Starting 40 years ago with just two people, EMCS is today a hive of activity with some 65 people employed. EMCS was established in 1983 and nowadays has grown to offer a full range of services, including advisory services to businesses, charities and social enterprises; services to individuals and business families seeking to relocate their business to Malta; and full-service market research facilities to clients operating in various business sectors.
The foundation of the company was triggered by the innovative initiative undertaken by Dr John C Grech, one of Malta’s leading economists, when he established EMCS as a firm specialising in economic analysis. At the time this was a brave and unusual step because the context did not allow for a lot of independent thinking – particularly independent thinking about the Maltese economy.
Yet Dr Grech saw a gap in the market – he started as a sole practitioner supported by one assistant, who still works at the firm today. As the demand for economic analysis grew, Dr Grech recruited two MBA graduates from the University of Warwick, John Farrugia and Robert Geismann, who today are the managing partner of the firm and one of the partners respectively.
The change in government in 1987 and the clear decision to liberalise the Maltese economy while aggressively seeking EU membership brought with it a period of profound change to many Maltese businesses which, until that time had primarily worked in a closed, protected market.
“As this liberalisation drive gathered pace, the demand for economic analysis continued to grow. Moreover, foreign direct investment started to flow into the country and Maltese firms became more integrated into the global economy – this fuelled the demand for different services such as business process re-engineering, market research, business planning and strategic advice,” says John Farrugia, Managing Partner at EMCS.
“Here we are speaking about the early advent of the internet and therefore client contact was still very much done in the traditional way, by word of mouth and through formal introductions. With this in mind, EMCS was a pioneer firm, not only providing traditional consultancy services but also publishing a specialised economic journal (the Economic Report and Business Review) and organising two conferences a year with a specific economic theme. Both ‘products’ and the work that was being carried out with clients gave EMCS a strong profile on the local market with a number of prominent family businesses becoming clients of the firm.”
As Malta continued to progress towards EU membership and the Maltese economy became more dynamic, EMCS started sourcing investors for public projects and in 2009 also set up an international tax practice.
“At the time, EMCS was practically the only firm to set up an EU advisory unit which was very much focused on assisting private enterprise to start preparing for the realities of EU membership,” adds John Farrugia. “At the same time, we were engaged by Government to undertake a number of EU impact assessments for some of the key sectors of the Maltese economy such as the furniture industry, the food sector and the financial services sector. This EU advisory unit which was and still is under the leadership of Stefano Mallia, continued to grow from strength to strength and EMCS has become the leader in this field.”
EMCS has achieved growth in other aspects, including acquisitions and mergers.
“EMCS is quite an entrepreneurial organisation,” says John Farrugia. “Apart from indigenous growth we have engaged in a number of transactional activities. In 2010, we set up a data centre with German partners, providing outsourced business intelligence services to German clients. In 2008, we acquired a payroll software and outsourcing company in the UK, which we sold to a private equity firm in 2013. In 2014 we merged for two years with Grant Thornton. More recently, we merged with HRM in 2020, a local accountancy practice owned by a former employee. In 2023 we acquired the Malta International Training Centre (MITC), the country leader in providing training to the insurance industry.”
Apart from the firm’s entrepreneurial spirit, what has also fuelled growth is the investment in talent that EMCS constantly makes. The continuous engagement of young talent has allowed EMCS to grow in all areas of its business, be it in business advisory, public sector advisory or corporate services.
“The search for talent is continuous and I would say relentless,” says John Farrugia. “We are strong believers in recruiting people based not only on their academic background but also on other important elements such as personality, personal interests, extracurricular activities and outlook on life.
“As the company evolved from one mainly focused on economic analysis to one which now provides a variety of services to the Maltese economy, the profile of the talent we continue to engage has changed, in some cases substantially.
“While a background in economics or business continues to be sought, we now have people with a variety of other backgrounds such as languages, international relations, IT and finance.
“We are always on the lookout for new blood and indeed one of the most satisfying aspects of our work is when we engage someone at a young age and see that person flourish and develop as they grow with the firm. Indeed, we invest in our people so that they can grow as we grow. One particular example is someone who started with the firm some 30 years ago as an administrative assistant and nowadays is ACCA qualified.”
After four decades of operations, EMCS can nowadays be considered a leader in various areas.
“Nowadays we have a broad service offering ranging from normal day-to-day support in business coaching, project management, accounting, tax compliance and corporate services, to more specific service offerings in training, market research, funding, business reorganisation, governance, and complex tax structuring,” says John Farrugia. “We do have areas where I would consider ourselves to be leaders, including EU advisory and training in the insurance industry. However, rather than areas of specialisation, I would say that our distinctive feature is the culture developed and the wealth of experience accumulated over these past 40 years, and the diverse talents of over 60 professionals employed within our organisation.”
Despite this growth, EMCS has maintained agility and flexibility.
“While we can no longer consider ourselves to be a micro-organisation, we have retained a certain amount of flexibility so that we can bring all our diverse resources to bear to deal with client issues,” adds John Farrugia. “We lead with integrity by confronting the hard issues, staying true to our values, and stating our views candidly and directly. This enables us to become ‘trusted partners’ and the first point of advice for a diverse range of businesses.”
While celebrating its 40th anniversary, EMCS looks ahead to its future.
“Celebrating 40 years of existence as an independent, advisory organisation is no mean feat, and definitely deserves to be celebrated,” says John Farrugia. “But what gels us together and drives us forward is our purpose, Inspired to Achieve. We inspire our clients, colleagues and the broader community to build success and achieve their full potential. And our ambition is to continue doing so for years to come.”