Bank of Valletta (BOV) has told BusinessNow.mt that the closure of its network of overseas representative branches abroad this year came as part of its medium-term strategy as it focuses on core Malta-based customers and continues to service customers abroad via digital and technological means.
Instead of this presence, a bank spokesperson explained, BOV is now opting to use technological channels to service the needs of its existing and potential new customers.
He also stated that those professionals who managed the offices had either relocated to Malta, or been offered alternative positions locally.
As revealed by BusinessNow.mt on Tuesday, the closure of the three remaining functional branches – in London (UK), Milan (Italy) and Brussels (Belgium) will be complete by the end of the year.
Through the “worldwide” network, the bank was said to have built the necessary backbone to service its international customers and customers abroad with banking and trade transaction services.
The closure of these branches comes after the shuttering of other offices in Australia, Canada and Libya “some years back.”
The representative flatly denied that the move was related to any adverse external factor, such as the COVID pandemic or Malta’s greylisting by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) which seems to have had a heavy impact on the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the country.
Instead, the process to close the branches was initiated as part of its BOV 2023 strategy, driven by its revisiting of the need of its overseas presence when the same role filled by the representative branches could be fulfilled remotely with physical visits as and when needed.
Despite the winding up, the BOV spokesperson assured that it will continue to assist Maltese enterprises in their efforts to tap into EU funded programs and other similar initiatives through it dedicated office in Malta.
Asked about the function of the overseas branches, he explained that the bank’s core customer base is domiciled in Malta, and as such BOV’s focus and risk appetite framework is more focused on the local market.
Additionally, insofar as the “very limited” number of overseas clients serviced by BOV, its suite of digital solutions will enable customers to “self-service their requirements remotely from wherever they may be.”
On these digital solutions, the spokesperson explains that despite the “significant challenges” posed by the COVID pandemic, a key positive outcome has been that business-related exchanges have been driven to various digital communication channels, marking an abandoning of the need to either require physical office space and/or commute to attend meetings.
“Within this context, the Bank initiated the necessary requirements to close its presence in Brussels, Milan and London opting for the digital communication solutions to service the requirements of its customers,” he concluded.
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