[WATCH] Malta must provide evidence it is fixing shortcomings this year, HSBC CEO says

HSBC CEO Andrew Beane says 2020 is the year of reckoning when Malta must show concrete evidence that it is fixing problems in its financial system to start repairing the damage to its reputation

It is crucial that Malta starts providing evidence and clear outcomes in its efforts to address shortcomings in its financial sector, HSBC Malta's CEO Andrew Beane said.

Beane, who was speaking to MaltaToday after announcing HSBC's financial results for last year, said that 2020 is a critical year for Malta to fix its damaged reputation and ensure its financial system operates according to the rules of the international economy.

"Plans and good intentions are important, but ultimately - if we take Moneyval as an example - it is an evidence and outcomes based process," he said.

"If we want to have a growing and thriving connected economy in the long-term, Malta has to be operating according to the rules which the international economy requires... it is a critical year for that action to happen, and I think there is the potential for this to take place - we've now got to get on with that," he said.

Questioned on whether he was confident the country was on the right track towards repairing its reputation, Beane said that "more than confidence" was required. "It required evidence and outcomes," he reiterated, "This is an important year and it's clear what action needs to be taken."

Beane said the issues Malta was facing were not unique, and that other countries have faced them and been able to raise their standards and re-calibrate them to those of the international economy. "And that's a long-term positive thing for economic development," he said.

People misunderstand what's happening in banking

On HSBC's presence in Malta, in light of the closure of a number of branches announced last year, Beane said that people might tend to misunderstand developments in the banking sector. The closure of branches, he highlighted, reflected a strong customer trend to use digital services.

"Let me give you a couple of data points: digital usage went up 92% last year and new customers as HSBC Malta increased by 60%, 95% of whom applied online," he said.

READ ALSO: HSBC Malta posts €30.7 million pre-tax profit in 2019

"We are here talking to each other and you are recording this interview on a mobile phone. So, while not everyone is going to use mobile and digital for their banking services, lots more people are... and we simply have to respond to that. Branches are just as important for the future as they have been for the past - they're just changing and modenrnising, just like banking has done through generations," he said.

HSBC branches will soon have improved access, such as better parking facilities, more flexible hours, and more services he said. "I think they'll be better branches for customers and colleagues, and we simply are organising around how customers are living their lives."

Pressed on whether HSBC was committed to Malta in the long-term, Beane stopped shy of commiting to this specifically, but he said that people had to judge the bank by its actions.

"We're opening a new flagship branch in Qormi, and we're making good progress [on this]," he said, "We've ordered new furniture and it’s on the ship at the moment."

"People need to see what we are doing - we're taking action and launching new things, and that's coming this year building on what we launched in 2019," Beane added.

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