 years, we introduced some very high-profile clients to Malta who would typically choose to work with larger finance centres. I am also very proud of our staff. I think the HR element is a very important one in our business because the quality of the service we offer to our clients is based on the quality of our staff. We have trained quite a number of people, and the fact that we manage to attract and retain top talent also helps us in attracting and retaining clients.
“We still see lots of opportunities for business in Malta, especially on the regulatory and compliance front. An-ever evolving regulatory landscape with increasing pressure on organisations to have robust compliance structures and strategies provides us with an opportunity to continue to grow our services in this area”
I must admit that in March 2020 when the pandemic started, I wasn’t very confident that we can operate with everyone working remotely, but I was proven wrong. Everything went very smoothly, even during the weeks when the office was practically closed, and everyone was working from home. I am very happy how things evolved. We understood that we can work remotely without impacting the client experience, which also allows us to give more flexibility to our staff members post-Covid-19.
One of the biggest opportunities lies in technology. As a group, we are already quite technology-driven, but there’s scope for more. We are looking to automate a number of our processes, which will result in cost-reduction that we aim to pass on to our clients.
In this context, we think that our Malta office has the right size and scale to test and trial certain processes and products for the entire group. An office like Luxembourg, which is close to 1,000 people, is a bit too big to fail. Project failure would have a big impact on the entire operation, whereas an office with just 20 people might not be representative of the processes in a larger office. The Malta office with just under 200 people can be the ideal test bed for the group.
We still see lots of opportunities for business in Malta, especially on the regulatory and compliance front. An-ever evolving regulatory landscape with increasing pressure on organisations to have robust compliance structures and strategies provides us with an opportunity to continue to grow our services in this area. I also expect that stricter regulatory requirements will lead to further consolidation in the corporate service provider industry. This could potentially create interesting acquisition opportunities for Alter Domus.
We also aim to play a role in connecting international investors with domestic businesses. There are various Maltese businesses, which have grown significantly in recent years. They have also become more and more international, and therefore more appealing to international investors. We do feel that there are opportunities for our clients to invest in these businesses and that we can act as a catalyst to attract non-Maltese investors to companies in Malta. This is something that we didn’t get involved in thus far, but which I believe can be very beneficial for the investors, Alter Domus and Malta.
Chris Casapinta is Alter Domus’ Country Executive Malta. He joined Alter Domus in July 2010. Before joining Alter Domus, Chris was a senior manager at PwC. He started his career at the end of 2000 in the Malta office. He then spent a significant time of his career within the Luxembourg office where he was responsible for managing assignments in the fund industry and large multinationals. His 10-year career with PwC gave him opportunities to work on various other high-profile audit and advisory assignments within various offices of the PwC network including Boston (US), New York (US), London (UK) and Milan (Italy).