Malta is changing at a fast pace. Consumer demand has attracted supply through the introduction of fintech that are now key players in the retail business. The demographics of Malta are also changing rapidly and that is also shaping the future of banking, from a retail and a corporate perspective. In all aspects the key factor is accessibility and Maltese banks should adapt faster to keep up with this ever-changing environment.

BNF Bank plc has recently launched its digital onboarding system, which enables Maltese residents with a valid ID Card to open a new-to-bank account with us without the need to visit any of our branches. We have listened to our customers’ feedback and understood the need to provide increased convenience and efficiencies, and this portal is only the start to future technological upgrades. Access to cash when needed is still important to Maltese residents and we have taken this on board through our partnership with Euronet. This provides our customers with over 200 ATMs nationwide, with full refund of charges. Taking this strategy a step further, we are also discussing new strategic ATM locations with Euronet and access to Euronet ATMs overseas.

George Debono BNF
BNF Bank plc Chief Commercial Officer George Debono

Our mobile app is a fully fledged replica of our internet banking thus allowing full access through device-agnostic screens. With technological investment being one of the main pillars of our strategy, we are currently in the advanced stages of completely changing our digital banking system to be more adaptive and in line with today’s technologies, also enabling our cards to be available on mainstream digital wallets.

We also understand the importance of our retail branch network which we plan to keep and continuously enhance. With a target audience focus in mind as part of our expansion strategy, we recently extended our network with a new branch at Campus Hub. Through its strategic location and completely cashless environment, providing a different setup to banking with a more homely feel, this branch will focus primarily on students and professionals. This will also shape our revamped product suite which we will be launching later on this year and beyond.

Commercial banking remains a relationship-based business. This has emerged even stronger during the recent pandemic as banks extended their support in challenging times. Technology fundamentals will enable us to evolve further and meet the fast-changing demands on trade and working capital financing. Succession in many family businesses, when carefully planned, is happening at a more rapid pace and we are seeing the younger generation of business leaders increasingly looking beyond Maltese shores.

BNF is geared to support such investments, not only through domestic leverage but also in the UK, when supporting real estate investments through our London branch. We will also explore the possibility of supporting commercial customers in other European jurisdictions where there is scale and where we are able to passport our services. Inversely there is strong Foreign Direct Investment in Malta that needs access to the Maltese banking system which we are able to support through our dedicated team of commercial relationship managers.

The biggest change that we foresee in the short to medium term, is the focus on ESG. The infrastructure of the country will need strong support from its banking system, where we expect more cross-bank collaboration to facilitate sharing the burden. The regulatory framework and support of policy makers including institutions such as the MFSA, Courts of Law, Central Bank and Malta Development Bank are critical to revive a local syndicated loan market that enables and fast-tracks this transition, as the case-size of the investments required will be too big for single-bank holds.

Human capital remains a key aspect in our industry and the country should continue to develop and foster, through the right academic structures, the bankers of tomorrow as well as the support that customer-facing staff would require. The industry needs to remain attractive to the upcoming generation of young people, whilst in parallel, ensuring that continuous professional development is well ingrained in the individual banks’ structures and culture.

Passion, trust, and integrity are three key elements in banking which perfectly align to BNF’s core values of ambition, empathy and responsibility. We are embracing change with a positive attitude, ensuring BNF Bank’s readiness for the future, with all its challenges and opportunities.

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