According to the latest figures published by the national Statistics Office, in 2021, there were 133,156 registered business units – an increase of 1.2 per cent over the previous year. Most of these (97.4 per cent) were considered ‘micro’ businesses, that is enterprises employing up to nine people, operating within industries as diverse as wholesale and retail trade (accounting for 14.3 per cent); financial and insurance activities (13.4 per cent); professional, scientific and technical activities (13.1 per cent); and administrative and support service activities (8.1 per cent).
With these myriad businesses being established, the corporate services sector has had its work cut out for it in managing the dozens of submissions to the Malta Business Registry (MBR), including paperwork detailing director and shareholder changes, share price updates, as well as annual reports. Much of this work is done manually, with registries across Europe working in silos, making communication between entities time-consuming. Observing this first-hand, through contacts in the industry, Jacob Appel, the CEO and Founder of Binderr, is driven towards filling twin gaps in the market: firstly, the need to streamline business registry processes for Corporate Service Providers (CSPs) and, secondly, to connect entities across the continent to improve transparency and collaboration, particularly in relation to KYC and AML integrity checks.
“We started Binderr, our online software platform, in 2020 to unify business registries across Europe and to create more corporate transparency, with easier access to company data, while streamlining the submission of corporate changes,” Mr Appel explains, going on to specify that the vision of the platform is twofold: “Binderr saves businesses that offer corporate services significant time – three minutes as opposed to 90 – because of our advanced automation, while giving regulators peace of mind that all businesses are compliant.”
Elaborating, he says Binderr removes “the need to spend hours on simple corporate changes such as a change in director. Usually, any corporate change requires you to draft, print, sign and scan multiple documents. This is not to mention the time and cost spent on courier services, as well as manually updating excel registers and submitting the documents to the authorities. However, on the Binderr platform, this is all done with a few simple clicks.” Indeed, it currently takes around 90 minutes to process a change in director, through the MBR and standard procedures – now, with the use of Binderr, it takes three minutes, Mr Cassar Rose elaborates.
The start-up is in a constant state of evolution, and the company’s milestones attest to the growth phase within which the enterprise finds itself in. Over the past two years, the company has managed to solidify an international team of “15 curious, fun and super talented individuals spread across four countries,” Mr Cassar Rose asserts. Through their work, the Binderr platform – “a fully-fledged corporate services platform that allows companies to manage their client portfolio and make corporate changes in seconds” – was launched, and the company was the first to be fully integrated with the MBR.
These successes are built on the company’s founding principles, Mr Cassar Rose continues, which are driven by understanding the necessity to increase paperless solutions within corporate and business registry functions, with all documents signed by Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES); the requirements to effect corporate changes “from anywhere in seconds” and, thus, to allow completing actions – such as making a share transfer – as simple as possible, or, as he describes, “as easy as wiring money”.
The enterprise’s achievements have not come without their difficulties, however. With regards to the platform, “we have faced several challenges in developing such intricate technology in a heavily regulated space. The task of automating these ‘legacy’ processes – which have been around for a long time – is one of them, since our aim to transform and digitise these out-of-date processes would have always come with a grain of resistance. Having said that, it has been amazing to see the support we have garnered along the way,” Mr Appel outlines.
Furthermore, collaboration with the MBR has required some manoeuvring. “Getting access from the authorities to connect to the registry and getting the approval from these authorities to accept the digital transformation movement (which includes implementing the QES system) has been demanding, but we have made progress in this regard.”
Integrating business registries in Europe is also part of this drive towards efficiency and transparency. Indeed, the urgency to boost transparency in the sector underpins the transformations being offered by Binderr. “From being predominantly focused on building a platform for CSPs in Malta, we are now working on connecting all European business registries to create easier access to corporate data.”
The ultimate goal, Mr Cassar Rose continues, is “to unify business registries across the continent and to centralise access to corporate information – which comes from being present in all markets, working with all stakeholders, and understanding legal processes – which will allow us to, one day, become the leading corporate document management and submission platform.” This is due to the ability to cross-check entities and individuals, internationally.
Indeed, looking ahead, expanding beyond Malta’s shores is integral, Mr Appel says. “To have a material impact and to create true corporate transparency, we must expand across the EU,” he says. “Speaking with people in European institutions, as well as business registries and CSPs across the continent, has made us realise that digitising the functions outlined in corporate law is needed not only in Malta, but in the bloc too – and, thus, this is a huge opportunity for us to lead that transformation.” With this in mind, while currently most of the company’s focus is on the Maltese market, and increasing local volumes, the company has “started working within the Cypriot market, to look at driving the same integrations with the local business registry and their Minister of Digital Innovation.”
This, he continues is the first move towards expansion – among what he pitches would be many – for Binderr. “We aim to expand into the European market fairly quickly,” he explains. This will be possible due to the general applicability of their product – “the framework will remain the same”, he asserts, since diverse territories also struggle with the need to streamline business registry procedures.
Indeed, his goal is for Binderr to be present “within five different markets by the end of 2023. We aim to continue expanding our service area across the EU and, one day, the rest of the world,” Mr Appel asserts. And, with these efforts in “supporting and lobbying for advancements in the corporate and digital transformation space”, the company hopes to cement its position in the future of corporate technology.
Binderr’s Jacob Appel and Zak Cassar Rose / Photo by Adam Carville
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