They say ‘start as you mean to continue’, and that has certainly been the case for STM Malta this year. The firm started 2021 strong by announcing a name change to STM Malta Pension Services Ltd – a move which positioned the business well within its growth strategy while aligning with product offerings and industry trends.
“Our new name is an important element in our growth strategy and future success,” explains Deborah Schembri, who has led the company as Managing Director for eight years. “The business has evolved over the years, so we needed to realign our name to reflect the fact that we’re now a leading global provider of pension schemes. As STM Malta Pension Services Ltd, we are now better positioned to reach a wider spectrum of both national and international potential customers, as well as existing pensioners,” she reveals.
There is no doubt that the firm is in safe hands. Ms Schembri leads the company with over 20 years of experience in the industries of insurance and pensions, gaming, caring, construction and property development, oil and fuel, and hospitality and travel.
She has been instrumental in setting up and growing the business, placing STM Malta as the major pensions’ provider on the island. Her hard work and dedication to the firm has not gone unnoticed, mind you – she was named the Malta Businesswoman of the Year in 2020, as well as the Most Influential Businesswoman in Finance in 2019.
It was therefore no surprise that, by the second quarter of the year, STM Malta had announced its next milestone for the company: the launch of a new occupational pension scheme that was created specifically for businesses in Malta and Gozo. The scheme offers a simple, cost-effective solution that can be tailored to suit the needs of businesses of any size, as well as their employees.
Ms Schembri outlines the benefits that the scheme offers to both businesses and employees. “The advantages that local businesses can gain from our new pension product extend far beyond simply helping their employees to achieve their financial goals in retirement. It’s also a valuable recruitment tool to attract and retain the best people in a very competitive jobs market, plus it’s an excellent way to improve staff engagement, motivation and productivity. As for employees, it offers a value-for-money investment with the costs of administration supported by their employer. And, of course, both employers and employees have the reassurance and confidence that comes from knowing that we are one of the island’s biggest pension trustees and administrators.” Indeed, the firm administers approximately €1.8 billion (£1.6 billion) in client assets.
The pension scheme also includes a number of additional advantages. For employers, these include corporate tax incentives of up to €3,000 per employee per annum, plus a further tax credit for up to €750 per employee per annum. Employees will benefit from a personal tax credit of up to €750 per annum on personal contributions. What’s more, the scheme is a compounding investment based on a jurisdiction with no tax on growth, meaning that pension savings will grow faster.
Commenting on how the scheme can be tailored to suit the specific requirements of businesses and their staff, Ms Schembri adds, “we understand how time-consuming it can be for businesses – especially SMEs – to set up and control pension schemes. So, we have created a product that removes that burden from employers, while also offering them a solution that can be customised to suit their specific requirements. There are many variables, including deciding which employees the scheme is available to, the employee contribution rates which depend on factors such as seniority or length of service, as well as employer contribution rates. We can even tailor it down to fine details such as the branding of literature to reinforce employee engagement.”
Following the launch of the scheme, STM Malta hosted the Future of Pensions debate in September, welcoming a long list of high-profile speakers including Malta’s Finance Minister, Clyde Caruana. The topics covered were widely varied and included the current situation of state and private pensions, the advantages of personal pensions, benefits of occupational pensions to both employers and employees, as well as how the investment risk is managed.
Reflecting on the event’s discussions, Ms Schembri emphasises the vital role that pension schemes play in protecting older people from poverty, allowing them to enjoy economic independence and a decent standard of living. She maintains that the financial sustainability of pension schemes is “an indispensable means to this end”, and adds that, in the coming years, supplementary pensions would need to play an “ever-greater role in maintaining the future adequacy of pensions, particularly where the adequacy of public pensions is expected to deteriorate.”
How can this be achieved sooner rather than later? It all depends on public policies, Ms Schembri says. “Public policies can promote occupational pension coverage through mandating (i.e. making them compulsory), auto- enrolment (i.e. making it compulsory for employers to offer occupational pensions to workers, though the latter may opt out) or collective bargaining. Tax and other financial incentives, like subsidies or matching contributions, are an important part of the policy mix to develop occupational pensions.”
With a strong year to look back on, Ms Schembri now sets her sights on 2022. She shares her plans for staying the course in STM Malta’s growth strategy: “our aim is to continue growing by offering new products and identifying new markets. There is a global shortage of human resources, so it is important for employers to retain their employees. We are in the process of offering employers other benefits and solutions which they can offer to their employees, and this will also act as a retention tool. These benefits will be linked to employees reaching certain milestones, and the milestones will be decided by the employer.”
This interview was first carried in the December edition of Business Now magazine, the sister publication to BusinessNow.mt
Deborah Schembri, STM Malta Pension Services Ltd Managing Director / Photo by Bernard Polidano
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