With its azure waters, white sands and warm climate, the Southern European island of Malta is better known internationally for its holiday packages than for the career opportunities it offers to accountants.
But that’s a situation that Amanda Cini, a Senior Human Resources Manager at a fully integrated fund administration and corporate service provider, Alter Domus, is working to change.
The tiny country of less than 500,000 people has seen a boom in business development, successfully attracting gaming businesses, credit card and financial services, fund administrators, and the government has now prioritised the blockchain industry and cryptocurrencies.
How Malta is changing
“There are so many companies that are either moving their business to Malta or even starting off their business here. The growth is impressive and the number of opportunities for job seekers is incredible – from financial services through to start-ups ,” said Amanda. “Demand is outstripping supply right now”
She added: “Malta has a huge shortfall in accounting professionals, at all levels. Even those [just starting their AAT studies] are in demand. The opportunities and job openings here mean we have the ‘luxury’ of being able to offer excellent conditions and prospects to overseas applicants’’
The government has recognised that there is such a big demand in the financial services industry, specifically for accountants, that red tape has been slashed and candidates can apply for positions and to live in Malta with ease.
Sun, sea and salary
EU nationals can start working and renting accommodation immediately upon arrival, while non-EU nationals must provide specific documents for their work permit application, but the procedure is relatively straightforward taking an average of six to eight weeks to be finalised.
Salaries are competitive, and “they have a fantastic career ahead of them,” commented Amanda.
“The abundance of opportunities – be it a client or non-client facing role, internal or external, fund administration, corporate services or tax – the job-seeker really can pick and choose.”
But the island’s comfortable living standards and widespread use of English have also made it a popular destination for EU citizens looking for fresh career prospects. Rents are currently erring on the high side, but the authorities are taking measures to counter this.
Amanda reveals that the beautiful summers, beaches and the island’s rich culture are often reasons cited by interviewees who wish to make the move. The nightlife is buzzing and the country is considered to be very safe.
“They love the fact that it’s a multicultural country. The number of nationalities in Malta is incredible. At Alter Domus Malta, we currently have 18 different nationalities,” she said.
Using your AAT qualification
While the draw of Malta’s lifestyle is obvious, opting to move to the island, located some 50 miles south of Italy, can also give you a head start when it comes to career progression.
The AAT qualification is held in high regard, and obtaining additional qualifications such as ACCA is both encouraged and facilitated.
“We offer internal training by qualified trainers who are qualified accountants. We also offer study sponsorship. Applicants that start the ACCA will also be sponsored, and seminars they attend will be funded.” said Cini.
“At the end of the day, promoting staff expertise is very important for us as we aspire to keep the highest standards in our services delivery. We want to make sure they keep up-to-date with accounting standards so to promote further learning, we offer study leave as well. Employee Development is top priority for Human Resources.”
The growth is impressive and the number of opportunities for job seekers is incredible
Searching the job market
Social media, especially LinkedIn, is the best source of job vacancies, she added.
“Job-seekers will have no problem whatsoever. The number of accountancy-related vacancies in enormous. The situation is such, that within a couple of weeks, you will find an accountancy position in Malta.”
British candidates are highly rated for having the right attitude and professional background, but Amanda was disappointed to see a decline in applications from younger UK candidates lately.
“It could be that they are looking at other markets,” she said.
Uncertainty over the Brexit negotiations and whether there will be fundamental changes to the rights of British nationals to live and work in EU countries may also be a factor.
Amanda, like everyone, is hoping that Brexit talks will end with a suitable agreement for people wishing to work abroad.
“The fact that Malta and the UK, historically have very good ties and a very strong relationship gives me the positivity that agreements will be eventually be in place to allow freedom of movements between our countries,” she said.
One person who can testify to the ample opportunities open to accountants in Malta is Sarah Vella, a local student who started an apprenticeship with Alter Domus just six months into her AAT course and is now in the process of studying for the ACCA.
When asked what was her main draw to Alter Domus, she highlighted the broad spectrum of learning opportunities open to her.
“What I love the most is that you experience every aspect of accounts. Obviously, you learn as you go along,” she said.
“When I was doing the AAT, for instance, I started working on things that I hadn’t actually begun to study yet, so when the course continued and that topic came up, I had a big advantage,” Sarah added.
She would like to remain in the corporate service sector and to eventually own her own firm. But for now, she enjoys the international atmosphere that the accountancy industry in Malta provides.
“We have employees from the Mauritius, Philippines, South Africa and Italy. You learn more about different cultures,” she said. “Here you get along with everyone. You learn different things from different people.”
Nicola Smith has spent a decade reporting for The Sunday Times on both the European Union and South Asia.