Survey shows Malta is best-known Mediterranean fund domicile

Malta’s visibility as an international financial services centre is gaining in strength.

A survey conducted by International Fund Investment has shown that 76 per cent of those interviewed are aware of the fact that Malta can be used as a base for their funds or to open an office locally, or both.

The survey was highlighted during a presentation by International Fund Investment (IFI), attended by FinanceMalta, on “Manager Migration, Fund Servicing and Domiciliation in the Mediterranean: The alternative to Ireland and Luxembourg?”in London recently.

As one interviewee put it, Malta is “another option” for those looking for a base in the EU. One manager said: “Two years ago I wouldn’t have considered it but it now appears to be gaining momentum.” Another interviewee stated: “We are setting up an office there right now. We like the fact that there are other managers already there.”

The IFI survey stated that 62 per cent of alternative fund managers interviewed are re-domiciling or are launching funds in the EU. When asked what views investors have on existing domiciles like Gibraltar, Ireland, Luxembourg and Malta, the overwhelming response was that the domiciles in question are well known.

Those interviewees stated that they prefer well-known domiciles that are used substantially by other investors and managers. As one interviewee put it: “We don’t like surprises.” Ireland and Luxembourg are known to all respondents and therefore liked for this reason. But the majority of investors (83 per cent) are aware that Malta is becoming a commonly used alternative to Ireland and Luxembourg.

Of the 10 major domiciles available to investors, Switzerland was considered to be the most popular followed by Malta and Guernsey. Hong Kong, Jersey, Gibraltar and the Isle of Man followed in that order. When asked in which jurisdiction investors were likely to domicile their EU-based funds, Ireland was a major preference followed by Luxembourg and Malta.

When asked if they would consider relocating funds to Malta or Gibraltar as an alternative to Luxembourg or Ireland, 18 per cent said they are looking at moving funds to Malta or Gibraltar while a further 26 per cent are open to the idea, particularly if these locations continue to offer fund servicing on the same level as Ireland or Luxembourg but at lower costs.

When questioned about their views on the regulatory environment in the Mediterranean domiciles, all those respondents who visited the MFSA had positive comments to make about the proactive approach that the Maltese regulator has taken. One manager said that this was “Malta’s biggest selling point”. When asked if investors have any views on the quality of fund service provision in the Mediterranean domiciles, one interviewee said that he was aware of the fact that several international fund administrators had recently launched offices in Malta and regarded this as a positive step for this domicile.

Kenneth Farrugia, chairman of FinanceMalta, stated: “The results of this survey clearly show that Malta’s visibility as an international financial services centre is gaining traction. In fact, Malta was easily recognised as a fund domicile with 76 per cent of those interviewed aware that it is an alternative jurisdiction for those looking for a base in the EU. Managers are looking to use Malta as a base for their funds or to open an office. It was interesting to note that the majority of investors interviewed in this survey are aware that Malta is becoming a commonly used domicile and is considered as one of the European options alongside established players like Ireland and Luxembourg.”

This survey supports the growing position that Malta is taking in the international financial services market. The country is ranked 50th among 139 economies in a World Competitiveness Report issued by the World Economic Forum for 2010-2011.

(as published on