In these challenging times, our clients need our support more than ever, says Christian Cardona, Insignia Group advisor. 

The Insignia Group mainly operates in the luxury sector. How has this sector been affected by the coronavirus pandemic?

The luxury sector at large has shifted its focus from consumerism to individualistic needs. If you look at brands as a whole, everyone is making an effort to help in the current health crisis. From Burberry, manufacturing masks for NHS workers, to Louis Vuitton, switching from perfumes to developing antibacterial sanitisers, everyone has geared themselves in a different direction.

With the development of our Clean Card, Insignia is providing a safer way for our members to carry out transactions. This development isn’t just for the COVID-19 crisis – it’s a technology everyone should be developing and integrating long-term. As we adjust to a new normal, we need to think of better ways to look after ourselves, our partners and our members.

Insignia Clean CardInsignia Clean Card

What current difficulties do you face?

Insignia has a diversified business, and like all other companies operating in the lifestyle service environment, we have seen a shift in client behaviour. However, we do not see this as a difficulty but rather a challenge to embrace the need for change. We are confident that even in the areas where we see a slowdown, the business will bounce back and our new approach will cover the gaps.

Insignia is a financial institution, and the lifestyle and travel sectors are secondary. During these challenging times, our clients need our support more than they did in the past. This is because Insignia is a company they can fully trust.

We are as busy as we have always been – what’s most important right now is our clients’ peace of mind and a high calibre service from our end.

How are you currently supporting Insignia members?

As soon as the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, we set up an emergency helpline for our members. The services we provided included home evacuations, home disinfections, GP consultations on request, testing and filtered face masks.

We also work with top immunologists, nutritionists and oncologists and arrange consultations remotely for our members. We’re working closely with specialists for home health and detox programmes and plan to organise wellness retreats for our clients for the second half of 2020. 

We also helped clients return to their families on private jets as soon as the COVID-19 crisis hit. We arranged repatriation flights to China, Russia, Switzerland, Italy and other destinations, getting people back home before lockdown. Our Wellness Personal Assistants took care of formalities and paperwork, ensuring Insignia’s members received the highest level of service.

We care deeply about the well-being of our clients and constantly reassure them their safety is of primary importance to us. Wellness is at the heart of everything we’re doing for our members right now.

Christian Cardona, Insignia Group advisorChristian Cardona, Insignia Group advisor

You have taken the current difficulties and turned them into an opportunity to develop pathogen-resistant money cards. How were these cards developed?

The current global health crisis will not end soon, and one of the leading causes of infection is touching infected surfaces, usually manufactured from metal or plastic. Research carried out by Queen Mary University shows that one in every 12 bank cards has bacteria on its surface.

The scientific and medical communities are increasingly interested in silver nanoparticle-based coatings and materials due to their bacteria repelling properties. Based on research carried out by Queen Mary University and through consultations with Columbia University, we developed a product that can help make every transaction safer. We have made a conscious decision not to patent the developments. We are ready and willing to work with other institutions to help them deploy this technology.

How do clean cards actually work?

The technology applies layers of specially treated silver coating that resists pathogens. Stringent tests on silver, ceramic, titanium and zinc credit-card materials showed the coating effectively killed up to 99.9 per cent of germs on treated surfaces.

The Clean Card features a silver coating. Silver has the highest bacteria-killing power when you apply it to titanium. The layers are heat-pressed together to bond. The technology prevents pathogens from sticking as they discard the bacteria from the hard surfaces of the card instantly. The silver oxide catalyses the release of superoxide (or reactive oxygen species). This can repel free-floating bacteria too, and other pathogens that weren’t in contact with the surface. The bacteria is killed mechanically, not chemically. So the use of the silver coating does not contribute to environmental pollution, and the bacteria do not develop resistance over time since it is destroyed when cell walls are pierced upon contact. In theory, this can repel approximately eight per cent of pathogens threatening the health of millions of people worldwide.

The card itself is a financial instrument and can be used in ATMs, for contactless payments and online payments, especially in conjunction with all the wellness-focused services. These include an assigned Wellness Personal Assistant available 24/7/365, programmes granting privileged access to the world’s best clinics, surgeons, healthcare specialists, spas and resorts, and a comprehensive health insurance plan.

Is this effort based in Malta?

After a long career in politics and business in Malta, I was very excited to join Insignia as an advisor at group level. I’m thrilled to see how Insignia has pushed the envelope to make financial services a safer place with the Clean Card project. Moreover, I’m fully ready to support these initiatives as I believe they will bring value to our economy.

Insignia’s bold creativities are something we should celebrate, and am sure more positives will come from the work we are doing in Malta and internationally.

Insignia first opened its offices in Malta in 2011. Since then, it has grown its business and serviced its ultra-high-net-worth clients. We believe we should further expand operations with plans to fully set up a card manufacturing plant supporting our financial institution but also service our partners. This would create additional jobs and put Malta on the map as one of the leading countries taking action during the COVID-19 crisis.

What other products do you aim to launch in 2020?

The production and development of this card will take us to the end of the year. We are focusing on executing this product to perfection, setting up operations in Malta and delivering the card to our clients.

By the end of the year Insignia also aims to release a bacteria-repellent version of its crowning Jewellery Card product. The existing Insignia Jewellery Card allows for bespoke designs to be created by skilled craftsmen and jewellers. They embed precious stones and inlay valuable materials like mother of pearl into the card’s 24-carat gold frame, creating a symbiosis of technology, financial instrument and art jewellery. 

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